Danton, A Study

Appendix VI



The three documents from which I quote below are of the utmost importance to a special study of Danton, because they give us most of our evidence as to the value of his post at the Conseils du Roi, and permit us to understand his financial position during the first years of the Revolution.


They are three in number:—


(a) The deed of sale by which Danton acquired the post from Me. Huet de Paisy. This deed was discovered by Dr. Robinet (from whose “Vie Privée de Danton” I take all the documents quoted) in the offices of a Parisian solicitor, Me. Faiseau-Jaranne of the Rue Vivienne. This gentleman was the direct successor in his business of the M. Dosfant who drew up the deed seventy years before.


I have quoted only the essential portions of this exceedingly interesting piece of evidence. They give us the date of the transaction (March 29, 1787), the price paid, 78,000 livres, or rather (seeing that Danton acquired the right to collect a debt of 11,000) 67,000 livres net (say £2600); the fact that some £2000 of this was paid down out of a loan raised for him by his relations in Champagne and his future father-in-law, while some £160 he paid out of his savings, and the rest remained owing. The receipt of 1789, which I have attached at the end of the extract, shows us that by that time the balance had been paid over to Me. Huet de Paisy, including interest at 5 per cent. Incidentally there is mention of Danton moving to the Rue de la Tissanderie, whence we shall find him drawing up his marriage-contract.


(b) The marriage-contract between Danton and Antoinette Charpentier, contains all the customary provisions of a French marriage-contract, and is witnessed by the usual host of friends, such as we find witnessing Desmoulins’ contract, three or four years later. It tells us, among other things, the position of his stepfather Recordain and the well-to-do connections of the Charpentiers; but the point of principal interest is the dowry—20,000 livres, that is, some £800—of which the greater part (£600) went to pay his debt on the place he held as Avocat ès Conseils, and the fact that he had remaining a patrimony of some £500.


(c) The acknowledgment of the sum due as compensation to Danton when the hereditary and purchasable office which he had bought was put an end to. All students of the period know the vast pother that has been raised on this point, the rumour that Danton was overpaid as a kind of bribe from the court, &c. &c. All the direct evidence we have of the transaction is in these few lines. They are just like all the other forms of reimbursement, and are perfectly straightforward.


The amount is somewhat less than we should give in England under similar circumstances, for (1) the State does not allow for the entrance-fees (10,000 livres), which Danton had had to pay, and (2) it taxes him 12 per cent, for the probable future taxation which would have fallen by death, transference, &c., on the estate. Finally, he gets not quite 70,000 livres for a place which cost him first and last 78,000.


To recapitulate: the general conclusions which these documents permit us to draw with regard to Danton’s financial position are as follows:—The price of the practice he bought was 68,000 livres; of this, 56,000 was paid down, a sum obtained by borrowing 36,000 from Mdlle. Duhattoir (a mortgagee discovered by the family solicitor, Millot), and 15,000 from his future father-in-law, Charpentier, the remaining 5000 being paid out of his own pocket.


He thus remains in debt to Me. Huet de Paisy, the vendor, in a sum of 12,000 livres at 5 per cent. interest.


To this must be added a sum of 10,000 livres entrance-fee, which he presumably pays by recovering a debt of somewhat larger amount (11,000) which he had bought along with the practice.


When he marries, his wife’s dowry cancels his debt to Charpentier and leaves him 5000 livres over, he possessing at that time in land and houses at Arcy some 12,000—in all 17,000 livres or their value are in hand in the summer of 1787, and his total liabilities at the same date are the 36,000 to Mdlle. Duhattoir and the 12,000 to Me. de Paisy. He starts his practice, therefore, with 3 1,000 livres, or about £1200 of net liability. The practice was lucrative; we know that he is immediately concerned with three important chancery cases; he becomes the lawyer of two of the wealthiest men in the kingdom; he lives modestly. We know that he pays the 12,000 with interest in December 1789, and though we do not possess the receipt for Mdlle. Duhattoir’s repayment, it is eminently probable that, under such conditions, he could easily have met a debt of less than £800 out of four years’ successful practice in a close corporation, which of necessity dealt with the most lucrative cases in the kingdom. I think, therefore, one may regard the reimbursement which he received in 1791 as presumably free from debt, and see him in no financial difficulty at any period of the Revolution. This opinion has the advantage of depending upon the support of all those who have lately investigated the same documents—MM. Aulard, Robinet, earlier Bougeart (but he is a special pleader), and finally Mr. Morse Stephens in England.





c< Par devant les conaeillers du Koi, notaires, &c. . . .


