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Vicomte de Barras
Paul François Jean Nicolas
Colored engraving by Pierre Alexandre Tardieu after a drawing by Hilaire Ledru, 1798
President of the Directory
In office
26 November 1798 – 26 May 1799
Preceded byJean-François Reubell
Succeeded byPhilippe-Antoine Merlin
In office
4 December 1797 – 25 February 1798
Preceded byLouis-Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux
Succeeded byPhilippe-Antoine Merlin
Member of the Directory
In office
2 November 1795 – 10 November 1799
Preceded byOffice created
(preceded by the President of the Committee of Public Safety De Cambacérès)
Succeeded byOffice abolished
(succeeded by the First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte)
President of the National Convention
In office
4 February 1795 – 19 February 1795
Preceded byStanislas Joseph François Xavier Rovère
Succeeded byFrançois Louis Bourdon
Member of the National Convention
In office
20 September 1792 – 10 November 1795
Personal details
Paul François Jean Nicolas

(1755-06-30)30 June 1755
Fox-Amphoux, France
Died29 January 1829(1829-01-29) (aged 73)
Chaillot (present-day Paris), France
Resting placePère Lachaise Cemetery
Political partyThe Mountain (1792–1794)
Thermidorian (1794–1799)
SpouseUnknown wife (left)
Domestic partner(s)Sophie Arnould,
Thérésa Tallien,
Joséphine de Beauharnais
ProfessionMilitary officer
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of France
Royal Army
Years of service1771–1783
UnitRégiment Royal Roussillon

Paul François Jean Nicolas, Vicomte de Barras (French: [bara:s]; 30 June 1755 – 29 January 1829), commonly known as Paul Barras, was a French politician of the French Revolution, and the main executive leader of the Directory regime of 1795–1799.

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Early life

Descended from a noble family of Provence, he was born at Fox-Amphoux, in today's Var département.[1] At the age of sixteen, he entered the regiment of Languedoc as a "gentleman cadet". In 1776, he embarked for French India.[1][2]

Shipwrecked on his voyage, he still managed to reach Pondicherry in time to contribute to the defence of that city during the Second Anglo-Mysore War.[1] Besieged by British forces, the city surrendered on 18 October 1778; after the French garrison was released, Barras returned to France.[2][Note 1] He took part in a second expedition to the region in 1782/83, serving in the fleet of the renowned Admiral Pierre André de Suffren.[1] Afterwards, he spent several years back home in France at leisure in relative obscurity.[1][2]

National Convention

At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789, he advocated the democratic cause, and became one of the administrators of the Var. In June 1792 he took his seat in the high national court at Orléans. Later in that year, on the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars, Barras became commissioner to the French Army, which was facing the forces of Sardinia in the Italian Peninsula, and entered the National Convention as a deputy for the Var.

In January 1793, he voted with the majority for the execution of Louis XVI. However, he was mostly absent from Paris on missions to the regions of the south-east of France. During this period, he made the acquaintance of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Siege of Toulon (his later clash with Napoleon made him downplay the latter's abilities as a soldier: he noted in his Memoirs that the siege had been carried out by 30,000 men against a minor royalist defending force, whereas the real number was 12,000; he also sought to minimize the share taken by Bonaparte in the capture of the city).[3] When Barras became Director, he gave Napoleon position of general in the battalion of Italians.[4]

Thermidor and the Directory

James Gillray's caricature of 1805. Barras being entertained by the naked dancing of two wives of prominent men, Thérésa Tallien and Joséphine Bonaparte. On the right, Napoleon Bonaparte takes a peek.

In 1794, Barras sided with the men who sought to overthrow Maximilien Robespierre's faction. The Thermidorian Reaction of 27 July 1794 made him rise to prominence. In the next year, when the Convention felt threatened by the malcontent National Guards of Paris, it appointed Barras to command the troops engaged in its defence. His nomination of Bonaparte led to the adoption of violent measures, ensuring the dispersion of royalists and other malcontents in the streets near the Tuileries Palace, remembered as the 13 Vendémiaire (5 October 1795). Subsequently, Barras became one of the five Directors who controlled the executive of the French Republic.

Owing to his intimate relations with Joséphine de Beauharnais, Barras helped to facilitate a marriage between her and Bonaparte. Some of his contemporaries alleged that this was the reason behind Barras's nomination of Bonaparte to the command of the army of Italy early in the year 1796. Bonaparte's success gave the Directory unprecedented stability, and when, in the summer of 1797, the royalist and surviving Girondist opposition again met the government with resistance, Bonaparte sent General Augereau, a Jacobin, to repress their movement in the Coup of 18 Fructidor (4 September 1797).

Downfall and later life

Barras was alleged to have dozens of mistresses and male lovers.[citation needed] The corruption of his administration was claimed to be extraordinary even for France.[5] Barras's alleged immorality in public and private life is often cited[by whom?] as a major contribution to the fall of the Directory, and the creation of the Consulate. In any case, Bonaparte met little resistance during his 18 Brumaire coup of November 1799. Barras supported the change of government, but was left aside by the First Consul when the latter reshaped the government of France.

Since he had amassed a large fortune, Barras spent his later years in luxury. Napoleon had him confined to the Château de Grosbois (Barras's property), then exiled to Brussels and Rome, and ultimately, in 1810, interned in Montpellier; set free after the fall of the Empire, he died in Chaillot (now Paris), and was interred in Père Lachaise Cemetery. Although a partisan of the Second Restoration, Barras was kept in check during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X (and his Memoirs were censored after his death).

Films and Television

Barras was portrayed by Tahar Rahim in the 2023 film Napoleon.

See also


  1. ^ He left on a cartel named Sartine. This was not the Sartine that the British Royal Navy had captured at Pondicherry and taken into service.


  1. ^ a b c d e Richardson, p. 30.
  2. ^ a b c Rose, John Holland (1911). "Barras, Paul François Nicolas" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). pp. 431–432.
  3. ^ Canteleu, pp. 35–37.
  4. ^ Haine, Scott (2000). The History of France (1st ed.). Greenwood Press. pp. 88. ISBN 0-313-30328-2.
  5. ^ Bernard 1973, pp. 172–173.

Further reading

  • Barras, chef d'État oublié by Pierre Temin (1992). ISBN 2884150137. (in French)
This page was last edited on 26 November 2023, at 13:27
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