Modern history

CHAPTER 10

June to October 1793

The ‘federalist’ uprisings, the Committee of Public Safety, the assassination of Marat, the Enragés and the popular movement, the general maximum

What has become of that ugliness that Death has so swiftly erased with the tip of its wing? Marat can henceforth challenge Apollo; Death has kissed him with loving lips and he rests in the peace of his transformation. There is in this work something both tender and poignant, a soul hovers in the chilled air of this room, on these cold walls, around the cold and funereal bath.

– Baudelaire, ‘Le Musée classique du Bazar Bonne-Nouvelle’

The departmental uprisings: Lyon and Marseille

In the period that begins with the fall of the Gironde, everything combined to make the situation of the Republic almost desperate, far worse than a year before when the Prussians were besieging Verdun. The victories of the insurrection in the Vendée, disasters on the frontiers, the menace of famine – and on top of all this, the uprisings against the Convention in the departments.

This rebellion is often referred to as ‘federalist’, but the word does not denote any clear political position. It is more of a stigma, an insult or threat – which is somewhat curious, given the positive sense of the words ‘fédération’ and ‘fédérés’ at this time. None of the rebels, if I am not mistaken, aspired to a federal solution on American lines, still less to the secession of a part of the French territory. Two leaders of the rebellion put it as follows, in an address to the department of the Drôme:

What are we proposing? Is it to fragment the Republic, to make you into a section of the French people and isolate you from the common interest, setting up several centres of power, action and movement in the state? It is by these features alone that federalism can be recognized. On the contrary, we want all the French to be subject to the same laws, inspired by the same principles, united by the same bond, led towards the same goal; to establish by their full power, by the indivisible exercise of their sovereignty, a government that is free and necessarily one, necessarily homogeneous, the Republic one and indivisible.1

The rebellion was certainly linked with the events of 31 May–2 June, but these were more of a trigger than an underlying cause. In many instances, moreover, and in many places, the rebellion had begun before the fall of the Gironde. That was the case in Lyon and Marseille, but not only there: in the last week of May, the departments of the Jura and the Ain invited the substitute deputies to Bourges, to form an assembly that would replace the Convention.

The great driver of the uprisings was resentment against Paris. Paris had abusively seized a dominant role; Paris was in the hands of extremists, anarchists, men without belief – Marat above all. Paris had taken control of the Convention:

The section [of Grande-Côte in Lyon] cannot but see that the National Convention is oppressed by the gallery, which, by its booing, shouts and cries, forces patriotic deputies to silence … that it is oppressed by a Commune of Paris more powerful than itself and which has allowed itself to infringe several decrees, in particular those relating to the freedom of the press.2

All the same, the Girondin leaders certainly played an important role in this affair. Of the twenty-nine placed under house arrest, several managed to escape, and returned to the provinces to drum up revolt. They were joined by some of the seventy-five deputies from the right who had signed a protest about the violence exercised against the Convention on 2 June. Buzot, who had fled Paris, roused his home department of the Eure, from where the movement spread to Calvados and almost the whole of Brittany, which joined with insurgent Normandy to form a general assembly of resistance at Caen. Bordeaux, after expelling the Convention’s representatives, decided to raise a force of 1,200 men and to convene an assembly of the insurgent departments in Bourges. In Toulouse, Nîmes and Toulon – which the admirals surrendered to the English on 27 August – the prisons were now filled with ‘Maratists’ instead of Moderates and royalists.

But the scope of the rebellion was certainly overestimated, both at the time and by later historians:

Pamphlets and leaflets printed in Bordeaux, Marseille and Caen reported between sixty and sixty-nine departments ready to take up arms against the Paris ‘usurpers’. The leading Girondin politicians believed in the validity of these figures and repeated them in their writings, followed by a whole generation of historians … In actual fact, the number of departments really caught up in the movement remained limited. Out of the forty-nine departments that had protested against the proscription of the Girondins after 2 June, only thirteen continued to resist for more than a few days.3

Popular participation in the uprisings – organized by the assemblies of departments and districts where the affluent classes were dominant – remained generally weak. The main threat came from Normandy, as the road to Paris would lie virtually open to a determined attack, but on 13 July, at Pacy-sur-Eure, a force of a few thousand men hastily recruited from the Paris sections routed the Girondin army. Buzot, Pétion and Barbaroux abandoned Caen for Bordeaux, and the uprising petered out almost of itself before the end of July, except in the two cities that each in its way played a very particular role in the ‘federalist’ revolt: Lyon and Marseille.

In Lyon, the struggle between the big merchants and the people went back to the first days of the Revolution. The silk industry, the main industrial activity, had been ruined by the emigration of its customers. Almost half of the workers and their families were reduced to public assistance, and the lot of those who still had jobs was scarcely any more enviable. Besides, the city had become a refuge for all kinds of counter-revolutionary elements, veterans of the struggles in Avignon, Arles, and the departments of Ardèche and Lozère. Lacombe Saint-Michel, the Convention deputy for the Tarn who was passing through Lyon, noted in a letter to Basire of 20 February 1793: ‘Lyon is a hotbed of counter-revolution; it is dangerous at dinner to avow oneself a patriot; there are more than six hundred shop clerks who are actually former officers of the line, who emigrated and returned in this diminished capacity.’4

In 1790, the Lyon sans-culottes had formed thirty-two sectional clubs, the Sociétés Populaires des Amis de la Constitution, whose delegates met at a central Club. In 1793, this club was in the hands of the most advanced revolutionaries: Joseph Chalier, the ‘Lyon Ezekiel’ (Rancière), was backed by Manlius Dodier, Rousseau Hidins and Scevola Bursat. The club locked horns with the municipality led by the ‘Rolandists’, and on 9 March, Bertrand, who was close to Chalier, became mayor of Lyon: thus began the ‘eighty days of Chalier’. The commune took measures akin to those demanded by the Enragés in Paris: it established a municipal bakery, fixed prices for subsistence goods, and set wage rates. The Club wanted to go further still and proposed the creation of a revolutionary tribunal, the permanent presence of the guillotine in the city, and the creation of a revolutionary army paid for by a tax on the rich to raise 6 million livres. This last measure, adopted by the commune on 14 May, triggered a counter-offensive by the sections, which had been overwhelmed by Moderates. After a few days, all but six sections came out in opposition to the municipal decree.

On 29 May, the balance of forces turned to the advantage of the Moderate sections. Chalier and his friends were arrested. The new authorities organized a levée en masse of 10,000 men under the command of a royalist officer, the comte de Précy. The Convention sent Robert Lindet on a mission of conciliation, but the Lyon leaders rejected any accommodation. Chalier was condemned to death, and guillotined on 16 July. Lyon would soon be under siege from the republican armies.