". . . Me. Charles-Nicholas Huet de Paisy, fcuyer, ancien avocat au Parlement et es conseils du Roi, demeurant a Paris, Rue de la Tissandene, paroisse de St. Jean en Greve ... a vendu ... a Me. Jacques-Georges Daaton, avocat au Parlement, demeurant a Paris, Rue des Mauvaises Paroles, paroisse St. Germain TAuxerrois . . . T6tat et office h6r6ditaire d'avocat es con- sells du Roi, faisant un des 70 cre'e's par dit du mois de septembre


1738. - . .


" Le dit Me. Huet de Paisy vend en outre en dit Me. Danton la pratique et clientele attaches au sous dit office, et consistant en dossiers, liasses, &c. . . .


"Cette vente est faite ... par ledit Me. Danton qui e'y oblige d'entrer au lieu . . . dudit Me. Huet de Paisy. . . . Moy- ennannant la somme de 78,000 livres . . . dont 68,000 sont le prix de la pratique et 10,000 les charges accoutume'e's. . . .


" Ledit Me. Huet de Paisy reconnait avoir reu sur les 68,000 livres (prix de la pratique) la somme de 56,000 livres dont autant quittances. Quant au 12,000 livres de surplus Me. Danton pro- met et s'oblige de les payer dans quatres armies du jour de sa reception audit office avec FinterSt sur le pied du dernier vingt ... (5 per cent.).


"Declare en outre une . . . somme de 11,000 livres lui tre tegitimement due par . . , (Then follow the details of this debt to the office, Danton consents to pay the 68,000 on condition that he may collect this debt from the client of the office, and specially mentions the fact that, if he is not given full powers to collect, the price shall be not 68,000, but only 57,000 livres). . . .


"A ces prisenteB est intervenu Me. Francois-Jacques Millet* procureur au Parlement, demeurant a Paris, rue Perce"e, paroisse St. S&verin. ITond6 de la procuration sp^ciale pour ce qui suit du, Sieur Francois Lenoir, maitre de poste, et dame Marie-Genevieve Camus, son Spouse, de dame Elisabeth Camus, veuve du Sieur Nicolas Jeannet et de demoiselle Anne Camus, fille majeure, demeurant tous a Arcy-sur-Aube, pass^e en brevet devant Morey notaire h Troyes, en presence de te*moins, le deux de*cembre dernier, Toriginal de laquelle dument contr616 le'galise' a e*t4 certi- fte veritable et depose" pour minute a Me Dosfant, Tun des notaires soussign&j par acte du vingt-huit du present mois. Lequel a, par ces prSsentes, rendu et constitue lesdits Sieur et dame Lenoir, dame veuve Jeannet et demoiselle Camus, cautions et re*pondants solid- aires dudit Me. Danton envers ledit Me. Huet de Paisy, ce faisant les oblige solidairement avec lui, se'pare'ment les uns avec lea autres au payement desdites douze mille livres qui restent dues sur ladite pratique, inte*r6ts d'icelle, et au payement des dbc mille livres, prix du corps dudit office auz poques ci-dessus fixees, a quoi ledit Me. Millot, audit nom, affecte, oblige et hypoth&que sous ladite solidarity ge*ne*ralement tous les biens, meubles et immeubles, presents et a venir de ses constituants.


" Ledit M. Danton declare que dans, les cinquante-six mille livres par lui ci-dessus payees, il y a trente-six mille livres qui proviennent des deniers qu'il a emprunte's a demoiselle Françoise-Julie Duhauttoir, demoiselle majeure, et quinze mille livres qu'il a emprunte*es du Sieur Frangois-Je'rdme Charpentier, contr61eur des fermes, sous le cautionnement desdits Sieur et dame Lenoir, dame veuve Jeannet et demoiselle Camus. . . - ( What follows is the receipt in full, signed by Huet de Paisy in December 1789.)


"Et le trois d^cembre mil sept cent quatre-vingt-neuf, est comparu devant les notaires a Paris, soussigne's, ledit Me. Huet de Paisy, nomme* et qualifi6 en 1'acte ci-devant, demeurant a Paris, rue des Couronnes, pres de Belleville, Lequel a reconnu avoir dudit Me. Danton aussi ci-devant nonim, qualine* et domi- ce present, la somme de treize mille cinq cent livres com- pos^e, i des douze mille livres qui, sur le prix du traite* ci-devant^ avaient e*t6 stipules payables en quatre anne"es du jour de la re*- ception dudit Me. Danton et sur lesquelles ce dernier devait exercer 1'effet de la garantie contract^e par ledit Me. de Paisy, par le traite" ci-devant, relativement a Taffaire du Sieur Papillon de la Grange, de 1'efet de laquelle garantie, quoique cette affaire ne soit pas encore terminta, ledit Me. Danton de'charge ledit Me. de Paisy; 2 et de quinze cents livres pours les inte'r&ts de ladite Bomme de douze mille livres e*cbus jusqu'au premier octobre dernier qu'ils ont cess6 de courir, de convention entre les parties j de laquelle somme de treize mille cinq cents livres et de toutes choses an sujet dudit traite*, ledit Me. Huet de Paisy quitte et de"charge Me. Danton; Dont acte fait et passe* a Paris, en I'ttude, lesdits jour et an et out signe*.






u Par devant les conseillers du Boi, &c. . . .


