September Massacres

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The Salpetriere hospital where 35 women were killed. Massacre a la Salpetriere.jpg
The Salpêtrière hospital where 35 women were killed.
The royal hospital Bicetre where 160-170 men were killed. Hopital Royal de Bicetre, Paris; panoramic view with gardens Wellcome L0003004.jpg
The royal hospital Bicêtre where 160-170 men were killed.

The September Massacres were a number of killings in Paris and other cities that occurred from 2–6 September 1792 during the French Revolution.

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.


More than 1,000 prisoners were killed within 20 hours. The action was undertaken by 150-300 (or 235 [1] ) Sansculottes, Guardsmen , Marseillais, Gendarmes and Fédérés with the support of the Cordeliers, the insurrectional Commune and the Revolutionary sections of Paris. [2] [3] [4] [5] (The Gendarme were responsible for guarding the tribunals and prisons. [6] ) By 6 September, half the prison population of Paris had been summarily executed: some 1,250 to 1,400 prisoners. The exact number is not known; about 440-500 people had uncertain fates, including 200 Swiss soldiers. [7] [8] However, the great majority (72%) of those killed were non-political prisoners - galley convicts, forgers of assignats, common criminals, women, and children. [9] [10] Tallien, on instigation of Marat, called on other cities to follow suit. [11] The massacres were repeated in several other French cities; 65-75 incidents were reported. [12] [13]

National Guard (France) 1789–1872 military reserve and police branch of Frances military

The National Guard is a French military, gendarmerie, and police reserve force, active in its current form since 2016 but originally founded in 1789 during the French Revolution.

National Gendarmerie gendarmerie branch of the French Armed Forces

The National Gendarmerie is one of two national police forces of France, along with the National Police. It is a branch of the French Armed Forces placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior—with additional duties to the Ministry of Defense. Its area of responsibility includes smaller towns, rural and suburban areas, while the Police Nationale—a civilian force—is in charge of cities and downtowns. Due to its military status, the Gendarmerie also fulfills a range of military and defense missions. The Gendarmes also have a cybercrime division. It has a strength of more than 100,000 personnel as of 2014.


The term "fédérés" most commonly refers to the troops who volunteered for the French National Guard in the summer of 1792 during the French Revolution. The fédérés of 1792 effected a transformation of the Guard from a constitutional monarchist force into a republican revolutionary force.

The provisional government (Conseil exécutif) - Clavière, Danton, Roland, Lebrun-Tondu, Monge and Servan, the Assembly, the mayor Pétion de Villeneuve and the commissioners from the Paris Commune all turned a blind eye.

Georges Danton French revolutionary

Georges Jacques Danton was a leading figure in the early stages of the French Revolution, in particular as the first president of the Committee of Public Safety. Danton's role in the onset of the Revolution has been disputed; many historians describe him as "the chief force in the overthrow of the French monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic".

Pierre-Henri-Hélène-Marie Lebrun-Tondu was a journalist and a French minister, during the French Revolution.

Joseph Marie Servan de Gerbey French general

Joseph Marie Servan de Gerbey was a French general. During the Revolution he served twice as Minister of War and briefly led the Army of the Western Pyrenees. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 33.

There was a fear that foreign and royalist armies would attack Paris and that the inmates of the city's prisons would be freed and join them. As a counter-revolution would mean the end, the radical Jean-Paul Marat, member of the "Comité de surveillance", called for preemptive action. On 3 September the vigilance committee of the Commune, on which Marat now served, published a circular that called on provincial Patriots to defend Paris and asked that, before leaving their homes, they eliminate counter-revolutionaries. The Girondins afterwards made much of this circular, but there is no evidence that it had any influence. As before, murders in the provinces continued: the blood-letting did not cease until the countryside was purged. The collective mentality is sufficient explanation for the killing. [14]


