On November 24, 1793, the Convention
votedto arrest the Farmers General andrequire them tosurrender
theaccounts of the General Farm, from which it wasexpecting to
receive a considerable amount of money.Lavoisier was not at home
when the police camefor him.He hid himself for several days at the
Academy of Sciences, which had been abolished, then accompanied
byhis father-in-law, Jacques Paulze, he presented himself at the
Port-Libre Prison.Thepre-trial investigation lasted five
On May 8, 1794, the Revolutionary Tribunaltried thirty-two Farmers Generalon charges ofmisappropriation of funds, excessive profits, abusive distribution ofbonuses, unjustified delayinpayments to the Public Treasury and,especially,forincreasingits profits byintroducingexcessive amounts of water into tobacco, and of having used these profits in a "plot against the French people tending to favor by all possible means the success of the enemies of France."(Archives nationales, W 362, no. 785.)
Twenty-eight among them would be condemned to the guillotine and executed that very day.All their property was confiscated.Lavoisier was the fourth to die.On thefollowing day, his colleague Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736-1813) commented: "Ittook them only an instant to cut off that head, but it is unlikely that a hundred years will suffice to reproduce a similar one." (J. B. Delambre, "Eloge de Lagrange," Mémoires de l'Institut, 1812, p. XIV)
The career of the chemist, biologist, financier, industrialist and economist was over.It bore witness to the liberal thoughtof the Enlightenment and the first hopes of the Revolution.Although his work in chemistry wasrevolutionary, in economics itrepresented an imperfect synthesis between the current liberal ideas and theinterventionist centralism which reigned in France at the dawn of modern society.
For the first centenary of his death, chemistsrestored Lavoisier's scientific work to its place of honor andLouis Pasteurawarded him the title of "Lawmaker of Chemistry."The bicentenary was the occasion to make better known his contribution to the economic, political and social history of France at the end of the eighteenth century.