Government by Terror/ Chapter 5


1.The emergence of government by Terror

  • The political crisis. The Montagnards (Jacobins) drew closer to the sans-culottes, just as the Plain (not attached to neither Jacob nor Girondins) was drawing closer to the Montagnards. The leader of the Plain told the Convention three things: A) in a state of emergency, no government could rule by normal methods b) the bourgeoisie should not isolate itself from the people c) The Convention must take the initiative by introducing the necessary measures
  • Committee of General Security. The main task - root out all anti-republican opposition. On 10 March 1793, a Revolutionary Tribunal was set up in Paris to try counter-revolutionary suspects. The tribunal was to become one of the main instruments which made the Terror. Representatives-on-mission(Jacobin deputies sent to various parts of France) had almost unlimited powers over the department administrations. Comites de surveillance was set up and provided many victims for the Revolutionary Tribunal. The summary execution decree provided for the trial and execution of armed rebels within 24 hours of capture. These trials were held with no jury and there was no appeal. 
  • Committee of Public Safety. It was set up on 6 April 1793. Its purpose was to supervise the activities of ministers. 7/9 members were from the Plain and only 2 members from the Montagnards(Jacobin). 
  • The overthrow of the Girondins. Danton and other Montagnards has asked Girondins to stop attacking sans-culottes and on 26 May Robespierre invited people to fight against corrupt Girondin ministers. On 31 May there were riots and on 2 June 80,000 National Guardsmen surrounded the Convention and demanded the expulsion of the Girondins from the Assembly. For the first time, an armed force was used against an elected assembly. To prevent a massacre, the Convention arrested 29 Girondin deputies and 2 ministers.
  • The federal revolt. The first city to rebel was Marseille where the locals turned against the Jacobin Club. After this, anti-Jacobin supporters took control of many other towns and cities in the south. The most serious revolt - 30 May. Potentially also the most serious revolt was in Toulon. This uprising overthrew the town council and closed town the Jacobin Club. The government cut off food supplies, and as a result, the town authorities negotiated with the British. British troops entered the town on 28 August. The problem was - these revolts and "federal" forces were small. Marseille was able to raise 3,500 men and also a failure to cooperate enabled the government to pick off the rebel areas one by one. 
  • The New Committee of Public Safety. It was formed between July and September 1793, the 12 members were all either Montagnards (Jacobin) or deputies of the Plain who had joined them. There was no chairman and all members were jointly responsible.  The first strong government since the Revolution began

2. The dominance of the sans-culottes

  • Ideas and organisation. main characteristics of the sans-culottes: a) hatred of the aristocracy b) egalitarianism c) the wearing of red caps d) a belief in direct…


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