First White Terror

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Picture by an unknown artist showing a member of the 'Compagnons du Soleil', who carried out White Terror attacks in southeastern France Terreur blanche 1795.jpg
Picture by an unknown artist showing a member of the 'Compagnons du Soleil', who carried out White Terror attacks in southeastern France

Massacre of Jacobin prisoners in Lyon in 1795 Massacre dans les prisons de Lyon 24 avril 1795.png
Massacre of Jacobin prisoners in Lyon in 1795

The White Terror was a period during the French Revolution in 1795, when a wave of violent attacks swept across much of France. The victims of this violence were people identified as being associated with the Reign of Terror – followers of Robespierre and Marat, and members of local Jacobin clubs. The violence was perpetrated primarily by those whose relatives or associates had been victims of the Great Terror, or whose lives and livelihoods had been threatened by the government and its supporters before the Thermidorean Reaction. Principally these were, in Paris, the Muscadins, and in the countryside, monarchists, supporters of the Girondins, those who opposed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and those otherwise hostile to the Jacobin political agenda. [1] The Great Terror had been largely an organised political programme, based on laws such as the Law of 22 Prairial, and enacted through official institutions such as the Revolutionary Tribunal, but the White Terror was essentially a series of uncoordinated attacks by local activists who shared common perspectives but no central organisation. [2] In particular locations, there were however more organised counter-revolutionary movements such as the Companions of Jehu in Lyon and the Companions of the Sun in Provence. The name 'White Terror' derives from the white cockades worn in the hats of royalists. [3]

Contents

Background

The Reign of Terror ended on 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794) when Robespierre and his associates were overthrown. [4] However, there was not an immediate reaction to his rule, and for many months an unstable political climate prevailed before a new order emerged. In Paris, there were increasing attacks on sans-culottes by Muscadins, and there were attacks on Jacobins in Lyon and Nimes in February 1795. However, only when a number of conditions changed did anti-Jacobin forces feel sufficiently confident to escalate these attacks into a full-scale White Terror. [5]

Politically, the Thermidorean Reaction did not remove from power all those who had been involved in the Reign of Terror – indeed some of the most feared Terrorists, including Jean-Baptiste Carrier and Joseph Fouché had been involved in overthrowing Robespierre, largely because they feared him calling them to account. [6] It took a period of several months before all of the leading figures associated with the Reign of Terror were brought to trial or removed from power.

Economically, there were food shortages as a result of a hard winter in 1794–5 and the assignat currency collapsed. The harvest of 1794 was poor, particularly in the areas which supplied Paris and in many northern areas people were reduced to consuming seed during the winter. Further south, rivers remained iced over and roads remained impassable in the spring, hindering trade and raising local prices. [7] The assignat fell from 31% of its face value in August 1794 to 24% in November, 17% in February and 8% in April 1795. [8] In Paris, hunger and desperation led to the Germinal uprising of April 1795.

Militarily, the National Convention was fighting the Chouannerie rebellion in western France until December 1794. [9] The Treaty of La Jaunaye which ended the rebellion allowed the return of non-juring priests [10] The agreement ended the direct military emergency facing the Republic and weakened the standing of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy.

Timeline of events leading to the White Terror

(source) [11]

Timeline of events in the White Terror

(source) [11]

Effects in other towns

The White Terror spread throughout the country, with some regions claiming not to have been disgraced by the Reign of Terror and others believing that there had to be significant retributions. Individuals accused as terrorists were then put on trial and executed. Overall, the severity of the reactions to the Reign of Terror were dependent on how each region was involved in the Revolution and on that region's specific history. Lists of those persecuted, as well as existing judicial and police records, indicate that a strong majority of accusations made did not arise from actions during the Reign of Terror at all but rather from personal or regional grudges. [23]

See also

Citations

  1. Denis Woronoff, The Thermidorean regime and the Directory, CUP (1972), p. 23.
  2. Alfred Cobban, A History of Modern France vol 1 1715–1799 Penguin (1957), p. 243.
  3. John Paxton, Companion to the French Revolution, Facts on File Publications (1988), p. 207.
  4. John Paxton, Companion to the French Revolution, Facts on File Publications (1988), p. 186.
  5. The Thermidorian regime and the Directory 1794–1799, CUP (1972), p. 23.
  6. David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, (2005), p. 237.
  7. The Thermidorian regime and the Directory 1794–1799, CUP (1972), p. 11.
  8. The Thermidorian regime and the Directory 1794–1799, CUP (1972), p. 10.
  9. John Paxton, Companion to the French Revolution, Facts on File Publications (1988), p. 50.
  10. David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2005), p. 354.
  11. 1 2 Denis Woronoff, The Thermidorean regime and the Directory 1794–1799 CUP (1972), pp. ix-x.
  12. 1 2 3 Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman (1989), p. 474.
  13. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman (1989) p. 454.
  14. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman (1989), p. 473.
  15. Denis Woronoff, The Thermidorean regime and the Directory 1794–1799, p. 5.
  16. 1 2 Denis Woronoff, The Thermidorean regime and the Directory 1794–1799, p. 23.
  17. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman (1989), p. 468.
  18. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman (1989), p. 470.
  19. Chronicle of the French Revolution Longman (1989), p. 476.
  20. M A Kennedy; Michael L. Kennedy (2000). The Jacobin Clubs in the French Revolution, 1793–1795. Berghahn Books. p. 249. ISBN   978-1-57181-186-8.
  21. Denis Woronoff, The Thermidorean regime and the Directory 1794–1799, p. 19.
  22. Chronicle of the French Revolution Longman (1989), p. 484.
  23. 1 2 3 McPhee, P. (2012) The White Terror, in A Companion to the French Revolution, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford. doi: 10.1002/9781118316399.ch22 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118316399.ch22/summary

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