Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Méhée de La Touche

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Died  1826, Paris, France

Jean-Claude-Hippolyte Méhée de La Touche (1762-1826) was the son of a surgeon in Meaux. Destined to succeed his father, he nevertheless left his home for Paris when he was 12, and ended up in the Bicêtre Prison. He was released at the coronation of Louis XVI of France in 1774, but in 1776, after the death of his parents, Méhée was again imprisoned in the Bicêtre. He escaped when he was sent to Brest to serve on the French fleet. He returned to Paris after the French Revolution, and was sent to Saint Petersburg as a spy under the name Chevalier de La Touche by Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau and Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette. He was soon uncovered and was sent out of Russia in March 1791. His next appointment as a spy was in Poland, where he established the Gazette de Varsovie, a French newspaper in Warsaw. Again his role as a spy was discovered, and he was banished from Poland as well.

He returned to Paris, and became a member of the Cordeliers and the Jacobin Club in 1792. He took part in the attack on the Tuileries Palace on 10 August 1792. That same evening, he was pronounced Secretary of the Paris Commune, and organised the September Massacres at the start of the next month, together with Sulpice Huguenin and Jean-Lambert Tallien. La Touche then became the secretary of Jean-Lambert Tallien, and in November 1795 was appointed First Secretary to the Minister of the War Department of the French Directory. Soon afterwards he held the same function in the Foreign Department under Charles-François Delacroix. He resigned in April 1796, and became editor of the Journal des Hommes Libres. In 1797, after the Coup of 18 Fructidor, he was convicted to be transported to Cayenne, together with Charles Pichegru, François-Marie, marquis de Barthélemy and thirteen others.

He ran from justice, and after a few months was pardoned. In 1799, Bonaparte sent him to the Temple Prison, but he was again released in 1801. He started the philosophical and atheist weekly magazine L'Antidote in 1802. He was again arrested, and banished to Dijon and then to Oléron. He escaped from there, and became a French spy in England to report on French emigrants opposed against Napoleon. He posed as a counter-revolutionary, and convinced the royalists in England that France was waiting to overthrow Bonaparte. In 1804 de La Touche revealed the plot, and the support it received from Francis Drake, the minister to the Perpetual Diet of Regensburg.

After the fall of Napoleon in 1815, he was no longer welcome in France and fled first to Switzerland and then to Brussels, where in 1817 he worked as the editor of Le Vrai Liberal. He was apprehended there, but escaped again the next day. He then moved to Königsberg, until he was allowed to return to France in 1819. In 1823 he was living in Paris, where he died in poverty in 1826.


Méhée de La Touche Wikipedia