Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac

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Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac (1793/1794)

Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac (September 10, 1755January 13, 1841) was a French politician and journalist, one of the most notorious members of the National Convention during the French Revolution.


Barère published in 1843 his memoirs posthumously (edited by Hippolyte Carnot), reviewed in the Edinburgh Review by Thomas Babington Macaulay (April, 1844.) Macaulay condemned Barère thoroughly as a political renegade and chronic liar, lying in his memoir even about speeches published in the official record. In particular, Macaulay accused him of inventing the quotation

  • L'arbre de la liberté ne croit qu'arrosé par le sang des tyrans.
    • [Translated]: The tree of liberty only grows when watered by the blood of tyrants.
    • Speech in the Convention Nationale, 1792.

Macaulay's English version was: "The tree of Liberty, as an ancient author remarks, flourishes when it is watered with the blood of all classes of tyrants," viz. Barère ascribed the sentiment to a classical author. But there is no such quotation in classical literature, writes Macaulay, himself widely read in Latin and Greek, but perhaps not in Americana. The sentiment has been ascribed to Thomas Jefferson earlier than the French Revolution (in a letter of 13 November 1787) so might have been coined by him. By 1919 it appeared in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed.

  • II n'ya que les morts qui ne reviennent pas.
    • [Translated]: It is only the dead who do not return.
    • Speech, 1794, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

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