If the Lyon revolt was clearly counter-revolutionary, this was not the case in Marseille, where the movement opposed to the Convention was inspired, at least initially, by a difference in views over revolutionary action. Marseille had been at the forefront of the Revolution since its very beginnings. A series of riots and lootings had begun in spring 1789, showing the determination of the people of Marseille against an aristocracy of businessmen, shipbuilders and manufacturers. In April 1790, the National Guard – which had replaced the bourgeois militia – stormed the forts of Saint-Nicolas and Saint-Jean, held by royalist troops, and killed their commander. In 1791–92, volunteers from Marseille went to put down counter-revolutionary movements around the region, in Avignon, Aix, Apt and Sisteron. And we have seen the decisive role that the Marseille fédérés played in the taking of the Tuileries on 10 August.

April 1790 saw the creation of a new body, to counter a municipality in the hands of the ‘elite’: the Société Patriotique des Amis de la Constitution, which met on rue Thubaneau5 and soon came to be called simply ‘the club’. Affiliated to the Paris Jacobins, it had a similar sociological composition: enlightened bourgeois, lawyers, independent professionals. Its members included Barbaroux, Rebecqui and Mouraille, the latter becoming mayor of the city in 1791.

The club was not the only representative of revolutionary Marseille. The thirty-three sections – one for each quartier, and eight for the areas around the city – began to intervene in public affairs, both local and national, from spring 1792.6 On 17 January 1793, a message of the Marseillais to the National Convention, sent jointly by the club and the sections, rebuked those deputies who had requested an appeal against the death sentence on Louis XVI.7 This address was violently criticized by Robespierre and Barère; they saw it as a sign of federalist tendencies. To regain control of the situation, the Convention sent Boisset and Moïse Bayle to Marseille, but their presence was less than helpful.

Discord now broke out between the club and the sections, which had so far seen eye to eye. On 17 March, the club organized an extraordinary meeting of the municipality, the district and the department, at which the decision was taken to establish a revolutionary committee of twelve members. The sections vigorously opposed this, deeming the measure ‘impolitic and infringing the rights of the people’. They rejected the idea that executive power should be the exclusive preserve of administrative bodies, denying the club the leading role it was tending to assume in the city.8

In the sections – at least the most advanced of them, such as section 10 around the Hôtel de Ville, whose premises were used for general meetings9 – a spirit of direct democracy prevailed. Section 18, for example, submitted to the citizens a project in favour of ‘a democratic government in which the sovereign people would immutably retain the right and the action of its sovereignty’, rejecting any delegation of power to ‘representatives who arrogate unlimited powers to themselves’. The objective was to have no more than ‘one single hierarchy of right, which the people will fully control, so that they can advance without fear of division’.10 The implementation of these ideas would lead to a confrontation with the Jacobins of the club and the emissaries from the Convention, who took refuge in Montélimar in late April.

On 24 May, the general committee of the sections drafted a petition against the posting of Convention deputies to the armies, the unrestricted powers they disposed of, and ‘the faculty they enjoy of transferring these powers to citizens who have not had the nomination of the people’. On 29 May, the committee declared that it refused to recognize the decrees of the Convention. On 3 June, it closed the club and replaced the municipality by a council of delegates of the sections. In early July, a dozen or so people connected with the club were guillotined. Marseille had now embarked on insurrection against the Paris authorities.11

It is hard to say at what precise moment the sections, up till then republican and revolutionary, were ‘contaminated’ by the Moderate and royalist elements who would eventually gain the upper hand, even seeking to open the city to the English. To put an end to this, regular troops commanded by Carteaux entered Marseille at the end of August 1793 and routed the forces of the sections.

Pacification measures

Faced with a country shaken by such serious disorders, the Convention was obliged to compromise. On 8 July, Saint-Just presented a ‘Report on the thirty-two members of the Convention detained under the provisions of the decree of 2 June’, in which, having demolished the Gironde leaders one by one, he concluded in a moderate tone:

You must make some distinction among the detainees: the great majority of them were deceived, and who can flatter themselves that they will never be so? The real culprits are those who fled, and you no longer owe them anything, since they harm theirpatrie. The fire of liberty has purified us, as the smelting of metals removes the impure scum from the crucible.12

In this conciliatory spirit, the Convention adopted three important measures to reassure the peasantry. As early as 3 June, it voted a law on the sale of national land, which would in future be divided into small plots that poorer buyers could pay for over ten years. On the 10th, it decided that municipal property would be divided on an equal basis per head.13 On 17 July, it abolished without indemnity all feudal rights and duties, even if based on original title deeds, which were to be burned in order to prevent any future claim. The Montagnard Convention thus completed the work timidly embarked on by the Constituent Assembly in August 1789; after a number of intermediate steps, the seigniorial regime was at last definitively abolished.

The war in the Vendée

If the departmental uprisings were mere brush fires, with the exception of Lyon and Marseille, the same was not true of the Vendée, where the insurrection had spectacular successes in June 1793. It was waged by three armies, that of the Bocage, also known as the army of the Centre, that of the Marais, commanded by the famous Charette, and the most powerful, the army of the Mauges, which at times had a strength of more than 40,000, with such talented chiefs as D’Elbée, Stofflet, Lescure and La Rochejaquelein. The commanding general was Cathelineau, a carriage-maker and sacristan of his native parish, Le Pin-en-Mauges. But ‘there was never a good understanding between the “Catholic and royal” armies, which the needs of historiography amalgamate under the term “Vendéen”, unknown to them.’14

In May, the Vendéens had taken Thouars, where General Quétineau had capitulated with 4,000 muskets and ten cannon, then Fontenay. On 9 June, the Mauges army captured Saumur, spreading panic throughout the Loire valley. La Rochejaquelein and Stofflet wanted to march on Paris, but the other leaders decided to head west and make for Nantes, where Charette was supposed to join them.

The republican forces were much smaller in number than the Vendéen army that was making ready to surround Nantes:

Bonchamps, with his Bretons, was to attack from the Paris road and the château. The Poitevin division under Stofflet and Talmont approached by the Vannes road. The third and strongest army, that of Anjou [the Catholic and royal Grande Armée] took the central route from Rennes, under Cathelineau … As for Charette, he was left on the other bank of the Loire, the side from which Nantes was least open to capture.15

The soldiers, and particularly General Canclaux, were of the opinion that it was impossible to defend the city, and prepared for an evacuation to Rennes:

If the defence had been only military, Nantes would have been lost. If it had been only bourgeois, by the National Guard dominated by merchants, business people, the well-off, etc., Nantes would have been lost. It would need the bras nus, rough workingmen, to move with violence against the brigands as an avant-garde. That is precisely what happened, and what saved the city.16

On the night of 28 June, the Vendéen attack was repelled, thanks in particular to the Paris gunners. Cathelineau was killed in the street fighting. ‘Struck by this blow, the Vendée would not last much longer. They had believed him invulnerable, and were wounded to the quick, so deeply that they never recovered.’17 The defeat outside Nantes did indeed mark a turning-point in the Vendée war, though the insurgents still won some major victories at Châtillon-sur-Sèvre on 5 July, at Vihiers on the 18th and Les Ponts-de-Cé on the 27th, which opened up for them the road to Angers.

