Modern history


October to December 1793

Trial and execution of the Girondins, the Wattignies victory, the end of the Vendée war, repression

It had snowed so heavily all day long that the lady’s footsteps were scarcely audible; the streets were deserted, and a feeling of dread, not unnatural amid the silence, was further increased by the whole extent of the terror beneath which France was groaning in those days.

– Balzac, ‘An Episode Under the Terror’

The ‘revolutionary until peace’ government

In the turmoil of autumn 1793, the Montagne and the Committee of Public Safety had an additional reason to bend to popular demands: they needed support to withstand an offensive from the other side, that of the moderate party known as the ‘Indulgents’. What these wanted was normalization: a general amnesty and the application of the Constitution. Already on 11 August, Delacroix, who was close to Danton, had surprised a half-empty hall into voting for the election of a new Assembly, as the present one had accomplished its mission. Robespierre succeeded in having this vote reversed the next day (‘The insidious proposal that has been put to you is designed only to replace the purged members of the Convention with the emissaries of Pitt and Coburg’).1

On 25 September, Thuriot, who had resigned from the Committee of Public Safety on the 20th, attacked the Committee’s policy, the purge and the economic controls:

Be sure of one thing, citizens: for the people to be happy, trade needs to be vigourous; and those who seek to make the nation believe it can only attain happiness if all branches of its commerce are cut off are criminal indeed … There is now a move afoot throughout the Republic to persuade people that it can only survive by raising to all positions men of blood, men who from the start of the Revolution have stood out only by their love of carnage … This impetuous torrent leading us to barbarism must be stopped.2

Robespierre replied by defending the Committee of Public Safety:

Eleven armies to direct, the weight of Europe to bear, everywhere traitors to unmask, emissaries bribed by foreign gold to undermine, disloyal administrators to keep under surveillance, to pursue … Do you think that without unity of action, without secrecy of operations, without the certainty of finding support in the Convention, the government will be able to triumph over so many obstacles and so many enemies?3

At the end of his speech, ‘in a spontaneous movement, the whole Assembly rose and declared that the Committee of Public Safety enjoyed its full confidence’, and on Billaud-Varenne’s proposal, it approved ‘unanimously and amid universal applause’ the measures taken by the Committee.

In a major speech ‘On revolutionary government’, delivered on 10 October in the name of the Committee of Public Safety, Saint-Just explained: ‘In the Republic’s present circumstances, the Constitution cannot be established: this would lead to its own immolation. It would become the guarantee of attacks on liberty, since it would lack the violence necessary to stamp them out.’ He then turned on the ministry: ‘A people has only one dangerous foe, that is, its government. Yours has constantly made war on you with impunity … The government is a hierarchy of errors and assaults.’ He went on to reject any idea of amnesty or clemency: ‘You have not only traitors to chastise, but also the indifferent; you have to punish anyone who is passive in the Republic and does nothing for it … The sword of the laws must move everywhere with rapidity, and your arm be raised everywhere to stop crime.’4 The first article of the proposed decree contained just one line: ‘The provisional government of France is revolutionary until there is peace’, meaning that the Convention would not be renewed before that time.

Trial and execution of the Girondins, Marie-Antoinette and Philippe-Égalité

Rather than amnesty, popular pressure forced an acceleration in the holding of political trials, particularly that of the Girondins. The Committee of Public Safety seemed in no hurry to send them to the Revolutionary Tribunal, but the sections – and especially Hébert, who bore a grudge against those who had had him arrested in May 1793 – campaigned for them to be judged. On 30 August, Hébert addressed the Cordeliers as follows: ‘Brissot, that monster who made the blood of a million men flow by forcing us to declare war, Brissot still breathes, and patriots boast of having mettle! … Brissot must perish, the perjured deputies must fall beneath the sword of justice; the people wish it, and their will is law.’5 On 3 October, on a report from Amar, the Convention voted an act of accusation against twenty-one of the Girondin deputies,6 accused of conspiracy against the unity and indivisibility of the Republic, and against the liberty and security of the French people.

