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Jean Paul Marat
by [?]

During the latter part of the Eighteenth Century, these clubs were very popular in London. Men who could talk or speak were made welcome, and if the new member generated caloric, so much the better–excitement was at a premium.

Marat was now able to speak English with precision, and his slight French accent only added a charm to his words. He was fiery, direct, impetuous. He was a fighter by disposition, and care was taken never to cross him beyond a point where the sparks began to fly. The man was immensely diverting, and his size was to his advantage–orators should be very big or very little–anything but commonplace. The Duke of Mantua would have gloried in Jean Paul, and later might have cut off his head as a precautionary measure.

Among the visitors at one of the coffeehouse clubs was one B. Franklin, big, patient, kind. He weighed twice as much as Marat: and his years were sixty, while Marat’s were thirty.

Franklin listened with amused smiles at the little man, and the little man grew to have an idolatrous regard for the big ‘un. Franklin carried copies of a pamphlet called “Common Sense,” written by one T. Paine. Paine was born in England, but was always pleased to be spoken of as an American, yet he called himself “A Citizen of the World.”

Paine’s pamphlet, “The Crisis,” was known by heart to Marat, and the success of Franklin and Paine as writers had fired him to write as well as to orate. As a result, we have “The Chains of Slavery.” The work today has no interest to us except as a literary curiosity. It is a composite of Rousseau and Paine, done by a sophomore in a mood of exaltation, and might serve acceptably well as a graduation essay, done in F major. It lacks the poise of Paine and the reserve of Rousseau, and all the fine indifference of Franklin is noticeable by its absence.

They say that Marat’s name was “Mara” and his ancestors came from County Down. But never mind that–his heart was right. Of all the inane imbecilities and stupid untruths of history, none is worse than the statement that Jean Paul Marat was a demagog, hotly intent on the main chance.

In this man’s character there was nothing subtle, secret nor untrue. He was simplicity itself, and his undiplomatic bluntness bears witness to his honesty.

In London, he lived as the Mayor of Boston said William Lloyd Garrison lived–in a hole in the ground. His services as a physician were free to all–if they could pay, all right; if not, it made no difference. He looked after the wants of political refugees, and head, heart and pocketbook were at the disposal of those who needed them. His lodging-place was a garret, a cellar–anywhere: he was homeless, and his public appearances were only at the coffeehouse clubs, or in the parks, where he would stand on a barrel and speak to the crowd on his one theme of liberty, fraternity and equality. His plea was for the individual. In order to have a strong and excellent society, we must have strong and excellent men and women. That phrase of Paine’s, “The world is my country: to do good is my religion,” he repeated over and over again.

* * * * *

In the year Seventeen Hundred Seventy-nine, Marat moved to Paris. He was then thirty-six years old. In Paris he lived very much the same life that he had in London. He established himself as a physician, and might have made a decided success had he put all his eggs in one basket and then watched the basket.

But he didn’t. Franklin had inspired him with a passion for invention: he rubbed amber with wool, made a battery and applied the scheme in a crude way to the healing art. He wrote articles on electricity and even foreshadowed the latter-day announcement that electricity is life. And all the time he discussed economics, and gave out through speech and written word his views as to the rights of the people. He saw the needs of the poor–he perceived how through lack of nourishment there developed a craving for stimulants, and observed how disease and death fasten themselves upon the ill-fed and the ill-taught. To alleviate the suffering of the poor, he opened a dispensary as he had done in London, and gave free medical attendance to all who applied. At this dispensary, he gave lectures on certain days upon hygiene, at which times he never failed to introduce his essence of Rousseau and Voltaire.