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On 1 August, on a report by Barère, the Convention decreed the systematic destruction of the Vendée, ‘measures with the object of exterminating this rebel breed, rooting out their lairs, burning their forests, destroying their harvests and combatting them with workers and pioneers as well as soldiers’.

The assassination of Marat

During those critical months of June–July 1793, the armies on the frontiers experienced a string of disasters. The English entered the fray under the command of the duke of York, who prepared to lay siege to Dunkirk with a force of Hanoverians and Dutch. The Austrians, commanded by Coburg, occupied the strongholds in the north: Condé was taken on 10 July, Valenciennes on the 28th, then Le Quesnoy and Maubeuge were besieged and the road to Paris lay open. Mainz, which had been under siege by the Prussians since April, finally surrendered with military honours on 28 July. As a result, the armies of the Rhine and the Moselle had to fall back on the Lauter and the Saar.

The troops of the king of Sardinia invaded Savoy and threatened Nice. In the Pyrenees, the Spanish were advancing towards Perpignan and Bayonne. France was now little more than a great retrenched camp. The armies were demoralized, command was shifted from one person to another, there was discord between Bouchotte, his ministry where the Cordelier Vincent had brought in a number of sansculottes, and the generals. Custine, who was appointed to head the army of the North despite his defeats in Alsace and the opposition of Bouchotte, found his plan of attack rejected and himself idle. He was recalled to Paris, indicted, and executed at the end of August. His successors, Kilmaine and then Houchard, failed to restore the cohesion and morale of the army.

On 13 July, just after Hérault de Séchelles had announced that Valenciennes was in danger, news came of the assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday. This provoked tremendous outpourings of feeling among the people. Marat’s violent death was like a symbol of all the impending dangers. The Convention attended his funeral en bloc. He was buried in an artificial grotto dug in the Tuileries gardens, his heart was suspended from the vault of the Cordeliers, and for several weeks the Paris sections held ceremonies in his honour, mingled with calls for vengeance. The Convention commissioned from David a painting that was exhibited opposite ‘Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau on his Deathbed’; this Marat dead in his bath, ‘a gift to the weeping fatherland’ (Baudelaire), expressed and concentrated the popular emotion.

 

EXCURSUS: MARAT

To understand the Parisians’ intense grief at the death of Marat, it is necessary to free oneself – a difficult task – from the caricature image created by the Thermidoreans and reproduced by many historians. Michelet played a major part in crafting this image: ‘He relieved his irate sensibility by horrid accusations, calling for massacre, advising murder. As his suspicions incessantly grew, and the numbers of guilty men, of necessary victims, increased in his mind, the Friend of the People would have ended up exterminating the people.’ And further on:

His unhealthy and irritable life, closed in on himself, preserved his fury intact. He ever saw the world through the narrow, slanting light of his cellar, through a peephole as livid and dark as those damp walls, as his own face, which seemed to have taken on their hues … His most frenetic transports were sacred; his bloody chatter, mixed too often with perfidious reports that he copied without judgement, was greeted as an oracle.18

To bolster the idea of Marat as a crime-monger, his poster ‘C’en est fait de nous’ (‘We’ve had it’) is often cited; this was stuck on the walls of Paris on 26 July 1790, the day after the Fête de la Fédération: ‘Five or six hundred severed heads would have ensured your rest, liberty and happiness. A false sense of humanity held back your arms and suspended your blows; it will cost the lives of millions of your brothers.’ But only the most inveterate prejudice can take these figures literally – both the ‘five or six hundred’ and the ‘millions’ of brothers. This was clearly a manner of speaking, just as when someone says ‘I’m light-years from thinking that …’

Marat did indeed denounce people, but we must bear in mind the meaning of the word at that time. Denunciation might certainly have the sense of informing, but more generally it meant attack or accusation. And whom did Marat denounce or attack? Right from the start, the powerful idols of the day: Necker (‘But you, Monsieur, you notorious upstart, you first minister of finance, you whom the nation placed at the head of its defenders and who betrayed it so disgracefully …’); Mirabeau (‘this hideous Proteus who only accepted the honour of becoming one of your representatives in order to sell your interests to the despot’); Lafayette (‘that ghastly wretch and atrocious conspirator, the vile slave of the Court …’).

At the great moments of consensus – the night of 4 August, the Fête de la Fédération – Marat exposed the mystification (‘Don’t you ever reflect? You are lulled by talk of peace and unity, at the very moment that stealthy preparations are being made for war.’) He predicted the flight of the king, denounced the perils of war (‘Here it is at last, the sinister plan that the infernal Riqueti [Mirabeau] has been machinating in the shadows’), and guessed at the treason of Dumouriez. In all those years, between imprisonment for debt, exile in London, illness and bankruptcy, what did Marat not predict, when was he mistaken? The people of Paris were right to mourn him – as were, closer to our own day, the Kronstadt sailors to give his name to one of their ships in 1918, and Abel Gance to have the role of Jean-Paul Marat played by Antonin Artaud in his Napoléon.

A new Committee of Public Safety

The Republic had no organized power that could deal with this situation. In the Executive Council the ministers were faded characters – except for Bouchotte at the ministry of war, but we have seen his fraught relations with the generals. The Convention was still smarting from the amputation of 2 June. The Committee of Public Safety formed in April, whose leading figures were Danton, Cambon and Barère, wasted time in secret negotiations with the Coalition powers. It proved as incapable of effectively curbing insurrection at home, as of marshalling troops at the frontiers. The Commune of Paris was riven by internal discord. It was as if every institution and all men in positions of responsibility had been wrong-footed: emerging from a bitter struggle, the victors had not had time to take stock and found a real government.

On 10 July, a new Committee of Public Safety was elected on a roll call vote. It was reduced to nine members,19 with Lazare Carnot and Prieur de la Côte-d’Or, two ‘soldiers’, being co-opted in early August. Collot d’Herbois and Billaud-Varenne would also join the Committee after the journées of 4 and 5 September. On 27 July, Gasparin resigned and was replaced by Robespierre. Thuriot likewise resigned on 20 September. The Committee, from now on with twelve members,20 held its meetings at the Tuileries, in the Pavillon de l’Égalité (Flore), not far from the hall in which the Convention sat.21 It was not politically homogeneous: Robert Lindet, Carnot and Prieur de la Côte-d’Or were more moderate (in today’s sense of the term – at that time, a ‘Moderate’ was a counter-revolutionary) than Robespierre, Saint-Just, Couthon, Prieur de la Marne and Saint-André. Billaud-Varenne and Collot d’Herbois represented the far left. In the centre were Hérault de Séchelles and Barère who, as an expert in tacking, leant either to one side of the Committee or the other according to circumstances.

