Teaching

Source Collection: War, Terror, and Resistance to the French Revolution

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Overview

One fault line that has divided inquiries into the Terror has been its connections to the democracy introduced in 1789. For some, the Terror had to occur, either to sweep away the remnants of the Old Regime or, from a more critical perspective, because the revolutionaries had inadvertently introduced authoritarianism with their seeming democratic principles. Others have seen the French revolution simply swept off course, the Terror as result of unforeseen circumstances. But regardless of which position one occupies, one must look to the frantic policies of the period: its ongoing foreign and civil war, multilayered internal political strife, constitutional paralysis, economic hardships, religious conflict, and the innovative nature of revolutionary language. For those who see the Terror as unconnected to 1789, these events are the very things that cause the problems. For the others, these events manifest the solution of 1789. This chapter, then, focuses on this political tornado as an essential part of any explanation.

This source collection includes an informational essay and 75 primary sources.

Essay

Back in 1789, the National Assembly had declared its intentions toward all peoples to be peaceful and had renounced war as an evil wrought by kings. Nevertheless, bellicose sentiments flowed into governmental debates and the press. Eighteenth-century governments looked upon war as a normal part of power politics, so foreign governments did not hesitate to threaten war with the new, revolutionary government of France. Yet foreign monarchs, while fearing the spread of revolution, were not unhappy with the turmoil afflicting their French rival. Beset by their own problems, the monarchs of Europe were less inclined than some revolutionaries feared to make good on their threats.

Creating further anxiety among the revolutionaries were a group of French nobles who had fled France and set up a capital in exile just over the Rhine River in ecclesiastical territory at Coblenz. In this fearful atmosphere, revolutionary activists, notably Jacques-Pierre Brissot and the other Girondins, found that militaristic rhetoric drew ready popular support, and this group's promises of aggressive confrontation with foreign powers helped them dominate the Legislative Assembly. Once in control, the Girondins rapidly led France into war in the spring of 1792, but this strategy backfired when French forces performed badly for most of that year and as a consequence France was invaded by Prussian and Austrian troops.

These defeats panicked Parisians, contributing to the radicalization that culminated in the overthrow of the constitutional monarchy in August 1792. News of the first great French victory at Valmy on 20 September allowed the newly seated deputies of the Convention to declare France a republic. The Girondins used the ongoing war to generate a great outpouring of support for the new republic. However, subsequent military setbacks in late 1792 and 1793 served to heighten factionalism in the Convention, where the radical group of Jacobin deputies known as "the Mountain" and the Girondins blamed each other, each claiming that only they could be trusted to save the now-endangered republic.

In Paris, news of this civil war hardened sans-culotte suspicions that the fervor of the defenders of republican liberty had subsided, so they turned for help to radical activists who were willing to mobilize to preserve it.

Beginning in 1792, the Mountain had begun to ally with sans-culottes in the sectional assemblies, and together they overthrew the monarchy and the Girondin-led Legislative Assembly. Sans-culotte fears of the plots of invisible, domestic enemies of the Revolution were further aroused by heated rhetoric during the trial of Louis in January 1793, at which the Mountain depicted the Girondins as moderate defenders of the monarchy and thus de facto protectors of "tyranny." The alliance between artisanal activists in the sections and the Mountain's deputies in the Convention was forged around the idea of mutual commitment to dramatic action in defense of the Republic from its enemies, including the Girondin deputies who had been purged by 2 June 1793. The Mountain then assumed control of the National Convention.

This process coincided with the outbreak of another form of civil war, inextricably tied to revolutionary politics, in the western region of the Vendée, where peasants, former nobles, and refractory priests coalesced into a guerrilla army that waged a war against the republican government. To explain why this region in particular resisted the authority of Paris—to the point of openly seeking alliance with Britain to restore the monarchy—one must consider the specific conditions that distinguished the west from the rest of France. It was geographically isolated, more rural, and culturally and religiously distinct (with its own language and many regional saints and holidays) and had a heavier density of nobles and clergy. These factors crystallized in the spring of 1793, when Paris called for 300,000 "volunteers" for the republican army. In response, peasants in the Vendée rejected the Republic's levy, and local ex-nobles drew on this protest to mobilize a ragtag army and seize control of the region. Not surprisingly, such regional resistance furthered the belief among Parisian radical republicans that the Revolution's greatest enemies were French "counterrevolutionaries," who fomented rebellion out of self-interest or an inability to set aside traditional beliefs and adapt to the new order. To defeat this rebellion, the Revolution would have to destroy not only its enemies, but also the reasons for such treachery.

Origins of the Terror
The monumental task of governing a country in the midst of revolutionary transformation is a difficult one at best. But with a faction-riven 600-member legislature, it proved nearly impossible. Recognizing that fact, the Convention, even before the victory of the Mountain, had delegated power to a twelve-member Committee of Public Safety (CPS) created in the spring of 1793. A "Montagnard" Constitution, drafted that summer, set out a plan for democracy and economic equality that was more far-reaching than any earlier project. However, faced with war, internal unrest, and other problems, the Mountain argued that the government must become "revolutionary" (meaning extraconstitutional) if it was to run effectively and also systematically and swiftly confront its hidden, internal enemies. In early September, pushed by the sans-culottes, the Committee of Public Safety led the Convention into what became known as "The Terror."

The Terror as a form of government meant the organized use of state coercive power to ensure compliance with the demands of the government. Those who did not comply faced a revolutionary tribunal, which tried "suspects" for treason and sentenced those it convicted to the guillotine. These suspects included foreign and domestic enemies. The Terror was also used to enforce wage and price "maximums" that guaranteed affordable provisions as well as more nebulous aims, such as ensuring the "virtue" of all citizens, which allowed the CPS to repress all dissent from its own decrees.

From September 1793 through July 1794, the "revolutionary government" of the Terror overwhelmed its enemies and permeated nearly all aspects of life. Yet its very success was a major part of its undoing. By the end of 1793, even some of the most radical Jacobins, notably Georges Danton, began to argue that the violence had gone too far and had become a source of instability in the Republic. His ally, Camille Desmoulins, published Le Vieux Cordelier [The Old Cordelier], an occasional newspaper that criticized the authoritarian tendencies of the Committee of Public Safety. Others censured the CPS for its centralizing tendencies, which dampened popular participation and were not in accord with the Revolution's announced goal of achieving greater democracy.