Map of Paris and the Faubourgs. The La Force prison was in Le Marais on Rue Pavee, near Place des Federes. The Conciergerie was located on the southeast side of the Ile de la Cite, near the Palais de Justice. The prison de l'Abbaye was south of the Seine, at the end of Rue de Bussi (E40). 1797 Jean Map of Paris and the Faubourgs, France - Geographicus - Paris-jean-1797.jpg
Map of Paris and the Faubourgs. The La Force prison was in Le Marais on Rue Pavée, near Place des Fédérés. The Conciergerie was located on the southeast side of the Île de la Cité, near the Palais de Justice. The prison de l'Abbaye was south of the Seine, at the end of Rue de Bussi (E40).
The Grand Chatelet from the north where about 220 people were killed. Le Grand Chatelet vu depuis la rue Saint-Denis, 1800.jpg
The Grand Châtelet from the north where about 220 people were killed.
Saint-Bernard where 75 galley convicts were killed. Porte Saint-Bernard Adam Perelle.jpg
Saint-Bernard where 75 galley convicts were killed.
Saint Firmin in the Rue Saint Victor were 73 seminarians were killed. St firmin.jpg
Saint Firmin in the Rue Saint Victor were 73 seminarians were killed.

On the evening of 9 August 1792, a Jacobin insurrection overthrew the leadership of the Paris municipality, proclaiming a new revolutionary Commune headed by transitional authorities.

Jacobin The more radical constitutional reform group in the French Revolution

The Society of the Friends of the Constitution, after 1792 renamed Society of the Jacobins, Friends of Freedom and Equality, commonly known as the Jacobin Club or simply the Jacobins, became the most influential political club during the French Revolution of 1789 and following. The period of their political ascendency includes the Reign of Terror, during which time well over ten thousand people were put on trial and executed in France, many for political crimes.

Paris Commune (French Revolution) government during French Revolution

The Paris Commune during the French Revolution was the government of Paris from 1792 until 1795. Established in the Hôtel de Ville just after the storming of the Bastille, it consisted of 144 delegates elected by the 48 divisions of the city. The Paris Commune became insurrectionary in the summer of 1792, essentially refusing to take orders from the central French government. It took charge of routine civic functions but is best known for mobilizing extreme views and actions among the people and for its campaign to dechristianize the churches and the people. It lost much power in 1794 and was replaced in 1795.

The next day the insurrectionists stormed the Tuileries Palace. King Louis XVI was imprisoned with the royal family, and his authority as King was suspended by the Legislative Assembly. A "de facto" executive was named, but actual decision-making power rested with the new revolutionary Commune, whose strength resided in the mobilized and armed sans-culottes , the vast majority of Paris' fairly poor population. The 48 sections of Paris were equipped with munitions from the plundered arsenals in the days before the assault, substituting for the 60 National Guard battalions. The Commune, supported by a new armed force, the sans-culottes took control of the city and dominated the Legislative Assembly and its decisions. For some weeks the Commune functioned as the actual government of France. [15]

Louis XVI of France King of France

Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was the last king of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.

<i>Sans-culottes</i> radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes during French Revolution

The sans-culottes were the common people of the lower classes in late 18th century France, a great many of whom became radical and militant partisans of the French Revolution in response to their poor quality of life under the Ancien Régime. The word sans-culotte, which is opposed to that of the aristocrat, seems to have been used for the first time on 28 February 1791 by officer Gauthier in a deregatory sense, speaking about a "sans-culottes army". The word came in vogue during the demonstration of 20 June 1792.

The Commune took major steps towards democratizing the Revolution: the adoption of universal suffrage, the arming of the civilian population, absolute abolition of all remnants of noble privileges, the selling of the properties of the émigrés . These events meant a change of direction from the political and constitutional perspective of the Girondists to a more social approach given by the Commune. As Cambon declared on 27 August:

To reject with more efficacy the defenders of despotism, we have to address the fortunes of the poor, we have to associate the Revolution with this multitude that possesses nothing, we have to convert the people to the cause. [16]

