Committee of General Security

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The Committee of General Security was located in Hotel de Brionne on the right; it gathered on the first floor. (The Tuileries Palace, which housed the Convention, is on the left) Tuileries, facade regardant la cour du Carrousel (dessin) - Destailleur Paris tome 6, 1292 - Gallica 2013 (adjusted).jpg
The Committee of General Security was located in Hôtel de Brionne on the right; it gathered on the first floor. (The Tuileries Palace, which housed the Convention, is on the left)

The Committee of General Security (French : Comité de sûreté générale) was a French parliamentary committee which acted as police agency during the French Revolution that, along with the Committee of Public Safety, oversaw the Reign of Terror.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Committee of Public Safety De facto executive government in France (1793–1794)

The Committee of Public Safety, created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the de facto, interim, and executive government in France during the Reign of Terror (1793–1794), a stage of the French Revolution. The Committee of Public Safety succeeded the previous Committee of General Defence and assumed its role of protecting the newly established republic against foreign attacks and internal rebellion. As a wartime measure, the Committee—composed at first of nine and later of twelve members—was given broad supervisory powers over military, judicial and legislative efforts. It was formed as an administrative body to supervise and expedite the work of the executive bodies of the Convention and of the government ministers appointed by the Convention. As the Committee tried to meet the dangers of a coalition of European nations and counter-revolutionary forces within the country, it became more and more powerful.


The Committee supervised the local police committees in charge of investigating reports of treason, and was one of the agencies with authority to refer suspects to the Revolutionary Tribunal for trial and possible execution by guillotine. [1]

Treason Crime against ones sovereign or nation

In law, treason is criminal disloyalty to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's nation or sovereign. This usually includes things such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

Revolutionary Tribunal Tribunal during the French revolution

The Revolutionary Tribunal was a court instituted by the National Convention during the French Revolution for the trial of political offenders. It eventually became one of the most powerful engines of the Reign of Terror.

Guillotine Apparatus designed for carrying out executions by beheading

A guillotine was an apparatus designed for efficiently carrying out executions by beheading. The device consists of a tall, upright frame in which a weighted and angled blade is raised to the top and suspended. The condemned person is secured with stocks at the bottom of the frame, positioning the neck directly below the blade. The blade is then released, to quickly fall and forcefully decapitate the victim with a single, clean pass so that the head falls into a basket below.

The Committee of General Security was established as a committee of the National Convention in October 1792. [2] It was designed to protect the Revolutionary Republic from its internal enemies. [3] By 1794 the Committee became part of the opposition to Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety and members were involved in the 9 Thermidor coup d'état . [4] On 4 November 1795, along with the end of the National Convention, the Committee of General Security dissolved.

National Convention Single-chamber assembly in France from 21 September 1792 to 26 October 1795

The National Convention was the first government of the French Revolution, following the two-year National Constituent Assembly and the one-year Legislative Assembly. Created after the great insurrection of 10 August 1792, it was the first French government organized as a republic, abandoning the monarchy altogether. The Convention sat as a single-chamber assembly from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795.

Coup détat Sudden deposition of a government

A coup d'état, also known as a putsch (German:), a golpe de estado (Spanish/Portuguese), or simply as a coup, means the overthrow of an existing government; typically, this refers to an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a dictator, the military, or a political faction.

Origins and evolution

On 2 October 1792, the National Convention created the Committee of General Security from its predecessors: the Search Committee (Comité des recherches) and the Committee of Surveillance (Comité de Surveillance). [5] The Committee was not large and never exceeded 16 members. [5] The Committee's main responsibility was the internal security of France and to protect the Republic from both external and internal enemies. [6] [7] One way of ensuring the security of France was through the passport system. Through this system the members of the Committee had the knowledge of who was entering France and where they were going. [7] The Committee had the authority to decide who was sent to the Revolutionary Tribunal for judgment during the Reign of Terror. [7] Once the evidence was fully considered in an individual case the members of the Committee made the decision on the innocence or guilt of the suspect, which determined if that person would be released or sent to the Tribunal. [8]

Throughout, the existence of the committee it contributed to a large number of people being sent to the guillotine. On March 29, 1794, the committee ordered twenty-four former members of the parlements of Paris and Toulouse to be sent to the Tribunal, where they were subsequently executed. [8] Shortly after, another twenty-eight people that were a part of the Farmers-General, were investigated by the Committee and sent to the Tribunal for trial. After the trial the men were found guilty and executed. [8]