The Implementation of the Terror
The chief target of the Terror was the counterrevolution, which referred to a series of distinct movements that sought to resist the revolutionary government's authority within France. In the west, republican forces confronted peasant armies in the Vendée (discussed above) and later another group of peasant insurgents known as the Chouans. In the center and south, government troops laid siege to cities that disputed the Mountain's hypercentralized vision of revolutionary government and distrusted the sans-culottes. These urban revolts, although they varied somewhat from city to city, appeared to Parisians as a single movement, which they labeled "federalism." Its proponents—in cities such as Nantes, Toulouse, Lyons, Bordeaux and Marseilles—acted independently and represented themselves as moderate revolutionaries, but leaders in Paris saw them as nothing less than royalists who had to be eliminated. In the most dramatic cases, the Convention sent its deputies as "representatives on mission" to oversee the liquidation of federalist strongholds. The use of the prestige and energy of legislative deputies to enforce the law, mobilize the nation's resources for war, and quell armed rebellion was a marked feature of the Terror. This tactic allowed the arm of the central government to reach into many nooks and crannies that might have escaped the long arm of revolutionary justice. The representatives on mission usually were sent out with "unlimited powers" to allow them to accomplish the monumental tasks they faced. Such authority was often abused, and the representatives frequently emerged as the most zealous proponents and executors (literally) of the Terror. For example, on the orders of two leading Montagnard deputies, Lyons was bombarded heavily by government troops. When Lyons fell, it was renamed "the freed city." At Nantes, another representative on mission ordered that thousands of rebels be drowned on barges sunk in the Loire River.

The Convention fought the counterrevolution on another front in October 1793 by trying and executing Marie Antoinette, since they believed her a figure around whom monarchists and foreign powers could rally. The fall and winter of 1793 also saw the revolutionary government pursue its foes abroad, as the armies of the Republic, under new leadership, held the line against the invading Prussians, Austrians, Savoyards, Spaniards, and English. By early 1794, the French armies created through the much-reviled draft had succeeded in defeating the invaders and were beginning to occupy territory particularly along the northern and eastern frontiers.

The Rise and Fall of the Factions
With every victory, however, the Committee of Public Safety found itself engaged in another battle for survival in domestic politics. The CPS fought off repeated attacks by both radicals and moderates in the press and in sectional assemblies, but for different reasons. The radicals called themselves "The Enraged" and accused the government of leniency. They demanded a more restrictive price maximum, especially on basic necessities, while self-described "Indulgents" questioned the committee's extremism, fearing that the constant repression of citizens' hard-won liberties in the name of "virtue" would undermine popular support for the Revolution.

Another major divisive force in contemporary politics was the Convention's wide-ranging attempt not merely to restrain the citizenry but to transform it into a more rational and secular society. In a far-reaching break with tradition and with Christianity, the revolutionaries inaugurated a new calendar of twelve months, each divided into three ten-day weeks. This calendar eliminated Sunday, the traditional day of markets, of socializing, and of Church attendance in favor of a republican holiday every ten days. Showing some restraint in its desire to remake time and space, the Convention rejected a proposed revolutionary clock that would have divided each day into 20 hours of 100 minutes each, but commissioned a study that created the metric system for redefining weights and measures.

Furthermore, the revolutionaries imagined education as the keystone of the French nation and planned to institute universal primary education. They also wanted to improve secondary and higher education as a means of demonstrating the glory of the French nation and the "enlightenment" of its citizens. These goals were to apply not only to the heartland of France, but also to conquered Italian-, German-, and Flemish- speaking territories. However, most all these grandiose plans were shelved because the war made the more propagandistic ingredients of the revolutionary civic education the only feasible options.

Perhaps the Revolution's most radical and divisive initiative was the move to "de-Christianize" France and institute a civil religion based entirely on "reason." Inspired by Enlightenment criticisms of the Catholic Church and in many ways embodying the Revolution's desire to transform French society at the most fundamental level, the Cult of Reason proved highly controversial in practice. Robespierre himself thought the seemingly atheistic Cult of Reason excessive and counter to the objective of establishing a republic of virtue. Seeking to preserve a religion based on the notion of a higher power that would replace Christianity, Robespierre organized the Festival of the Supreme Being held in June 1794, casting himself in the title role.

In retrospect, this attempt to arrive at a compromise between deism and atheism seems to have precipitated Robespierre's fall and the end of the Terror. Robespierre's proposed synthesis of Enlightenment views on religion and republican values troubled some, who thought that "The Incorruptible" had now lost all self-restraint and was paving the way for a dictatorship. Others feared that he was abandoning the dechristianization campaign and that their activities would now expose them to the Terror. These fears mounted when two days later Robespierre pushed through the Law of 22 Prairial (10 June 1794), which put the apparatus of the Terror directly under the control of the Committee of Public Safety and thus increased the possibility of explicit political prosecutions and executions. Robespierre justified the new law as a necessary instrument to instill virtue in the citizenry, but these remarks merely persuaded people that he sought to eliminate his opponents and establish a personal dictatorship. By the end of July, Robespierre's enemies had begun circulating false rumors in Paris suggesting that he intended to make himself king. Even his base of support at the Jacobin Club was eroding because he continued to rely on Terror to achieve his political goals. Those who feared another purge helped his detractors pass a resolution in the Convention condemning him and his followers, which led to their arrest and execution. The leaders of the coup against Robespierre acted to save themselves from the Terror, not to end the Terror as such or to dissolve the Committee of Public Safety. It would take several months before this fear of further purges would bring the authorities to repeal the law of 22 Prairial, emasculate the CPS, eliminate the revolutionary tribunals, and abandon the maximums. By the late fall, however, this transition would be complete and a new era of the Revolution would have begun.

The War from 9 Thermidor to 18 Brumaire
Although the revolutionary armies had already turned the tide of battle in the spring of 1794, the resources gained through terroristic methods after 9 Thermidor permitted them to conquer extensive territory. By the fall of 1795, the first coalition of Britain, Austria, Prussia, Spain, Netherlands, and Savoy had been defeated, and France held modern-day Belgium and the west bank of the Rhine River. Once the Netherlands, Spain, Savoy, and Prussia made peace, France could continue on the offensive. In 1796–97, an outnumbered and ragtag army of about 30,000 effective soldiers under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte defeated a much larger Austrian force to conquer the Italian peninsula. There Bonaparte set up a group of "sister republics," which extended French influence without officially extending French territory.

Having defeated Austria and recognizing that an invasion of Great Britain was impossible, the leaders of the French government encouraged the very popular Bonaparte to look for other means of striking at England, in part, just to get him out of the way. When he suggested invading Egypt as a means of threatening the English position in India, Bonaparte was given permission to push ahead with the idea. In 1798, Napoleon led a sizable army and much of the French fleet across the Mediterranean. Although Egypt swiftly fell to French arms, Bonaparte's army was stranded there by Admiral Horatio Nelson's decisive naval victory at Aboukir Bay. Rather than remain sequestered in Egypt, Bonaparte abandoned his army to return to France, where his heroic reputation and military prowess was bolstered by slick propaganda and a considerable amount of war booty.