Besides these measures, the Commune engaged in a policy of political repression of all suspected counter-revolutionary activities. Beginning on 11 August, every Paris section named its committee of vigilance and within a few days each section elected three commissionaries to take seat in the insurrectionary Commune. Mostly these decentralized committees from the sections, rather than the Commune, brought about the repression of August and September 1792. To ensure that there was some appropriate legal process for dealing with suspects accused of political crimes and treason, rather than arbitrary killing by local committees, Maximilien Robespierre as the speaker of the insurrectionary Commune proposed that an extraordinary Tribunal be set up, with extraordinary powers to impose the death sentence without any possibility to appeal. [17] :201 N.B. Pierre Joseph Alexis Roussel, a secretary of the Convention, published in 1815 under the pseudonyme Proussinale some remarkable details about the procedure. [18]

On 17 August a revolutionary tribunal was installed. [19] Robespierre refused to preside over it; the same man ought not to be a denouncer, an accuser, and a judge. [20] On 19 August the nonjuring priests were ordered to leave the country within two weeks, which meant before 2 September 1792. (In Paris, all monasteries were closed and soon be in use as hospitals, etc. The remaining religious orders were dissolved by the law of 15 August. [21] ) From 15 to 25 August, around 500 detentions were registered; some were sent to Orléans. Half the detentions were of nonjuring priests, but even priests who had sworn the required oath were caught in the wave. On the evening of the 27th a ceremonial was held for the 300 Fédérés killed in the massacre of 10 August; tout-Paris (350,000 people) was present. [22] There was a call for people's justice and revenge.

At the end of August there was a sharp conflict between the Legislative and the Commune and its sections, according to Jonathan Israel. [23] Nobody knew who was in power; the Conseil Éxecutif was busy reorganizing or solving questions concerning the police, justice, the army, navy and paper money. In the Legislative Assembly more than half of the deputies had fled since the storming of the Tuileries. Since the arrival of the volunteers in the end of July Paris looked like an armed city. Tribunals were allowed to appoint new registrars at the court. Members of the tribunals and the Assembly were not allowed to go on holidays. [24] Under the Commune's direct authority the Paris sections organized themselves as surveillance committees, conducting searches and making arrests. [25] On the evening of 28 August a curfew was ordered by the Assembly for at least one perhaps three days.[ citation needed ] Thirty commissioners from the sections were ordered to search in every (suspect) house for weapons, swords, carriages and horses. [26] Before September, between 520–1,000 people were taken into custody on the flimsiest warrants. The exact number of those arrested will never be known. [27] Étienne Jean Panis was prominent in the house searches. [28] According to Simon Schama, Marat and Robespierre "... had demanded and got from the Législative extensive police powers to detain, interrogate and incarcerate suspects without anything resembling due process of law." [29] According to Prudhomme, a witness: "Marat proposed to set the prisons on fire, but it was pointed out to him that the neighboring houses would be endangered; someone else advised flooding them. Billaud-Varennes proposed butchering the prisoners. Tallien showed disgust at the discussion, but did not have the courage to oppose it."

On 30 August Girondins like Roland and Marguerite-Élie Guadet tried to suppress the influence of the Commune; the Assembly, tired of the pressures, declared the Commune illegal and suggested the organization of communal elections and a doubling of the number of seats. [30] The decree was cancelled the next day with the help of Thuriot but the balance of power was disrupted and the conflict between the Girondins and the Montagnards would influence the progress of the French Revolution. [31] Robespierre was no longer willing to cooperate with the Girondins such as Brissot, who also promoted the Duke of Brunswick and Roland, who had proposed that the members of the government should leave Paris. In a letter Robespierre suggested to the sections that they should maintain their posts, and die if necessary. [32] Marat and Robespierre both disliked Condorcet who proposed that the "enemies of the people" belonged to the Nation; that prisoners ought not be judged by members of the Commune, but by the nation. On 1 September, the gates of the city, closed the days before, were opened on the orders of Petion, providing an opportunity for suspects to flee the capital. According to Louis-Marie Prudhomme people still profited from the opportunity on Sunday morning 2 September. [33]