The trial opened on 24 October. Pache, Chaumette, Hébert, Fabre d’Églantine and Chabot were among the witnesses – all for the prosecution. Reading the transcript of the hearing,7 it appears that the accused defended themselves well – especially Vergniaud – and that the trial respected certain legal forms. But the advocate for the defence, Chauveau-Lagarde, was scarcely heard, and on 29 October, deeming the debate too prolonged, the Convention decreed on Robespierre’s proposal that ‘after three days of debate, the president of the tribunal shall be authorized to ask the jurors if their minds are sufficiently enlightened; if they reply in the negative, the hearing shall be continued until they declare that they are in a position to pronounce.’ On the morning of the next day, Antonelle, the spokesman of the jury, indicated that their conscience was not sufficiently enlightened. The debate resumed, and at the end of the day, the jury declared that it was now in a position to deliver a verdict. The twenty-one defendants were condemned to death, and guillotined the following day. The body of Valazé, who killed himself with a dagger on hearing the verdict, was taken along with his friends in the tumbril to the place de la Révolution.

Marie-Antoinette had been guillotined on 16 October, PhilippeÉgalité would follow on 6 November, Madame Roland on the 8th, Bailly on the 10th, and ‘the infamous Barnave’, as Hébert called him, on the 28th of the same month.

A new strategy, the levée en masse, scientists at work

During these early months of year II, the Committee of Public Safety gained in authority, as the measures it took – the reorganization of the army, the purging of the general staffs and the levée en masse – would finally improve the situation on the frontiers.

Saint-Just, in his speech of 10 October, had stated the necessity of a new strategy:

Everything that is not new in a time of innovation is pernicious … Our nation already has a character: its military system must be different from that of its enemies. Now, since the French nation is terrible in its verve and its adroitness, while its enemies are sluggish, cold and tardy, its military system must be impetuous … The system of war of French arms must be the order of the shock impact.8

This meant new men to replace the old heads of the army who had learned their warcraft under the Ancien Régime. Houchard was dismissed and dispatched to the Revolutionary Tribunal, for having failed to exploit his advantage after the battle of Hondschoote (his indictment led to a fierce struggle in the Convention, and prompted Thuriot’s resignation from the Committee of Public Safety). He was replaced by a thirty-one-year-old general, Jean-Baptiste Jourdan. Pichegru (thirty-two) was appointed to head the army of the Rhine, and Hoche (twenty-five) the army of the Moselle.9 The overall organizer was Carnot, theorist of the offensive strategy.10 All that remained of the division between the regulars and the volunteers also disappeared: the white uniform inherited from the Ancien Régime was replaced wholesale by the blue of the volunteers.

The idea of the levée en masse, for its part, was launched not by the Committee of Public Safety but rather by the popular movement. On 12 August, one of the commissioners delegated by the primary assemblies to the festival of the 10th addressed the Convention as follows: ‘A great example must finally be given to the Earth, a terrible lesson to the tyrants of the Coalition. Appeal to the people, let them rise up en masse; only they can smite so many enemies, only they can ensure the triumph of liberty.’ Hérault de Séchelles, presiding, replied: ‘Let the words you have just uttered echo throughout the land, as the thunder of vengeance and destruction’.11

On 23 August, Barère, in the name of the Committee of Public Safety, presented a report on ‘the civic requisition of young citizens for the defence of the patrie’. His conclusion has become famous:

From this moment until the time that the enemies have been expelled from the territory of the Republic, all French people are on permanent requisition for the service of the armies. The young will go into combat; married men will forge weapons and transport supplies; women will make tents and serve in hospitals; children will shred old linen for lint; the old will be brought to the public squares to excite the courage of the warriors, preach hatred of kings and the unity of the Republic.12

If only young men of eighteen to twenty-five were actually requisitioned, this was because what the army lacked was not men but powder, muskets, cannon, clothing, all the equipment needed for a great army on campaign. To establish and operate factories and arsenals, Carnot and Prieur de la Côte-d’Or appealed to technicians and the best scientists of the day. The chemist Guyton de Morveau, also a deputy for the Côte-d’Or, had the idea of establishing a commission of scientists attached to the Committee of Public Safety. He proposed the application of Chappe’s telegraph (the first line, built between Lille and Paris, would inform the Convention of the recapture of Le Quesnoy), and founded the first company of balloonists tasked with following enemy movements from the air. To tackle the shortage of powder, with the encouragement of Chaptal, director-general of powder, a revolutionary manufacturing process was perfected by Carny. Monge, engineer-adviser to the Committee of Public Safety, exclaimed: ‘Give us saltpetre, and three days later we shall load the cannon.’13

