Thermidorian Reaction

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Thermidorian Reaction
Part of the French Revolution
9 Thermidor.jpg
Le IX thermidor an II by Charles Monnet
Date27 July 1794
Location
Result

Thermidorian victory:

Belligerents

Thermidorians
Supported by:

Jacobins
Supported by:

Commanders and leaders
Strength
Unknown National Guards c. 3,000 loyalists
Casualties and losses
Unknown

Various people were executed:

The Thermidorian Reaction was a counter revolution which took place in France on 9 Thermidor of the Year II (27 July 1794). On this day, the French politician Maximilien Robespierre was denounced by members of the National Convention as "a tyrant", leading to Robespierre and twenty-one associates including Louis Antoine de Saint-Just being arrested that night and beheaded on the following day.

Thermidor eleventh month of the French Republican Calendar, from mid-July to mid-August

Thermidor was the eleventh month in the French Republican Calendar. The month was named after the French word thermal which comes from the Greek word "thermos" which means heat.

Maximilien Robespierre French revolutionary lawyer and politician

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French lawyer and politician, as well as one of the best known and most influential figures associated with the French Revolution. As a member of the Constituent Assembly, the Jacobin Club and National Convention, Robespierre was an outspoken advocate for the citizens without a voice, for their unrestricted admission to the National Guard, to public offices, and for the right to petition. He campaigned for universal manhood suffrage, abolition of celibacy, religious tolerance and the abolition of slavery in the French colonies. Robespierre played an important role after the Storming of the Tuileries, which led to the establishment of the First French Republic on 22 September 1792.

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.

Contents

Etymology and definitions

The name Thermidorian refers to 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794), the date according to the French Republican Calendar when Robespierre and other radical revolutionaries came under concerted attack in the National Convention. Thermidorian Reaction also refers to the remaining period until the National Convention was superseded by the Directory; this is also sometimes called the era of the Thermidorian Convention. Prominent figures of Thermidor include Paul Barras, Jean-Lambert Tallien, and Joseph Fouché.

French Directory Executive power of the French Constitution of 1795-1799

The Directory or Directorate was a five-member committee that governed France from 2 November 1795, when it replaced the Committee of Public Safety, until 9 November 1799, when it was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Coup of 18 Brumaire, and replaced by the French Consulate. It gave its name to the final four years of the French Revolution.

Jean-Lambert Tallien French political figure of the revolutionary period

Jean-Lambert Tallien was a French political figure of the revolutionary period.

Joseph Fouché French statesman

Joseph Fouché, 1st Duc d'Otrante, 1st Comte Fouché was a French statesman and Minister of Police under First Consul Bonaparte, who later became Emperor Napoleon. He was particularly known for his ferocity with which he suppressed the Lyon insurrection during the Revolution in 1793 and for being minister of police under the Directory, the Consulate, and the Empire. In English texts, his title is often translated as Duke of Otranto.

Background

Thermidor represents the final throes of the Reign of Terror. With Robespierre the sole remaining strong-man of the Revolution following the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat (13 July 1793), and the executions of Jacques Hébert (24 March 1794), Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins (5 April 1794), his apparently total grasp on power became in fact increasingly illusory, especially insofar as he seemed to have support from factions to his right.

Reign of Terror period during the french revolution

The Reign of Terror, or The Terror, refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established.

Jean-Paul Marat politician and journalist during the French Revolution

Jean-Paul Marat was a French political theorist, physician, and scientist. He was a journalist and politician during the French Revolution.

Jacques Hébert 1757-1794 French journalist and politician

Jacques René Hébert was a French journalist, and the founder and editor of the extreme radical newspaper Le Père Duchesne during the French Revolution. He was a leader of the French Revolution and had thousands of followers as the Hébertists ; he himself is sometimes called Père Duchesne, after his newspaper.

His only real political power at this time lay in the Jacobin Club, which had extended itself beyond the borders of Paris and into the country as a network of "Popular Societies". In addition to widespread reaction to the Reign of Terror, Robespierre's tight personal control of the military, his distrust of military might and of banks, and his opposition to supposedly corrupt individuals in government, made him the subject of a number of conspiracies.

Conspiratorial groups

The prime mover for the events of 9 Thermidor (27 July) was a Montagnard conspiracy, led by Jean-Lambert Tallien and Bourdon de l'Oise, which was gradually coalescing, and was to come to pass at the time when the Montagnards had finally swayed the deputies of the Right over to their side. (Robespierre and Saint-Just were themselves Montagnards.)

The Mountain

The Mountain was a political group during the French Revolution, whose members called the Montagnards sat on the highest benches in the National Assembly.

