Louis Mandrin in the Collection
Louis Mandrin has been called both a criminal outlaw and a hero. According to the account provided by the pamphlet in our collection, Mandrin was an illegal smuggler with no regard for the law or for the lives that were lost as a result of his operations. Other accounts, however, portray Mandrin as a loyal and fair man and as an individual concerned with the rights and freedoms of the poor. Vastly different from the portrayal of the pamphlet in our collection, Mandrin has also been called the Robin Hood of France and described in other accounts in the following way:
"He was as generous as he was brave, and never molested travelers, nor did the least injury to the poor; but, on the contrary, relieved them very often. He used to oblige the gentlemen in the country to take his merchandise, his tobacco, brandy, and muslins, at his own price; and, in the same manner, he laid the open towns under contribution" (Seal, 28).
Rather than suggest that Mandrin should be viewed either as an outlaw or as a hero, it may be helpful to instead see him as both. Paul Metzger writes,"What makes an outlaw also a hero? First, an outlaw-hero generally possesses some outstanding personal traits or accomplishments, such as candor, audacity, cunning, strength, horsemanship, or marksmanship, that make his seem heroic if one disregards his criminality...Second, an outlaw-hero generally represents a challenge or a rebuke to a society perceived as unjust" (87). Therefore, viewing Mandrin as both heroic and as a criminal outlaw helps highlight a richer understanding of him as an individual and possibly the motivation behind his crimes. Mandrin as both hero and outlaw also draws attention to the larger historical context and the unjust trade taxes that greatly affected and abused the poor.
Finally, because the 18th century was characterized both by a rapidly growing publishing industry and an increase in formerly private activities taking place in public spaces and in front of audiences, one must consider the effects these societal changes had on individuals like Mandrin.