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Grandjean's Appeal - The Lawyer Shows Off his Classical Learning

Monday, October 17, 2022 - 08:00

Posting a bit in haste, as I need to run a meeting in a couple minutes. This section of the appeal record is most useful for understanding the lawyer's depth of familiarity with the literature. Which makes it all the more noteworthy when he carefully omits details that would undermine his arguments, as we'll see in the next installment.

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Full citation: 

Vermeil. 1765. Mémoire pour Anne Grandjean. Louis Cellot, Paris.

Publication summary: 

The original text, translation, and commentary on the appeal record of Anne Grandjean against a charge of "profaning the sacrament of marriage" by marrying a woman.

First Issue - The Classical Background


Etat de l'Accusé.

Cet objet exige des détails que nous craindrions d'entreprendre, si la recherche de la vérité & l'amour de la justice n'ennoblissoient tous les sujets que l'on traite.


State of the Accused.

This object requires details that we would be afraid to undertake, if the search for truth and the love of justice did not ennoble all the subjects that we treat.

{HRJ: Once again, as we get close to sexual matters, the narrator gets apologetic, poetic, and coy.}

Le Créateur à imposé des Loix à la nature pour la production de l'espece humaine. Mais des sucs plus ou moins abondans, une impulfion plus ou moins prompte, une fermentation plus ou moins active, dérangent quelquefois l'ordre économique des productions & présentent à l'oeil curieux de l'observateur, différens phénomenes.

The Creator has imposed laws on nature for the production of the human race. But more or less abundant juices, a more or less rapid impulse, a more or less active fermentation, sometimes disturb the economic order of the productions and present to the curious eye of the observer, different phenomena.

{HRJ: The narrator is speaking in terms of the humoral theory of gender. This theory—tracing back to classical Greece—asserts that the physical manifestation of gender/sex is shaped and determined by the conditions in which the fetus develops. For more discussion on this, see the podcast Humors, Horoscopes, and Homosexuality. A fetus developed into a male by virtue of having certain humoral properties: heat, dryness, activity, and so forth. But—goes the theory—a fetus may begin developing in one direction, which fixes the anatomy, but then be subject to other influences which affect the personality and mental faculties, resulting in a masculine woman, a feminine man, or some other mixing of properties. This is the scenario that is being set up: the gender binary required “for the production of the human race” may be disturbed with unexpected results.}

Un hermaphrodite est peut-être le plus intéressant de tous. Dans ces tems reculés où la Philosophie étoit encore en son berceau, on les envisageoit comme des monstres; & sous les Consuls de l'ancienne Rome, un hermaphrodite étoit jetté dans la Mer, ou abandonné dans une isle déserte, ainsi que nous l'atteste Pline le Naturaliste. Natur. Histor. lib. 7, cap: 3.

A hermaphrodite is perhaps the most interesting of all. In those remote times when Philosophy was still in its cradle, they were regarded as monsters; and under the Consuls of ancient Rome, a hermaphrodite was thrown into the sea, or abandoned on a desert island, as Pliny the Naturalist attests. Natur. Histor. lib. 7, cap: 3.

{HRJ: The narrator is now going to show off his classical education. Pliny’s Natural History, book 7, chapter 3 is on the subject of “Marvelous Births.” (The translation here is courtesy of the website:,0978,001:7:3) The narrator is distorting the actual content somewhat, perhaps to suggest that France should be more humane than the ancients. Pliny has separate discussions of hermaphrodites “Individuals are occasionally born, who belong to both sexes; such persons we call by the name of hermaphrodites; they were formerly called Androgyni, and were looked upon as monsters, but at the present day they are employed for sensual purposes.”) and of persons who changed sex. In the discussion of the latter, there is indeed a reference to someone being taken to a desert island, but no reference to anyone being thrown into the sea. “The change of females into males is undoubtedly no fable. We find it stated in the Annals, that, in the consulship of P. Licinius Crassus and C. Cassius Longinus, a girl, who was living at Casinum with her parents, was changed into a boy; and that, by the command of the Aruspices, he was conveyed away to a desert island. Licinius Mucianus informs us, that he once saw at Argos a person whose name was then Arescon, though he had been formerly called Arescusa: that this person had been married to a man, but that, shortly after, a beard and marks of virility made their appearance, upon which he took to himself a wife. He had also seen a boy at Smyrna, to whom the very same thing had happened. I myself saw in Africa one L. Cossicius, a citizen of Thysdris, who had been changed into a man the very day on which he was married to a husband.” The exile to a deserted island, thus, was a precaution because the person was considered inauspicious, which state could come from any number of reasons, and not for the specific cause of being a hermaphrodite.}

