Jean-Gabriel PELTIER,
A character of fiction.

The Shorter Illustrated Larousse 1931:
PELTIER J.-Gabriel, French writer born in Nantes, one of the editors of the royalist newspaper « les Actes des Apotres » « The Acts of the Apostles » (1765-1825).

Jean Gabriel PELTIER born on the 21st. of October 1760 at Gonnord in Maine et Loire, and not in Nantes as stated in the Shorter Larousse entry. Both brothers, Jean Gabriel and Marie Etienne, the privateer, maintained an ambiguous attitude on the subject as it allowed them to lay strong claims to a Breton ancestry. His father Jean Peltier, after marrying Gabrielle DUDOYER, took the name of PELTIER-DUDOYER and settled in Nantes, on the Ile Feydeau, where he quickly joined the « Little Holland » society of rich ship owners. In Nantes, where minds are always ready to receive and welcome new ideas, Jean Peltier-Dudoyer meets with Benjamin Franklin and supplies arms to the American insurgents. In 1778 he enters into a partnership with Beaumarchais to commission two ships, the Belle Eugenie and the Franklin.
Jean-Gabriel is educated at St Clement's College, an Oratorian institution, where Fouché, (later to become Napoleon's police minister) is a teacher. It is one of the most famous schools in Nantes where the accent is on teaching French and History, and where the children of the best families in town rub shoulders with the American Creoles. As he will say later : " My father pushed me into an early old age with all this learning while I was still in my youth ". The process was not irreversible.
As a young man he starts his career in the offices of a Paris financier. In 1785, his father provides him with the necessary capital to start a bank, in partnership with Etienne Carrier, also from Nantes, a nephew of Jean Joseph Carrier de Monthieu. Two years later, disaster strikes... they are ruined when Baudard de Saint James (1), although the Navy Treasurer, goes bankrupt. Later on, Jean-Gabriel claims that his associate is the one to blame, as he was probably being swindled when himself was in Saint Domingue, busy reclaiming funds from the St James' debtors. Although his stay on the island is short, he manages to be made bankrupt without any help from his partner.

Back in Paris, he leads the high life, three homes, two girl friends, he spends his nights in gambling houses. But he becomes involved in politics, when the last meeting of the Estates General is summoned. He is all for the new ideas, an assiduous attendant of the Palais Royal meetings, he subscribes to Camille Desmoulins petitions.

Camille Desmoulins petition at Palais Egalité - Levacher sculptor

Camille Desmoulins

It seems that he might have taken part in the storming of the Bastille. He enlists, with the rank of Grenadier, in the National Guard of the "St Thomas Daughters district" ( one cannot make this up !).

As early as August 1789 he distances himself from current events and publishes an anonymous work « Help Us or Help Yourselves » addressed to the members of the National Assembly. It is a sharp critic of the Assembly's pretences at universal knowledge. Soon discovered, he fires two pamphlets « The Trumpets of the Judgement » and « Equinox Blow ». His admiration becomes more restrained, he still believes in Necker and La Fayette. With premonition, he foresees «
a cloud of blood threatening us ». In Domine salvum fact regem he denounces a cabal wishing to appoint the Duke of Orleans Lieutenant General of the Kingdom, and Mirabeau Mayor of Paris. In the same liturgical vein and on the same subject he writes Pange lingua.

On the 2nd of November 1789 "The Acts of the Apostles" appears, a strange title for what is considered the forerunner of the anti-parliamentarian press. Its is a success of curiosity as soon as it is published, other newspapers will imitate its title. The four main editors: Rivarol, Champcenetz, Mirabeau the younger
(2) and Peltier will compete with ironical panegyrics, puns, epigrams and parodies of the classics. His former friends: Necker, Sieyès, Bailly and La Fayette as well as the Jacobins will become their targets, and even wives will be castigated for their husband's opinions. These articles are often written during dinner parties where they surpass each other with wit. The publication dates are pure fantasy, "the year 0 of liberty", "the year of equality in misery" etc. Their writings are illustrated with cartoons. The general tone is not always carefree. Their literary violence is to be looked at in the context of the general anarchy reigning in the revolutionary press of the time. However, the paper maintains a high quality literary content. "The Acts of the Apostles" (3) is burnt on the public place in front of Notre Dame in the spring of 1790. The terrified bookseller refuses to print the paper any longer. Although, several times denounced to the Commune, a certain public disaffection, as well as financial difficulties, contribute to bring the "Apostles" down. In fact, the King having sworn allegiance to the Constitution, ceases to pay its monthly contribution. Unfortunately, the paper, because of its excesses, was the worst enemy of the cause it intended to defend.

It is "hidden at a tender friend's home" that he witnesses the massacres of August and September 1792 when some 1100 people were murdered in the Paris gaols. On the 21st of September he takes the road to exile in England.

(1) This gentleman's motto : "A beau dard noble but" can be loosely translated "To Handsome Dart, Handsome Target". A dubious pun on his name, that Jean-Gabriel would not have denied....
(2) Also known as Mirabeau-Tonneau, "Mirabeau the Tun"
(3) The full text of the "Acts Of The Apostles" is available on the
site of the
Centre d'Histoire du droit de l'Université Rennes 1, published by Y.-A. Durelle-Marc. See "Links".