" Me. Georges- Jacques Danton, avocat es conseils du Roi, de- meurant b, Pans, rue de la Tissanderie, paroisse de Jean en Greve, fila du def unt Sieur Jacques Danton, "bourgeois d'Arcis-sur-Aube, et dame Jeanne-Madeleine Camus, sa veuve actuellement epouse du Sieur Jean Eeordain negotiant audit Arcis-sur-Aube, de present a Paris, loge"e chez ledit sieur, son fils, a ce present, stipulant le dit Me. Danton d'une part.


"Et Sieur Fra^ois-Jerome Charpentier, controleur desFermea, et dame Angelique-Octavie Soldini, son Spouse . . . demeurant & Paris, quai de TEcole, paroisse de St. Germain TAuxerrois, stipu- lant pour . . . demoiselle Antoinette-Gabrielle Charpentier leur fille majeure . . . d'autre part.


"... Ont arre'te' les conventions civiles dudit manage . . . & savoir . . .


(Then follow the names of the witnesses to the contract; their only importance is the idea they give us of the social position of the two bourgeois families concerned. They include Papillon, a surgeon; J)upont, a lawyer of the Ghatelet; Duprat and Grousseau 9 barristers / Widet, a banker; Mme. Tavaval, widow of a painter to the Court, and so forth.} . , .


"... Les biens dudit futur dpoux consistent:


"(i) Dans Toifice d'avocat aux conseils . . . ache'te* k Me. Huet de Paisy . . . le 2 9 mars dernier . . . moyennant la sornme de 68,000 livres qu'il doit en entier soit audit Me, Huet de Paisy, soit aux personnes qui lui ont pr^te les sommes qu'il a payees comptant.


" (2) Dans de terres, maisons et heritages situe* audit Arcis- surAube et aux environs de valeur de la somme de 12,000 livres. . . .


"Les pere et mere de ladite demoiselle lui donnent en dot . . . une somme de 18,000 livres . . . pour s'acquitter de cette somrne ils . . . d&hargent ledit Me. Danton de celle de 15,000 livres qu'ils lui ont prte*e, et qui a e*W employee par lui au paye- ment de partie du prix . , , attache's i. Foffice dudit Me. Huet de Paisy. . . .


" Ils ont pr&entement paye* audit Me. Danton les 3000 livres completant les dix huit milles livres.


" Enfin ladite demoiselle future Spouse apporte ... la somme de 2000 livres provenant de ses gains et dpargnes."


(The remainder of the document is a statement of the "community property" in marriage and the settlements made in case of decease, the whole regulated by the " custom of Parts." They have no interest for this book.)





"Nous, Louis-C&ar-Alexandre-Dufresne Saint-Lion, commis- saiie du Eoi, directeur g^ne*ral de la liquidation.


"Attendu la remise & nous faite des titres originelas . . . concernant 1'ofnce d'avocat es conseils du Eoi dont tait titulair^ t . . le Sieur Georges-Jacques Danton.


<c Ledit office liquide* . , . par dcret de 1' Assemble Nationale ... sanctionne' par le Eoi le deux octobre, h la somme de 69,031 liyres 4 sols. . . . Avons delivre' au Sieur Danton ... la presents reconnaissance definitive de la dite somme de 69,031 livres 4 sols, qui sera paye & la caisse de 1'extraordinaire. *


" M. Georges- Jacques Danton, avocat es conseils, en presence des soussign^s ... a recounu ... la liquidation . . . de 1'ofiice d'avocat es conseils du Eoi dont & titulair^ . , . ledit Georges- Jacques Danton . . . savoir.


"(1) 78,000 livres , . . principale moyennant laquelle il A acquis Toffice le 29 Mars 1787.


" (2) 240 livres pour le remboursement du droit de mutation.


"(3) 4 J ^ ^v 4 s l s P our c 6 ^ fta ^f 10 ^' or '


w (4) 125 livres pour celui des frais de Sceau.


Deduction faite de 9750 pour le huiti&me du prix retenu. . . . An moyendu paisement effectif qui sera fait audit Sieur Danton de . . . 69,031 livres 4 sols . . . quitte et d^charge I'&at, M. Dufresne de Saint-Le'on et tons autr^s de ladite somme de 69,031 livres 4 sols . . . &c." (The remainder of the document is the mention of the original deed of sale having been shown to the liquidator, and the correction of certain clerical errors in a former document.)