During the autumn of 1793, the Committee of Public Safety organized and strengthened itself. Barère was in charge of relations with the Convention; Robespierre, Saint-Just and Couthon dealt with political matters; Billaud-Varenne and Collot d’Herbois were responsible for correspondence with the civil administrations and the Convention’s representatives who were away on mission; Lindet headed the supply section, Carnot that of war, Prieur de la Côted’Or was assigned to armaments and Jean Bon Saint-André to thenavy. Structured in this way, the Committee of Public Safety trumped the Executive Council (the ministers) and administered the country over their heads. It exerted strong control over the generals whom it appointed, and in principle over the Committee of General Security, whose twelve members were appointed by the Convention on its proposal.22 Only finance, where Cambon was the de facto minister, escaped its control.

The Committee of General Security, descended from the investigation committee established by the Constituent Assembly, sat in the Hôtel de Brionne, situated alongside the place du Carrousel and linked to the Tuileries by a wooden gallery. Its role was to thwart the plots of the enemies of the Revolution. It oversaw the execution of laws, and went after foreign agents and more generally all counterrevolutionaries. Its essentially policing functions did not prevent it from playing a growing political role throughout year II.

The Constitution of 1793

One task was particularly urgent in order to establish the irreversibility of the situation and reassure the country: to draft a new Constitution. The group in charge of this included Couthon, Saint-Just, and Hérault de Séchelles, who would be its main editor and present its report on 21 June. The Montagnards took as their starting point the draft Constitution written by Condorcet and put before the Convention on 15 February 1793. In this text, the direct sovereignty of the nation was proclaimed at every level. All elections were to be by direct (male) suffrage: two-level elections were abolished, so no more electoral assemblies. The primary assemblies would directly choose those responsible for representing the nation or administering in its name: the deputies and municipalities, but also the departmental administrators, judges, treasury commissioners and in particular ministers, elected by the people through a complicated system.23 This manner of appointment made the executive very strong, and Saint-Just showed considerable perspicacity in saying: ‘This council [the ministry] is appointed by the sovereign; its members are the only genuine representatives of the people. All the means of corruption are in their hands, the armies are under their control, public opinion is easily rallied to their attacks by the legal abuse that they make of the laws; the public mind is in their hands, with all the means of coercion and seduction.’24 In contrast to this strong executive, the decisions of the legislative power would be constantly subjected to the judgement of the nation; it needed only the primary assemblies of two departments to demand it, and the legislative body was obliged to submit a law or decree to popular referendum.

Robespierre, for his part, had won the approval of the Jacobins on 21 April 1793 for a draft Declaration of the Rights of Man, which he elaborated before the Convention on 24 April. It reflected his concern to set limits to the notion of property, which, from a natural right in the 1789 Declaration, became a social institution:

In defining liberty, the first of mankind’s assets, the most sacred of the rights it receives from nature, you said, rightly, that its limits were the rights of others; why did you not apply that principle to property, which is a social institution? … You added more and more articles to ensure the greatest liberty for the exercise of property, but said not a single word to determine its legitimate character; so that your declaration appears to be made, not for men, but for the rich, for monopolists,25 for speculators and tyrants.

Robespierre proposed to inscribe in the Declaration of Rights: ‘[The right to property] cannot prejudice either the security, or the liberty, or the life, or the property of our fellows’, and that ‘Any possession or any trade that violates that principle is illicit and immoral.’ He went on to propose a progressive taxation: ‘Citizens whose incomes do not exceed what is necessary for their subsistence should be exempted from contributing to public expenditure, others should contribute progressively in accordance with the extent of their wealth.’26

The final text of the 1793 Constitution maintained certain Girondin principles, and did not take on board all the proposals of Robespierre and Saint-Just (whose style can be recognized in the first article of the new Declaration: ‘The purpose of society is the common happiness’).

This constitution appears amazingly progressive, by today’s standards, in its definition of a French citizen:

Any man born or domiciled in France, having reached the age of twenty-one; any foreigner having reached twenty-one who, having resided for a year in France – either lives off his work – or acquires a property – or marries a Frenchwoman – or adopts a child – or feeds an elderly person; and any foreigner whom the legislative body deems to have deserved well of humanity – is admitted to the exercise of the rights of French citizenship (Art. 4).

For the election of deputies, the electoral constituencies were blocs with a population of 40,000 inhabitants, which meant that departments were divided, as a guard against federalist temptation.27 Deputies were elected not by list, but by individual vote. If there was not an absolute majority in the first round, a second round would be held between the two candidates who were in the lead.

The twenty-four ministers were appointed by a system with two levels. In each department, an electoral assembly chose a candidate. The legislative body then made its choice from among the eighty or so elected. True, these ministers were no longer directly elected by the nation, but the very principle of their election, which made them representatives for all that, remained a dangerous concession to Girondin conceptions.

As for the deputies, they were elected by primary assemblies made up of ‘citizens of each canton domiciled there for six months’ (Art. 11). The canton, instead of the usual seat of primary assembly, the commune: this was another anti-democratic measure, for everyone could go and vote in the commune but this was not so true of the canton, whose chief town might be quite a way off – and where in any case the popular political life of the communal assemblies was absent.28

The Convention did not adopt Robespierre’s suggestions on the limitation of property. We could even say that article 19 of the Declaration of Rights actually went the other way and took up Condorcet’s proposal: ‘No one may be deprived of the least portion of his property without his consent, unless this is legally required by established public necessity, and on condition of a just and prior indemnity.’ But the concerns that would today be called ‘social’ were not absent. The Declaration explicitly recognized the right to existence: ‘Public aid is a sacred debt. Society owes its unfortunate citizens subsistence, either by providing them with work, or by ensuring the means of existence of those in no condition to work’ (Art. 21). The right to education is also asserted: ‘Instruction is the need of all. Society must promote with all its power the progress of public reason, and place education within reach of all citizens’ (Art. 22).

On resistance to oppression, the Declaration of Rights took up in full Robespierre’s famous formulation: ‘There is oppression against the social body when a single one of its members is oppressed. There is oppression against each member of the social body when the social body is oppressed’ (Art. 34). And especially: ‘When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for every part of the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties’ (Art. 35).

