Invasion of Convention by Paris sections; Fall of Girondins

Throughout the first and second phases of the French Revolution, it was clear that
certain political rivalries had been formed. By the trial of King Louis XVI in January of 1793, the
two sides had become very polarized. With the Montangards on the left, the plain in the
middle, and the Girondins on the right, the Convention found themselves in a battle between
the Mountain and the Girondins, while leaving the men of the plain to choose sides. By May 31,
1793, this rivalry had officially reached its breaking-point. With continued participation by
Parisian spectators in support of the Mountain and against Girondins, Paris displayed their
overwhelming support of the increasingly liberal left.

On the 31st of May, the people of Paris once again stormed Tuileries Palace with the
intent of ridding the Convention of the Girondins, as they felt threatened by Isnard’s comments and the perceived reservations of progress by the right. By the end of June 2nd , 3 days later, the conflict had died down. In that time, the peaceful mob had essentially scared the Commission of 12 out of the Convention and also intimidated many on the right to not show their face at all. The three-day conflict still remained peaceful despite the call to arms but still fully demonstrated the Parisian support for the left, as well as their power to inflict political progress during the beginning of the second phase.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was a revolutionary document that called for the creation of a liberalized set of inalienable rights and liberties. Echoing both the August Decrees and the ideas of the renowned Enlightenment writers, the Declaration condemned the feudalistic structure of the old regime and advocated for the establishment of new religious and property rights, as well as equality before the law. The people were given the title of citizen and relinquished their role as subjects of the king. The Declaration also called for the creation of a police force and declared the freedoms of speech and the press. Following the document’s creation, the marginalized populations of France initiated campaigns to claim these new rights that would provide them with enhanced social, political, and economic mobility and agency. It encouraged the Protestant and Jewish communities to campaign for full citizenship and the ability to openly practice their faith. Abolitionists and women also started movements that called for the end of slavery and gender equality. While the Declaration would engender a significant amount of debate in the National Assembly, its creation was a crucial step towards transforming France into a constitutional monarchy.

Batte of Valmy

The battle of Valmy took place on September 20th, 1792 and was a major victory for the newly declared French Republic and changed the course of the revolution. This battle was a direct result of Prussia and Austria who signed the Declaration of Pillnitz, which directly threatened France,. This show of force propelled the radicals to radicalize even more, which caused Austria and Prussia to declare war on the French revolutionaries and restore King Louis. After a small battle at Baiseux ended in embarrassment for the French revolutionaries, they needed a victory to save their new Republic. The first major battle of the War of the First Coalition took place at Valmy. The Allied forces, and their far greater numbers tried to flank the French army. However, the expansive plain of the battlefield made it very difficult to do so. French commander Francois Kellerman and Charles Dumouriez displayed tremendous military strategy with the smaller numbers that they had by positioning their men on higher ground so they were able to see the Allied forces. They forced the Allied forces to have to leave their positioning on the lower ground, and march towards the French to cause any damage. The Allied generals realized they weren’t hurting the French with their gunfire and decided to call of the attack. This retreat and subsequent loss for the Allied forces brought a surge in momentum for the French army.

https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Valmy

Assassination of Marat

Jean-Paul Marat was a deputy in the National Convention and editor of the radical Parisian newspaper L’Ami du Peuple(The Friend of the People), which frequently advocated for the massacre of the enemies of the Revolution (Dwyer and McPhee 2002, 117). For example, Marat expressed his doubt on the efficacy of words in bringing down the enemies of liberty; rather, he challenged his readers to “ar[m] yourself with rope, daggers, and en[d] the days” of your enemies (Silva-Grondin 2010, 1). Marat was a prominent figure in the Montagnard faction, composed primarily of Jacobins, which dominated the National Convention from 1793-94. On July 13, 1793, Marat was assassinated by Charlotte Corday, a young Girondin supporter from Normandy, in his home. Following his death, Marat was celebrated as a martyr of the Revolution and was incorporated into the wider repository of religious symbols of the Revolution (Shusterman 2014, 187). This served a pedagogical purpose: to teach posterity about revolutionary virtues, one of which was Marat’s unmatched fiery passion for the Revolution. Marat’s corpse was taken to the Pantheon, a church-turned-mausoleum in Paris where the great men of the Revolution could be celebrated (Dwyer and McPhee, 117). The assassination of Marat provoked a wave of violence against counter-revolutionaries, royalists, and Girondins in western France and northern France in the Normandy region. His death intensified the nation-wide paranoia from which the Reign of Terror arose.

