Thermidorian reaction and the Directory/ Chapter 6


1. The Thermidorian reaction.

  • Ending the Terror. The Convention abolished the Revolutionary Tribunal, released all suspects from prison and repealed the Law of Prairial and closed the Jacobin Club. In September 1794 the Convention decided that it would no longer pay clerical salaries. On 21 February 1795, the government restored freedom of worship for all religions. State recognition of the Cult of the Supreme Being was also ended. For the first time, the State was declaring itself to be entirely neutral in all religious matters. Price controls were abolished and this led to a fall in the value of the assignat and hyperinflation, the Maximum was also abolished. There was a poor harvest and therefore a hunger.
  • The uprisings of Germinal and Prairial. Germinal - demonstration who marched on theConvention to demand bread, the constitution of 1793. Convention's inability to resolve the fane led to further outbreaks of violence in provinces. Prairial - was a much serious armed rising to demand bread. The crisis was resolved when the Convention agreed to accept a petition to set up a food commission.  On 22 May the Convention took the offensive. Prairial marked the end of the sans-culottes as a political and military force bc 6000 militants were arrested. The significance of Prairial was that the defeat of popular movement marked the end of the radical phase of the Revolution. Reasons why Prairial failed: 1)the workers were divided 2) there was no longer the Paris Commune to coordinate their activities 3) they were politically inexperienced 4) they had lost the support of the radical bourgeoisie. The key role was the army. They were used against the citizens for the first time and its intervention was decisive.
  • The White Terror. It was an attack on ex-terrorists and all who had done well out of the Revolution. The main concern was vengeance on all those who had been members of the popular societies. The Whites were people who had been victims of the Revolutionary Tribunal, they did not want to restore the monarchy. The White Terror did not cover the whole of France. It was more widely spread in the south and the Vendee.
  • Constitution of Year 3, 1795. The Thermidorians wanted a new constitution which would guarantee the main features of the Revolution of 1789. They also wanted to ensure that a dictatorship (CPS) would not be possible to repeat. A new constitution was agreed on 22 August 1795.  The executive would be a Directory of five, chosen by the Ancients. The Legislature was divided into two chambers( the council of 500 (would initiate legislation and then would pass it on) and the council of ancients(approve or object to bills but could not introduce or change them).  This was done to prevent a dictatorship arising as the legislature would be separated from the executive. Weaknesses of the new constitution: a) the yearly elections promoted instability b) there was no means of resolving conflicts between the legislature and the executive c) the directors could neither…


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