What Was Jean Paul Marat's Role in the French Revolution?

Jean Paul Marat was among the most outspoken figures who led the French Revolution, and through such vehicles as his journal "L'Ami du Peuple," he created a wellspring of criticism that pushed the uprising to its bloodiest years, beginning in 1792. His work led to his assassination.

While many people associate the French Revolution with the horrors of the guillotine and the excesses of the Reign of Terror, the uprising did not begin that way. When the revolution began, progress was much more measured, as the Girondists, who were a group of moderates who favored a republic, pushed for a constitutional form of government, somewhat similar to that which had appeared in the new United States.

Marat founded his journal in 1789, the first year of the revolution, and he leveled intense criticism at those in power after the fall of the Bourbons. His rhetoric led, in part, to the arrest of King Louis XVI in the summer of 1792 as well as Marat's own election to the Convention as one of Paris' deputies. His opposition to the moderate Girondists pushed France to greater violence against the nobility. His success drove Charlotte Corday, a Girondist ally and the child of a newly poor aristocrat, to see Marat as France's evil enemy and to stab him in his bath. Her action did not lead to a Girondist revival, though; instead, the violence of the Revolution would only intensify.