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JEROME PETION DE VILLENEUVE (1756–1794)

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 305 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JEROME PETION DE VILLENEUVE (1756–1794), French writer and politician, was the son of a procureur at Chartres. He became an avocat in 1778, and at once began to try to make a name in literature. His first printed work was an essay, Sur les moyens de prevenir l'infanticide, which failed to gain the prize for which it was composed, but pleased Brissot so much that he printed it in vol. vii. of his Bibliotheque philosophiquedes legislateurs. Petion's next works, Les Lois civiles, and Essay sur le mariage, in which he advocated the marriage of priests, confirmed his position as a bold reformer, and when the elections to the States-General took place in 1789 he was elected a deputy to the Tiers Etat for Chartres. Both in the assembly of the Tiers Etat and in the Constituent Assembly Petion showed himself a radical leader. He supported Mirabeau on the 23rd of June, attacked the queen on the 5th of October, and was elected president on the 4th of December 1790. On the 15th of June 1791 he was elected president of the criminal tribunal of Paris. On the 21st of June 1791 he was chosen one of three commissioners appointed to bring back the king from Varennes, and he has left a fatuous account of the journey. After the last meeting of the assembly on the 3oth of September 1791 Robespierre and Petion were made the popular heroes and were crowned by the populace with civic crowns. Petion received a still further proof of the affection of the Parisians for himself on the 16th of November 1791, when he was elected second mayor of Paris in succession to Bailly. In his' mayoralty he exhibited clearly his republican tendency and his hatred of the old monarchy, especially on the loth of June 1792, when he allowed the mob to overrun the Tuileries and insult the royal family. For neglecting to protect the Tuileries he was suspended from his functions by the Directory of the department of the Seine, but the leaders of the Legislative Assembly felt that Petion's cause was theirs, and rescinded the suspension on the 13th of July. On the 3rd of August, at the head of the municipality of Paris, Petion demanded the dethronement of the king. He was elected to the Convention for Eure-et-Loir and became its first president. L. P. Manuel had the folly to propose that the president of the Assembly should have the same authority as the president of the United States; his proposition was at once rejected, but Petion got the nickname of " Roi Petion," which contributed to his fall. His jealousy of Robespierre allied him to the Girondin party, with which he voted for the king's death and for the appeal to the people. He was elected in March 1793 to the first Committee of Public Safety; and he attacked Robespierre, who had accused him of having known and having kept secret Dumouriez's project of treason. His popularity however had waned, and his name was among those of the twenty-two Girondin deputies proscribed on the 2nd of June. Petion was one of those who escaped to Caen and raised the standard of provincial insurrection against the Convention; and, when the Norman rising failed, he fled with M. E.. Guadet, F. A. Buzot, C. J. M. Barbaroux, J. B. Salle and Louvet de Couvrai to the Gironde, where they were sheltered by a wig-maker of Saint Emilion. At last, a month before Robespierre's fall in June 1794, the escaped deputies felt themselves no longer safe, and deserted their asylum; Louvet found his way to Paris, Salle and Guadet to Bordeaux, where they were soon taken; Barbaroux committed suicide; and the bodies of Petion and Buzot, who also killed themselves, were found in a field, half-eaten by wolves. See Memoires inedits de Petion et memoires de Buzot et de Barbaroux, accompannes de notes inedites de Buzot et de nombreux documents inedits sur Barbaroux, Buzot, Brissot, b'e., precedes d'une introduction par C. A. Dauban (Paris, 1866) ; Euvres de Petion (3 vols., 1792); F. A. Aulard, Les Orateurs de la Constituante (Paris, 1882).
End of Article: JEROME PETION DE VILLENEUVE (1756–1794)
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