Saturday, 20 March 2021

The last days of Condorcet

Of all the many personal tragedies of the Revolutionary epoch, none seems more poignant than the death of Condorcet, the great exponent of human progress,  in his lonely prison cell.  The nature of his death remains uncertain;  did he attempt to take charge of his fate by an act of suicide or did he merely succumb, more mundanely but mercifully, to a medical condition - a heart attack or a stroke?  Here are a few notes on the lead up to Condorcet's arrest, and what is know of his final end.

In the rue Servandoni - With Mme de Vernet

On 8th July 1793 Condorcet's arrest was decreed by the Convention and his possessions seized.  A few days later, his name appeared with those of Brissot, Valazé,  Gensonné and Vergniaud, on the list of Girondin deputies condemned to death for conspiracy against the Republic. Condorcet now published an open letter, justifying his flight from "tyranny".  He immediately left his house at 505 rue de Lille and fled first to Auteuil, where he had a pied-à-terre at no.2 Grande-Rue.  The doctors Pinel and Boyer, friends of Cabanis and of Félix Vicq d'Azir managed to find  him refuge in Paris with a widow, Mme de Vernet, at 21 rue des Fossoyeurs, now 15 rue Servandoni.  

Although they were not previously acquainted, Mme de Vernet, with considerable generosity of spirit, sheltered and provided for him.  For the next eight months he lived quietly, dividing his days between working, reading and the society of the household.  His wife, who at this time made ends meet by portrait-painting, was able to visit him once or twice a week; she came on foot from Auteuil, disguised as a peasant and would mingle with the crowds from the guillotine so as not to be noticed. He was also able to receive  a few intimate friends - Cabanis, Diannyère, Cardot.  Mme de Vernet's lodger, Marcoz, who was deputy for Mont-Blanc, furnished him with books (he devoured "an enormous quantity of novels"), newspapers and news from the Convention. At the end of October, unsurprisingly, he was thrown into a state of considerable agitation by the execution of his fellow Girondists. 

It was during this  period in the rue Servandoni that the Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain was written:
 "The serenity that distinguishes the Progress of the Human Mind was an artistic effect;  it reflected no counterpart in Condorcet's own state of mind" (Gillespie, Science and polity in France (2014 ed., p.331) 



File:Plaque Nicolas de Condorcet, 15 rue Servandoni, Paris 6.jpg - Wikimedia Commons


In Fontenay-aux-Roses - the Suards

At the end of March 1794,  as repression intensified, Condorcet  was obliged to reconsider his  situation.  He feared for Mme Vernet, his family, his friends and determined to leave the rue Servandoni. There were warnings of impending visitations, but also the promise of a new refuge - probably from Garat, the former Minister of the Interior.  He entrusted his papers to Madame Vernet's companion, the mathematician Sarret, for safekeeping and declared his intention to absent himself for a few days. 

On the day of his departure, Tuesday 25th March, he wrote on the flyleaf of a history of Spain, his "Testament", a moving final set of advice to his infant daughter Éliza in which he commended Mme Vernet to her as a "second mother" [English translation:   Condorcet - Google Books  ]At ten in the morning  he went upstairs on pretext of searching for his tobacco, then slipped out of the the house secretly, dressed in his customary disguise of a  carmagnole jacket and woollen bonnet.  Sarret accompanied him. They went up the rue Servandoni, turned right into the rue de Vaugirard opposite the Luxembourg prison, then managed to cross the Barrière du Maine without incident.  Once out in the countryside Condorcet took his leave of Sarret, stating that he would go to his old friends Jean-Baptiste and Amélie Suard at Fontenay-aux-Roses and then perhaps on to Le Pecq.

As ill luck would have it, when Condorcet reached Fontenay, the Suards were absent in Paris.  He presented himself twice without finding them in, and was reduced to sleeping rough for two nights in a nearby quarry.  He returned a third time on Thursday 27th March at nine in the morning. This time he was invited in and stayed two hours with Suard.  According to Amélie Suard, he was given a substantial meal, money and bandages for a leg injury he had sustained in the quarry.  Suard then returned hastily to Paris in search of a passport.  For fear of spies, Condorcet was sent away from the house; again according to Amélie Suard it was arranged that he should return at eight in the evening to spend the night.   Later the Suards were to be subject to bitter recriminations, particularly from Mme Vernet,  for their failure to offer Condorcet immediate shelter.  See Robinet (1894), p.21:
"Suard sent Caritat on his way and entrusted him, in broad daylight, to the open road!  Three hours later, he was arrested; it was all over....Any commentary is useless"



7 rue Jean Jaurès in Fontenay-aux-Roses, where the Suard residence once stood. The property, which dated from the late 17th century, was bought by Suard in 1782 and  became a hub for the intellectuals of the later Enlightenment. Amélie Suart described it as "an attractive house in a charming situation" with views of an "amphitheatre of superb extensive woodland" and "great fields of roses and cherry trees".  A little hard to imagine now! In 1974 the existing property was demolished and replaced by modern flats.  A single surviving gate,  incongruously preserved, serves as a reminder of Condorcet's unhappy visit.