Invasion by the Duke of Brunswick

The political situation in Paris on the eve of the September Massacres was highly excited and aroused by dreadful rumors of traitors inside and foreign invaders outside the city. [34] Thionville was taken by the Austrians and on Sunday morning, news reached Paris that the Duke of Brunswick's Prussian army had attacked the key fortress of Verdun. He was advancing quickly toward the capital. One month earlier, on 25 July, Brunswick had issued the "Brunswick Manifesto". His avowed aim was

to put an end to the anarchy in the interior of France, to check the attacks upon the throne and the altar, to reestablish the legal power, to restore to the king the security and the liberty of which he is now deprived and to place him in a position to exercise once more the legitimate authority which belongs to him. [35]

Additionally, the Manifesto threatened the French population with instant punishment should it resist the Imperial and Prussian armies, or the reinstatement of the monarchy. Such threats fueled this first wave of mob hysteria of the Revolution. By the end of August, rumors circulated that many in Paris – such as non-juring priests – who opposed the Revolution, would support the First Coalition of foreign powers allied against it.

On Sunday morning the sections of the Commune, gathering in the townhall, decided to maintain their seats and have Rolland and Brissot arrested. [36] When Danton arrived with the news that Brunswick had captured Verdun it escalated the sense of panic. The Commune ordered a black flag to be hoisted, an alarm gun fired and the gates closed. In the afternoon an army of 60,000 was to be enlisted at the Champ de Mars. Their imminent departure from the capital provoked further concern about the crowded prisons, now full of counter-revolutionary suspects who might threaten a city deprived of so many of its defenders. [37] Jean-Paul Marat advised the volunteers not to leave the capital without first having their enemies punished and the conspirators killed. He announced that a "new blood-letting" should take place, larger than the one on 10 August. The British ambassador reported:

A party at the instigation of someone or other declared they would not quit Paris, as long as the prisons were filled with Traitors (for they called those so, that were confined in the different Prisons and Churches), who might in the absence of such a number of Citizens rise and not only effect the release of His Majesty, but make an entire counterrevolution. [38]

Reports of massacres

Prison de l'Abbaye where between 160-220 people were killed. Massacres des 2, 3, 4, 5 et 6 septembre 1792.jpg
Prison de l'Abbaye where between 160-220 people were killed.
115 priests were killed in the Carmes prison. Le massacre des Carmes by Marie-Marc-Antoine Bilcocq, (1820). Musee de la Revolution francaise. Massacre des Carmes-Bilcocq-IMG 2416.JPG
115 priests were killed in the Carmes prison. Le massacre des Carmes by Marie-Marc-Antoine Bilcocq, (1820). Musée de la Révolution française.
Conciergerie where 250-350 people were killed. Conciergerie in 1790.jpg
Conciergerie where 250-350 people were killed.

The first instance of massacre occurred in quartier Latin around 2.30 in the afternoon when 24 non-juring priests were being transported to the prison de l'Abbaye near the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, after being interrogated by Billaud-Varenne in the townhall. One of the carriages, escorted by Fédérés, was attacked after an incident. [39] The Fédérés quickly killed three men in the middle of the street, before they could enter the prison. Eighteen arrested were taken inside. They then mutilated the bodies, "with circumstances of barbarity too shocking to describe" according to the British diplomatic dispatch.

In the late afternoon 115 priests in the former convent of Carmelites, detained with the message they would be deported to French Guiana, were massacred in the courtyard with axes, spikes, swords and pistols by people (with a strong patois accent). They forced the priests one by one to take the oath on the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, and "swear to be faithful to the nation and to maintain liberty and equality or die defending it". [40] The priests hid in the choir and behind the altar. Several tried to escape by climbing in the trees and over the walls and escaped through Rue Cassette. [41] [42]

The streets were filled with people according to Madame de Staël. She fled in style as the ambassadress of Sweden. Her carriage was stopped and the crowd forced her to go to the Paris town hall, where Robespierre presided. [43]

Between seven and eight o'clock in the evening the group was back at the Abbaye prison. (The Abbaye prison had become a national prison of the revolutionary government.) The door was closed, but the bloody work was resumed after an intense discussion on people's justice and failing judges. [44] Seven commissioners from the Législative who had arrived asked for compassion. [45] These gentlemen escaped being insulted but were not listened to. [46] A tribunal was compiled of twelve people, presided by Stanislas-Marie Maillard. He started the interrogating by asking the prisoner why he was arrested. A lie was fatal; [47] 135 inmates were killed, 27 were transferred, 86 were set free, and 36 had uncertain fates. [48] According to George Long 122 died, 43 people were released. [49]