Many others who conspired against Robespierre did so for strong practical and personal reasons, most notably self-preservation. The surviving Dantonists, such as Merlin de Thionville, wanted revenge for the death of Georges Danton and, more importantly, to protect their own heads. Among the latter were Joseph Fouché and Pierre-Louis Bentabole, who engineered Robespierre's downfall. [1] [2]

Antoine Christophe Merlin member of several legislative bodies during the era of the French Revolution

Antoine Christophe Merlin was a member of several legislative bodies during the era of the French Revolution. He is usually called Merlin de Thionville to distinguish him from Philippe-Antoine Merlin de Douai.

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-Louis Bentabole French politician

Pierre Louis Bentabole was a revolutionary Frenchman, born in Landau Haut Rhin on 4 June 1756 and died in Paris on 22 April 1798. As lawyer, he presided practiced in the district of Hagenau and Saverne; he was deputy of the Bas-Rhin to the National Convention on 4 September 1792. He voted to execute Louis XVI. On 6 October 1794, he was appointed to the Committee of Public Safety.

In the end, it was Robespierre himself who united all his enemies. On 8 Thermidor (26 July) he gave a speech to the Convention in which he railed against enemies and conspiracies, some within the powerful committees. As he did not give the names of "these traitors", all in the Convention had reason to fear that they were the targets. Later, he enlisted the support of the Jacobin Club, where he denounced Collot and Billaud. These men, with other members of the convention, then spent the night planning the following day's coup. [3]

Arrest of Maximilien Robespierre and associates

Gendarme Charles-Andre Merda shooting at Maximilien Robespierre Shot.jpg
Gendarme Charles-André Merda shooting at Maximilien Robespierre

Conspiracies against Maximilien Robespierre, who had dominated the Committee of Public Safety, came together on 9 Thermidor (27 July) 1794. On that day, in the Hall of Liberty in Paris, Saint-Just was in the midst of reading a report to the Committee of Public Safety when he was interrupted by Jean-Lambert Tallien, member and previously President of the National Convention, who impugned Saint-Just and then went on to denounce the tyranny of Robespierre. The attack was taken up by Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne, also member and previously President of the National Convention, and Saint-Just's typical eloquence failed him, leaving him subject to a withering verbal assault until Robespierre leapt to the defense of Saint-Just and himself. Cries went up of "Down with the tyrant! Arrest him!" Robespierre then made his appeal to the deputies of the Right, "Deputies of the Right, men of honour, men of virtue, give me the floor, since the assassins will not." However, the Right was unmoved, and an order was made to arrest Robespierre and his followers.

Troops from the Paris Commune arrived to liberate the prisoners. The Commune troops, under General Jean-Baptiste Coffinhal, then marched against the Convention. The Convention responded by ordering troops of its own under Paul Barras to be called out. When the Commune's troops heard the news of this, order began to break down, and Hanriot ordered his remaining troops to withdraw to the Hôtel de Ville. Robespierre and his supporters also gathered at the Hôtel de Ville. [4] The Convention declared them to be outlaws, meaning that upon verification the fugitives could be executed within 24 hours without a trial. As the night went on the Commune forces at the Hôtel de Ville deserted until none of them remained. The Convention troops under Barras approached the Hôtel around 2 a.m. on 28 July. As they came, Robespierre's brother Augustin leapt out of a window in an escape attempt, broke his legs, and was arrested. Le Bas committed suicide. Couthon, who due to progressive disease was paralysed from the waist down, was found lying at the bottom of a staircase. [4]

Robespierre was shot in the face and his jaw was shattered. There are two accounts of how he received the wound. One states that, anticipating his own downfall and wanting to have the death of a hero, Robespierre attempted to kill himself and shattered his own jaw with a shot. [4] The contrary view is that he was shot by one of the Convention's troops. At the time, a gendarme named Charles-André Merda claimed to have pulled the trigger. [5] Potential evidence that possibly might give the latter theory more credence include the fact that Robespierre apparently intensely disliked the sight of blood.

Saint-Just made no attempt at suicide or concealment. Hanriot tried to hide in the Hôtel de Ville's yard, by some sources [6] after being thrown out a window into a stack of "latrine product" and hay, but the Convention troops quickly discovered him and assaulted him badly, gouging one of his eyes out so that it hung from its socket. [7]

Deaths of Robespierre and his allies

The execution of Robespierre on 28 July 1794 marked the end of the Reign of Terror Execution robespierre, saint just....jpg
The execution of Robespierre on 28 July 1794 marked the end of the Reign of Terror

Robespierre was declared an outlaw and condemned without judicial process. The following day, 10 Thermidor (28 July 1794), he was executed with twenty-one of his closest associates, including the following: [8]