See: Liens de mémoire; bulletin des Archives de Fontenay-aux-Roses, no.25. 2015.


In Clamart - Arrest

Condorcet left Fontenay at about eleven o'clock in the morning, in the direction of Clamart, three kilometres away, where he arrived at about one in the afternoon.  Here he entered the inn of  Louis Crépinet,  a member of the municipal committee and chief of the armed force for the commune.  By ill luck, the most notorious terrorist of Clamart, Nicolas-Claude Champy, was also present, drinking with another farmer, François Breau. Condorcet excited their suspicion - so the tale goes - by asking for a twelve-egg omelette. He was unable to produce any papers, or answer their questions convincingly.   Champy denounced him to the local committee of surveillance, who had "le quidam" brought before them in the sacristry of the church.  It was now two in the afternoon.  He was searched and his personal effects taken. When interrogated Condorcet gave his name as "Pierre Simon" and claimed he was the former valet de chambre of MM. Trudaine and Dionys du Séjour; he signed under the false name without however troubling to disguise his handwriting.

Emile Antoine, in his article of 1890, published the procès-verbal of the arrest.  The committee voted by eight out of twelve, that Pierre Simon  should be taken by the gendarmerie to the district of l'Égalité, that is to Bourg-la-Reine.  This order was  carried out immediately , with the Committee of General Security and the Committee of Public Safety informed.

Fichier:Maison ancienne de clamart.jpg — Wikipédia 

This house, 7 rue Chef de Ville in Clamart, is known locally as the "Auberge Condorcet", though according to Émile Antoine the actual cabaret belonging to Louis Crespinet had been demolished by 1890, as had the sacristy where the local revolutionary committee met.

The last meal of Condorcet, from Louis Figuier, Vie des savants illustres
https://www.akg-images.com/archive/-2UMEBMYQHF2UF.html



Bourg-la-Reine - Imprisonment and death

Condorcet, with his bad leg, had to be transported  the six kilometres to Bourg-la-Reine in a commandeered cart, between two gendarmes.  He was delivered to  the Maison d'arrêt in the late afternoon or early evening of Thursday 27th; he spent Thursday night there; then Friday and the following night, then part of the day on Saturday.  At four in the afternoon on Saturday 29th March, the prison concierge Antoine Chevenu  found him dead in his room.  He was fully dressed, lying face down on the ground with his arms stretched out by his sides.  He had no weapon or other object which could give rise to suspicion of suicide.  At ten in the evening, the Justice of the Peace, Antoine Morelle, arrived to verify the death, accompanied by Labrousse the medical officer for the locality.  The body was stripped and death declared to be  due to  a "sanguinary apoplexy".  The remains were then handed over to an agent of the commune charged with their burial.

The formal procès-verbal of the removal of the body and the death certificate itself, both first published by Émile Antoine in 1890, confirm the date of death as Saturday 29th March 1794 (9 Germinal Year II)  The following day Condorcet's body was buried in a common grave in the cemetery of Bourg-l'Egalité in the presence of the gardener Jean Crette and the joiner Cholot.

By a judgment of the tribunal of the 1st arrondissement of  Paris, dated  12 Ventôse Year III, the official record was rectified and the name "Pierre Simon" replaced by that of Condorcet. The body was never recovered;  when the philosopher's remains were "transferred" to the Pantheon in 1989 the coffin was empty.

pic.gif (640×480) (patrimoine.asso.fr)

No trace remains in Bourg-la-Reine today of the maison d'arrêt where Condorcet died. There used to be a commemorative plaque  where it once stood, at what is now 81 Avenue du Général-Leclerc.  However, in 2006 , when the site was redeveloped, the plaque seems to have been taken down and never replaced.

"Condorcet commits the act of suicide in prison to avoid his sentence". Engraving after Alexandre Fragonard, published in London in 1803.
https://purl.stanford.edu/dn367hd9535


Did Condorcet commit suicide?


The timing of Condorcet's death, days or even hours before he was inevitably exposed and sent to Paris for execution, seemed suspiciously convenient.  Contemporaries almost unanimously concluded that he had committed suicide using a poison which he "always kept with him". This poison certainly existed: it had been concocted by Cabanis in the highly charged atmosphere of late 1793 and distributed among his close circle where it was known gamely as "the bread of brothers";  the abbé Morellet had even seen a ball of it in the possession of Suard.   Cabanis never denied giving the poison to Condorcet. In the 1890s the historian Antoine Guillois, a native of Fontenay, unearthed  a manuscript note written by the deputy Jean Depry, dated June 1793 in which he reveals that Condorcet shared his supply of poison with him as a "gift of friendship"; he remarked that Condorcet wished "to remain in all eventualities, the sole master of his person".  Garat, in his memoirs, also referred to a poison which he and Condorcet "shared between us like bread among brothers"   The unanswered question, of course, is whether Condorcet still had the poison on him in March 1794 when he staggered into the inn in Clamart.  The only direct evidence a cryptic remark he reportedly made to Suard that, if he had one night in front of him, he was certain to escape his executioners. 