Bringing the Revolution to a Close?
After five years of upheaval, the Revolution had left France divided, angry, and distrusting but in need of central authority. In the fall of 1794, the Convention, no longer controlled by the Committee of Public Safety and with the surviving Girondin deputies restored to it, resumed its efforts to draft a constitution. The Convention recognized that the rule of law had to be restored if the authority of the government was to recover from the effects of the Terror. With the Girondin deputies reinstated, however, there was no question of implementing the "Montagnard" Constitution of 1793. Instead, a new constitution—that of the Year III (1795)—was written. This document clearly intended to preserve the political power of the socioeconomic elite, through the reimposition of property restrictions for officeholding and the suffrage. Social equality was notably absent because Jacobin ideas on democracy were tarnished with the reputation of being inherently dangerous to the rule of law and likely to result in Terror. The new government invested the lion's share of power in an executive body, the Directory, composed of a rotating committee of five "Directors," who would preside over a bicameral legislature, an upper chamber named the Anciens (Elders)—all of whose members had to be at least forty years old, to ensure their maturity of judgment—and a lower house known as "the Five Hundred."

The Convention's distrust of the polity was revealed most clearly in a decree requiring two-thirds of the deputies to the next legislature to be members of the Convention. Recognizing that this measure would leave radicals in charge of the government, some royalist-influenced sections revolted in Vendémiaire, Year IV (October 1795). The army put down the rising under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte. (This loyal action won him his command in Italy.) Thus the directorial regime came to power with military support and would remain dependent on that support to survive.

During its four years in power (November 1795 to December 1799), the Directory consistently faced challenges to its legitimacy, not only from the heirs of the Jacobins on the Left, but also from returning émigré nobles demanding restitution of their property; conservative street gangs known as the "gilded youth," who were anxious to harass former terrorists; and a revived armed mobilization in the west of Chouans acting in coordination with the English and with other émigré nobles led by the Count of Provence, who now claimed the throne as Louis XVIII.

Yet the most significant threat to the Directory's stability lay within the framework of the new constitution, as the elections of 1797—the first in which no former Convention deputies would be incumbent for reelection—returned a royalist majority divided between those who favored a constitutional monarchy and those who demanded a restoration of the old regime. The Directors attempted to steer a middle course, believing that their primary responsibility was to preserve a moderate republic, which meant keeping both royalists and Jacobins out of power. Preferring stability to democracy, the Directors annulled the electoral results from the Year V in a coup on 18 Fructidor (September 1797). This same strategy would be used in the Year VI (1798) against the Jacobin movement, which had been permitted to reform political clubs known as Constitutional Circles. A coup of Floréal Year VI (May 1798) showed that the pendulum of political opinion was behaving erratically and could readily shift from radical Left to Right, and vice versa.

The Road to Brumaire
By this time, international opinion had also become disenchanted with the Revolution. The experience of the Terror had altered definitively outsiders' views of France, driving it from sympathy in 1789 to hostility and derision by 1795. Certainly the Terror and the defeat of the pro-French "patriot" movement in England itself emboldened British cartoonists to lambaste the French revolutionaries, particularly their claims of having achieved "liberty" unknown elsewhere in Europe.

If the executive council of the Directory remained impervious to both the military and caricatural insults of the British, it faced far more onerous challenges in the arena of domestic politics. The Directory's continual reliance on military force against its own citizens revealed its instability. Sieyès, as a delegate of the Third Estate in 1789, had been instrumental in initiating the Revolution, but now as a Director in 1799, he would take the lead in ending it because he believed that anarchy would reign unless the government was reorganized. Turning to the most popular figure on the political landscape—General Bonaparte, freshly returned from Egypt—Sieyès arranged for a coup that would consolidate all power in a three-man consulate to include himself, Bonaparte, and Roger Ducos. With Bonaparte's brother Lucien manipulating the Council of Five-Hundred into consent, the coup of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799) replaced the Directory with the Consulate, a government neither liberal nor democratic. Bonaparte, whose political skills Sieyès drastically underestimated, immediately seized the upper hand and emerged within a couple of months as the real leader of France, taking first the title of First Consul (1799–1802), then Consul for Life (1802–4), and finally crowning himself Emperor (1804–14, 1815).

Although the Directory is best known for its activities in war and politics, it was also very busy in other fields. In a number of ways, it pursued the Revolution's goal of rationalizing everything, from the system of weights and measures to the lay system of free, compulsory, secondary education. Outside its official activities, the Directory achieved notoriety for ushering in a period of excess: the wealthy and fashionable flaunted their riches through ostentatious displays of self-indulgence as a reaction to the Jacobin prudery and sans-culotte economic leveling. In the most spectacular case, the wife of one of France's leading politicians, Madame Tallien, went topless, drawing considerable comment and criticism.

The multiple directions in which the Directory seemed to move—expanding secondary education while restricting political rights, gaining territory on the battlefield while becoming ridiculed by educated Europeans, assuring the citizens it would defend "republican institutions" while allowing power to be consolidated ever more narrowly—all make this "unheroic" period of the French Revolution difficult to assess. Even scholars have given it relatively little attention. Yet it deserves careful consideration because it consolidated the achievements of the first half of the revolutionary decade and because similar contradictions continue to plague nations to this very day.

Primary Sources

Tyranny Tremble

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

"The Padua Circular" (5 July 1791)

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Even after the aborted flight of the royal family in June 1791, Emperor Leopold von Habsburg of Austria, brother of Marie Antoinette, continued his efforts to organize a coalition of French émigré nobles and other European powers that would invade France and put an end to the Revolution. In this letter, written shortly after the forced return of Louis and Marie Antoinette to Paris (which Leopold considered their "arrest"), he proposes an alliance of Austria, Prussia, Britain, Spain, Russia, and other forces against the French Revolution and sets forth the principles for which this alliance would fight—most notably, the restoration of Louis to his full pre–1789 powers.

"The Declaration of Pillnitz"

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In response to the "Padua Circular," King Louis’s brother, the Count of Artois, a leader of the émigré nobles, expressed his support for Emperor Leopold II of Austria. Leopold, in conjunction with Prussian King Frederick–William III, then issued this "Declaration of Pillnitz"; the "resolution to act quickly" was perceived as a declaration of war on France for the purpose of ending the Revolution, even though neither Austria nor Prussia was displeased by French weakness.

THE ASSEMBLY COMPLAINS TO THE KING ABOUT THE ÉMIGRÉS

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Having received news of the alliance of Prussia and Austria with émigré French nobles against the Revolution, the Legislative Assembly considered itself threatened by invasion. Fearing that the King, despite his public acceptance of the constitution, had allied himself with this coalition, the assembly addressed Louis XVI and asked him to declare his opposition to the émigrés and if necessary to lead French forces against the Prussians and Austrians to preserve not only the constitution but the more traditional concern of kings: his country’s "glory.".

