Jean-Baptiste Carrier

Jean-Baptiste Carrier

Jean-Baptiste Carrier (1756 – November 16, 1794) was a French Revolutionary, known for his cruelty to his enemies, especially to clergy.


Carrier was born at Yolet, a village near Aurillac in Upper Auvergne. As the son of a middle class tenant farmer, Jean-Baptiste Carrier and his family survived on income reaped from cultivating the land of a French nobleman. Attending a Jesuit "college" in his hometown, he was able to pursue a wide variety of career interests. Carrier worked in a law office in Paris until 1785 when he returned to Aurillac, marrying, joining the national guard and becoming a member of the Jacobin Club. In 1790 he was a country attorney (counsellor for the bailliage of Aurillac) and in 1792 became deputy to the National Convention. He was already known as one of the influential members of the Cordeliers club and of that of the Jacobin Club. After the subjugation of Flanders he was one of the commissioners nominated in the close of 1792 by the Convention. In the following year he took part in establishing the Revolutionary Tribunal in Nantes. As he was still in the moderate stages of his violent nature, Carrier minded the orders of the convention and set up the tribunal to give prisoners a "fair" trial. He voted for the execution of King Louis XVI of France, was one of the first to call for the arrest of the duke of Orleans, and took a prominent part in the overthrow of the Girondists (on May 31). His strong Montagnard affiliation further empowered him to take a stand for violence.

After a mission to Normandy, Carrier was sent, early in October 1793, to Nantes, under orders from the National Convention to suppress the revolt of anti-revolutionists. He established a revolutionary tribunal as mentioned above, and formed what was called the Legion of Marat, to dispose quickly of the masses of prisoners heaped in the jails. The form of trial was soon discontinued, and the victims were sent to the guillotine, shot or disposed of in a more inhumane way. Carrier invented a variety of extremely torturous means of killing. He put large numbers of prisoners on board vessels with trap doors for bottoms, and sunk them in the Loire river. He also lined up hundreds of prisoners in fields and called the National Guard to shoot them down one by one. As Adolphe Thiers states in his novel, "This frantic wretch imagined that he had no other mission than to slaughter." There may well have been a sexual motive to some of the developments he introduced to the killings, including the proposal that young male and female prisoners be tied together naked before the drownings, a method which was called a "Republican marriage". Carrier's violent means of carrying out orders to suppress the revolts against the Convention were what made him infamous.

This murderous process, known as the "Noyades" ("drowning") of Nantes along with his increasing haughty and torturous demeanor, gained Carrier a reputation for wanton cruelty. In his mission to Normandy he had been very moderate, and it has been suggested that his mind had become unbalanced by the atrocities committed by the Vendean and royalist armies. He is quoted as being " of those inferior and violent spirits, who in the excitement of civil wars become monsters of cruelty and extravagance." As Carrier's violent actions continued, more of the French people began to question his true motives. He was recalled by the National Convention on February 8, 1794, took part in the attack on Robespierre on the 9th Thermidor, and was brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal on the 11th. The jury that heard Carrier's case was left dumbfounded as the trial closed and a unanimous vote for the execution of Jean-Baptiste Carrier was passed. Carrier was guillotined on 16 November 1794.

See Comte Fleury, "Carrier à Nantes, 1793-1794" (Paris, 1897); Alfred Lallié, "J. B. Carrier, représentant du Cantal à la Convention 1756-1794 d'après de nouveaux documents" (Paris, 1901).


*Carrier, Jean-Baptiste. "Correspondence of Jean-Baptiste Carrier (People’s Representative To the Convention)". Nantes: John Lane Company, 1920.
*Hanson, Paul R. "Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution." France: Scarecrow Press, 2004.
*Joes, Anthony James. "Guerilla Conflict before the cold war." Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996.
*Lenotre, G. "The French Revolution in Brittany." Edinburgh: Ballantyne, Hanson & Co, 1912.
*Stephens, Henry Morse. "A History of the French Revolution." Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribners & Sons, 1891.
*Theirs, Adolphe and Frederic Shoberl. "The History of the French Revolution." Vol. 3. New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1866.
*Webster, Noah. "Webster’s New Universal Unabrdiged Dictionary." Vol. 2. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983

Carrier, Jean-Baptiste. Correspondence of Jean-Baptiste Carrier (People’s Representative To the Convention). Nantes: John Lane Company, 1920.

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