The Constitution was adopted on 24 June 1793, martial law being abolished at the same time. Its text would be placed in a ‘sacred ark’ of cedar wood in front of the desk of the Convention president. It would be ratified by a yes-no referendum, the results of which (around 1,800,000 in favour and 17,000 against) were published on 10 August 1793, the day of the Unity and Indivisibility of the Republic.29

Already on 25 June, however, Jacques Roux presented himself at the bar of the Convention, ‘accompanied by several citizens and bearing an address from the sections of Gravilliers and Bonne-Nouvelle, and from the Cordeliers club’. He launched into a long critique of the Constitution that had been adopted the previous day, with brutal directness from the start:

A hundred times this sacred precinct has echoed with the crimes of egoists and scoundrels; you have repeatedly promised to strike the blood-suckers of the people. The constitutional act is going to be presented for the sanction of the sovereign; and have you proscribed speculation? No. Have you pronounced the death sentence on hoarders? No. Have you determined what is freedom of trade? No. Have you prohibited the sale of coined silver? No. Well! We declare to you that you have not done everything for the happiness of the people.

As he developed his argument, Roux grew increasingly offensive towards the representatives of the people, calling them cowards (‘Who can believe that the representatives of the French people, who have declared war on tyrants abroad, have been so cowardly as not to crush those at home?’), and merging hoarders and deputies in the same ‘you’: ‘Accept then that out of pusillanimity you are authorizing the discredit of paper, you are preparing bankruptcy, by tolerating abuses at which despotism would have blushed in the last days of its barbarous power.’ And finally, addressing the deputies of the Montagne, he rapped out: ‘You must not leave your successors the terrible example of the barbarism of powerful men over the weak, of the rich over the poor; you must not end your careers ignominiously.’30

Throughout this long diatribe, Roux was interrupted by murmurs and protests, and the word ‘ignominiously’ triggered a ripple of indignation. Collot d’Herbois, in the chair, had to intervene on several occasions to let Roux speak. When he had finished, one of the members of the delegation, no doubt swayed by these reactions, declared out loud that ‘this was not the petition to which the Gravilliers section gave its support’. The maligned deputies stood up in their turn. Thuriot began: ‘You have just heard the monstrous principles of anarchy professed in this precinct … This man is a priest, a worthy emulator of the Vendée fanatics.’ And yet – a strange fact that epitomizes the contradictions of this moment – he ended with a proposal that coincided with the popular movement and Roux’s own speech, demanding ‘that the committees of agriculture and trade be tasked with making a prompt report on his proposal to fix the price of food’. Robespierre also rose against ‘a petition whose origin seemed to be popular but which was basically incendiary’. Léonard Bourdon, a member of the Gravilliers section, asserted that ‘the section formally protests against the liberticidal principles developed in the petition’. Billaud-Varenne suggested that the speaker had not actually read the Constitution that he criticized. Charlier proposed Roux’s arrest, but Legendre opposed it: ‘I demand the expulsion of this man. There are patriots in his section, they will do justice themselves.’31 Jacques Roux, as he would say a few days later, ‘had drunk long draughts of the cup of bitterness’; he was expelled and disavowed by those who had accompanied him.

Jacques Roux and the ‘manifesto of the Enragés’

In summer 1793, the popular movement was at its apogee. At no other time in the Revolution had the sans-culottes been so strong, in Paris especially,32 or more capable of imposing a coherent programme. This combined national defence and defence of the Revolution: the purging of the army, in particular the expulsion of officers from the nobility, the formation of a Revolutionary Army that would ensure the provisioning of Paris, the application of the maximum to all essential goods, a compulsory loan from the rich, and ‘the confiscation of all the goods of conspirators, to ensure a pension of 150 livres to every armed revolutionary’.33

The Montagnards who now dominated the Convention sought to block this movement. For them, the revolution of 2 June had achieved its purpose and the task now was to calm the departments, to reassure the deputies of the Plaine and the possessor classes, and to avoid measures of exception and terror.34 The Commune supported their efforts, and Hébert, its deputy procureur, published in Le Père Duchesne words that seem astonishing from his pen: ‘It is in the interest of the rich to sans-culottize themselves’ (no. 243), or again: ‘The sans-culottes do not resent the properties of the rich’ (no. 245).

The balance of forces, however, was not in favour of order. The Committee of Public Safety had not yet been renewed. The Convention had no armed force at its disposal, and if the only effective power in Paris, the Commune, could not be relied on, it had no way of resisting a possible revolt. The Commune, for its part, commanded a National Guard that was not always docile, its popular and most numerous elements having been won to the ideas of requisition and the fixing of prices.

As a result of this situation, the disturbances that had continued throughout this time intensified from the end of June. The laundry-women on the Seine – clearly in the vanguard – emptied carriages and barges loaded with soap. Couthon reported to the Convention on 27 June:

A few women, giving in to their fears, proceeded to the port of the Grenouillère and had four chests of soap distributed to them; from there to the port of Saint-Nicolas, where eight chests of soap, weighing some 200 pounds, were paid for at 3 livres 10 for a block of four or five pounds. The municipal officers managed to make them see reason and stop these excesses; today they are reported to be recommencing.35

The laundrywomen came to the Commune to ask that soap be sold at 20 sous a pound. Hébert replied: ‘Paris would be doomed. With pillage of this kind, nothing will come into the city. If people push too far, the game is up, the counter-revolution will be accomplished and you will have a king.’36

There were more serious problems than soap. In this pre-harvest season wheat was scarce, the more so as the rebel departments in Normandy and the west had reduced their shipments, while drought was jeopardizing the operation of water mills. In July, queues and crowds once again formed outside the bakeries, which had to be protected by armed guards. Garin, the Paris administrator in charge of supplies, got the Commune to order a weekly check of the amount of flour held by bakers.

The Convention could not remain passive in the face of this mounting unrest. On 27 June, it instructed the Committee of Public Safety to report ‘whether it might be advisable, in the circumstances, to provisionally authorize the departmental or district administrations to set a maximum price on foodstuffs and other basic commodities’. In the same session, the Convention decided to close the Bourse on rue Vivienne, thus meeting one of the popular demands: to prohibit the sale of gold and silver coin againstassignats. The trade committee was tasked with reporting on ‘ways of preventing or punishing gatherings of speculators on any premises they might choose instead of that of the Bourse’.37 Thus the same Assembly that had booed Jacques Roux two days earlier was gradually advancing towards the realization of his programme.

That evening, Jacques Roux had a triumph at the Cordeliers. Received with shouts of ‘Vive Jacques Roux! Vivent les sans-culottes!’, he lambasted those who had humiliated him in the Convention. Le Courrier français reported on 1 July: ‘This speech was like an electric spark. It kindled the fire of enthusiasm in every heart. The society adopted the principles of Jacques Roux, decreeing that his address to the Convention be printed as a poster and sent to the Convention, the sections and the administrative bodies.’ At the end of the session, Roussillon, who was presiding, embraced Roux amid general rejoicing.