A GIRONDIN VIEW: ROLAND CALLS ON THE KING TO DECLARE WAR

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In the spring of 1792, the Legislative Assembly—particularly its Executive Committee, dominated by Girondins—took a more aggressive attitude toward Austria, repeatedly arguing that France needed to act first to ward off invasion and thereby not only preserve but advance the Revolution by spreading it across Europe. In June 1792, Jean–Marie Roland de la Platière, a Girondin minister in the King’s cabinet, wrote the following letter, informing the King that the assembly favored war and suggesting that the constitution required him to execute this decision as the will of the people and warning that if he did not act, the people would consider Louis an accomplice of the "conspirators" against the Revolution. Upon receipt of this letter, Louis dismissed Roland, signaling that he did not feel compelled either to obey the will of the assembly on this matter or to distance himself from counterrevolutionaries.

MOBILIZATION FOR WAR (5 JULY 1792)

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Although a small minority in the Legislative Assembly when it convened in September 1791, the Girondins succeeded in passing a resolution in favor of war with "the King of Bohemia and Hungary," meaning the Habsburg Empire in April 1792. Citing the Pillnitz Declaration and Louis’s continued resistance to war to their advantage, throughout the first half of 1791, Jacques–Pierre Brissot and his followers argued that only intransigence held France back from a glorious victory, which would secure and broaden the gains of the Revolution. By July, Louis’s attempts to sabotage the war effort were clear, so the assembly issued the following resolution, declaring the "homeland is in danger." Moreover, it called upon citizens to organize themselves and take up arms in defense of the liberty of the nation against both foreign invaders and internal rebellion. The revolutionary emphasis on unity in defense of the nation is laid on this foundation.

Gallic Declaration of War, or, Bumbardment of all Europe

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This scatological English cartoon mocks France’s claim that it was going to war for "liberty," suggesting instead that France’s body politic is ill and that England needs to fight back to defend itself from such sickness. The figures in this drawing represent all the major leaders of Europe, including Louis XVI, Catherine of Russia, William Pitt, King George III of Britain, and the Pope, while symbols represent the Prussian and Habsburg monarchies.

March of the Powers Allied against France

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This engraving uses classical figures to depict allegorically an alliance of Prussia, Britain, and Austria, represented as "Tyranny, Hypocrisy, and Pride," who seek to divide the map of France among themselves, while the French Nation prepares to resist so as to bring peace and tranquility to all of Europe.

French Victory at the Battle of Jemmappes

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This engraving first appeared in the newspaper Révolutions de Paris and shows the French General Charles–François Dumouriez entering the city of Mons after having led French forces to their first truly decisive victory of the war on 6 November 1792. According to the caption, this victory demonstrated to all of Europe that French forces, although having lost their traditional officer class through emigration, were nevertheless victorious because of their commitment to fighting for liberty.

Jemmapes, 6 November 1792

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This engraving of the battle of Jemappes, preromantic in its composition and style, depicts a group of French citizen–soldiers bravely risking themselves under the banner of liberty and overcoming all foes in marching to victory—a motif that would become common in the nineteenth century.

Noble Act of 500,000 Republicans

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The revolutionary wars, which would continue in one form or another until Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, were different from other conflicts in early modern Europe. In this struggle that emerged in 1792, both sides thought they were fighting for different ideas of governance and society: political democracy versus traditional hierarchy. When England and France had fought before 1789, they might have also clashed over political ideas, but it was clearly a war between dynasties over economics and geographical assets. The one other struggle that could have such varying ideals concerned religion. This image promoted the French as republicans, fighting for a constitution. Note that the constitution is presented as two tablets, as in many renditions of the Ten Commandments. The opponents are described as slaves.

Sword Hilt with Revolutionary Icons—Liberty

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This sword, an actual artifact of the revolutionary wars, shows how strongly French officers and soldiers believed themselves to be fighting for the defense of liberty, which is represented by the woman holding the balance and by the Phrygian bonnet on a pike, both visible in the hilt. This example illustrates that even "masculine" objects such as swords depicted liberty as female.

Sword of Sieyès

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This ceremonial sword, created for one of the directors in 1799, is presented symbolically as an instrument to defend the "people." Indeed, the war effort was waged for the populace against the perceived injustices of the old regime and its remnants in and outside of France. Placing war on this footing clearly had the potential to inspire more support and more bloodshed as so much more seemed at stake.

The Marseillaise

The Marseillaise
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A similar emphasis on patriotic unity can be seen in Jean Renoir’s film, La Marseillaise (1938). The movie tells the story of France’s national anthem, composed by Rouget de Lisle as a way to rally the troops. The song, written for soldiers from Marseillaise, soon inspired the entire nation. This source is a part of the Legacies of the Revolution and Songs of the Revolution source collections.

The Carmagnole

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Sharing its name with a popular dance, this song heaps scorn upon the queen (Madame Veto), believed to be a traitor, and the "aristocrats" who support her. Like "It’ll Be Okay", the simple tune of the "Carmagnole" permitted even the illiterate to learn lyrics with which to proclaim their conviction in the Revolution’s progress.

Expulsion of the Girondins

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Throughout the spring of 1793, radicals in the Convention, in the Paris Commune, and in the sections struggled for power against Brissot and his allies, known as the "Girondins." They differed over how the Revolution should be affected by popular pressure. In late May, Robespierre proposed a motion that accused the Girondins of being a threat to the Republic and ordered their arrest. When the moderate deputies of the "plain" resisted passing this measure, radicals from the sections mobilized over the course of three days, from 31 May to 2 June, culminating in a show of force by surrounding the Convention Hall. Duly intimidated, the Convention deputies voted for the measure. But even though the die was cast, most Jacobins were uneasy about resorting to such a direct threat that might later undermine their authority. Twenty–nine deputies from the Girondin faction were expelled from the Convention and placed under house arrest. In the aftermath of the coup, the radical faction known as "the Mountain," which usually followed Robespierre’s lead, took control of the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety.

THE VENDÉE—DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTERREVOLUTION

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The first groups of "brigands" formed in the west in mid–1792, in response most immediately to the call to all citizens to volunteer for the army. In this letter, a local government official, Choudieu, informs the National Convention that the detachment of soldiers it sent to the region has failed to dispel the brigands and asks for more forces, at just the moment when the Prussians have invaded from the north.

Description of the Chouans and Other Counterrevolutionaries

Description of the Chouans and other Counterrevolutionaries
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The counterrevolution was a very large movement that would over time engulf different parts of France from 1793 into the Napoleonic period. But it was not one thing, for many regions of different ideologies were involved. The most serious was the revolt in the west, including both the Vendée (especially during 1793–94) and the Chouans (strongest in 1795–96). This engraving (and the following one) mocks the "Counterrevolution" by depicting its participants grotesquely and comically. It shows three effeminate–looking dandies identified as officers of the Chouan army, setting forth "to assassinate, starve, and slit the throats of . . . patriots."