In September, Monge and Berthollet were commissioned to write ‘a practical work with plates explaining the manufacture of steel’, 15,000 copies of which were distributed in the country’s factories and workshops. On 11 October, Hassenfratz announced at the Jacobins club the commencement of weapons manufacture in Paris. On the 20th, the Committee of Public Safety decided to establish at Meudon a national institution for ‘researching the experiences of war’. A school of fast-track professional training was created, attended by 800 students and with instructors who included Guyton, the great Fourcroy (who invented a process for separating copper and bronze from church bells), Berthollet, Carny, Monge and Périer. The first students were fêted at the Jacobins, and received with great ceremony at the Convention, one of them astride a newly cast cannon.14

The Wattignies victory, crushing of the Vendée army, recapture of Toulon

After the disasters of spring and summer 1793, after so much chaos and demoralization, this great movement would have spectacular results on all fronts.

In the North, the incomplete victory of Hondschoote was rapidly followed by another victory at Wattignies, the joint achievement of Jourdan and Carnot (15–16 October). Carnot took 50,000 men from the army of the Rhine, assembled them at Guise and then marched them at full speed towards the besieged town of Maubeuge. Coburg, after crossing the Sambre,

left thirty thousand men to guard the starving people of Maubeuge and took up position two leagues away on a chain of hills and wooded villages, blocking all the roads with felled trees and crowning the heights with proud breastwork between which cannon showed their maw to the enemy. Below, his massed Hungarian infantry guarded the approach. Behind were the Austrians and Croats. To the side, on the plain, a tremendous cavalry, the finest in the world, stretched away under the sun, ready to cut down the battalions that their artillery had shaken. This was another Jemmapes, but on a far larger scale, with a victorious army three times the size and in a far more fearsome position.15


Carnot gave the signal for attack, first on the flanks and then at the centre.

For four hours, our troops in the centre, climbing towards Doulers, fought with their bayonets, led by Jourdan in person … Our men arrived breathless at the foot of the slopes, to find themselves facing the cannon and met by a hail of bullets … At the point when our men, under the torrent of gunfire, hesitated and drifted, the Austrian cavalry arrived on our flank and the infantry which had given way came back at us. Nightfall brought an end to this terrible execution.

The following day,

Despair gave Carnot and Jourdan inspiration. They did an incredible thing. Out of the forty-five thousand men that they had, they took twenty-four thousand and led them forward on the left, leaving on the right flank lines that were weak, thin, and sure to be defeated. On 16 October 1793, at midday (the exact hour at which the queen’s head fell on the place de la Révolution), Carnot and Jourdan marched in silence with half of their army (leaving an empty space behind them!) towards the plateau of Wattignies.16

The ‘incredible thing’ was successful: the columns climbed the hill to attack and seized the position. Three Austrian regiments were destroyed, Coburg retreated across the Sambre, Maubeuge was relieved. Chancel, the commander there who had not stirred during the fighting, was dismissed and sent to the guillotine. The victory of Wattignies, without being decisive, had immense repercussions across the country. ‘Carnot, who had won this victory, returned and shut himself in his office in the Tuileries, leaving the celebration to his colleagues.’

In the Vendée, the republican forces that had been led up to then by Ronsin and Rossignol, authentic sans-culottes but not very effective as generals, were united by the Committee of Public Safety and placed under the command of the inept Léchelle, fortunately seconded by young generals who would soon be spoken of: Marceau and Kléber, one of the defenders of Mainz – the Mainz garrison played an important role in the victories that would soon follow.17 Two columns, one leaving from Niort and the other from Nantes, crossed the Vendée and joined forces at Cholet, where the Vendéens were defeated on 17 October. The rump of the Vendée army, led by Stofflet and La Rochejaquelein, crossed to the right bank of the Loire after the battle of Ancenis in which Bonchamps was killed. In a long march in search of a haven where the English might rescue them, they managed to reach Granville, but failed to take the town, which was held by the Convention deputy Le Carpentier. Returning south, they reached Le Mans, where they were once again crushed in a terrible street battle by the army commanded by Marceau and Kléber (13–14 December). What remained of the Vendéen army was destroyed at Savenay on the Loire estuary on 23 December; this was the end of the great Vendée war.

