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Pierre Joseph Cambon

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Pierre Joseph Cambon (1756-1820), French statesman, was the son of a wealthy cotton merchant at Montpellier.

In 1785 his father retired, leaving the direction of the business to Pierre and his two brothers, but in 1788 Pierre turned aside to politics, and was sent by his fellow-citizens as deputy suppliant to Versailles, where he was little more than a spectator. In January 1790 he returned to Montpellier, was elected a member of the municipality, was one of the iounders of the Jacobin club in that city, and on the flight of Louis XVI in 1791, he drew up a petition to invite the Constituent Assembly to proclaim a republic,--the first in date of such petitions.

Elected to the Legislative Assembly, Cambon became noted for his independence, his honesty and his ability in finance. He was the most active member of the committee of finance and was often charged to verify the state of the treasury. Nothing could be more false than the common opinion that as a financier his sole expedient was to multiply the emissions of assignats. His remarkable speech of November 24, 1791 is a convincing proof of his sagacity.

In politics, while he held aloof from the clubs, and even from parties, he was an ardent defender of the new institutions. On February 9, 1792, he succeeded in having a law passed sequestrating the possessions of the émigrés, and demanded, though in vain, the deportation of refractory priests to French Guiana. He was the last president of the Legislative Assembly.

Re-elected to the Convention, he opposed the pretensions of the Commune and the proposed grant of money to the municipality of Paris by the state. He denounced Marat's placards as inciting to murder, summoned Danton to give an account of his ministry, watched carefully over the furnishing of military supplies, and was a strong opponent of Dumouriez, in spite of the general's great popularity. Cambon then incurred the hatred of Robespierre by proposing the suppression of the pay to the clergy, which would have meant the separation of church and state. His authority grew steadily. On December 15, 1792 he got the Convention to adopt a proclamation to all nations in favour of a universal republic.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.



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