He was the son of a wealthy cotton merchant at Montpellier. In 1785 his father retired, leaving Pierre and his two brothers to run the business, but in 1788 Pierre went into politics, and was sent by his fellow-citizens as deputy suppliant to Versailles, where he was little more than a spectator. In January 1790 he returned to Montpellier, was elected a member of the municipality, co-founded the Jacobin club in that city, and on the flight of King Louis XVI in 1791, he drew up a petition to invite the Constituent Assembly to proclaim a republic,--the first in date of such petitions.
Elected to the Legislative Assembly, Cambon became noted for his independence, honesty and financial ability. He was the most active member of the committee of finance and was often charged to verify the state of the treasury. His remarkable speech of November 24 1791 is a convincing proof of his sagacity. In politics, he held aloof from the clubs and even from parties, but was an ardent defender of the new institutions. On February 9 1792, he succeeded in having a law passed sequestrating the possessions of the émigrés, and tried to arrange the deportation of refractory priests to French Guiana. He was the last president of the Legislative Assembly.
Re-elected to the Convention, he opposed the pretensions of the Commune and the proposed grant of money to the municipality of Paris by the state. He denounced Marat's placards as inciting to murder, summoned Georges Danton to give an account of his ministry, supervised the furnishing of military supplies, and was a strong opponent of Dumouriez, in spite of the general's great popularity. Cambon incurred the hatred of Robespierre by proposing the suppression of the pay to the clergy, which would have meant the separation of church and state. His authority grew steadily. On December 15, 1792, he persuaded the Convention to adopt a proclamation to all nations in favour of a universal republic.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.