Sous les Empereurs, l'humanité s'étendit avec les conquêtes, les préjugés s'évanouirent; & les Loix devinrent plus sages. Un hermaphrodite fut regardé comme une production extraordinaire, mais il ne parut pas mériter d'être retranché du rang des Citoyens; les Législateurs voulurent qu'on s'attachât à distinguer le sexe dominant chez lui, afin de lui assigner la place qui lui étoit propre dans la société. Quæritur hermaphroditum cui comparamus, & magis puto ejus sexûs estimandum qui in eo prævalet. L. 10 ad dig. de statu hominum.

Under the Emperors, humanity expanded with the conquests, prejudices disappeared, and the laws became wiser. A hermaphrodite was regarded as an extraordinary production, but he did not seem to deserve to be cut off from the rank of citizens; the legislators wanted to distinguish the dominant sex in him, in order to assign him the place that was proper to him in society. Quæritur hermaphroditum cui comparamus, & magis puto ejus sexûs estimandum qui in eo prævalet. L. 10 ad dig. de statu hominum.

{HRJ: The text quoted here appears to be from Justinian’s Corpus juris civilis, specifically the Digests, which is a compilation of extracts from prior legal treatises, organized by topic. This quote comes from the section entitled De statu hominum (concerning laws about people), attributed to Ulpian. “Quaeritur: hermaphroditum cui comparamus? et magis puto eius sexus aestimandum, qui in eo praevalet.” “Question: To whom do we compare the hermaphrodite? I think he should be evaluated as the sex which prevails in him.” In other words, a legal binary must be enforced, and each person assigned a gender. This is a regular theme in the legal treatment of intersex people in western history: philosophy might recognize indeterminate sex or a "third sex," but the law recognized only a binary and required everyone to be assigned to a category and not to move between categories.}

 La Loi régloit leur sort; mais la Philosophie chercha à les définir. Combien de systems, ouvrages de l'erreur n'a-t-on pas vu paroître sur cette matiere?

The Law regulated their fate; but Philosophy sought to define them. How many systems, works of error, have we not seen appear on this subject?

{HRJ: The narrator now asserts that the legally imposed binary may not be the only approach.}

Les sectateurs superstitieux de l'Astrologie judiciaire crurent pouvoir trouver dans les astres la cause de ce phénomene; suivant eux, la réunion de Venus & de Mercure dans le septieme signe du Zodiaque, en conjonction avec Mars, devoit faire naître un hermaphrodite: Si Mars his conciliatur conjunctione aut aspectu, facit hermaphroditos. Joannes Garcæus, cap. 16, de frigidio, &c.

The superstitious followers of Judicial Astrology believed they could find in the stars the cause of this phenomenon; according to them, the meeting of Venus & Mercury in the seventh sign of the Zodiac, in conjunction with Mars, should give birth to a hermaphrodite: Si Mars his conciliatur conjunctione aut aspectu, facit hermaphroditos. Joannes Garcæus, cap. 16, de frigidio, &c.

