Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793) was a Swiss-born physician, journalist, and French politician who actively participated in the political events of the French Revolution, which led to the abolition of the monarchy. As a leader of the radical Montagnard faction, Marat was one of the three most important men in France at the time, alongside Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre. He was stabbed to death in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday, a young Girondin supporter, on July 13, 1793.
Jean Paul Marat was born in Boudry, Switzerland, on May 24, 1743, to Giovanni Mara, a native of Cagliari, Sardinia, and Louise Cabrol, a French Huguenot from Castres. He was the second of nine children. At the age of sixteen, Marat left home and set off in search of fame and fortune. He studied medicine in Paris, then moved to London in 1765. There, he not only became a renown physician, but also wrote essays on philosophy: "A philosophical Essay on Man", published in 1773, and "Chains of Slavery", published in 1774. Finally, in 1776, Marat returned to Paris, where he became a physician to the bodyguard of the comte d’Artois, Louis XVI’s youngest brother. Marat was soon in great demand as a court doctor among the aristocracy. In April 1786, he resigned his post of court doctor and devoted his energies full-time to scientific research. Nevertheless, in May 1789, on the eve of the Revolution, Marat placed his career as a scientist and doctor behind him and took up his pen on behalf of the Third Estate.
From September 1789, as editor of the newspaper “The Friend of the People”, Marat became an influential voice in favor of the most radical and democratic measures, particularly in October, when the royal family was forced by a mob to leave Versailles and move to Paris. He particularly advocated preventive measures against aristocrats, whom he claimed were plotting to destroy the Revolution. Early in 1790 he was forced to flee to England after publishing attacks on Jacques Necker, the king’s finance minister; three months later he was back, his fame now sufficient to give him some protection against reprisal. He did not relent but directed his criticism against such moderate Revolutionary leaders as the marquis de Lafayette, the comte de Mirabeau, and Jean-Sylvain Bailly, mayor of Paris. He continued to warn the revolutionaries against royalist exiles who were organizing counterrevolutionary activities and urging the other European monarchs to intervene in France and restore the full power of Louis XVI.
In 1792, he talked about his wish to see a new dictatorship installed where the true values of the Revolution will be implemented. His extremist ideas were accused to have led to the massacre of September 1792. That same month, the monarchy was abolished as Marat was elected to the National Convention where he sat with the "Montagnards". He renamed his famous newspaper to "le journal de la republique francaise" (the journal of the French republic). In 1793, he was elected president of the Jacobins club and asked for the destitution of the Girondins, whom he believed where enemies of the republicanism. On the other side, the Girondins attacked the dictatorship of the Montagnards and their famous leaders, Robespierre, Danton and Marat.
The battle between to two parties ended on June 2nd, 1793. The Convention decided to eliminate the Girondins. This was a very important victory for Marat, who became even more popular. On July 13, 1793 Marat was murdered by Charlotte Corday, a Girondin sympathizer, who was guillotined on July 17, 1793 for the murder. Robespierre, leader of the National Convention gave him a national honor with grandiose funeral. On September 21, 1794 Marat was officialy declared an "Immortal" and exhumed to the Pantheon.