BABEUF, FRANCOIS-NOEL (later GRACCHUS) ( 1760-97), leader of the communist movement for equality during the Directory. Babeuf was born at Saint-Quentin in Picardy into a poor family. He recalled his infancy as dirty and wretched; of thirteen children in his family, only four survived. At the age of fourteen, he went to work on the construction of the Picardy canal. Although his character was molded in this setting, he managed to work his way up in life, and when he was about twenty-one years old he became a specialist in feudal law. In the course of organizing the records of feudal lords, Babeuf quickly realized that the survival of feudal dues was a great injustice. In Picardy, he had already seen that more and more poverty stricken peasants were forced to work at home in a capitalist putting-out form of manufacturing in return for minimal wages. A passionate individual, quick to become enraged, he sought to ameliorate the lot of the disinherited classes. After reading J.-J. Rousseau and G.-B. Mably, Babeuf concluded that private property--above all, landed property--was the cause of all public evil. In 1785, in letters to the secretary of the Academy of Arras, F. Dubois de Fosseux, he proposed a plan for collective farms. In 1787 he suggested that the academy conduct a contest on the theme of creating a society in which equality would exist among all members, and the land would belong to all the inhabitants; everything would be held in common. Although he was a convinced partisan of a society of perfect equality, Babeuf remained a realist and always attempted to make concrete social demands that the masses could understand as steps toward the realization of his ideal. In the fiscal crisis of the monarchy, Babeuf proposed in 1789 a plan for a tax that he justified in his Cadastre perpétuel.
In the spring of 1790 Babeuf led the movement against the aides in Picardy. The authorities ordered him arrested and transferred to prison in Paris. With J.- P. Marat's help, he was later released. While still in prison, he began to edit his Journal de confédération. He shared Rousseau's critical conception of rep-