France: Terror

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  • Created by: Mabel
  • Created on: 03-05-13 14:04

Robespierre's execution


Deputies and committee members terrifed they would be his next victims

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September Massacres


  • Failure in war - Prussians had reached Verdun (last fortress before Paris). Lafayette had defected -> suspicion & fear. Caused panic. After King's treachery, fear of mass prison breakout of counter-revs that would help Prussians attack Paris.
  • Sans Culottes very power mob (passive citizens) who felt revolution hadn't gone far enough to help ordinary people. Already shown power in journees.
  • Role of Commune: Marat called for conspirators to be killed, people paid by commune to carry out massacres.


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Expulsion of Girondins


  • Moderation angered Commune & SCs. Jacobins attacked conservatism & saw them as royalists & traitors obstructing the revolution.
  • Rivalry with Jacobins - disgusted by Jacobin support for september massacres (buveurs de sang). Mass support for Jacobins after establishment of CPS & Rev. Tribunal. Could not command support of SCs, especially after Jacobins introduced Maximum to control prices.
  • Gironde support was provincial: the Jacobins had Paris -> meant the end of the Girondins if they were to come to a clash.
  • With the revolution threatened (war, defection, counter rev - vendee, economic crisis) the Jacobins were the only group ready to use extreme methods (Terror) to defend the revolution. It was the stronger revolutionary credentials of the Jacobins that prevailed. 
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  • Why established?
    • attempt to return to revolutionary principles of 89. Committees had ignored & intimidated elected deputies - new system with separation of powers designed to prevent dictatorship
    • previous 'dictator' (Robespierre) left power vaccum at top - opportunity for complete political restructuring & fresh start. Convention associated with Terror.
    • reaction to terror - limit power of lower classes (sans culottes) with new franchise system. Limited democracy to exclude extremists and royalists (White Terror). Moderate govt appealing - checks and balances appeared to offer safety.
  • Why overthrown?
    • Inability to keep control - risings of fructidor. Collapse in provinces - influence of royalists & slow process due to checks & balances. Sieyes' plan to strengthen executive with Consulate seemed appealing.
    • Success of Revolt of Brumaire orchestrated by Sieyes - Lucien, role of army (dependance - no protection in isolated Saint Cloud).
    • Unpopularity - alienated most sectors of society: assignat value (bourgeois), forced loans (wealthy), food shortages, conscription. Loss of respect for interference in election results. Therefore not prepared to support D when coup takes place.
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Republic Sep 92


  • Actions of the King: renounced revolution before Varennes, popularity decreased further when vetoed laws on emigres & refractory priests. Actions led to first Tuileries.
  • Impact of war: King saw it as way to regain absolute power. Rumours of 'Austrian Committee'. La patrie en danger increased power of sans culottes. Brunswick Manifesto.
  • Growing power of political clubs. Robespierre timed his calls for overthrow of monarchy & exploited radicalisation of sans culottes. The storming of the Tuileries by the S.Cs led to King's imprisonment & declaration of republic.
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Execution of King

  • Why?
    • War heightened existing tensions in Convention. While in prison, Louis could be focus for enemy attempts to invade & restore AR, which all deputies were strongly opposed to. Brunswick Manifesto - confirmation of Austrian intent. Correspondencebetween Louis & Austrians showed he was traitor to France & revolution. Enough to force a trial. 
    • King could not be trusted - since 89 had been resistant to revolutionary decrees (CCoC). Varennes & discovery of armoire de fer combined with proclamation of republic (Sep 92) -> no place for a King in the new France.
    • Appel nominal (Marat) - no deputy would declare King innocent in public ->693/749 guilty. Also due to Jacobin domination in convention and threats of San Culottes, who held King responsible for Tuileries.
      • Needed to remove figurehead of AR, but wouldn't have been necessary but forwar and Louis' own duplicity.
  • What? - 21 Jan 93
    • Girondins tried twice to prevent execution - referendum (rejected) & reprieve(narrowly defeated) -> solid block of moderates reluctant to support execution.
    • First Jacobin victory in Convention - branded Girondin as royalists & counter-revs (despite half of them voting for execution).
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Beginning of War


  • growing fears of Austrian intentions: Brunswick Manifesto, Declaration of Pillnitz. Death of Leopold - more aggressive Francis II. 'Austrian Committee' 
  • in many people's interests to go to war:
    • King - wanted to restore power
    • Dumouriez (foreign minister) - further political ambitions
    • Lafayette - strenthen hand of the King & his own power
  • appointment of new govt with more Girondins (pro-war) - believed it would force King to reveal true sympathies. Brissot argued persuasively it would extend revolution abroad & rouse enthusiasm. Also accusations about Austrian Committee. 


  • April 92
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