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"Reply to the Impertinent Question: What is a Sans-Culotte?" (April 1793)

sans-culottes.gif (18721 bytes)A sans-culotte you rogues? He is someone who always goes on foot, who has no millions as you would all like to have, no chateaux. No valets to serve him, and who lives simply with his wife and children, if he has any, on a fourth or fifth story.

He is useful, because he knows how to work in the field, to forge iron, to use a saw, to use a file, to roof a house, to make shoes, and to shed his last drop of blood for the safety of the Republic.

And because he works, you are sure not to meet his person in the Café de Chartres, or in the gaming house where others conspire and game, nor at the National theatre . . . nor in the literary clubs. . . .

In the evening he goes to his section, not powdered or perfumed, or smartly booted in the hope of catching the eye of the citizenesses in the galleries, but ready to support good proposals with all his might, and to crush those which come from the abominable faction of politicians.

Finally, a sans-culottes always has his sabre sharp, to cut off the ears of all enemies of the Revolution; sometimes he even goes out with his pike, but at the first sound of the drum he is ready to leave for the Vendée, for the army of the Alps or to the army of the North. . . .

[Source: Reprinted in Walter Markov and Albert Soboul, eds., Die Sansculotten von Paris, republished trans. by Clive Emsley in Merryn Williams, ed., Revolutions: 1755-1830 (Baltimore: Penguin, 1971), pp. 100-101.]

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