Browse Primary Sources

Drowning in the Loire by Order of the Fierce Carrier

On 6–7 December 1793, Jean–Baptiste Carrier, a deputy sent by the Convention to suppress the insurrection at Nantes, accepted, if he did not in fact welcome, a measure proposed by the local Revolutionary Tribunal to fill seven boats with an estimated 200–300 prisoners (not all of them yet convicted) and sink them in the Loire River.

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Fusillades at Lyon, Ordered by Collot–D’Herbois

Lyon’s rebellion against the central government in September 1793 had terrible repercussions that seemed only to worsen with the initiation of collective trials and immediate executions by firing squad. The one depicted here on 4 December 1793 took the lives of 935 people, another 732 being guillotined over the next four months.

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Siege and Taking of the City of Lyon

In September 1793, in response to the unwillingness of the municipal government of Lyon to enforce the legislature’s laws, the Republic sent the deputies and Committee of Public Safety members Georges Couthon and Jean–Marie Collot d’Herbois with a republican army to lay siege to the city and destroy all elements of "counterrevolution." The city surrendered on 9 October.

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Summoning to Execution

One of the most fearful parts of the Terror was its unpredictability. Many were swept up in suspicion, including unexpected, even nighttime arrests. As reality and imagination merged, this fear of the uncertainty of the era became an important part of the story, as this print in English testifies.

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Nine Emigrants Go to the Guillotine

In a woodcut that appeared in Révolutions de Paris, the guillotine is used before a crowd of soldiers and patriotic onlookers, to execute nine "émigrés" who had tried to fell France and thus demonstrated themselves to be traitors.

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The Calculating Patriot

The Terror, which many justified then as now as an unfortunate necessity, raised enormous anxieties. A hostile cartoon equates the Revolution with severed heads.

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The Counterrevolution

This cartoon mocks all the leading figures of the "Counterrevolution," including the former royal family and its blood relatives, plus the clergy, the nobility, and specific individuals, such as Mirabeau, who had supported the monarchy in the early years of the Revolution.

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Tyranny Tremble

A very potent image associating the revolutionary war with an attack on tyrants. Contemporaries would have understood the target, "tyrants," to be the monarchs.

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