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1794-1795 - Thermidorian Convention

The crisis came in the fourth week of July: or as the revolutionary calendar then went, in the second week of Thermidor. The Parliament, an active and clever conspiracy had organized all the latent forces of opposition to Robespierre; he still so trusted in his popularity that the scene bewildered him, and he was still so beloved and so ardently followed, that when at that same sitting he was outlawed, his brother sacrificed himself to follow him. Saint-Just was included in the sentence and hisHe was howled down in strict friend Lebas voluntarily accepted the same doom.

What followed was at first a confusion of authority; put under arrest, the governor of the prison to which Robespierre was dispatched refused to receive him. He and his sympathizers met in the Hotel de Ville after the fall of darkness, and an attempt was made to provoke an insurrection. There are many and confused accounts of what immediately followed at midnight, but two things are certain: the populace refused to rise for Robespierre, and the Parliament, with the Committee at its back, organized an armed force which easily had the better of the incipient rebellion at the Hotel de Ville.

The reign of terror continued nine months, during which Robespierre celebrated the festivals of Mankind, of the Supreme Being, of Stoicism, of the French people, &c., while the blood flowed in torrents from the guillotine, and under the mitrailles of Collot d'Herbois and others (particularly at Lyons, Bourdeaux, Nantes, Toulon, &c.)

The armed force of the Parliament burst into Robespierre's room, a lad of the name of Merda aimed a pistol from the door at Robespierre, and shot him in the jaw. (The evidence in favor of this version is conclusive.) Of his companions, some fled and were captured, some killed themselves, most were arrested. The next day, the 10th Thermidor, or 28th of July, 1794, at halfpast seven in the evening, Robespierre, with twenty-one others, was guillotined.

The reign of terror was finished with the fall of Robespierre, 9th Thermidor (July 27), 1794. The hall of the Jacobins was closed, and the revolutionary tribunal received a new organization. The convention no longer allowed the affiliation of popular societies; and the free exerrise of religion was established (February 21, 1795). Still, however, it cost many struggles with the Jacobins and the terrorists, who opposed the spirit of moderation.

The irony of history would have it that the fall of this man, which was chiefly due to his interference with the system of the Terror, broke all the moral force upon which the Terror itself had resided; for men had imagined that the Terror was his work, and that, he gone, no excuse was left for it. A reaction began which makes of this date the true term in that ascending series of revolutionary effort which had by then discussed every aspect of democracy, succeeded in the military defence of that experiment, and laid down, though so far in words only, the basis of the modern State.

That terrible Mountain had not perished with Robespierre, and had survived him. Some of its members had remained convinced of the uprightness, of the integrity of Robespierre's intentions, and did not believe that he ever meant to usurp. They looked upon him as the victim of Danton's friends, and of the corrupt party whose remains he had not been able to destroy ; but it was a very small number who held this opinion. The great majority of the mountaineers, staunch republicans, enthusiasts, regarding with horror every scheme of usurpation, had lent their assistance to the 9th Thermidor, not so much with a view to overthrow a sanguinary Bystem, as to strike a rising Cromwell.

Without doubt they found such revolutionary justice as Robespierre, Saint-Just, Couthon, Fouquier, and Dumas had administered, iniquitous, but they had no intention to dimmish one jot the energy of the government, or give any quarter to those who were termed the aristocrats. The greater part were pure and rigid men, who had no concern in the dictatorship and its acts, and in no wise felt interested in supporting it; but at the same time, jealous revolutionists, who were by no means desirous the 9th Thermidor should be converted into a reaction, and be made available for the purposes of a party.

The provisional institutions were the Revolutionary Government. The permanent institutions, or institutions intended to be permanent, were constituted the Constitution of 1793, and that of the year III. The history of these various institutions, like the entire history of the Republic, is divided into two distinct periods by the events of the 9th of Thermidor. Before the 9th of Thermidor the French were seeking to organise democracy by permanent institutions, or to prevent it by provisional institutions. After the 9th of Thermidor they gradually drifted into organising a bourgeois system by permanent institutions or seeking to prevent it by provisional institutions.

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Page last modified: 07-08-2018 23:39:50 ZULU