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Paul Halsall
Modern Western Civilization

Class 12: The Radical Revolution

Music The Marseillaise

I. The Second Revolution

The Revolution became much more radical in 1792. Losses in the war radicalised the pop of Paris and the rest of France.

A number of things contributed to this - apart from the unpopularity of defeat.

A: The War, the Monarchy and the Press

B. Process of Radicalization

This popular agitation was transformed into something powerful by two factors.

C: Events

  1. August 10th 1792 Attack on Tuileries Palace
    People of Paris + Vol attack the Tuileries Palace
    King had to take refuge with the Legislative Assembly.
    He deserted his Swiss Guard - 800+ killed.
  2. September 1792 September Massacres
    1200 prisoners are murdered in Paris gaols as counter-revolutionaries.

D. The Sans-Culottes [The "KMart Crowd"]

II. The Convention - 1792-95

A. Creation

This was elected by universal male suffrage - but only 7 1/2% of electorate voted. (not best atmosphere for a free election)

It first met September 21 1792 and declares France a Republic as its first act

The Girondists were still major voice but gradually lost control over next few months to another group of Jacobins known as The Mountain (because they sat high in Convention Hall) - They were prepared to work with the Sans-Cullottes. Maximilien Robespierre one of leaders.

Political groups here were

There were now 9 months of political struggle in the Convention.

B. Fighting the War

The War with Austria and Prussia which had radicalized the revolution was still going on.

The revolution was saved by the slowness and weakness of Prussian and Austrian preparation - they could certainly have won at first. They were too busy in the East digesting Poland.

C:. Domestic Politics In the Convention

Now return to what was going on in France and the move to the control by the radical Committee of Public Saftey

  1. The Convention at first had no strong leadership.
  2. Condemnation and Execution of the King
    This was necessary consequence of August 10th, and the King's treachery over the war - The Mountain had found Louis XVI's correspondence to Austria.
    The condemnation of King also put Girondists in a bind - if they supported it they lost moderate support, if they opposed it they lost patriot support. Robespierre saw this.
    The King was tried as Citizen Capet - [should have been Bourbon.]
    Vote to Condemn -
    28 absent, 321 other Penalties, 13 Death with a respite, 361
    Death now a maj. of 1.
    No one thought Louis was innocent.
    King executed 21 Jan 1793
  3. Counter Counter-Revolutionary Activity
    By March 1793 there were counter-revolts going on esp in conservative Catholic areas, especially in the Vendee. [see Map Handout]
    There was a great concern in the Convention, still under Girondist control, about counter revolution.
    -it strengthened laws against emigres.
    -Revolutionary Tribunals were set up
    -A decree was passed condemning to death all rebels taken in the act.
    -March 21 1793 - Watch Committees set up in every area

    The point here is that the moderates had in fact set up the structure of the Terror by Spring 1793.

D. The Committee of Public Safety 6th April 1793

Set up to supervise, for Convention, the executive. It was given its own funds:

-100,000 livres to pay agents

-100,000 livre for secret purposes

At first middle men were elected - Jacque Danton (1759-1794)

E. Committee of General Security

was also set up to fight the War abroad.

F. The Mountain Takes Over

III. The Rule of the Commmitte for Public Safety July 1793-July 1794

A ruthless and effective government - Convention and ministers official governmnet, but CPS had all power.

The New Committee of Public Safety

- from the Mountain

  • Herault de Sechelles - a noble
  • Jeanbon Saint-Andre - protestant pastor
  • Saint Just - wanted a spartan state
  • Couthon - a follower of Robespierre
  • Prieur, of the Marne

- from the Marais

  • Barere de Viezac
  • Robert Lindet

added in July

  • Maximilien Robespierre (1753-1794)
    -he was not a dictator - a lawyer from Arras - "he believed everything he said" - for him principles were everything, Men nothing. Influenced by Rousseau and his ideas on virtue.

added in August

  • Lazare Carnot (1753-1823) - in charge of military
  • Prieur, of the Cote d'Or

added in September

  • Billaud-Varrenne
  • Collot d'Herbois - the only mob orator

-both were known as men of blood

A. Problems Facing the Committee for Public Safety

The Counter revolt and the war with Europe

B Total War

The CPS dealt with military threat by first use in modern times of total war - the whole country was put on a war footing (cf. small ancien regime armies)

Carnot led the effort

C. The Reign of Terror or the Republic of Virtue

[Refer to handout map]

Revolts around France - esp Vendee, Brittany and Normandy


  1. How does what R. says relate to the thoughts of philosophes like Rousseau ?
    [Answers: General Will, emphasis on virtue, the idea of the TRUTH/reason being above any man, idea of realizing the promise of philosophy
  2. What are the Aims of the Revolution for R.?
    [virtue + Government under true principles, the tranquil enjoyment of liberty and equality, the reign of eternal justice, low passions to be enchained.]
  3. What is totalitarian about his ideas?
    [Aall things: liberty, arts, commerce all have to work for the public good.]
  4. Which of his ideas are Nationalistic ?
    [France as a model for nations, the whole idea of a community makes idea of nation important - revolutionary patriotism ]
  5. Why does R. thing Terror is moral?
    [It is the force of virtue - that which is not revolutionary is not moral, so should be destroyed for virtues sake. The idea that Terror is justice promptly served. Law of self-preservation as first law of nature. These ideas have been used by many subsequent revolutionaries.]
  6. How effective do you thing R. would have been if you had been listening to him?

D. The New Culture

  1. Fashions
    - followed Roman and/or sans-cullotish style.
  2. New Calendar
    Convention began dating form Year One when it abolished the Monarchy.
    A system of new months adopted on November 10th 1793
    Messidor, Thermidor, Fructidor, Vendemiaire, Brumaire, Frimaire, Nivose, Pluviose, Ventose, Germinal, Floreal, Prairal
    -beginning from Sept 22, 1792, Day after monarchy abolished.
    -every 10th day as rest day (not good for workers)
    -Aim was to blot out the cycle of Sundays and Saint's days
    It was part of dechristianisation effort.
  3. New Religion
    Revolution had been anti-clerical from the start
    -ref. Enlightenment- Civil Const. of Clergy.
    -In November 1793 - The Convention outlawed the worship of God (where is tolerance ?)
    -Notre Dame made a Temple to Reason - ceremonies were conducted by the Commune of Paris.
    -November 10 Cult of Reason begun - alienated Christians Made direct efforts to close Churches throughout France.
    -[Dechristianisation opposed by Robespierre - toleration of Catholics was ordered by CPS under his orders.]
    -Robespierre thought this not sufficient as effective religion.
    -May 7 1794 Cult of the Supreme Being proclaimed -Deism + cultic festivals celebrating republican virtues - humanity, liberty etc.
    -June 8 Rob. leads a massive public Festival of Supreme Being.
    Emphasises the attempt to restructure the whole civilisation.