Aftermath

Consequences

The events of 9 Thermidor proved a watershed in the revolutionary process. The Thermidorian regime that followed proved to be an unpopular one, facing many rebellions after its execution of Robespierre and his allies, along with seventy members of the Paris Commune, the largest mass execution to have ever taken place in Paris. [9] This led to a very fragile situation in France. [10]

The hostility toward Robespierre did not just vanish with his execution. Instead, the people decided to blame those who were involved with Robespierre in any way, namely the many members of the Jacobin club, their supporters, and individuals suspected of being past revolutionaries. The massacre of these groups became known as the White Terror, and was partially carried out by the Muscadin, a group of dandyish street fighters organized by the new government. [10]

Often, members of these targeted groups were the victims of prison massacres or put on trial without due process, which were overall similar conditions to those provided to the counter-revolutionaries during the Reign of Terror. At the same time, its economic policies paved the way for rampant inflation. Ultimately, power devolved to the hands of the Directory, an executive of five men who assumed power in France in November 1795 (in year III of the French Revolutionary calendar). [11]

The Thermidorian regime excluded the remaining Montagnards from power, even those who had joined in conspiring against Robespierre and Saint-Just. The White Terror of 1795 resulted in numerous imprisonments and several hundred executions, almost exclusively of people on the political left. These numbers, while significant, were considerably smaller than those associated with the previous Reign of Terror, which killed over 40,000. Many executions took place without a trial. [12]

Thermidorian regime

On July 29 the victor of the 9th Thermidor condemned seventy members of the Paris Commune to death; thereafter the Commune was subject to the Convention. [9]

The closing of the Jacobin Club during the night of 27-28 July 1794 Cloture de la salle des Jacobins 1794.jpg
The closing of the Jacobin Club during the night of 27–28 July 1794

As part of the reorganization of French politics, practitioners of the terror were called to defend their records; some such as Tallien, Barras, Fouché and Fréron rejoined the leadership. Others such as Billaud-Varenne, Collot d’Herbois, Barère and Vadier were sentenced to exile in South America, though the latter two managed to evade arrest. Many Jacobin clubs were closed. Freedom of worship was extended first to the Vendée and later to all France. On 24 December 1794 the Maximum (controls on prices and wages) was abolished. The government exacerbated this inflationary move by issuing more assignats.

In April and May 1795, protests and riots in support of the radicals broke out culminating in an invasion of the Convention by an insurrectionist mob on 20 May. On 22 May the Convention struck back, having troops under Pichegru surround the Faubourg St-Antoine and force the capitulation of the armed rebels. In May and June 1795, a "White Terror" raged in which Jacobins were victims and the judges were bourgeois "Moderates". [13] Throughout France the events of the September Massacres were repeated, however this time the victims were imprisoned officials of the Terror. In Paris, Royalist sentiments were openly tolerated.

Meanwhile, French armies overran the Netherlands and established the Batavian Republic, occupied the left bank of the Rhine and forced Spain, Prussia and several German States to sue for peace, enhancing the prestige of the Convention. A new constitution called the Constitution of the Year III was drawn up on 22 August 1795, which eased back some of the democratic elements of the constitution of 1793, establishing an electoral college for the election of officials, a bicameral legislature and other provisions designed to protect the current holders of power. On 5 October (13 Vendémiaire), a revolt led by Royalists challenged the Convention. It was put down by Napoleon with a whiff of grapeshot . On 25 October the Convention declared itself dissolved and was replaced by the French Directory on 2 November 1795.

Other Thermidorian reactions

For historians of revolutionary movements, the term Thermidor has come to mean the phase in some revolutions when power slips from the hands of the original revolutionary leadership and a radical regime is replaced by a more conservative regime, sometimes to the point where the political pendulum may swing back towards something resembling a pre-revolutionary state. In his book The Revolution Betrayed , Leon Trotsky alleges that the rise of Joseph Stalin to power was a Soviet Thermidor.

Related Research Articles

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 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.

Jacobin The most radical 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 is known as the Reign of Terror, during which time tens of thousands were put on trial and executed in France, many for political crimes.

<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 name sans-culottes refers to their clothing, and through that to their lower-class status: culottes were the fashionable silk knee-breeches of the 18th-century nobility and bourgeoisie, and the working class sans-culottes wore pantaloons, or trousers, instead. The sans-culottes, most of them urban labourers, served as the driving popular force behind the revolution. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars.

Jacques-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne French revolutionary leader

Jacques-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne, also known as Jean Nicolas, was a French personality of the Revolutionary period. Though not one of the most well known figures of the French Revolution, Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne was an instrumental figure of the period known as the Reign of Terror. Billaud-Varenne climbed his way up the ladder of power during the period of The Terror, becoming one of the most militant members of the Committee of Public Safety. He was recognized and worked with French Revolution figures Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre, and is often considered one of the key architects of the period known as The Terror. "No, we will not step backward, our zeal will only be smothered in the tomb; either the Revolution will triumph or we will all die."