The Parlement of Toulouse was one of the parlements of the Kingdom of France. It was modelled on the Parlement of Paris. It was first created in 1420, but definitely established by edicts in 1437 and 1443 by Charles VII as an appellate court of justice on civil, criminal and ecclesiastic affairs for the Languedoc region, including Quercy, the County of Foix and Armagnac. It was the first parlement in the south of France, and it gained in prestige both by its distance from Paris and from the differences between southern France's legal system and northern France's.

A proposal of Danton on 13 September 1793 marked a turning point in the composition of the committee: from then on its members were appointed directly by the Committee of Public Safety and were no more than twelve in number. The regulation of 19 October 1793 stated that the committee should sit every day from eight o'clock till eleven o'clock in the evening, later if circumstances required that. The Law of 14 Frimaire (4 December 1793), voted on the report of Billaud-Varenne, restored a degree of equality between the two committees. On 16 April 1794 the Committee of Public Safety received the power to search and to bring the accused before the Revolutionary Tribunal, in the same way as the Committee of General Security. The Committee of General Security and the Committee of Public Safety worked alongside one another. Their responsibilities became overlapping which caused tensions between the two groups. [5] [6] The Law of 22 Prairial year II (10 June 1794) deepened this rivalry as it enabled the two committees to send the accused directly before the Revolutionary Tribunal. The law was introduced to the public without consultation from the Committee of General Security, which, in turn, doubled the number of executions permitted by the Committee of Public Safety. [9] On 22 and 23 July the two committees met in a plenary session. Saint-Just declared in negotiations with Barère to be prepared to make concessions on the subordinate position of the Committee of General Security. [10] [11] Couthon agreed with more cooperation between the two committees. For Robespierre, the Committee of General Security had to remain subordinate to the Committee of Public Safety. Both committees were responsible for suppressing counterrevolution, but ended targeting each other. [12]

The Law of 14 Frimaire was passed on 4 December 1793, during the French Revolution, in which power became centralized and consolidated under the Committee of Public Safety. It stopped representatives on-mission from taking 'action' without the authority of the Committee.

Law of 22 Prairial

The Law of 22 Prairial, also known as the loi de la Grande Terreur, the law of the Great Terror, was enacted on 10 June 1794. It was proposed by Georges Auguste Couthon but seems to have been written by Robespierre according to Laurent Lecointre. By means of this law the Committee of Public Safety simplified the judicial process to one of indictment and prosecution.

The tensions grew and contributed to the downfall of Robespierre. [6] One example of the rising tension was when two members of the Committee of General Security, Jean-Pierre-André Amar and Marc-Guillaume Alexis Vadier, participated in the 9 Thermidor coup against Robespierre. [5] During the same time at the National Convention, Vadier also used false accusations implementing Catherine Théot in a plot to overthrow the Republic, which was also connected to Robespierre and the Cult of the Supreme Being. [13]

The Committee of General Security had more than 160 employees on the eve of the 9 Thermidor. The Committee of General Security dissolved with the end of the National Convention in November 1795. [5]

Prominent members

The Committee of General Security had a significant number of members : there were 144 member of the Convention elected in the Committee between 2 October 1792-November 4, 1795.

See also

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  1. Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Neely, Sylvia (2008), A concise history of the French Revolution, Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 178–179, ISBN   0-7425-3411-1
  3. Palmer, R. R.; Colton, J. G. (1965), A History of the Modern World (3rd ed.), Knopf, pp. 359–360, ISBN   1-4091-0338-2
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  7. 1 2 3 Walker, Emma (1961). "André Amar and His Role in the Committee of General Security". The Historian. 23: 467–469. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.1961.tb01702.x. JSTOR   24437800.
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  9. Schama 1989, p. 836.
  10. Albert Soboul, p. 345, 347
  11. Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution by Marisa Linton
  12. Deep Republicanism: Prelude to Professionalism by Donald Clark Hodges, p. 94
  13. Garrett, Clarke (1974). "Popular Piety in the French Revolution: Catherine Théot". The Catholic Historical Review. 60: 215. JSTOR   25019540.