The circumstances of his death seem to make poisoning unlikely, though they do not absolutely exclude it. 


Timings: 

Many commentators, his daughter included, made the mistake of assuming Condorcet died during his first night in gaol. In fact he was arrested on Thursday 27th but was not found dead until the afternoon of Saturday 29th, after two nights in prison.  This does not fit very well with the idea of staying "one night ahead" and skeptics wonder why he chose that particular time to commit suicide.

Logistics: 

Could Condorcet really have hidden the wherewithal to poison himself?  At the time of his arrest  his personal effects,  including the knife and scissors which could potentially have been suicide weapons, had all been seized.  The room was also thoroughly searched after his death. Certainly there was no chance of keeping a flask or the ring with a concealed cavity favoured by more romantically-inclined historians. That said, Cabanis's poison didn't need a container as such: it is described as being made up into "pieces of barley sugar" or as a ball about the size of half a little finger.  It could be broken up and dissolved directly on the tongue.  


Medical evidence: 

The death certificate and the official report of the removal of the body, still assumed to be that of the vagrant Pierre Simon, yield only two pieces of  medical information:

  • The corpse was found in an odd position, face down on the floor with arms stretched out stiffly by the sides.
  • There was bleeding from the nostrils.  Based on this, the medical officer had no hesitation in concluding that "sanguinary apoplexy", that is to a say a stroke,was the cause of death.  No postmortum was carried out.  
Was poisoning possible?  Cabanis's poison is known to have been a  combination of  concentrate of opium, and stramonium, that is to say an extract from the plant stramonium datura,  known in 18th-century France as "l'herbe aux sorciers" or "l'herbe au diable".   Both poisons attack the nervous system, causing hallucinations and, in high concentrations, multiple organ failure and death. Modern experts are divided as to whether this is consistent with the description of Condorcet's body.  Régis Olry and Geneviève Dupont, in their 2006 article, say not: there should have been vomiting and signs of convulsions, or at least evident distress. 

In contrast, Michel Biard, in his 2015 book on death and the deputies to the Convention, concludes that poisoning was indeed feasible.  He consulted two modern forensic medical practitioners,  Gérard Lahon, at the court of appeal in Rouen and Jean-Georges Anagnostides, an expert at the Cour de cassation.  Both felt that the acute poisoning could not be discounted, perhaps in conjunction with a preexisting cardio-vascular condition. The position of the body seemed to them unnatural, as though manipulated post mortem by a third party.  The thought is that the suicide had been concealed in order to avert charges of negligence - but this is to add a whole new layer of supposition.


Comparable cases:  

This line of inquiry does not get us very far:

  • Loménie de Brienne, former finance minister and Archbishop of Sens, died, ostensibly of heart failure, on the night following his arrest on 18th February 1794. He was widely assumed to have taken poison - perhaps even "les pastilles de Cabanis".  However, his 19th-century biographer Perrin, was doubtful;  the accounts are contradictory and  members of the family were convinced that he had died of natural causes. A postmortum revealed no traces of poison.

See: Joseph Perrin,  Le cardinal de Loménie de Brienne, archevèque de Sens; ses dernières années  (1896), p.187-191.  https://archive.org/details/lecardinaldelom01sensgoog/page/n202/mode/2up

  • Napoleon attempted suicide  in the early hours of 13th April 1814 by taking poison or medicinal opium. It was thought that he once possessed Cabanis's poison, but the capsule he actually took had been prepared by his personal physician Dr Alexandre-Urbain Yvan.  Thanks to prompt intervention, he suffered only spasms, nausea and vomiting.  
 

Condorcet's state of health: 

Condorcet would certainly have been exhausted, debilitated and profoundly mentally stressed by the time he reached Bourg-la-Reine:

  • He was forced to spend two March nights sleeping rough in a quarry, which must have been quite an ordeal for a man who was used to a warm bed.  During this time he sustained a leg injury.   
  • There was some dispute whether Condorcet had eaten with the Suards, or was starving and had been driven by hunger into the inn in Clamart.
  •  He was so exhausted he had to be loaded on a cart to be taken from Clamart to the prison in Bourg-la-Reine.  
None of this in itself suggests Condorcet was close to death.  He had walked the three kilometres to Clamart, gone into the inn and then appeared before the committee in the church sacristy without collapse. He had answered his accusers coherently. Nor should it be assumed  his condition worsened in the Maison d'arrêt - it seems quite likely that he would have been given a mattress and food of some sort. It takes more than tiredness and stress to kill a well-nourished fifty-year-old man.

