Pierre Vergniaud


Biography of Pierre Vergniaud

Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud (May 31, 1753 – October 31, 1793) was a lawyer and statesman, and a significant figure of the French Revolution. A deputy to the Assembly from Bordeaux, Vergniaud was a notably eloquent and impressive orator. He was a supporter of Jacques Pierre Brissot and the Girondist faction.

Vergniaud was born in the city of Limoges in the province of Limousin, to the elder Pierre Vergniaud and his wife Catherine Baubiat. The Vergniauds had both come from well-to-do merchant families with a long history in the province, and the family enjoyed a comfortable prosperity. At the time of Vergniaud's birth, his father was a contractor and purveyor for the king, supplying food for the royal garrison in the city.

Young Vergniaud was first tutored at home by a Jesuit scholar, Abbé Roby, a master of ancient languages: it is likely that Vergniaud's lifelong love of the classics was inspired by him. The boy was sent to the Jesuit college at Limoges, where he did well. The future French statesman Turgot was at that time the intendant of the province, and knew the elder Vergniaud well. On one occasion, young Pierre recited some of his own poetry in the presence of Turgot, who was greatly impressed by his talent. Through Turgot's patronage, Vergniaud was admitted to the Collège du Plessis at Paris. Little is known of Vergniaud's personal life during his time at Du Plessis, but his education there was clearly a major formative experience: his deep, personal absorption of classical history and philosophy is evident throughout his adult life.

After his studies were complete, Vergniaud went unsure of his direction in life. He drifted lazily through several years, dabbling in fiction and theater, and failing miserably as a clerk in the provincial revenue office. Much to his father's dismay, his chief preoccupation seemed to be frequenting salons and engaging in conversation. In this pursuit, however, Vergniaud excelled magnificently. His friendships and associations grew richly in the salons. He was particularly favored by the Countess de Maleyssie, who let the frequently destitute Vergniaud live freely in her estate, and Charles Dupaty, President of the parlement of Bordeaux, who urged the incandescent young man to study law.

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