Manifesto handwritten by Charlotte Corday justifying her assassination of the Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat. was bought at auction the region of Normandy, the city of Caen and the department of Calvados. It’s good that they were able to pool their resources to preserve this invaluable historical record, because the autographed manuscript, valued at 80,000–100,000 euros (92,000–108,000 US dollars), exceeded the high price and was sold for 215,000 euros ($232,000). And that’s just the price of the hammer. The final cost including fees and taxes was €270,000 ($292,000).
Marie Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armon was born in Normandy to a poor, small aristocratic family. At 13, she was sent to the Abbaye-aux-Dames convent in Caen to receive an education. She remained at the convent until she left for Paris ten years later, studying the great French authors, including Voltaire, Rousseau, and her great-great-great-grandfather, the tragedian Pierre Corneille, whom Voltaire declared to be the French equivalent of Homer.
Her intellectual ferment was stimulated by the heady philosophical debates of the French revolutionaries. She sided with the moderate Girondins and was spurred into action by the September massacre of 1792, in which over 1,000 prisoners, half those in Paris, were summarily executed for fear that they were in league with the Prussian invaders. Corday blamed this outrage on the inflammatory rhetoric of Marat and his radical Highlander faction.
Deciding that the assassination of Marat would put an end to the orgies of revolutionary violence that had engulfed France, Charlotte traveled to Paris on July 9, 1792. She bought a knife and wrote her three-page manifesto.
An Appeal to the French Friends of Law and Peace (“Appeal to the French, friends of the Law and the world”) and saw her prey. On the evening of July 13, she gained access to Marat’s apartments, declaring that she had information about the Girondin plot in Caen. She was taken to his room, where he was in a sulfur bath. (At this point, his skin condition was so severe that he practically never left the bath.) She told him the names of the alleged conspirators and then stabbed him in the heart.
She had no intention of getting out of here alive. She knew that she would be arrested and executed for this crime, and she came prepared: she hid the letter in her bodice. It was discovered during a search of her identity after her arrest, but was never presented as evidence at trial because the prosecutor chose to promote the politically expedient fiction that Corday was a royalist, and this did not fit with the Montagnards’ insistence that that Corday was a royalist. but an instrument of a vast Girondin conspiracy.
The last lines of her manifesto read:
My parents and friends need not worry, no one knew about my plans. I am enclosing my baptismal certificate to this address to show what the weakest hand, led by complete devotion, can do. If my enterprise fails, Frenchmen, I have shown you the way, you know your enemies, get up, march and strike.
Charlotte Corday was tried, convicted and died four days after her victim was beheaded on the guillotine. Her statement of purpose disappeared, reappearing at an auction in 1834. Since then, it has been sold seven more times, moving from a private collection to a private one. At first, the cultural heritage authorities of Normandy tried to prevent this latest sale, fearing that it might be acquired by a foreign buyer and leave the country. When they couldn’t get it off the auction, they chipped in with departmental and city officials to bring this extremely important manuscript back to Charlotte Corday’s beloved homeland.