We are therefore forced back on the possibility that he had an underlying medical condition, which could have caused a stroke or heart failure.  There is some evidence to support this.
  • Condorcet was known to be sensitive to stress and to have a delicate temperament which was taxed by his intellectual labours.  At the beginning of the Convention, he declared in the Chronique de Paris 1792,  that his health had been adversely affected.
  • Isambert in the Nouvelle Biographie générale writes that Condorcet was tall, with a large head, wide shoulders and a robust body, but weak spindly legs. He habitually stooped. (See Robinet, p.264)  
  • In the winter months at the rue Servandoni, he suffered from the cold, particularly in the legs, perhaps a sign of poor circulation.  Sarret reports he would stay in bed until midday to keep his legs warm and Mme Vernet depicts him shivering in front of the fire.  
  • He had difficulty in walking with Sarret to Fontenay,  a journey of 8 kilometres, which took him four hours. 
  • When Mme Suard saw him for the last time, admittedly after two nights sleeping rough, he was bent double, unrecognisable, walking with difficulty. 
  • Régis Olry and Geneviève Dupont state that Condorcet had previously suffered a minor stroke This seems important point, but they do not give a reference and I have been unable to find one. 

.  

Conclusion?

In the absence of conclusive evidence either way, it is perhaps safest to accept the official verdict that Condorcet died of natural causes, a stroke and/or heart attack. On the other hand, Condorcet had on several occasions expressed his intention to take his own life rather than submit to trial -  the timing must surely supports the idea that he did so.  It is certainly comforting to imagine, with his friends and family, that he was able to confront his fate and chose a philosopher's death. 

References

Émile Antoine, "Pèlerinage de Bourg-la-Reine: les derniers jours de Condorcet", La Revue occidentale philosophique, sociale et politique, No.2, March 1890, p.124-154 

Jean-François Robinet, Condorcet: sa vie, son oeuvre (1894)

Antoine Guillois - notes for a history of Fontenay, composed in 1907.

Archives & patrimoine Hauts-de-Seine, "Arrestation et mort de Condorcet" [images of Condorcet's original death certificate and the rectifications approved after the deposition of his widow]

"Condorcet à Clamart",Paris myope [blog], post of 04.12.2011.

Régis Olry and  Geneviève Dupont, "Did Jean Condorcet (1743-1794) commit suicide?"  Journal of Medical Biography2006: vol 14(3), p.183-6.
This article is restricted but, with patience, it is possible to see most of it on Google "snippet" view Journal of Medical Biography - Google Books

Michel Biard, La liberté ou la mort, mourir en député, 1792-1795 (2015)
La liberté ou la mort, mourir en député, 1792-1795 - Google Books


Readings


From the letters of  Mme Vernet:

 Condorcet's daughter (Mme O'Connor) wrote a set of notes on her father and mother in which she transcribed extracts from several letters written to her by Mme Vernet.  Mme Vernet had been a generous hostess, but as Eliza O'Connor  noted, in later years she made "something of a cult" of her attachment to the great philosopher.

It was I, together with M. Sarret and M. Marcoz, who informed [Condorcet] by our sad faces, of the assassination of his colleagues.  He was holding a paper where he was writing in the margin the "Progress of the Human Mind".  He was sitting in a big armchair, his legs stretched out in front of the fire because he was cold.  He laid his head on my chest, crying for the loss of his friends, and it was on that sad day that he said to me "I will be an outlaw and you too;  I must leave"."No stay; the Committee of Public Safety can place you outside the law, but I will not place you outside humanity..."

He stayed for five more months after that fatal day , and it was only on the 5th of April that he escaped from me, by the ruse of the tobacco box, accompanied by my good Sarret.  The cry of poor Manon (the servant) when she found him gone left me unable to move for four hours.   Good Sarret, who arrived back half-dead, informed me that he had left him at the door of that monster Suard....It was at 10:30 in the morning, on the 5th April that they left.  They had embraced, with the promise of a return on the 7th of the month...

This incomparable man, left after ten, accompanied by M. Sarret, with the sun shining...it took them four hours to arrive at Fontenay-aux-Roses...They had to rest often on the way ; your poor father had difficulty walking, through having been indoors so long....
Robinet, App. I Condorcet - Google Books


Account by J.-B. Sarret:

The mathematician Sarret accompanied Condorcet as far as Fontenay

At the time of his proscription, Condorcet found by fortunate chance, a secure refuge, even an agreeable one, with a woman who was almost unknown, though distinguished by her moral qualities...

For the whole time that Condorcet passed in this retreat, that is eight whole months, I had the good fortune, since I lived under the same roof, to live with him, to second the vigilance and share, as far as I was able,  the care given to him by his guardian angel.  For these eight months,  we did not lose sight of him for an instant.   We witnessed and admired his gentleness, patient, his unfailing calmness of spirit, and his resignation to a fate he had done nothing to deserve.  He was indifferent to his own welfare, for the objects of his greatest concerns were always the Republic, his wife, his child, his friends.

He divided his time between work; reading (mainly novels of which he devoured an incredible quantity) and the society of his benefactress, whom he named his second mother.... [He also enjoyed the company of ] Citizen Marcoz, member of the Convention, who lived in the same house...it was he who procured the books, newspapers and other papers, and brought news, particularly of the Convention....and also me myself.

He worked routinely every morning until dinner.  He would remain in bed until midday, to guard himself against cold in the legs,  to which he was very susceptible; the time after dinner, until seven or eight, was devoted to social intercourse -  reading newspapers and [agreeable conversation] .  At eight o'clock he began work again until ten.  He passed the interval between ten and bed time with his second mother and me.