The Counterrevolution

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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. In this cartoon, the comical counterrevolutionary parade poses no real threat to the impregnable republic at the extreme left.

"Constitution of 1793"

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The primary task of the Convention, when seated in the fall of 1792, had been to draft a new, republican constitution. Only after the purge of the Girondins, however, did the Convention complete this task, with what became known as the Constitution of 1793 or sometimes the "Montagnard Constitution." Particularly notable was the commitment to political democracy; universal manhood suffrage with no property requirements for voting or holding office at national or municipal levels was implemented, and the equal application of the law to all citizens was emphasized. This constitution also required the government to ensure a "right to subsistence," while simultaneously reiterating the inviolability of personal property. To many, especially the Jacobins, the Constitution of 1793 provided a model framework for an egalitarian, democratic republic; however, owing to the ongoing war the Convention suspended constitutional rule in October 1793 in favor of "revolutionary government . . . until the peace."

THE REVOLUTIONARY TRIBUNAL’S USE OF THE GUILLOTINE

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This description of the proceedings of the revolutionary tribunal, and of the physical setting of the Place de la Révolution where the guillotine stood, by an unsympathetic English observer gives the flavor of the workings of revolutionary justice. The site of hundreds if not thousands of executions, this public space is now called the Place de la Concorde, "the place of peace," and is situated between the Ministries of the Army and Navy and the new meeting place of the National Assembly.

An Ordinary Guillotine

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The guillotine was first introduced as a humane, efficient, and above all modern form of execution in April 1792; during the radical phase of the Republic, it would become the symbol of the Terror. This engraving suggests the guillotine is providing "good support for liberty."

Nine Emigrants Go to the Guillotine

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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.

Summoning to Execution

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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.

Song of the Marseillaise of the Federation of 10 August, Year II

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One of many hymns that was composed by rhyming new lyrics to the wildly popular tune of the "Marseillaise," this song was performed at a festival celebrating the first anniversary of the republican revolution of August 10. This source is a part of the The Napoleonic Experience teaching module.

REVOLUTION DEVOURS ITS OWN—LE VIEUX CORDELIER

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Despite the consolidation of power in the hands of the Committee of Public Safety and the creation of Revolutionary Tribunals across France to eliminate traitors to the Republic, the Convention continued to worry about conspiracies even among its political allies. By the end of 1793, the Committee of Public Safety feared the activities of those calling for an acceleration of the Revolution, notably followers of Jacques–Réné Hébert, as well as those who sought to moderate it, known as "Indulgents" and led by Georges Danton. This latter point of view was expressed by Danton’s ally Camille Desmoulins in the newspaper The Old Cordelier, which made use of Roman history to warn that a republic could be undermined from within by "evil emperors"—by which Desmoulins implied the leadership of the Committee of Public Safety.

THE PÈRE DUCHESNE SUPPORTS THE TERROR

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Annotation
The radical journalist Jacques–René Hébert here calls on the sans–culottes of Paris to rise against their enemies in the capital, that is, those who block the work of the sections and revolutionary committees. Afterward, they should march against the forces of counterrevolution in the west. In this passage, Hébert calls on patriots to use violence to overcome their foes, suggesting that self–restraint could be deadly to the Revolution.

REVOLUTIONARY ARMIES IN THE PROVINCES: TOULOUSE (SEPTEMBER 1793)

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At the demand of patriots in Paris and the provinces, the National Convention sent irregular units to the countryside and to cities where resistance to the Revolution had appeared. In this report from Toulouse, the Convention, through the medium of its Committee of Public Safety, learns that this strategy was highly effective in winning support for the government and, as the correspondent writes, "converting . . . political sinners."

Siege and Taking of the City of Lyon

Annotation
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. Couthon, Collot, and local sans–culottes wrought a terrible vengeance, with some 209 persons being arrested, tried, and executed in the next two months. Numerous private homes and public buildings were razed. The revolutionaries renamed the city ville affranchie [Freed City], to represent the elimination of the poison of counterrevolution.

Fusillades at Lyon, Ordered by Collot–D’Herbois

Annotation
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.

Drowning in the Loire by Order of the Fierce Carrier

Annotation
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. Some accounts reported that the victims had their hands tied, but, if they managed to free them, troops in boats were there to hack off their arms. This gruesome massacre, which symbolized the excesses of the Terror for many, is depicted in this engraving by Berthault as one of the "great moments" of the Revolution.

EXECUTION OF THE QUEEN (16 OCTOBER 1793)

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Annotation
At the conclusion of her trial, the Queen was found guilty and sentenced to death. The newspaper of record, the Moniteur, reports the Queen’s response to the verdict and her execution the next morning with a good deal of sympathy and respect.

THE CALENDAR

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Annotation
A reformed calendar was a goal of the revolutionaries who sought to remake not only the political system and the social order, but also the very experience of life. To rid the calendar of the malign influence of Christianity as a bulwark of tradition, in the fall of 1793 the Convention set up a committee to draft a new secular, rational calendar. Headed by the Dantonist Philippe–François Fabre d’Eglantine, the committee filed the report excerpted below in October 1793.

RELIGION: THE CULT OF THE SUPREME BEING

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Annotation
Adapting the established strategy of staging public pageantry to win support for a political cause, Robespierre organized a "Festival of the Supreme Being" in the summer of 1794. Having recently eliminated his adversaries Hébert and Danton, Robespierre delivered the keynote speech. In it he explained his idea for a civic religion worshipping a deist "supreme being" while resisting the more extreme tendency of some to eliminate spirituality outright through an atheistic "cult of reason."

Festival of Supreme Being

Annotation
These depictions show the Festival of the Supreme Being during the French Revolution, a massive pageant staged by Jacques–Louis David on 8 June 1794, in open air on the "Field of Reunion," formerly the royal army’s parade ground. At David’s orders, a huge mountain was erected on the field, as seen in this engraving.

THE LAW OF 22 PRAIRIAL YEAR II (10 JUNE 1794)

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Annotation
Although the most immediate threats to the security of the Republic—foreign invasion, the civil war in the Vendée, the Federalist uprisings, the grain shortage in Paris, and hyperinflation—had abated by June 1794, Robespierre and his allies on the Committee of Public Safety argued all the more strenuously that virtue needed to be enforced through terror. To this end, on 22 Prairial (10 June), they proposed a law that would free the Revolutionary Tribunals from control by the Convention and would greatly strengthen the position of prosecutors by limiting the ability of suspects to defend themselves. Furthermore, the law broadened the sorts of charges that could be brought so that virtually any criticism of the government became criminal.