September Massacres Wave of killings in France in 2–7 Sept. 1792 during the French Revolution, in which half the prison population of Paris (that is, approx. 1200–1400 people) were summarily executed

The September Massacres were a number of killings in Paris and other cities that occurred from 2–4 September 1792 during the French Revolution.

François-René-Auguste Mallarmé was a French statesman of the French Revolution and a supporter of Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Empire. His career is of particular interest because he was among political figures such as Joseph Fouché who at first aggressively supported the Terror, only to betray its leaders and support the various conservative reactionary régimes that followed. His was a chevalier de l'Empire from 22 November 1808 and a baron de l'Empire from 31 January 1810.

Marc-Guillaume Alexis Vadier French politician

Marc-Guillaume Alexis Vadier was a French politician of the French Revolution.

First White Terror

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. 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. 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.

Ernest Dominique François Joseph Duquesnoy was a French revolutionary.

The Thermidorians, known also a Thermidorian Convention, was a French political group active during the French Revolution between 1794 and 1799.

Jean-Baptiste Clauzel, born in Lavelanet on September 21, 1746 and died in Paris on July 2, 1803, was a French politician. In 1790, he was elected mayor of his hometown. In 1791, his countrymen sent him sit in the Legislative Assembly where he was very discreet. In 1792, he was re-elected to the Convention by the department of Ariege he sided on the Mountain. At the trial of Louis XVI in January 1793, this "royalist" vote the king's death, without suspension ruled against the appeal of the people. He did not vote the impeachment of Jean-Paul Marat while claiming to be "far from approving all the principles of the Revolution espoused by his fanatic friend." Despite his opposition to the Girondins, he vote by MPs maintenance allowances to Members under arrest. His served as a representative on mission to the Army of the Pyrenees (West) from the end of August 1793 when he was recalled to Paris. He was among those who organized the downfall of Maximilien Robespierre. After 9 Thermidor Year II he joined the Committee of General Security, and supported the closing of the Jacobin Clubs. An active Thermidorian, he showed a readiness during the insurrection of the 1st Prairial. He denounced and arrested the "last Montagnards and called for the arrest of Bertrand Barrere, Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne and Jean-Marie Collot. Returned to the army of the Pyrenees, he found it disgracefully disorganized and unable to fight.

Fall of Maximilien Robespierre

The fall of Maximilien Robespierre refers to the series of events beginning with Maximilien Robespierre's address to the National Convention on 8 Thermidor Year II, his arrest the next day, and his execution on 10 Thermidor Year II. In the speech of 8 Thermidor, Robespierre spoke of the existence of internal enemies, conspirators, and calumniators, within the Convention and the governing Committees. He refused to name them, which alarmed the deputies who feared Robespierre was preparing another purge of the Convention.

Edme-Bonaventure Courtois was a deputy of the National Convention. He found the will of Marie-Antoinette in the collection of papers of Robespierre hidden under his bed.

References

  1. Stefan Zweig (1930). Joseph Fouché. Viking press. pp. 85–110.
  2. Robert Heron, Maurice Montgaillard (comte de), Information concerning the strength, views, and interests of the powers presently at war, Perth, R. Morrison and Son, 1794, p. 205.
  3. McPhee (2012-03-13). Robespierre: A Revolutionary Life. pp. 271ff. ISBN   978-0300118117.
  4. 1 2 3 Merriman, John(2004). "Thermidor"(2nd ed.). A history of modern Europe: from the Renaissance to the present, p. 507. W.W. Norton & Company Ltd. ISBN   0-393-92495-5
  5. "The French Revolution A History". 2007.
  6. Hibbert, Christopher (1982). "The French Revolution, p. 266. Penguin Books, Pearson. ISBN   978-0-140-04945-9.
  7. Hibbert, Christopher (1982). "The French Revolution, p. 268. Penguin Books, Pearson. ISBN   978-0-140-04945-9.
  8. Beauchesne, Alcide; Dupanloup, Félix (1868). Louis XVII, sa vie, son agonie, sa mort: captivité de la famille royale au Temple. pp. 218–9.
  9. 1 2 Will and Ariel Durant, “The Age of Napoleon” (New York:Simon & Schuster, 1975), p. 83.
  10. 1 2 McPhee, P. (2012). "The White Terror". The White Terror, in A Companion to the French Revolution. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. pp. 359–377. doi:10.1002/9781118316399.ch22. ISBN   9781118316399.
  11. Sutherland (2003) ch. 8.
  12. Brown (2010).
  13. Will and Ariel Durant, The Age of Napoleon (New York:Simon & Schuster, 1975), p. 84.

Further reading

In French