Such was the way of life of Condorcet in this refuge; as he said more than once, he only lacked for contentment, the happiness of his country and the presence of those close to him.
It was here that he composed his posthumous works (Progress of the Human Mind/ The Advice to his daughter etc.) ...

I now come to that cruel catastrophe that cost us, and continues to cost us, so many tears and regrets.

We had been threatened for some time with a domiciliary visit... The day before Condorcet left his sanctuary (4 Germinal Year II), an unknown man called...on pretext of viewing an apartment which was for rent...He talked of visitations in search of saltpeter and gave it to be understood that...if we had something more precious we should be on our guard... The next day Condorcet received a letter warning him of a visit to the house in search of fugitives from the Midi. 

This letter, which indicated another possible retreat, obliged him to leave the refuge where he had proposed to spend his life. Alas! We did not foresee that his absence, which was planned to last only three or four days, was to become an eternal separation.  I did not imagine that our embrace on the plain of Montrouge, - to which I had accompanied him alone and in full daylight - would be our last farewell.

He went on to Fontenay-aux-Roses, to the home of Suard, his old friend.  I never found out exactly what happened between them; but two or three days later, the unfortunate Condorcet was arrested in Clamart in a cabaret where hunger had driven him, and from there he was taken as a criminal to the prison in Bourg-Egalite, where ...he finished his days by poison.
"Notice sur la vie de Condorcet pendant sa proscription" published in his edition of Condorcet's Observations pour les instituteurs sur les élémens d'arithmétique à l'usage des écoles primaires, ( (Year  VII/1798/99)  p.ii-xi.  Google Books  This work was among the manuscripts left in Sarret's care. 


From the Memoirs of Garat 

 Dominique-Joseph Garat, the former Minister of the Interior, attempted to arrange a new hiding pace for Condorcet at the time of his arrest.

As soon as Condorcet was forced to seek an asylum, I offered him the hôtel next door to me which belonged to the Ministry of the Interior...When [he was forced to leave Mme Vernet],  I proposed that he should go to a house I possessed ten leagues away from Paris,  where everything had been made ready to receive him. [The house in question was in Auvergnaux, south of Corbeil; a place with "very few people but lots of rocks"] The great distance, the  difficulty of crossing from one department to another without a passport, made this project too dangerous;  I was in the process of arranging an alternative  closer at hand when we learned that that the unfortunate Condorcet had fallen into the hands of those who mete out death to those who do not chose it themselves.
Mémoires sur la Révolution (Paris, Year III, March 1795), p.202-3.  Google Books

Account by Amélie Suard:

Mme Suard and Condorcet had once been intimate correspondents of Condorcet. These memoirs, published years later, in 1820, were  inevitably something of an essay in self-justification.

M Suard and I had gone to Paris for two or three days.  When we came back, we learned that a man with a scruffy bonnet, trousers and a long beard, had come to the door twice at Fontenay, and had appeared distressed not to find us in. [The next morning at nine the maidservant informed her that she had shown the man in to Suard.  Mme Suard suspected that he might be a wanted man seeking shelter but concealed her suspicions from the patriotic servant.]

...soon M. Suard came in and said to me quickly: Give me your keys quickly, my dear; give me the key to the cupboard, to the wine; get me some tobacco. My God,  I said to him, giving him everything he asked for, what is it?  I will tell you everything he replied, but stay here;  I forbid you to come up....It was more than two hours before M. Suard appeared in my apartment.  [From my window] I saw the man leaving, but I only saw his back and his bearing alone inspired me with the deepest pity.  He looked in his pockets for something he could not find.  He left; and M. Suard came to tell me that the man was M. de C** who had been so dear to us. 

...He had just abandoned his hiding place, for fear of compromising the generous woman  who had given him refuge and wanted to keep him with her.  This man who had once been so dear to all that knew him... had been dying of hunger and thirst for three days, and had found nowhere to lie his head except the floor of one of the quarries along the road to Fontenay.  A loose stone had injured his leg.  Having no passport, he dared not make himself known except to us....

M. Suard gave him Malaga wine, a substantial meal, and tobacco, for which he had recently developed a passion.  I had given a paper cone of tobacco to M. Suard; but to my distress,  I found it on the floor of the salon!  It was this tobacco he looked for before he opened the gate; I am convinced that it was this misfortune which made him enter the cabaret in Clamart, in the hope of finding more;  he could not have been hungry after the meal that he had eaten.  M. Suard had also given him him money, and bandages for his injured leg, plus a copy of Horace to pass the time.  He had arranged a rendez-vous for eight in the evening, at nightfall.

He had asked M. Suard if he could give him shelter. M. Suard replied that he would willingly sacrifice his own life but that he could not risk mine....M. Suard told him that we lived in a detestable commune, that Condorcet himself would be in danger, that we suspected our servant. However, he could stay one night without endangering himself or me.  Suard added that he would leave immediately for Paris, where he would see our old friends and try to acquire a passport; that he was to return at eight that evening, that  our servant would be sent away, that he could pass the night under our roof and then, equipped with the passport, move on to somewhere more suitable.