DEBATE ON THE LAW OF 22 PRAIRIAL

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Many in the Convention, including some on the Committee of Public Safety, opposed the proposed law, which they feared concentrated too much power in too few hands and would only further destabilize the Republic. This passage from the memoirs of Bertrand Barère, a member of the committee, reveals how opponents of the law had to confront the fear that opposition would expose adversaries to the Terror. The passage of this law marked the beginning of the period known to historians as the "Great Terror," when violence, no longer necessary to protect the Republic, accelerated and became more focused not only on former nobles and clergy but more broadly on "the wealthy." From 22 Prairial until 10 Thermidor (10 June–28 July 1794), over 1,300 were executed in Paris and nearly 1,500 in the provinces, some 15 percent of the total number put to death in the entire fifteen–month reign of Terror.

9 Thermidor: The Conspiracy against Robespierre

Annotation
This account of the proceedings in the Convention Hall on the 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794) describes how Robespierre and Saint–Just, facing an organized attack by other members of the Committee of Public Safety, tried one last gamble, appealing to the deputies of the "Right" to come to their aid. These deputies repudiated the appeal, and the Convention unanimously voted for the resolution condemning them.

EXECUTION OF ROBESPIERRE

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Annotation
Having carried the day in the Jacobin Club, Robespierre rose to speak the next day in the Convention, where he attacked members of the Committee of Public Safety and Committee of General Security, until now his closest collaborators, for their extreme use of the Terror. He also hinted that such "terrorists" should be purged from the Convention. Fearing for their own safety, some members of those committees, a number of deputies noted for their harsh repressive measures, and others introduced to the Convention measures they had prepared in advance that condemned Robespierre. In effect, the Incorruptible’s turn against the immoderate use of the Terror created a conspiracy against him where one had not existed before. The resolution was passed, and Robespierre, his brother Augustin, Louis–Antoine Saint–Just, Georges Couthon, and several others were arrested. Robespierre’s supporters, hoping to energize the sections to influence the Convention deputies on their own behalf, issued a call for a general mobilization. As the text below shows, a crowd gathered outside the Convention Hall to demand "liberty" for the arrested leaders.

Entry of the French into Holland

Entry of the French into Holland
Annotation
From Berthault’s series of great moments of the Revolution, this engraving depicts the victorious entry of the republican French forces into the southern Netherlands (currently Belgium) on 21 January 1795, where a "sister republic" of Batavia would soon be established.

Battle of Aboukir

Battle of Aboukir
Annotation
Napoleon’s eventual acquisition of political power may be attributed partly to his success in publicizing his Egyptian campaign as a great victory for France that spread the values of the Revolution. These engravings by the writer and artist Vivant Denon were published in 1802, four years after the campaign when Napoleon was already in power. This first image depicts The Battle of the Pyramids where, within three weeks of landing, Napoleon encountered the opposition and routed them with only thirty French soldiers killed.

Battle of the Pyramids

Battle of the Pyramids
Annotation
After a six–week journey from France, the army of some 38,000 arrived in Egypt. The French stormed and took Alexandria first, then moved up the Nile toward Cairo. On 21 July Napoleon’s troops confronted and decisively defeated the army of the Mamelukes, who exercised rule in Egypt on behalf of the Ottomans.

Bonaparte Visiting the Hospital in Jaffa

Annotation
This undated post-French Revolutionary print shows Bonaparte visiting a hospital in Jaffa. Of classical proportions, this image is centered on Bonaparte, who appears to be bringing order to an otherwise disorderly and chaotic scene. However, Napoleon’s actual interest was limited, far less than this print would suggest. In fact, he ordered that poison be given to men too ill with plague to be transported. This source is a part of the The Napoleonic Experience teaching module.

DISMANTLING THE TERROR: PARLIAMENTARIANISM REASSERTED

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In condemning Robespierre on 9 Thermidor, the Convention deputies did not necessarily intend to end the Terror as much as prevent Robespierre and his followers from turning it on them. Yet in the weeks and months that followed, it became clear that Thermidor had been a turning point away from "revolutionary government" and toward a revival of procedural, parliamentary politics. In this passage from the memoirs of a Thermidorean Convention deputy named Pierre–Toussaint Durand–Maillane, we see how it once again become politically feasible to express differences of opinion without fear of being brought before a Revolutionary Tribunal. Note the expectation that people are "weak beings" who cannot be, as Robespierre had demanded, constantly virtuous or spontaneously aligned with the "general will."

THE CONVENTION IS WEAK

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Annotation
The coup of Thermidor did not lead immediately to the dissolution of the Committee of Public Safety (CPS), although much of its power was quickly transferred to other committees, especially the Committee of General Security, and back to the Convention as a whole. This passage, from the memoirs of a member of the CPS after Thermidor, describes the committee’s efforts to continue to guide the Republic in the face of ongoing war, domestic unrest, and food shortages. Yet as the text below shows, both the committee and the Convention as a whole operated from a considerably weakened position, in part because without the Terror, the central government could not compel obedience by officials in the provinces. The steady deterioration of the government’s power over the next fifteen months increasingly made clear the need for a new constitution, with a strong central executive that would be constitutionally limited so as to avoid the excesses of revolutionary government.

CONSTITUTION OF THE YEAR III (1795)

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Annotation
By mid–1795, dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, particularly the extra–constitutional nature of the government, had become widespread. The Left demanded "bread and the Constitution of 1793" while those who had suffered under the Terror sought to "end the Revolution" by finishing off popular political activity in the sections that had led to continual uprisings, civil unrest in the provinces (notably revenge being taken on those in power during the Terror), and the ongoing wars abroad that continued to make heavy demands on the domestic economy. To this end, the Convention assigned a committee including Sieyès to draft yet another constitution, which was presented on 22 August. The excerpt below demonstrates how this constitution sought to ensure a moderate continuation of the Revolution, which would reconcile a stable social order based on personal liberty (meaning individual property rights) with juridical equality rather than the direct democracy and guarantees of social and economic equality contained in the Constitution of 1793. To achieve this delicate balance, the framers reduced the authority of the legislature, which would now have two houses so it could not pass legislation as rapidly. By creating an explicit executive body, this constitution concentrated power, but also limited how much any one individual or political faction could exert by sharing executive power among five Directors. Finally, the constitution proscribed political gatherings of any sort to prevent the re–formation of the club movement or the organization of national political parties.

Costumes of the Council of Five Hundred

Costumes of the Council of Five Hundred
Annotation
In this bicameral legislature, the smaller of the two councils (the Elders with 250 members) had to pass all the legislation, while the Five Hundred could initiate legislation. The revolutionaries decided on the division of authority. The directors functioned as the executive branch, in order to make less possible the consolidation of power, as in the Terror.

Day of 13 Vendemaire of the Year 4

Day of 13 Vendemaire of the Year 4
Annotation
In the waning days of the Convention in the fall of 1795, royalist–influenced sections of Paris revolted to prevent the adoption of a new constitution that protected the position of the radicals. Bonaparte was delegated to put down the uprising of 5 October 1795 (13 Vendémiaire Year IV). Bonaparte’s decisiveness and willingness to fire cannons on the demonstrators—in his words, to "give them a whiff of grapeshot"—consolidated the government’s control, but revealed how much the revolutionary state after Thermidor was dependent on the military.