Late in the evening Madame de Staël was conveyed home, escorted by the procurator Louis Pierre Manuel. The next day the secretary-general to the Commune of Paris Jean-Lambert Tallien arrived with a new passport and accompanied to the barrier. [50]

In the middle of the night groups broke into other Paris prisons, such as the Conciergerie, the La Force Prison, and the Tour Saint-Bernard. The pattern of semi-formal executions followed by the popular tribunals was for condemned prisoners to be ordered "transferred" and then taken into the prison courtyards where they would be cut down by waiting sans-culottes. According to Prudhomme people sat on the stairs of the Palace of Justice watching the butchery. [51]

Restif de la Bretonne saw the bodies piled high on Pont au Change in front of the Châtelet. He recorded the atrocities he witnessed in Les Nuits de Paris (1794). [52] Later that night the seminary Saint Firmin was visited by just four men, who killed all the seminarians.

On Monday morning nine o'clock, Billaud-Varenne came to the Abbaye prison and declared that the murderers would get paid by the Commune. The next day, in the early afternoon, the killing stopped. On 4 September, police commissioners Étienne-Jean Panis and Sergent-Marceau gave orders to wash away all the blood from the stairs and the courtyard, to spread straw, to count the corpses and to dispose of them on carts to avoid infections. [53] A contract was signed with the grave digger of the nearby Église Saint-Sulpice, Paris, who also had to purchase or apply quicklime.

In the afternoon Salpêtrière (for men and boys), and Bicêtre (for women and girls) were visited. [54] (According to Prudhomme everybody involved in producing false assignats in the hospital Salpêtrière was killed.) On 6 or 7 September the killing finally stopped in "La Force". [55]

Contemporary reports

La Force prison where about 165 people were killed. LaForcePrisonParis.jpg
La Force prison where about 165 people were killed.

According to Galart de Montjoie, a lawyer and a royalist, in those days everyone believed the Fédérés from Marseille, Avignon and Brest were involved in the killing. [56] [57] [58] About 800-1000 were staying in barrack, but moved supposedly to where events would take place. During the storming of the Tuileries the Fédéres were in the front. [59] It is not exactly known how many of them were killed; according to Axel Fersen 600, [60] according to Robespierre only hundred men. [61] It seems around 300 Fédérés were then lodged in Cordeliers Convent. [62] [63] Servan planned to give them military training before using them to supplement the army at the front.

The fact is that the reports of conspiracies in the prisons, however improbable, and the constant propaganda about the people’s will and the people’s anger, held everyone in a sort of stupor and gave the impression that this infamous performance was the work of the populace, whereas in reality there were not above 200 criminals. [64] [65]

Though it is an ascertained fact that the perpetrators of the atrocious murders were but a few; yet it is not so clear that this work was not connived at, or consented to, by a much greater number, and those perhaps in authority; for otherwise, two or three companies of the town guard would have been sufficient to disperse those who were employed on the occasion. [66]

Perry describes the restoration of order after the events, giving the impression that the massacres may even have had a cathartic effect. He also suggests that France was plagued by fewer foreign enemies afterwards. What emerges therefore from Perry’s report is a view that, if massacres did take place, they occurred not out of spontaneous popular madness but because of comprehensible grievances. [67]

According to Adolphe Thiers, George Long and Stanley Loomis not an outburst of passion, but coldly and carefully organized. [68] [69]

Rather than being proof of the unprecedented depravity of an entire population, the prison massacres were the explicable result of both the “wrath and fury” of the victims of 10th August and the machinations of the Paris Commune, who gave their tacit consent to the killings. [70] Those targeted in the attacks had not been imprisoned unjustly, but had been suspected of having aided the court in its negotiations with foreign princes. In a similar way to Perry, Williams emphasizes the understandable impatience of the people, who had been kept waiting too long for justice after the August Days, when husbands, brothers and fathers had been killed. [71]