He said to M. Suard that he only feared arrest in the daytime, and that if he had a night before him, he was certain to escape his executioners....

M. Suard left on foot and returned, very tired, but pleased to have a passport that Cabanis had given him.  I was happy too.  We dismissed our cook until ten, closed the door to our apartment via the stair so that the only entrance was from the garden.  He was to sleep on the couch in the salon, which we had filled with food, wine, clean linen, tobacco, all that he could want...We waited fruitlessly until ten o'clock.  We imagined he had gone to Auteuil where his wife and daughter were; but the next evening [they learned that he had died in prison in Bourg-la-Reine]
Essais de mémoires sur M. Suard...(1820), p.195-203.  Google Books


Notes by Condorcet's daughter:

[According to Mme Vernet] ..it was about ten o'clock, on the pretext of going up to fetch his tobacco, that he left her house accompanied by M. Sarret.  He arrived in Fontenay-aux-Roses at the Suard house about four hours after his departure from Paris.  Suard has said, and it has been printed, that he was not in when Condorcet arrived, and that, if he had seen him, he would have received him. I think that Garat has repeated the same thing....Later, in 1825, Mme Suard admitted in her memoirs that Suard had seen him and talked to him.  Mme Suard said that her husband asked my father to return in the evening and come in by the garden gate, which would be left open for him.   What is certain is that after he left Mme Vernet, my father wandered without shelter in the country.  My mother was told that he had hidden in the quarries. Was the Suard's garden gate left open for him, as promised?  Mme Vernet has repeated to me many times that a few days after my father's departure, she visited this little gate...there was grass a foot high, which established beyond doubt that the gate not been opened for a long time.

It was certainly hunger which led my father to go into a cabaret, for it was the great number of eggs in an omelette that he asked for, which made him noticed.  Since he did not have a passport he was arrested and taken to the prison in Bourg-la-Reine.  When questioned, he identified himself as Simon (I believe he said he was a carpenter), born at Ribemont on 17th September 1743; it was objected that the skin of his hands proved he was not a carpenter. He was put in prison.  The next day, the gaoler found him dead.  For a longtime, he had carried with him a poison, prepared from a concentrate of opium. 
Robinet, App. I Condorcet - Google Books


Comments of Antoine Diannyère:

A visitor at the rue Servandoni, Diannyère,  also blamed Suard for not protecting Condorcet.

Why, when a well-founded fear of a raid on his place of asylum, forced him to leave, why was he not received on the spot by the man who had been his friend?  You deprived France and the whole world, by abandoning him to his naivety and his honesty.  In spite of his disguise, he could not satisfy the questions of a municipal officer in Clamart-sous- Meudon; his clothes, his beard, announced a beggar; his responses were those of a well-educated man man who did not know how to dissimulate.  His very qualities led him into the abyss; he was taken to a prison in Bourg-l'Égalité.  He is no more;  he escaped through poison, on 9 Germinal Year II, the agony that awaited him in Paris. 
Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de Condorcet (1796), p.51-2.Google Books

From the Memoirs of the abbé Morellet 

Morellet, who had lodged with Cabanis at Mme Helvétius's house in Auteuil before the Revolution, seems likely to have heard most of his account first-hand.

p.102: At the time of the arrest of Brissot and his partisans, [Condorcet] fled from pursuit and lived a wandering hidden life; the summit of misfortune.....

He was taken in in Paris by a women who knew him only by reputation and who generously gave him refuge.  He stayed there until the period of domiciliary visits in April 1794.  At this time, and no doubt to avoid endangering his hostess, he left his retreat. He left Paris safely enough, without carte de civisme, with a white bonnet on his head.  He wandered for several days in the area around Clamart and Fontenay-aux-Roses, and in the bois de Verrière, two or three leagues from Paris. 

M. and Mme. Suard, with whom  he had lodged for several years and been intimate friends, - though he hadn't seen them since the death of the king -  had a house in Fontaney, composed of two corps-de-logis: one was let to M. de Monville, a magistrate of the Parlement. Condorcet presented himself one morning at M. de Monville's door, believing he was at the Suards' residence. A servant opened the door and [directed him to the right place].

Condorcet entered Suard's house and found him in.  Suard sent away his maidservant and learned from Condorcet the nature of his situation.  He gave him bread and cheese and wine.....He offered to go immediately to Paris and try to obtain, through Garat, a [certificate of invalid status] which would serve instead of a carte civique;  they agreed that Condorcet would come back the next day to collect this safe conduct.  Condorcet asked him for a Horace and some tobacco...they made him up a horn of tobacco which he had the misfortune to forget when he left.