BONAPARTE SAVES THE DAY

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Annotation
In the waning days of the Convention in the fall of 1795, royalist–influenced sections in Paris revolted to prevent a new constitution that protected the position of the radicals. Bonaparte was delegated to put down the uprising of 5 October 1795 (13 Vendémiaire Year IV). Bonaparte’s decisiveness and willingness to fire cannons on the demonstrators—in his words, to "give them a whiff of grapeshot"—both consolidated the government’s control and revealed how much the revolutionary state after Thermidor was dependent on the military.

DOCTRINE OF BABEUF

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Annotation
Despite the radical nature of such measures taken by the National Assembly as the abolition of nobility and the civil constitution of the clergy, social conflicts continued to manifest themselves after the National Assembly completed its work in 1791. Peasants continued to believe they were not getting all that was due them from urban merchants who bought their grain, while city dwellers continued to attribute the high cost of bread to large landowners hoarding grain in the countryside. Here Babeuf articulates a desire to overturn inequality by establishing an economic equality far beyond the legal equalities established earlier.

"Letter to Fréron: Émigrés Return" by Thérèse Bouisson

Annotation
Once in power, the Directorial government appeared poised to preserve the gains of the Revolution while undoing what some considered the excesses of the period of Jacobin ascendancy. Yet precisely what the Revolution’s gains were—beyond the elimination of the monarchy and remnants of feudalism—remained unclear. One perspective, that of the émigré nobles, held that the fall of the Convention signaled a restoration of their confiscated lands, which they reappropriated from those who had purchased them earlier in the decade. In this letter, the widow of one such purchaser, a sailor killed in combat, appeals to the government to recognize her right to the newly acquired lands over the claims of the returning noble family from whom they had been seized.

THE GILDED YOUTH

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Annotation
Across France, the period of the Directory witnessed revenge against those who had carried out revolutionary justice during the Terror. Opponents of the Jacobins forced them from office and sought to prevent them from participating in politics. In Paris, this so–called white terror was carried out by the "Gilded Youth," a gang of youths from wealthy backgrounds who considered themselves the antithesis of the sans–culottes and whose actions eventually helped pressure the government to close down the Paris Jacobin Club, as we see in the excerpts of the memoirs of a left–wing politician from late 1794.

The Alarm of the People

Annotation
Composed by J.M. Souriguieres, a parisian dramatist, and Pierre Gaveaux, an actor, this song demands revenge for the crimes and bloodshed of the Terror. It was quickly adopted as an anthem by the "gilded youth" of the Thermidoran Reaction, who sang it in opposition to singers of the Marseillaise. This source is a part of the Songs of the Revolution source collection.

PUISAYE TO THE CENTRAL CATHOLIC COMMITTEE

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Annotation
The fall of Robespierre and the Mountain in the summer of 1794 also reinvigorated counterrevolutionary forces, especially those hoping to restore royal authority in the person of the son of the "martyr" Louis XVI. We see evidence of efforts to coordinate royalist military action against the Republic in the letter below, by the Chouan leader Puisaye to the "Catholic Central Committee."

LOUIS XVIII TO CHARETTE

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Annotation
The "Central Committee" organizing royalist efforts in 1795 was led by François–Athanése de Charette de la Contrie, a former nobleman. He had participated in the Vendéan uprising in 1793, with the goal of restoring to the throne the nearest living relative to the executed Louis XVI—his brother the Count of Provence who had already taken the name Louis XVIII. (For royalists, the son of Louis XVI, who had died in 1795, had been Louis XVII.) In the letter below, Louis XVIII writes to Charette, expressing the need not only for military action, but also to win over public opinion through a declaration of principles to the people.

RISE OF THE RIGHT LEADING TO THE COUP OF 18 FRUCTIDOR: PROCLAMATION OF 9 SEPTEMBER 1797

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Annotation
The Directorial legislatures were formed in 1795 primarily of holdovers from the Convention, so the elections in the fall of 1797 were the first open legislative elections since 1792. The result, to the consternation of the executive council of the Directory, which had hoped to consolidate the gains of the Revolution, was a majority of right–wing and even openly royalist deputies. Rather than seat this new legislature and risk a right–wing coup, the Directory decided to annul the election results. To justify its action, the government issued the following proclamation announcing that it had uncovered a right–wing plot against the Republic and promised to uphold what it called "republican institutions."

REVIVAL OF THE MOUNTAIN

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Annotation
The Directory’s constitution had ensured the rights of assembly, free speech, and a limited suffrage; for former Jacobins now deprived of their clubs and of their power in the legislature, these constitutional liberties offered the potential to rebuild a democratic movement. To others, especially the Directory’s leaders, the possibility of a revived network of clubs and newspapers represented more than just a desire to participate in politics under the terms of the new constitution; such a revival was too evocative of the Terror. Thus, one such leader, Antoine–Claire Thibaudeau wrote here of Jacobin speeches in the legislature as trying "to reestablish the Terror."

CIRCULAR ON ELECTIONS

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A former playwright and old regime colonial official, Nicolas–Louis François de Neufchâteau, twice Minister of the Interior under the Directory, here outlines the importance of elections for the Directory. In this circular letter sent to the chief agent of the central government in each department, he highlights the threat that a negative outcome could have for the existence of the Republic and exhorts local officials to be more zealous. Despite such sentiments, the Directory overturned electoral results three years in a row, heightening disaffection and apathy.

Destruction of the French Colossus

Destruction of the French Colossus
Annotation
This hand–colored engraving, published in late 1798, depicts a Hercules representing France being decapitated by a lighting bolt in divine retribution for the executions by guillotine and for the attempt to create "Fraternity" and a "Religion of Nature" to replace the Christian love of God. Notice that it is the British who launch these deadly attacks.

The Contrast, 1793 British Liberty/French Liberty

The Contrast, 1793 British Liberty/French Liberty
Annotation
In this color print from 1793, the height of the Terror, two circular drawings appear next to each other, contrasting two types of liberty. English liberty exists, as the figure suggests, but based on the Magna Carta, calm prevails. Representing French liberty is an uncontrolled, unruly woman, a killer and destroyer. That a woman represents both sides remains interesting in light of the fact that women were excluded from office.

Promised Horrors of the French Invasion

Promised Horrors of the French Invasion
Annotation
This highly sophisticated political cartoon by the noted engraver James Gillray from October 1796 responds to Edmund Burke’s pamphlet, "Reflections on a Regicide Peace." This image argues against further war with France to avoid bankrupting the British treasury and exposing England itself to invasion. This cartoon mocks that idea, attributing it to the supposedly "radical" tendencies of opposition leader Charles James Fox, who here is depicted as a sans–culotte with no pants at all, having tied his rival, Prime Minster William Pitt, to a "Liberty Tree."

