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Almanach du Père Gérard pour l'année 1792, la troisième de l'ère de la Liberté: Ouvrage qui a remporté le prix proposé par la Société des Amis de la Constitution, séante aux Jacobins à Paris


Jean-Marie Collot-d'Herbois
François Buisson
Au Bureau du Patriote français (Imprimerie du Patriote français)
Au Sécrétariat de la Société des Amis de la Constitution (Jacobin Club)

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The Spirit of the French Constitution, or the Almanach of Goodman Gerard for the Year 1792. Being the third year of the aera of Liberty. A work crowned by the Society of the Friends of the Constitution, held at the Jacobins', Paris. By J.M. Collot d'Herbois, member of the society: Translated, at the request of the author, by John Oswald, member of the society and author of a Review of the Constitution of Great Britain translation has paratext

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The Jacobin Club (Société des Amis de la Constitution) organized a competition on 20 September 1791 for the best patriotic work that would promote the virtues of the new constitution. Apart from Polvorelle (Povoleri?), the other judges, Condorcet, Clavière, Lanthenas, Grégoire and Dusaulx, were all members of the Cercle Social. Collot d'Herbois, whose entry was chosen from 42 others, on 23 October 1791, announced that the would donate his prize money of 25 louis to various good causes, including the imprisoned soldiers of Chateauvieux. Both the author and the English translator were members of the Jacobin Club and may have collaborated on the original text. The prize-winning entry was read out in the Legislative Assembly and sent to the Committee for Public Instruction for dissemination across France, and beyond. 12,000 copies were printed initially, and it went through eight editions in a few months. It was published simultaneously in English, with a subsidy from the S.C.I., as well as in Breton, Provençal, Flemish and German. Many different versions were produced in French of varying sizes, different quality of paper and with illustrations. Not so much a catechism as a series of twelve imaginary dialogues, or debates, between the Père Gérard and countryfolk, each one touching on a different theme, including 'De la constitution', 'De la nation', 'De la loi', ''Du propriété', De la religion', etc. It was almost certainly inspired by Benjamin Franklin's highly successful, 'La science du bonhomme Richard' (1738, translated in 1778) The 1792 reissue had various Chansons patriotiques at the end, including 'Ca ira', but omitted Oswald's poem, 'The Triumph of Freedom', found at the back of the English translation, although it did appear in other French editions. Most included a calendar of saints' days and lunar cycles. The 1793 reissue (Liège: J.J. Tutot) also included Dusaulx's report. Père (Michel) Gérard was the name of a well-respected Breton deputy from the previous National Assembly. This is how Helen Maria Williams described him, "This venerable old man is a peasant, and his appearance reminds one of those times when Generals were called from the plough to take the command of armies. The dress of Le Pere Gerard is made of a coarse woollen cloth, which is worn by the peasants of Brittany, and is of such strong texture, that a coat often descends from one generation to another. This cloth is called Pinchina; and the king, to whom the old Breton has presented several addresses from the Assembly, calls him, en badinage, 'Le Pere Pinchina'. When I saw him, he had on this everlasting coat, and wore worsted stockings gartered above the knees. But, what pleased me most in his appearance, were the long white hairs which hung down his shoulders; an ornament for which you know I have a particular predilection.The respectable Pere Gerard boasts that he is descended from a race of deputies, his great grandfather having been chosen as a deputy to the States General in 1614, the last time they were held, before that memorable period when they effected the revolution. At the time when the ladies set the example of the patriotic donation, by offering their jewels, and the members of the National Assembly, in a moment of enthusiasm, took the silver buckles out of their shoes, and laid them on the President's table, the Pere Gerard rose, and said, that, he had no such offering to give, his buckles being made of brass, but that his 'don patriotique' should be that of rendering his services to his country unpaid. The old man was heard by the Assembly with the applause he merited; and the people, on the day of the Federation, carried him from the Champ de Mars to his own house in triumph on their shoulders". Taken from, 'Letters on the French Revolution, written in France, in the summer of 1790, to a friend in England; containing, various anecdotes relative to that interesting event,' (1791), pp.35-36. See Michel Biard, 'L'Almanach du Père Gérard, un exemple de diffusion des idées jacobines', in A.H.R.F., no.283 (1990), pp.19-29.