Danger was scented at the Jacobins: Jacques Roux had roots among the Paris sans-culottes, while scarcity and economic crisis gave his words a worrying resonance. The day after the meeting at the Cordeliers, Robespierre spoke at considerable length. After praising Paris as ‘worthy to complete a Revolution it had so gloriously begun’, he attacked Jacques Roux by presenting him as a foreign agent: ‘Do you believe that a priest who denounces the best patriots in concert with the Austrians could harbour genuinely pure ideas and legitimate intentions? … Do you believe it possible to overcome with one blow Austria, Spain, Pitt, the Brissotins and Jacques Roux?’38 At the proposal of Collot d’Herbois, the club decided to send a delegation of twelve members to the Cordeliers to ‘challenge the president on the accolade given to Jacques Roux and the club’s decision to print his speech’.

On 30 June, Robespierre, Collot d’Herbois, Hébert, Legendre, Thirion and Bentabole each spoke in turn at the Cordeliers, labelling Roux an ‘agent of fanaticism, crime and perfidy’. Leclerc, who defended Roux, was called an ‘escapee from Coblenz’ and a ‘paid agent of Pitt’. The hall had been well drilled, and made such a racket that neither Roux nor Leclerc could reply. At the end, the two men were expelled from the Cordeliers; the commando operation had succeeded. Marat, in his paper, gave Roux the coup de grâce by calling him a ‘venal intriguer who had used the ploy of extreme positions, forcing up energies and carrying civic spirit beyond the bounds of wisdom’. He likewise denounced Roux’s accomplices, Varlet, a ‘brainless intriguer’ and ‘little Leclerc, a very clever rogue’ who had been ‘one of the main authors’ of the disorders in Lyon.39

For the Enragés, this was the start of a long ordeal. Jacques Roux continued ‘his harrowing adventure’ (Dommanget), taking over Le Publiciste de la République française after the assassination of Marat, in which he wrote on 28 July that ‘commerce and the right of property does not consist in making one’s fellow men die of poverty and starvation’.40 He was arrested on 22 August, released, but arrested a second time on 5 September and sent to the Revolutionary Tribunal, charged with incitement to looting. Convinced that he would be sentenced to death, he stabbed himself and died of his wounds on 10 February 1794.

Théophile Leclerc had to renounce all public activity, leave Paris and join the army. Jean Varlet, imprisoned on the order of the Committee of General Security for ‘counter-revolutionary talk’, was released on Hébert’s intercession but politically neutralized. The Club of Revolutionary Republican Women Citizens was definitively closed, as we saw, in autumn 1793. The various Enragés thus left the political stage at the very moment that their programme was at the point of being, if not applied, at least accepted under popular pressure.41

The popular movement and the elimination of the Enragés

Indeed, the movement was by no means abating. On 20 July, on place Maubert, ‘the people, furious at the high price of eggs, threw themselves on this commodity and broke all the eggs that were there for sale’. The same day, the committees of Public Safety and General Security decreed in an emergency joint session that the Commune’s administrator of supplies was to deliver to the bakeries, starting the next day, 2,400 325-pound sacks of flour. As Mathiez writes, fear of an uprising could be read between the lines of this decree.42

On 26 July, on the proposal of Collot d’Herbois, the Convention passed a decree against hoarders. The first article stipulated: ‘Hoarding is a capital offence. Anyone is guilty of hoarding if they impede the circulation of goods or commodities of basic necessity, damage these or hold them in any place without putting them on sale daily and publicly.’43 The municipalities appointed hoarding commissioners, to ensure that such commodities were put on sale ‘in small quantities and for anyone’. Traders who did not make declarations of their stocks, or made false declarations, would be punished with death.

This terrible law was little applied: the crime was defined in too vague a way for such a radical penalty.44 On 9 August, in the face of persistent scarcity, Barère sponsored a decree that established a grenier d’abondance (central grain store) in each district. Bakers were placed under the surveillance of the communes, who could requisition their ovens, but the decree remained a dead letter, as there was not enough grain to fill such granaries. Dubois-Crancé, for his part, proposed the nationwide establishment of stores selling bread at 2 sous a pound, but this extension of the Paris bread subsidy to the whole of the country was not accepted, as to meet the expense would have required issuing still more assignats, thus further inflating the price of all other goods.

The journées of 4 and 5 September

As in every serious crisis, it took a popular movement to sweep away hesitation and resistance. At dawn on 4 September a great gathering formed in the streets around the Hôtel de Ville. The majority were building workers, but there were also locksmiths, workers in the war industries, typographers from the Imprimerie Nationale – all paid in assignats whose value was constantly falling. The news spread that Toulon had surrendered to the English and, as so often, fear and hunger combined to explosive effect.

On the place de l’Hôtel de Ville, thick with people, a table was installed. A petition was written and a delegation appointed to present this to the municipal body. Its spokesman expressed himself in these terms:

For the last two months we have suffered in silence, in the hope that it would come to an end, but on the contrary, the evil is increasing each day. We have come therefore to ask you to attend to the steps that public safety demands: act so that the labourer who has worked through the day, and needs to rest at night, is not obliged to stay awake for part of the night, and lose half of his day, in order to seek bread, and often without obtaining it.45

The dialogue between the mayor and the workers grew tense. The deputation swelled, the hall was packed: ‘Bread! Bread!’ was heard on all sides. Chaumette, the Commune procureur, arrived from the Convention and read the decree stating that a maximum price would be set on items of basic necessity. ‘We don’t want promises, we want bread, and right away,’ was the response. Chaumette climbed on a table and finally obtained silence. ‘I have been poor myself,’ he said, ‘and so I know what the life of the poor is like. We have an open war of the rich against the poor. They want to crush us; all right! we must forestall them, we must crush them ourselves, and we have the strength to do so!’ He ordered sufficient flour to be brought to the Halle de Farine to provide bread for the following day; furthermore the Convention should be asked to establish a Revolutionary Army, ‘to requisition wheat in the countryside, to promote deliveries, stop the manoeuvres of the selfish rich and deliver them to the vengeance of the laws’.

Hébert, the deputy procureur, followed on from Chaumette:

Let the people proceed en masse to the Convention tomorrow and surround it as they did on 10 August and 31 May; let them not abandon this position until the national representation has adopted the measures required to save us. Let the revolutionary army depart the moment the decree has been accepted; but above all, let the guillotine follow every section and every column of this army.

Meanwhile, at the Jacobins, Robespierre called for unity between the sections, the Convention and the Commune: ‘The Convention, the popular societies, the sections, the entire people of Paris must unite to prevent the blows that are being prepared against the established authorities.’46 The club sent a delegation to the Hôtel de Ville led by Bourdon, to support the measures decided by the people.