In Lyon, the siege stretched on interminably, the city resisting despite bombardments. Kellermann, held responsible for the slow pace of events, was replaced by Doppet, and Couthon, sent to replace Dubois-Crancé, decided to attack the city: ‘I understand nothing of military tactics,’ he wrote on 3 October, ‘but what I do know is that the army of the people is here, that this army intends to take Lyon, and that living might is the only means appropriate to the all-powerful people.’18 The attack was launched on 8 October, the republican army entered the city on the 9th, and resistance collapsed the next day.

Toulon was also attacked under the leadership of Barras, the representative on mission. The troops were commanded by Dugommier, but Barras soon noted the qualities of a young artillery captain named Bonaparte, whose actions would be decisive in forcing the city to surrender. ‘We reported to the Committee of Public Safety that the army of the Republic entered Toulon on 29 Frimaire [19 December]. The National Convention decreed that the name of Toulon would be replaced by that of Port-de-la-Montagne, and that the houses within this town be razed.’19

On 23 October, the Committee of Public Safety was able to address a triumphal proclamation to the armies:

The cowardly satellites of tyranny have fled before you. They abandoned Dunkirk and their artillery, they hastened to escape utter ruin by putting the Sambre between them and your victorious columns. Federalism was struck down in Lyon. The republican army entered Bordeaux to deal it a final blow. The Piedmontese and Spaniards have been chased from your territory. The defenders of the Republic have just destroyed the rebels of the Vendée.20

Repression – Nantes, Lyon, Toulon, Marseille

The crackdown that followed was most merciless where the rebellion had been most deadly and aroused most disquiet.

In the Vendée, General Turreau, appointed to head the army of the West in December 1793, began by proposing to the Convention a general amnesty for the rebels, but he did not receive a reply. He rejected Kléber’s plan, which was to encircle the region and dot it with a series of strongholds. In January 1794 he launched the famous mobile columns to criss-cross the region and lay waste the land of the insurgents, who no longer formed an army but were continuing guerrilla actions. Some of these columns indiscriminately killed everyone they met, others first evacuated any inhabitants viewed as patriots, but in general this was a massacre – as well as militarily ineffectual, since the Vendéens even proved capable of retaking Cholet for a while. It would be a long time before the countryside of this region could be regarded as pacified.

Meanwhile Carrier, the representative on mission who arrived in Nantes in October 1793, was conducting the repression in that city. Vendéen prisoners were brought in by the thousand. As the guillotine was too slow, and typhus threatened the prisons, he initially resorted to mass shootings, then used boats whose bottoms opened to discharge their human cargo in the middle of the Loire, turned for this purpose into a ‘national bath’. In parallel with this, local revolutionary tribunals kept firing squads and guillotines busy in Angers and La Rochelle.

All these horrors were made possible by the lack of clear directives from the revolutionary government, by the indiscipline of the troops, and by rivalries between the generals. As Jean-Clément Martin has shown, ‘it is impossible to find revolutionary unanimity with regard to Turreau’s columns’ (and the same could be said of the drownings at Nantes). The Thermidorians exploited these tragic events to discredit Robespierre, and, nearer our own day, counter-revolutionary historians speak of a ‘Vendéen genocide’, but making the Vendée into a symbol in this way smacks more of propaganda than of genuine history.21

After the fall of Lyon, the Convention decreed on 12 October: ‘The city of Lyon is to be destroyed; all the dwelling-places of the rich shall be demolished; there shall remain only the houses of the poor.’ In addition, ‘the name of Lyon shall be erased from the list of towns of the Republic. The collection of houses remaining shall henceforth bear the name of Ville-Affranchie.’22

