Though noted for his stuttering, his stutter-less extemporaneous speech on a tabletop at a Paris café sparked the French Revolution in July, 1789. Noted as a gifted propagandist and pamphleteer, Desmoulins publicly excoriated his political opponents, anti-revolutionaries, and royalists. He publicly and graphically agitated for violence and extreme measures to secure the victory of the revolution. Later a Jacobin representative in the National Convention, Desmoulins was a strong supporter for the execution of the King. Friend of Danton, Mirabeau, and Robespierre, Desmoulins’s revolutionary career seemed safe until the trial of the Girondins. He had savagely attacked the Girond and its leader, Brissot, time and again in print, but it was only at their trial that he finally realized what his harsh rhetoric had really meant – and then caused.
Horrified at the course of the revolution and his own part in it he called for a drastic reduction of the state policy of Terror, and for clemency. He then became a target of his friend (and attendee at his wedding) Robespierre, the Terror’s greatest ideologue and champion.
He realized too late that the revolution had been corrupted and that his own involvement in it had had devastating consequences for so many. He understood too late that he had made a terrible mistake from which there could be no recovery.
Forever remembered for his humanity and his adherence at the end to his love for his wife and child, a true patriot of France, he is a tragic figure.
He is emblematic, in a sense, of the disastrous track of the revolution itself.