 

Works Cited

Alpha History. 2018. “Jean Paul Marat.” Last modified February 27, 2018. http://alphahistory.com/frenchrevolution/jean-paul-marat/.

Shusterman, Noah. The French Revolution: Faith, Desire, and Politics. Routledge: London,

2014.

Silva-Grondin, Mallary. 2010. “Reflecting on the Life of a Revolutionary: Jean-Paul Marat.” Inquiries Journal2, no. 1: 1-2.

“The Great Fear: Letter from the Steward of the Duke of Montmorency.” InThe French

Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook, edited by Philip G. Dwyer & Peter McPhee, 22. Routledge: London, 2002.

Vidalenc, Jean. 2018. “Jean Paul Marat” French Politician, Physician, and Journalist.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Paul-Marat.

 

Execution of the Dantonists

George Danton was a great revolutionary orator and the first president of the Committee of Public Safety. In 1792, he aided in protecting the newborn Republic by organizing a defense from Austrian invasion. As such, Danton was compared with the likes of popular revolutionaries such as Marat and Robespierre, as his actions contributed to the most liberal phase of the Revolution. The irony is how the man who invented the Revolutionary Tribunal and chanted with the crowds calling for Louis XVI’s head would lose his own during the Reign of Terror. One explanation points to the growing radicalism and paranoia France had borne during the Reign of Terror. There was much tension between the puritanical followers of Robespierre and the indulgent Dantonists; however, this was not the main reason for the execution of the Danton and his party. The Dantonists had become more moderate as the Revolution progressed and advocated for the reduction in bloodshed occurring in France. Subsequently, they were accused of “pushing the Revolution towards weakness” (Shusterman, 216).

This push towards “weakness” was means for traitorous accusations, which turned the public against many non-Robspierrists, including Dantonists. Once, when the Revolution was first gaining momentum, Danton was a favorite of the people. During the execution of Louis Capet he exclaimed to the Convention: “You have thrown down your gauntlet […] and this gauntlet is a king’s head!” (Doyle, 52) This, it would seem, made Danton the quintessential revolutionist. However, it was not enough during the Terror, as “the people did not feel sorry for any of its leaders, even the most beloved, when the time came for them to ascend the scaffold.” (Quintet, 703). This was also the case for others like the Hébertists and even eventually Robespierre himself. These deaths did not necessarily better French society, as one Parisian noted: “Since the death of Danton, discord has reigned in the Committee of Public Safety” (Dwyer and McPhee, 111).


 

Works Cited

Shusterman, Noah. The French Revolution: Faith, Desire, and Politics. Routledge, 2014.

The Fall of Robespierre, July 1794. Dwyer, Philip G. and McPhee, Peter. The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook. Routledge, 2006.

Doyle, William. The French Revolution: a Very Short Introduction. New York, 2001.

Quintet, Révolution, II:703

The Execution of Philippe-Egalite

Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, later known as Philippe-Égalité, was executed by guillotine on 7 November 1793 (Schusterman 199).  The First Prince of the Blood, Égalité was one of the king’s distant cousins, though he deviated quite seriously from the king’s absolutist politics, attending regular meetings of the Jacobin club until his death (96).  The execution of Philippe-Égalité represents the end of the final hope for the monarchy.  After the execution and, considering the youth of the young “Louis XVII,” there were hopes he would be created regent in a restored republic.  While Égalité was a Jacobin, his placement on the throne could signify a compromise between the Old Regime and the Revolution, though this idea was unpopular.  Marat famously used this proposal to attack his opponents, the Girondins, as well as the former Duke. Although the Duc d’Orleans attempted to be a Montagnard, his status as a Bourbon and his association with Dumouriez’s defection ultimately led to his demise.  Dumouriez, who tried to attack Paris to remove the revolutionaries and then promptly fled to the Austrians after his defeat in Holland, was a known associate of the already suspect Duke (162).  This acted as the final nail in the coffin for “France’s coolest uncle” (162) and the father of the future king.