{HRJ: Once again, for background, I refer the reader to the podcast on astrology and humoral theory. Our narrator views the idea of astrological influences on gender to be superstition, though he wasn’t quite as censorious toward humoral influences. The quoted astrologer here is 16th century German Johannes Garcaeus, who writes “If Mars prevails in this conjunction or aspect, it creates hermaphrodites.”}

La raison se récria bientôt contre des opinions aussi chimériques; des observateurs voulurent porter le flambeau de la Physique jusques dans les entrailles d'une mere, examiner la formation du fœtus & ses accroissances, interroger la nature & lui demander raison de ses caprices: ils crurent appercevoir dans le mélange des liqueurs productives de l’homme & de la femme, & dans les accidens arrivés à ce mêlange, la cause du phénomène; combien d'Auteurs ont écrit sur cette matière, avec lesquels nous craindrions de nous égarer!*

{marginal note: * V. Averroès liv. 4, de generat. anim. Alpert le Grand, liv. 18, de animal.}

Reason soon rebelled against such chimerical opinions; observers wanted to carry the torch of Physics to the womb of a mother, to examine the formation of the fetus & its growths, to question nature & ask her for the reason of her caprices: They thought they could see in the mixture of the productive liquors of man and woman, and in the accidents that occurred in this mixture, the cause of the phenomenon; how many authors have written on this subject, with whom we would fear to stray! *

{marginal note: * V. Averroès liv. 4, de generat. anim. Alpert le Grand, liv. 18, de animal.}

{HRJ: Our narrator is waxing poetic again, touting the Age of Reason and its determination to find scientific explanations. The marginal note is not a manuscript annotation, but part of the print layout. The citations are of the commentary by 12th century Andalusian philosopher Averroes (Ibn Rushd) on Aristotle’s “De Generatione Animalium” (On the Generation of Animals). Presumably “book 4” refers to the 4th of 5 volumes of Aristotle’s work, which does discuss theories of sex determination. Alpert le Grand is presumably 13th century philosopher and theologian Albertus Magnus, De Animalibus (On Animals), which may well also be referencing Aristotle’s theories as Albertus was one of the major medieval transmission pathways for Aristotle’s works.}

Mais depuis a paru le systême des ovaires qui suppose le germe existant chez la femme avant que d'être fécondé par l'homme, & qui sembloit expliquer les opérations de la nature par des voies plus simples & plus générales; ce systeme a détruit tous les raisonnemens fondés sur le mélange des deux fluides sans donner une explication plus saine de la production dont on cherchoit à connoître le principe.

But since then the system of ovaries has appeared, which supposes the germ existing in the woman before being fertilized by the man, and which seemed to explain the operations of nature by simpler and more general ways; this system has destroyed all the reasonings founded on the mixture of the two fluids without giving a healthier explanation of the production of which one sought to know the principle.

{HRJ: And here’s where we know that our narrator has simply been showing off and establishing himself as a classical scholar. We can sweep away all that old superstition because anatomical studies have superseded them! I should be more fair to him, since this really was cutting-edge scientific knowledge. I’ll leave our narrator in peace to his flights of rhetoric in the next couple passages.}

Quant à nous nous ne pouvons qu'être surpris des efforts, de esprit humain, qui lutte sans cesse contre sa propre impuissance; il est des secrets qu'il ne nous appartient pas de découvrir.

As for us, we can only be surprised at the efforts of the human mind, which is constantly struggling against its own impotence; there are secrets which it is not our business to discover.

Le génie qui s'élance dans l'infini, qui mesure l'étendue des cieux, qui calcule les révolutions périodiques de ces globes roulans dans l'immensité de l'espace, qui, d'après des regles certaines, prédit leurs différens rapports pour des siécles à venir, est honteux de son insuffisance lorsqu'il s'arrête un instant près de lui, & qu'il veut pénétrer la cause de son exilence.

The genius that soars into infinity, that measures the extent of the heavens, that calculates the periodic revolutions of these rolling globes in the immensity of space, that, according to certain rules, predicts their different relationships for centuries to come, is ashamed of his insufficiency when he stops for a moment near it, & that he wants to penetrate the cause of his exile.

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