Monday, 21 January 2008

France: The Calender of the Jacobins

I have a collection entitled ” Chatou my village west of Paris”. Three old letters from the time of the French Revolution form part of my collection. I show them below. In many ways they are something special. First, however, I want to provide you with some background information which will make it easier to understand the (inside) dates of the letters.

At the French revolutionary convention in October 1793 a new revolutionary calendar was approved. The calendar was implemented on September 22, 1793. It was decided to start counting from this same day, but from the previous year, 1792; the day of the decision to abolish the monarchy and the creation of the republic.

The year was divided into 12 months of 30 days, which leaves us with a surplus of 5 days (6 days in leap years), which were placed at the end of the year. The surplus days were called ”sans-culottides” and would be national holidays. Every month consists of three weeks,”décades”. The last day in a week would be a day for resting. The months were grouped in 4 sets of three according to the seasons – autumn, winter, spring and summer. They are given natural names. The weekdays were called first day, second day, third day aso. till the tenth day. The Calender never became popular with the people and was abolished by Napoleon in year 12 (1804).

Letter No. 1: As can be seen from all three letters one addressed each other ”citoyen” i.e. citizen in the name of equality.This is a postage due letter sent from Chatou to Pôntoise dated 14. Nivôse (snow) Year 5, i.e. 3rd of January 1797. The postage, 4 “décimes”, was paid to the letter carrier. The embossed postmark shows the towns name and the number 72, the ”department Seine et Oise”.

Letter no. 2: This is a postage due letter sent from Chatou to Pôntoise dated 5. Ventôse (wind) year 6, i.e. 23rd February 1798. The postage, 5 “décimes”, was paid to the letter carrier. The red postmark shows the towns name and the number 72, the ”department Seine et Oise”. The colour of the postmark does not signify any special function, but the red one is rare.

Letter No. 3: Finally a postage due letter sent from Chatou to Pôntoise dated 15. Ventôse (wind) year 7, i.e. 5th March 1799. The postage, 4 “décimes”, was paid to the letter carrier. The red postmark shows the towns name and number 72, the ”department Seine et Oise”.

When you collect a French area as I do there is no way round the updating of a chapter of the history of France. But this certainly just adds to the adventure.

The village of
Chatou has its own homepage telling for instance the history of the place. The story of the Calendar of the Jacobins is told on many a fine site.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Very interesting post, the historical value of philately really cannot be denied and while I do not see the logic of changing the calender from the status quo just to separate the old from the new or for sentimental reasons it does make an interesting anecdote.

Thomas.