Leon-Maxime Faivre (1908) Death of the Princess de Lamballe Death-of-the-Princess-De-Lamballe-by-Leon-Maxime-Faivre.jpg
Léon-Maxime Faivre (1908) Death of the Princess de Lamballe

According to Pierre Caron there were almost 2,800 prisoners in early September. Between 1,100-1,400 prisoners were condemned and executed. According to Caron and Bluche 70% of the victims were killed in a 20-hour interval. [72] Among the victims were 223 nonjuring Catholic priests and (arch)bishops who refused to submit to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, 81 Swiss guards, and 40-80 political suspects, mostly royalists, aristocrats and some former judges and ministers [73] including the queen's best friend, the Princesse de Lamballe, the only political victim in "La petite Force". [74]

The lives of about 1,300-1,600 prisoners brought before the people's courts were saved. [75] In a few cases people were acclaimed as "patriots" by Robespierre, Tallien, Desmoulins, Manuel, Danton and in the case of Madame de Staël escorted to their home. [76] [77] Several prisoners for debts or alimony were released by Manuel or the police before 2 September. [78] It is assumed most of the surviving Swiss soldiers, locked up in Palais Bourbon, took the oath and joined the revolutionary army. [79]

A total of nine prisons were violently entered during the five days of the massacres before the killings concluded on the night of 6–7 September; four were not visited (Sainte-Pélagie Prison, Prison Saint-Lazare, Tour du Temple and palais Bourbon). After initially indiscriminate slayings, ad hoc popular tribunals were set up to distinguish between "enemies of the people" and those who were innocent, or at least were not perceived as counter-revolutionary threats. In spite of this attempted sifting, an estimated three-quarters of the 1,300–1,400 killed were not counter-revolutionaries or "villains", but included all the galley convicts, forgers of assignats, 37 women (including the Princess de Lamballe and the book-seller Marie Gredeler, who was accused of murder) and 66 children. [80] [81] Some priests and women were of age, about prostitutes or insane not much is known. [82]

In Paris in the Terror, Stanley Loomis reports that during the massacre at the prison of Bicêtre, 33 boys aged between 12 and 18 were murdered by a group of 1,500-2,000 people. [83] [84] [85] Loomis also reported that "girls as young as ten" were murdered when subsequently attacked the Salpêtrière institution for women, mentally insane and prostitutes. [86] The number of victims seems to be known exactly: 35 women, including 23 underaged. [87]

Killings outside Paris

On 3 September Marat advised the entire nation "to adopt this necessary measure". [88] A circular letter was sent to regional authorities by Deforgues, an assistant of Danton, and Tallien, the secretary of the Paris Commune, advising that "ferocious conspirators detained in the prisons had been put to death by the people". [89] [90] [91] Smaller-scale executions took place in Meaux, Reims, and Lyon, in imitation of the major massacres. There were 75 separate incidents in 32 of France's 83 départments. Most notable of these was the killing of 44 political prisoners near Château de Versailles transported from the High Court in Orléans back to Paris (the 9 September massacres). [92] The next day Brissot wrote in "Le Patriote français", his newspaper: "No doubt you will be told that it is a vengeance of the people; it will be a slander. The people were not involved in this event." [93]

Official role

Between 17 August and the prison massacres in early September, more than a thousand people were taken into custody on the flimsiest warrants. [94] On 27 August a betrayal of Louis Capet was discovered, a plot to murder, on the night of the 2nd to the 3rd of this month, all the good citizens of the capital, by the aristocrats and the refractory priests, to help brigands and scoundrels, detained in the prisons of Paris. [95] [96] On 30 August a demand was made for the dissolution of the insurrectional Commune and replacement by a successor to be promptly elected. The Assembly backed down two days later. [97]