A Foreign Tree

Annotation
These painted engravings ridicule the unrest wrought by French revolutionaries by contrasting French subversion with British stability. The "British Liberty Tree" (depicted in the preceding image) is assigned to the mock Latin genus of "Stabilissimus," while the more sickly looking "Foreign Tree" in this image is put in the genus "Subitarius." Notice in the background of the latter, a guillotine, symbol of all that is wrong with France.

British Liberty Tree

Annotation
These painted engravings ridicule the unrest wrought by French revolutionaries by contrasting French subversion with British stability. The "British Liberty Tree" in this image is assigned to the mock Latin genus of "Stabilissimus," while the more sickly looking "Foreign Tree" (depicted in the following image) is put in the genus "Subitarius."

An Emblematical View of the Constitutions of England and France

Annotation
Similar to the two engravings of trees, this engraving contrasts English order with French anarchy. On the left, a lion (representing England) sits at the foot of a chiseled rock, part of which is labeled "Unanimity." A crown appears over the rock; a unicorn lies behind it. To the right, a multiheaded serpent representing France writhes around a broken flag reading "Anarchy."

Britannia Rules the Waves!!

Britannia Rules the Waves!!
Annotation
This color drawing from 1798 mocks both the French navy’s abysmal performance against Nelson’s fleet and the French hope to invade England; in the style of Gillray, it depicts a grotesque, gargantuan woman, straddling the English Channel and urinating into French ships while her trident pierces France and breaks off pieces to be seized by Britain.

Army of Jugs

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Annotation
This color drawing, produced in 1793 at the request of the Committee of Public Safety and then published as an engraving, caricatures the British army and its king, George III, as incompetent, who, despite fine uniforms, cannot defeat shoddily clad, yet energetic sans–culottes (on the left), who humiliate the British by defecating on the advancing troops. The British vainly try to respond with cannons in the shape of clysters, medical devices used to administer enemas. The key below indicates the particular British figures, notably Charles James Fox and George III, being satirized.

Printed Cloth of the Directory and Napoleon

Printed Cloth of the Directory and Napoleon
Annotation
This image presents an idealized version of Napoleon during the Directory, especially his intellectual contributions. In the upper right corner he appears before the Directory. Along the right bottom, Napoleon clearly confronts the Middle East, both its Egyptian Pyramids and Christian elements, as three wise men bow before him. To the left, Napoleon seems to be dealing with the three graces—brilliance, joy, and bloom. The image above may describe his induction into the Institute, organized to promote advanced study. The tent to the right is a small reminder of his military role.

Day of Saint-Cloud

Day of Saint-Cloud
Annotation
The problems of the revolutionary government had so intensified that the two leaders, Abbé Sieyès and Roger Ducos, plotted to overthrow it with the help of the most famous military man of the day. But the legislative body, particularly the lower house, proved resistant. Napoleon needed the help of his younger brother Lucien to rally the troops and erase the opposition. This source is a part of the The Napoleonic Experience teaching module.

The Saving of France

The Saving of France
Annotation
In this propagandistic allegorical engraving, Napoleon saves the female figure of France from the abyss to which she has been led by "revolutionary fanaticism." The figure of fanaticism is armed to the teeth with "the daggers of party spirit" and holds in one hand the chains of slavery and in the other the torch of discord. This source is a part of the The Napoleonic Experience teaching module.

CULTURE: WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

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Annotation
Among its many lasting contributions to French and western history, the French Revolution initiated the metric system as a more rational and universally applicable way of conveying weights and measures than the various systems in place across France prior to 1789. For the Directory, which opposed broader political participation and increased social benefits as goals, such cultural changes as those in weights and measures (described in the passage below, excerpted from a decree of April 1795) and in the revolutionary calendar came to embody the gains of the Revolution.

PRIMARY SCHOOLS

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Annotation
During the period of revolutionary government, the Jacobins had introduced the idea of universal, free, secular education provided by the state. The Jacobins conceived of education not only as a means of improving the citizenry’s skill level for economic purposes but also, and more important, as a means of rooting out tradition (i.e., Christianity) and implanting enlightened, revolutionary values as a strategy of ensuring broad support for the Republic among future generations. The Thermidorean Convention and the Directory preserved and even expanded on this goal, legislating a system of public primary education for all girls and boys, to be taught by instructors chosen for their merit, paid by the state (rather than their students’ families), and committed to imparting knowledge and republican values. The decree creating primary schools, was promulgated by the Convention on 17 November 1794 [27 Brumaire, Year III].

Diary of a Woman at Fifty

Annotation
Born in 1770 and married to the only surviving son of one of the greatest noble families in France, the Marquise de la Tour du Pin endured humiliation, emigration, and Terror during the first part of the revolutionary decade. Upon her return to France with her husband in 1796, she was shocked at the aristocratic style and open royalism of many powerful government figures.

Scene of Directory Life, Men and Women from L’Optique du Jour

Scene of Directory Life, Men and Women from L’Optique du Jour
Annotation
After Jacobin control faded, with its repression of exuberant social life as well as political diversity, the following years saw a rebirth of open pleasures. This image focuses on fashionable men and women enjoying the good life. Some contemporaries would see this as excessive and self–indulgent, and far bolder displays of sexuality and materialism. Indeed, what one sees here was at least surprising since only the nobility and the very rich had before 1789 experienced much in the radiant way evident in this image.

Aristocratic Occupations

Aristocratic Occupations...
Annotation
The second image, a color drawing by the popular English caricaturist James Gillray in 1805 during the Empire, takes a different view of the Directory, suggesting that it is a time of moral decadence and self–aggrandizement. It depicts Paul Barras, while in power as a member of the five–man executive Directory in 1797, being entertained by the naked dancing of two wives of prominent men, the former Jacobin deputy Jean–Louis Tallien and Bonaparte. Madame Tallien appears beautiful, tall, and elegant, while Josephine de Beauharnais, Bonaparte’s future wife, appears small, thin, and with bad teeth. According to the text, Barras chose Madame Tallien (taking the man’s wife just as he usurped the man’s political power), while Bonaparte (seen watching from behind a curtain) eagerly accepted the less attractive woman so he could advance his political career.

Hymn for the Festival of Marriage

Annotation
Although festivals drew much smaller audiences during the final years of the Revolution, the government continued to celebrate them. Now, however, they tended to commemorate apolitical events: thus a festival, and hymn, devoted to the subject of marriage.

Credits

From LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, https://revolution.chnm.org/exhibits/show/liberty--equality--fraternity/war-terror-and-resistance

How to Cite This Source

"Source Collection: War, Terror, and Resistance to the French Revolution," in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/source-collection-war-terror-and-resistance-french-revolution [accessed July 2, 2022]