In the morning of 5 September, a long procession of the sections advanced towards the Convention. Before the demonstrators arrived, the Assembly decreed that the Revolutionary Tribunal would be divided into four sections, the number of judges increased to sixteen and that of the jury to sixty, drawn from the sections by lot.

The people then peacefully entered the assembly. The Commune deputation, with mayor Pache and several municipal officers at its head, presented itself at the bar, followed by a crowd whose entrance was greeted by applause from the deputies and the stands. Chaumette took the floor, to enjoin the assembly to finish off the enemy within:

And you, Montagne, forever celebrated in the pages of history, be the Sinai of the French people! Launch amid thunderbolts the eternal decrees of justice and the will of the people! Unshakeable in the midst of the gathered storms of the aristocracy, bestir yourselves, quivering at the voice of the people … Sacred Montagne! Become a volcano whose fiery lava destroys the hopes of the wicked for ever, calcifying those hearts in which the idea of monarchy still lives. No further quarter, no mercy for the traitors! If we do not forestall them, they will forestall us. Let us cast between them and us the barrier of eternity (applause).

Chaumette then proposed the creation of a revolutionary army, ‘followed by an incorruptible and fearsome tribunal, and by the fatal instrument that with a single blow puts an end not only to conspiracies but also to the days of their authors’.47

In the wake of this speech, it was decided that the Committee of Public Safety would immediately draw up the project for the organization of a revolutionary army.

Danton supported the proposal: ‘I know that when the people present their needs, when they offer to march against their enemies, no other measures need be taken than those which they propose themselves, as it is the national spirit that has dictated them.’ A deputation from the Jacobins was then given the floor, accompanied by the commissioners of the forty-eight sections. Their speaker (who was not named) demanded the speedy judgement of Brissot and the Girondins:

What, the likes of Vergniaud, Gensonné and other wretches, degraded by their treasons, are to have a palace for their prison, while humble sans-culottes tremble in dungeons under the daggers of the federalists? It is time for equality to parade its scythe over all these heads. It is time to terrify all conspirators. Well, legislators! Place terror on the order of the day (stormy applause)! Let the sword of the law fall on all the guilty parties.

The speaker ended by supporting the proposed revolutionary army and demanding the imprisonment of nobles until there was peace.48

Next, in this memorable session, Barère voiced the Committee of Public Safety’s support for the measures desired by the assembly: he presented a decree that was passed immediately, establishing a paid armed force of 6,000 men and 1,000 gunners ‘designed to crush the counter-revolutionaries, to execute wherever the need arises the revolutionary laws and the measures of public safety that are decreed by the National Convention, and to protect provisions’; this was the revolutionary army demanded by the people. The Commune, the Jacobins, the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety had been swept along by the irresistible Parisian movement.

The general maximum on prices and wages

During the weeks that followed, the Commune and the Convention shed ever more ballast under popular pressure, until they took the final step, the one most demanded by the sans-culottes but at the same time most contrary to the ideas of the majority of deputies, attached as they were to freedom of trade: the fixing of a ‘general maximum’ on items of basic necessity.

But before this, the Convention adopted a terrible measure, the law of suspects. Decreed on 17 September, on the report of Merlin de Douai, its first article provided that: ‘All suspect people who are on the territory of the Republic and who are still at liberty shall be placed under arrest.’ The next article defined these suspects in a very broad fashion: opinions, statements and writings were enough to put one into this category, which encompassed not only actual enemies of the Revolution, but also the indifferent and the timid.49 It was up to the surveillance committees to draw up lists of suspects, deliver arrest warrants and place seals on their papers (Art. 3).

On the question of provisions, the Convention decreed on 11 September a general maximum on grain and flour: all millers were placed under requisition, with those who stopped milling or did not comply with the requisitions being liable to a fine of 3,000 livres. The price of a quintal of wheat was fixed at 14 livres over the whole territory of the Republic, but this measure was deemed inadequate and disturbances continued to spread. On 23 September, Coupé de l’Oise presented a report on the general maximum in the name of the provisions commission. He explained that

in ordinary times, the price of goods is determined and formed naturally by the mutual interest of buyers and sellers … But when a general and unprecedented conspiracy of malevolence, perfidy and fury gathers to break this natural equilibrium, to starve and dispossess us, the welfare of the people becomes the supreme rule … By way of a necessary maximum we shall establish salutary and just limits, which it will not be permissible to trespass.50

On 29 September, chaired by Cambon, the Convention finally issued the great decree that would govern the whole economic life of the nation, in the form of a price tariff for commodities and a fixing of wages.51 It was decided that the maximum price of items of basic necessity would be that of 1790 increased by a third.52 At the same time, Article 8 consolidated working-class gains: the cap on wages was set at the level of 1790 increased by a half.

Despite the difficulties there would be in applying this text,53 it marks – along with the law on suspects and the creation of the revolutionary army – the triumph of ‘rabid’ ideas and the popular movement, at the very moment when the Enragés themselves, as we have seen, permanently abandoned the political stage.

 

1Address of citizens Hallot, deputy for the Gironde, and Fontvielle, deputy for the Bouches-du-Rhône, to their brothers of the department of Drôme. Cited in Alan Forrest’s excellent article, ‘Federalism’, in Peter Jones (ed.), The French Revolution in Social and Political Perspective, London: Arnold, 1996, pp. 358–79.

2Minutes of the section of Grande-Côte, 9 June 1793. Cited by Forrest, ‘Federalism’.

3Ibid., pp. 364–5. These departments were principally in the west (Calvados, Eure, Finistère, Morbihan, Côtes-du-Nord, Ille-et-Vilaine, Mayenne) the centre (Rhône-et-Loire, Ain, Jura), the south-east (Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard – later joined by the Var) and the south-west (Gironde).

4Cited by Jaurès, Histoire socialiste, vol. 5, p. 242.

5A small street close to the port, parallel to the Canebière. A popular quarter for centuries, it has recently been ‘normalized’ by the present municipality.

6On these points I have followed Alessi Dell’Umbria, Histoire universelle de Marseille, Marseille: Agone, 2006.

7Among them Barbaroux and Rebecqui, who were expelled from the club.

8Dell’Umbria, Histoire universelle de Marseille, p. 225.

9For a detailed study of the sections, see Michel Vovelle, Les Sans-culottes marseillais, le mouvement sectionnaire du jacobinisme au fédéralisme, 1791–1793, Aix-en-Provence: Publications de l’Université de Provence, 2009.

10Jacques Guilhaumou, ‘Marseille et l’organisation “autonome” des pouvoirs pendant la Révolution française’, http://revolution-francaise.net.

11Dell’Umbria, Histoire universelle de Marseille, p. 227.

12Saint-Just, Œuvres complètes, p. 618.

13Up till then, ‘the municipal regime to which the population were subject was absolutely oligarchic. Each inhabitant benefited in proportion to the extent of his own land, the wealth of his flocks; so it was the rich alone, or almost alone, who benefited’ (Jaurès, Histoire socialiste, vol. 6, p. 142).