On Sunday 2 September the 1792 French National Convention election started. Robespierre publicly accused Brissot and the Brissotins of plotting with the Duke of Brunswick. [98] Marat left nothing in doubt when he urged "good citizens to go to the Abbaye, to seize priests, and especially the officers of the Swiss guards and their accomplices and run a sword through them". [99] According to Timothy Tackett: "For a period of some 48 hours between the 29th and the 31st of August the whole of Paris was systematically searched by the national guard for lurking conspirators and hidden arms. [100] By that time section assemblies were already passing motions demanding "the death of conspirators before the departure of citizens". [101] Madame de Staël, who tried to escape Paris, was forced by the crowd to go to the town hall. She noted that Robespierre seated that day, assisted by Collot d'Herbois en Billaud-Varenne. [102]

According to Madame de Staël on 31 August "it was already known, that only those who were destined to be massacred were sent to that prison [of the Abbeye]." [103] According to Adolphe Thiers on Sunday morning 2 September: "The keeper of the Abbaye sent away his children in the morning. Dinner was served to the prisoners two hours before the accustomed time; and the knives were taken from their plates." [104] [105]

Such municipal and central government as existed in Paris in September 1792 was preoccupied with organizing volunteers, supplies, and equipment for the armies on the threatened frontiers. Accordingly, there was no attempt to assuage popular fears that the understaffed and easily accessed prisons were full of royalists who would break out and seize the city when the national guards and other citizen volunteers had left for the war. The Minister of Justice Danton responded to an appeal for restoring order with the comment: "To hell with the prisoners! They must look after themselves." [106] [107] Almost everyone assumed the necessity, and the vengeance of the people. The Convention, the Plain, the Montagnards, some Girondins all adopted a policy of forgetting. [108]

The political repercussions first injured the Girondists (who seemed too moderate) and later the Jacobins (who seemed too bloodthirsty). [109] A new mayor Nicolas Chambon was installed on 1 December 1792. It was Servan's proposal to bring armed volunteers from the provinces. He was arrested during the Terror, but released in February 1795. In 1796 24 or 39 craftsmen and small businessmen were accused; [110] though only three were condemned. [111] The vinegar maker Damiens got twenty years of imprisonment imposed.

Debate in the Convention

On 29 October 1792, the Convention held an "afterthought". Roland accused the Commune of the atrocities. Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvray accused Robespierre of creating a personality cult and dictatorship. [112] Robespierre was taken by surprise and had to be defended by Danton. [113] Robespierre was given eight days to reply. On 5 November Robespierre stated that Marat had visited him only once since January. [114] He asked the Convention: "Citizens, did you want a revolution without revolution?" Robespierre, Danton, and Marat insisted that the "new bloodletting" had been a spontaneous popular movement. Their opponents, the Girondins, spoke of a systematically planned conspiracy. [115] Louvet was no longer admitted to the Jacobin Club.[ citation needed ]


A group of 115 churchmen killed in the Carmes Prison was beatified by Pope Pius XI on 17 October 1926. Among the martyrs were Pierre-Louis de la Rochefoucauld, bishop of Saintes; Jean-Marie du Lau d’Alleman, archbishop of Arles; François-Joseph de la Rochefoucauld, bishop of Beauvais; and Ambroise Chevreux, the last superior-general of the monastic Congregation of Saint Maur. [116]

Notes and citations

  1. Adolphe Granier de Cassagnac (1860) Histoire Des Girondins Et Des Massacres de Septembre, Band 2, p. 29-30
  2. P. Caron (1935), p. 107, 114
  3. S. Schama, p. 611
  4. F. Furet & M. Ozouf (1989) A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, p. 139
  5. Adolphe Granier de Cassagnac (1862?) Histoire des Girondins et des Massacres de Septembre, p. ?
  6. Collection Complète des Lois, Décrets, Ordonnances, Réglements, p. 458
  7. Septembre 1792 : logiques d'un massacre by Frédéric Bluche (1986), p. ?
  8. L. Madelin, p. 256
  9. Gwynne Lewis (2002). The French Revolution: Rethinking the Debate. Routledge. p. 38.
  10. Frédéric Bluche (1986) Septembre 1792 : logiques d'un massacre, p. 235
  11. F. Furet and M. Ozouf, eds. A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (1989), pp. 521–22
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