Works Cited:

Shusterman, Noah. The French Revolution: Faith, Desire, and Politics. London: Routledge, 2014

Execution of Madame Roland

Madame Roland was a part of the Girondin community and possessed a powerful influence in regards to the conservative side of France during the later years of the Revolution. The Girondins made several poor political decisions that can be evidenced by the night of 10 August 1792 when the Girondins proceeded to discuss tax reform as revolutionaries marched on the Tuileries, ignoring the issue at hand and allowing violence to pursue (Shusterman 128). As their power weakened, the Girondins became an easy target for the Montagnards who occupied the political left of France at the time. Most of the Girondins fled Paris and even France as a whole (Shusterman 176), but several were tried in court for counterrevolutionary activity, including Madame Roland. In a time when there was a growing urgency for the oppression of female political involvement, the executions of Charlotte Corday, Olympe de Gouges, and Marie Antionette heavily prefaced the fate of Madame Roland despite her case in court. She was found guilty and executed on 8 November 1793 (Shusterman 199), marking the beginning of the end of the Girondins as they were gradually all executed in the wake of the Reign of Terror. Although she faced a brutal execution, Madame Roland chose to stay in Paris and serve her punishment even though she could have very well chosen a different path and flee her legal responsibilities and obligations.

Works Cited

Shusterman, Noah. The French Revolution: Faith, Desire, and Politics. Oxon: Routledge, 2014.

Discovery of the Armoire de Fer

On November 20, 1792 the armoire de fer, or iron armoire, was discovered by Jean-Marie Roland. This safe was hidden in the walls of the Tuileries Palace, and was used by King Louis XVI as a hiding spot for his secret documents (Shusterman 148). These documents were secret notes and letters that the king wrote involving his plans for counter-revolutionary activity. Roland told the members of the Convention of this discovery, and attempted to use the secret documents enclosed in the safe as ammunition not just against the king, but also against the Montagnard political party (Shusterman 148). The discovery of the armoire de fer and its contents represented for many French people the last straw with regards to the toleration of King Louis XVI. At this time, members of the Convention were already in the process of gathering evidence against the king in order to convict him of treason. Shortly following this discovery, in January of 1793, the trial of King Louis XVI began. Prior to this trial, the Convention deposed the king and therefore began calling him Louis Capet, which was his family name (Shusterman 148). With the evidence found in the armoire de fer used against him, Louis Capet was found guilty during the trial and was subsequently executed.

 

Works Cited

Shusterman, Noah. The French Revolution: Faith, Desire, and Politics. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Execution of Charlotte Corday

Charlotte Corday came to Paris in July 1793 with the intention of murdering Jean-Paul Marat. Lying her way into his residence, Corday met to speak with Marat about revolutionary material for his publications while he soaked in a bathtub to treat a skin condition. During this visit, she stabs Marat in the chest, stealing the heart of the Revolution. Before her execution on 17 July 1793, Corday says one line that carried significant weight as the Revolution would soon creep to an irrational height: “I killed one man to save 100,000” (Shusterman 179-180). Marat’s murder turns him from a popular journalist into a martyr, and the turns the Revolution into a religion. His followers are no longer following the movement, but worshipping it. Thus, while Corday’s execution was justified considering the variables of the Marat’s murder, her singular action constituted the most power any woman had in the entire Revolution. Corday’s execution was one of several executions of prominent female figures in the Revolution that began the decline of female political involvement in France. Marie Antionette, Olympe de Gouge, and Madame Roland would all succumb to the same fate. In the time following Roland’s execution, laws passed on 30 October 1794 prohibited the attendance of women in political clubs, leading to a legally supported and enforced band on women in politics (Shusterman 200).

Works Cited

Shusterman, Noah. The French Revolution: Faith, Desire, and Politics. Oxon: Routledge, 2014.

Execution of Marie Antoinette

After Louis XVI’s execution in January 1793, Marie Antoinette faced her own trial in October 1793 facing charges of treason. Besides defending the flight to Varennes, she was also accused of “persuading the king to veto the laws against emigres and refractory priests” (Shusterman 197). During her trial, she was accused of engaging in incest with her son, but this accusation was dismissed. Still, she was found guilty and executed via guillotine on October 16th, 1793 on the Place de la Revolution; she and Louis XVI were executed in the same place by the same executioner, Charles – Henri Sanson.

 

Shusterman, Noah. The French Revolution: Faith, Desire, and Politics. Routledge, 2014.