14Jean-Clément Martin, La Vendée et la Révolution, Paris: Perrin, 2007, p. 170.

15Michelet, Histoire de la Révolution française, vol. 2, p. 497.

16Ibid., p. 494. Michelet emphasizes bras nus.

17Ibid., p. 501.

18Michelet, Histoire de la Révolution française, vol. 1, pp. 397–425.

19These were Jean Bon Saint-André, Barère, Gasparin, Couthon, Hérault de Séchelles, Thuriot, Prieur de la Marne, Saint-Just and Lindet.

20The number then remained unchanged until the arrest of Hérault de Séchelles on 26 Ventôse (16 March 1794), who was not replaced.

21As we recall, this left the Salle du Manège in May 1793 for the Salle des Machines in the Tuileries.

22The number of members varied over time, but the twelve who made up the Committee of General Security from September 1793 to 9 Thermidor were: Vadier, Le Bas, David, Lavicomterie, Amar, Rühl, Vouland, Bayle, Dubarran, Jagot, Louis (from the Bas-Rhin) and Élie Lacoste.

23The primary assembly of each department proposed a list of names. These lists were centralized by the legislative assembly, establishing a single list from which the primary assemblies made a definitive choice.

24Discours sur la Constitution de la France, 24 April 1793, in Saint-Just, Œuvres complètes, p. 534. Saint-Just’s L’Essai de Constitution, which followed on from this speech, began with the famous phrase: ‘It is impossible to rule innocently.’

25[The word accapareur, someone who corners supplies, came to be used at this time for both merchants and officials suspected of preventing adequate supplies of bread and other essentials from reaching the population. It is often translated as ‘monopolist’, although the sense is rather wider. – Translator]

26Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, pp. 67–9. The adopted Constitution, on the other hand, spelled out: ‘No citizen is dispensed from the honourable obligation of contributing to the public expenditure’ (art. 101). The ‘poor’ had replied to Robespierre that they wanted to pay tax, at least a low one, as this was the very expression of citizenship.

27Jacques Godechot, Les Institutions de la France sous la Révolution et l’Empire, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1951, p. 283.

28Florence Gauthier, personal communication.

29These figures indicate a very high number of abstentions, some 4 million, explained in part by the oral character of this vote.

30This speech became known as the ‘Manifesto of the Enragés’ – already cited above.

31A. P., vol. 67, p. 420ff.

32Albert Soboul, Les Sans-Culottes parisiens en l’an II. Mouvement populaire et gouvernement révolutionnaire, 2 juin 1793 – 9 thermidor an II, Paris: Librairie Clavreuil, 1958. The first chapter details the struggle between the Paris sections after 2 June, the most advanced of these being in the east and centre of the city, with the Moderates in the west.

33This demand was issued by the sans-culottes of the Contrat-Social section, cited by Soboul, Les Sans-Culottes parisiens, p. 36.

34The Plaine was far more numerous in the Convention than was the Montagne. Its deputies had previously supported the Girondins. It was important for the Montagne to ensure their support after 2 June.

35A. P., vol. 67, p. 543.

36Cited by Mathiez, La Vie chère, vol. 1, p. 228.

37A. P., vol. 67, p. 544.

38Aulard, La Société des Jacobins, vol. 5, pp. 277–9; Robespierre, Œuvres complètes, vol. 9, pp. 601–3. Was Robespierre speaking in good faith? We may well wonder, but the foreign plot was a commonplace of political speeches at this time.

39Le Publiciste de la République française, no. 233, 4 July 1793. In 1792, when Marat was forced to go into hiding, he was put up by Jacques Roux in his small room on rue Au Maire. In July 1793, Roux replied to Marat in a pamphlet that contains these bitter sentences: ‘Marat, men of great character have always been used to make revolutions. When they are no longer needed, they are broken like glass. It was natural, Marat, that I should experience such a fate’ (cited by Dommanget, Enragés et curés rouges, p. 81). But by the time the pamphlet appeared, Marat was dead.

40At the same time Leclerc took over L’Ami du peuple, which appeared until September.

41Mathiez and Guérin see this as a manoeuvre by the Montagnards, who accepted the programme of the Enragés in order to cut them off from their popular base.

42Mathiez, La Vie chère, vol. 1, p. 243.

43A. P., vol. 69, pp. 551 and 594.

44Out of forty-three cases tried, thirty ended in an acquittal and eight in a death sentence, lack of civic spirit figuring alongside hoarding in their indictment (Jaurès, Histoire socialiste, vol. 6, p. 245, note 42).

45Le Républicain français, no. 244. Cited by Buchez and Roux, Histoire parlementaire, vol. 29, p. 26ff. My account of the events of 4 September at the Hôtel de Ville is drawn from this book.

46Aulard, La Société des Jacobins, vol. 5, p. 388.

47A. P., vol. 73, p. 411ff.

48It is highly surprising that this speaker, delivering some of the most celebrated words of the period (‘terror on the order of the day’), should have remained anonymous. Jean-Clément Martin believes it was Barère, which is unlikely, since Barère went on to express himself in the name of the Committee of Public Safety; he could hardly have spoken on behalf of the Jacobins too (Jean-Clément Martin, Violence et Révolution, essai sur la naissance d’un mythe national, Paris: Le Seuil, 2006, p. 188).

49‘Suspect people include: 1) those who, by their conduct or by their relations, or by their statements or writings, have shown themselves supporters of tyranny or federalism, and enemies of liberty; 2) those who cannot justify … their means of existence and the performance of their civic duties; 3) those who have been refused certificates of good citizenship; 4) public officials who have been suspended or dismissed, and not reinstated; 5) those former nobles … who have not constantly manifested their attachment to the Revolution; 6) those who emigrated in the interval between 1 July 1789 and the publication of the law of 8 April 1792, whether they returned to France in the period set by this law or previously.’

50A. P., vol. 75, p. 15.

51Ibid., p. 321.

52The items concerned were: fresh meat, salt meat and lard, butter, cooking oil, cattle, salt fish, wine, eau-de-vie, vinegar, cider, beer, firewood, charcoal, coal, candles, heating oil, salt, soap, potash, sugar, honey, white paper, leather goods, ironware, cast iron, lead, steel, copper, canvas, linen, wools, fabric, cloth, raw materials used for manufacture, clogs, shoes, colza and rapeseed, tobacco. For firewood and coal, the 1790 price was increased by only a twentieth. Fixed prices were set for certain items: a pound of tobacco would be 10 sous, a pound of salt 2 sous, and a pound of soap 25 sous.

53Volume 2 of Mathiez’s La Vie chère is largely devoted to the difficulties of applying the general maximum.

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