Suard rushed to Paris, and talked to Garat.  The latter came to Auteuil and gained from Cabanis, who worked in the hospitals, a sort of pass, which allowed a soldier who was  discharged to go from one department to another.  Suard came back with this makeshift passport and waited for Condorcet, who had agreed to reappear at eight in the evening.  Suard had to send away his maidservant; his wife took her with her at about three in the afternoon to pay a call in the village.  Left alone, he waited.  The whole evening passed without seeing anyone; his wife returned at half-past nine.  Neither that day, nor in the two days that followed, did they receive any news; finally, on the evening of the third day, they went to spend the evening in one of the houses of the village, and there they learned that a man had been arrested in Clamart, whom they believed to be Condorcet; as was indeed the case. 

The poor wretch, having left the Suard house, from which he took a little bread, returned to the bois de Verrière, where he had spent the night.  The next morning, he went to Clamart; and ate so hungrily an omelette in the inn, that his long beard, neglected appearance and nervous air, brought him to the attention of one of those zealous observers, willing spies that infested the whole of France.  The spy asked him who he was, where he came from and if he had a carte de citoyen.  Condorcet, who was flustered, said at first that he was the servant of M. du Séjour, magistrate in the Cour des Aides...  But since his replies did not seem satisfactory, the spy took him to Bourg-la-Reine, the district capital, where, since he could not give a satisfactory account of himself, he was thrown in prison. 
Mémoires of the abbé Morellet, vol.2 (1821), p.100-  Google Books


Procès-verbal of Condorcet's arrest 

On 7 Germinal, two members, Nicolas-Claude Champy, François Breau, brought before the committee a personage... who  declared  himself to be Pierre Simon, native of Ribmont, district of Saint-Quentin, in the department of L'Aisne, aged fifty years. He declared that he had left his native region 20 years ago, and since that time had served as valet de chambre to Trudaine, the intendant of finances, and Dionise du Séjour, magistrate of the former Parlement of Paris, whose service he had left twenty months ago.  When asked where he had spent the last twenty months, he declared that he had lived on his savings in Paris, at 505 rue de Lille, section de la Fontaine de Grenelle...

Described as five feet five pouces, with chestnut hair, receeding hair line, grey eyes, medium mouth , aquiline nose, round chin, round face scarred by small pox, with a mark above the right eye.
Robinet, Appendix H, no. 1. p. 358. Condorcet - Google Books


Did Condorcet take poison?

 Procès-verbal of the removal of the body 

The Justice of the Peace for the canton of l'Égalité testifies that on 29th March 1794 (9 Germinal) at 9 o'clock in the evening, he received notice that a man detained in the Maison d'arrêt in l'Égalité. had been found dead in his  chamber.  Accompanied by the required officials, he arrived there at 10 o'clock in the evening.  The concierge Antoine Chevenu, showed him the prison register.  He declared that he himself had found the prisoner Pierre Simon dead on his 4 o'clock rounds....

Citizen Labrousse was required immediately to verify the state of the body and to establish the cause of death.  We went with him into the chamber where we saw the corpse with its face turned towards the ground and the arms stretched out by the side of the body. There were no weapons or instruments present that could lead to a presumption of suicide. The clothes consisted of a carmagnole jacket and soft grey trousers; a striped silk waistcoat of green and grey; a shirt, well-made and unstained; a flannel waistcoat worn underneath the shirt; grey cotton stockings, high round hat; cotton bonnet; a handkerchief with red squares; black silk cravat; lace shoes with over-stitching. The dead man appeared to us to be about fifty years of age, with light brown hair and eyebrows, grey eyes, a thick brown beard, large flat nose, receding hairline, smallpox scars; height about five feet five.

Citizen Labrousse examined the individual and declared that he had died from a "sanguinary apoplexy"; he observed to us that there was blood coming from the nostrils.   We searched the pockets and found the sum of 23 livres...which together with the clothing, we took to be deposited at the tribunal of the VIe arrondissment.  We finished by placing our seal on the forehead of the body....

We drew up this procès-verbal and completed our work at half-past eleven in the evening.  We entrusted the body to the agent of the commune present, who was charged with the removal and burial.
Robinet, Appendix H, no. 2. p. 360. Condorcet - Google Books


Death certificate, dated 10 Germinal  (30 March 1794) 

The death was declared  by Edme-Laurent Cholot, gardener, 50 years old, and Jean Cretté, carpenter, 27 years old, who were  present at the inhumation. 
 
It appears that an individual detained in the maison d'arrêt at l'Égalité and imprisoned under the name of Pierre Simon had been found in his room dead as a result of a sanguinary apoplexy, as stated in the report of Citizen Labrousse, health official, expert for the district;  the said male body was delivered by the Justice of the Peace to the national agent of the commune of l'Égalité to be removed and buried in the cemetery of said commune.
Robinet, Appendix H, no. 3. p. 361  Condorcet - Google Books


From the Memoirs of the abbé Morellet

The next morning, he was found dead.  He had taken stramonium combined with opium, which he always had with him; it was that which made him say to Suard as he left:  "If I have a night in front of me, I am not afraid of them; but I do not want to be taken to Paris".....

The poison which he used seems to have acted gently, without causing pain or convulsions.  The surgeon called to confirm the death declared in the procès-verbal that [he] had died of apoplexy; he was bleeding from the nose.

