Today we pay tribute to Pierre-Sylvain Maréchal, the visionary French revolutionary, militant Atheist and proto-anarchist whose iconoclastic and blasphemous new calendar – the “Honest Man’s Almanac” – so outraged pre-Revolutionary France that he was, in 1788, sentenced to jail for four months and henceforth forced to publish all his works anonymously. Nevertheless, this calendar of Maréchal – which had dared to replace the names of saints with those of writers, poets, philosophers and scholars – would serve as the blueprint for the secular French Republican Calendar, declared half-a-decade later in 1793 by France’s revolutionary government.
True revolution should always attempt the total overthrow of the previous culture, for fear that some vestiges of the old regime may still obtain in the outlying rural areas. Unfortunately for Maréchal’s calendar, however, the failure of the Revolution gave rise to “King” Napoleon Bonaparte – who abolished the secular Republican Calendar in 1805. Nevertheless, Maréchal’s calendar still stands as an idealised symbol of what future revolutionaries may aspire to, should love, luck and weaponry be on their side.