The Archbishop of Sens [ie.the former finance minister, Loménie de Brienne] had used a similar poison.  He had tried to procure poison from his nephew the coadjutor but did not manage.  Suard had some; he showed it to me:  it was a sort of ball, about the size of half a little finger;  it could be broken into little pieces, and melted in the mouth... (p.105-6)
Mémoires de l'abbé Morellet - Google Books


From the Memoirs of the comte de Beugnot

Beugnot was imprisoned in La Force during the Terror, where he tells us  that a poison known as "Cabanis's pastilles" was in circulation. 
Beugnot, Mémoires, vol. 1 (1866), p.232.  See p.270 for Loménie de Brienne. 
Cabanis had conceived some pastilles, the base of which was laudanum, but so well prepared that they were able to deliver one quietly into the next world.  All the prisoners who belonged to the philosophical sect were furnished with them; I myself kept hold of mine, even though I was little disposed to use them.  These pastilles were provided to us by another doctor, Guillotin... 


 Note of Jean Depry, published by Antoine Guillois

p.83: Condorcet, although still at liberty, no longer had any illusions and prepared himself for every eventuality, as this note by his friend [Debry] shows:

At Auteuil on 30 June 1793, at midnight.  Condorcet, proscribed by the detestable faction of 31st May last, before fleeing the assassin's dagger, shared with me, as a gift of the friendship which unites us, the poison that he had conserved in order to remain in all eventualities, the sole master of his person.  Jean Debry.
Guillois, Le salon de Madame Helvétius : Cabanis et les idéologues (1894)


The testimony of Garat 

In his Memoirs Garat recounts that he and Condorcet both had access to poison, though he himself had decided against suicide if he was condemned.

Under Robespierre and Billaud, having little doubt as to the fate that awaited me, I never went out without the means to take control promptly of my own destiny. It was a comfort to me to have the wherewithal, and to have the choice; but after mature consideration, I decided against this course of action. ...The principles of Socrates of submission to the law and social...still appeared to me sacred and sublime. But in the midst of so many horrors it would cost little to endure a few more hours in order to show the people how an innocent man, who has been inequitably condemned,  faces death.

O, you who stayed the hand that traced the progress of the human spirit, to lift to your lips the fatal potion, other thoughts and feelings inclined your will towards the tomb.  You gave to eternity your republican soul, with the poison that we shared between us like bread among brothers!  
Mémoires - Google Books

See also Guillois, p.98: 

The question has been much discussed whether Condorcet had hastened his end or died naturally. The note of Jean Debry, dated 30 June 1793, serves on its own, as conclusive proof.  In addition Cabanis always acknowledge that he gave the poison to Condorcet.  There is in the archives of the Institute, a letter from M. Fayolle to Arago, dated 28th February 1842, which is no less conclusive.

It is from Garat that I learned that Cabanis had given to several of his friends, in 1793, a certain poison, opium combined with stramonium, that he called "le pain des frères".  Since Bonaparte, at a certain time, used to see Cabanis at the home of Madame Helvétius in Auteuil, this doctor gave him the poison in question in the form of sticks of barley sugar. I have all these details from Garat and M. Feuillet [the librarian of the Institute] must also know them.

Note. According to Frédéric Masson, after 1808 Napoleon carried with him a sachet of the poison prepared by Cabanis;  but in 1812 he received from Yvan, his surgeon, a poison of a different formula.
 https://archive.org/details/lesalondemadame00guilgoog


The Death of Condorcet,  from Mercier's Nouveau Paris, 1798

Mercier was a dissenting voice among contemporaries, insisting that Condorcet died of natural causes.  (But I doubt that  a prisoner would really have been left alone for two days without inspection and allowed literally to die of hunger as Mercier's informant maintained). 

Since the death of Condorcet has caused a universal sensation, people are anxious to know the details.  Here is what an eyewitness told me.

He was arrested in Clamart, in a cabaret which he had entered through hunger, and taken before the local committee - for even the smallest townships have their committees of sans-culottes. He was interrogated, searched, but identified himself only as Simon, a former domestic servant. He had no papers, cards, passports, but only a copy of Horace, in which he had penciled some words in Latin. Seeing this one of his interrogators remarked, "You claim you are a servant, but I think you are a ci-devant who used to have servants! As a result of the interrogation, "le quidam" was taken to Bourg-l'Égalité to be dealt with.  Transferred on foot in the middle of an armed escort, he could go no further than Châtillon, where he fell down in defeat and exhaustion.  They were obliged to borrow a horse from a local vineyard owner. On his arrival, he was immediately imprisoned.

Plunged into a damp cell, without a bed or food, he was forgotten for nearly 48 hours. Only on the day after his entry did the warden visit:  he found him stretched out, lifeless, on the floor.  Is there any need to speculate on how he died?  The poor wretch did not have time to finish his meal in the cabaret in Clamart; he died of hunger in his cell, having already been at the end of his strength; it is perhaps for this reason that this event, which would naturally have excited interest, has been kept secret until now, and that rumours of poisoning have been put about.
Le nouveau Paris - Louis Sébastien Mercier - Google Livres

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