As long as the repression was directed by Couthon, it was not very terrible. To respect the decree of 12 October, he proceeded to the place Bellecour and chipped at a few of the buildings earmarked for demolition with a small hammer. But in November he was replaced by Collot d’Herbois and Fouché, accompanied by a unit of the revolutionary army under Ronsin. A revolutionary commission was established and rained down death sentences. Here again, the guillotine was too slow for mass executions: the condemned were killed by cannon loaded with shot in front of pits dug to receive their bodies. In November, Collot planned a massive deportation of Lyon workers: ‘You spoke to me of the patriots of this town,’ he wrote in December to Couthon. ‘Do you believe that there are any such people? I think it impossible. There are sixty thousand individuals who will never be republicans. What has to be done is to expel them and scatter them carefully across the surface of the Republic … Thus dispersed, they will at least follow the steps of those who march before or alongside them.’ And Ronsin wrote to Vincent: ‘There are not fifteen hundred Lyonnais who deserve to live.’23 The shootings continued through to February 1794.

Barras and Fréron in Toulon and Marseille (renamed ‘Ville Sansnom’), and Tallien in Bordeaux, likewise set up revolutionary commissions that handed down hundreds of death sentences. These proconsuls, who lived in grand style into the bargain, would be recalled in Germinal of year II and questioned over their excesses, but this was a little late in the day.



There is general agreement that from summer 1793 to summer 1794 things took place that were genuinely terrifying. The mass shootings in Lyon, the drownings in Nantes, are so monstrous as to be hard to imagine, but simply reading aloud the list of fifteen or twenty men and women guillotined on a random day in Paris, with their names, ages, occupations and addresses, makes the horror palpable enough. I have no intention of prettifying this horror, or comparing it – to its advantage? – with other butcheries in France or elsewhere. I simply venture the hypothesis that ‘the Terror’ with a capital T was a creation of the Thermidorians, with the aim of demonizing what they had just overthrown. The notion of Terror was then taken up by celebrated historians and thinkers of all persuasions, from Edgar Quinet to Claude Lefort, by way of Hannah Arendt, François Furet and David Andress.24 (The list could be much longer.)

The Terror is often presented as a compact segment of history, with a beginning and an end that can be precisely dated. The beginning is generally identified as 5 September 1793, with the session of the Convention at which, as we saw, the anonymous spokesman of the Jacobin delegation enjoined the deputies to ‘place terror on the order of the day’. This famous phrase, however, was not followed up: no law or decree gave it concrete embodiment. ‘Contrary to what is regularly assumed by historians, terror, in a sense that was not, moreover, made precise, was not placed on the order of the day on 5 September, nor on the agenda of the Convention, nor less precisely on any agenda of national life whatsoever.’25 Moreover, Jacques Guilhaumou has shown that the phrase had already been uttered by Claude Royer, spokesman for the fédérés who gathered in Paris for the festival of 10 August 1793. On 30 August, at the Jacobins club, he exclaimed: ‘Let us place terror on the order of the day, it is the only way to wake up the people and force them to save themselves.’ And in the weeks that followed, this phrase became a regular trope in addresses to the Convention and the reports of its representatives on missions outside the capital.26

It does not make much sense, then, to fix the start of the Terror on 5 September 1793, no more than to see it as ending on 9 Thermidor of year II. The guillotine did not stop working on that day, quite the contrary: the White Terror of the Thermidorians was amassacre that rivalled anything carried out by the guillotine in the previous months.

The notion of Terror remains equally vague when considered in terms of space rather than time. Historians seem to have followed those novelists – Balzac, Dickens – for whom the whole of France lived in terror. But outside the areas of ‘federalist revolt’, nothing happened with any resemblance to ‘the Terror’. Even in Normandy, a centre of insurrection, there were no executions, thanks to the reconciliatory action of the representative on mission, Robert Lindet, a member of the Committee of Public Safety. In Paris, the citizens enjoyed themselves hugely (provided they were not hungry): the theatres were full, new buildings were constructed, and new streets under the direction of a ‘jury of the arts’ made up of artists and representatives of the population.27

The notion of Terror with a capital T leads to equating the repressive action of the Revolutionary Tribunal in Paris with the massacres in the departments. But if the former was indeed due to the initiative of the revolutionary government, the latter were episodes in a civil war with casualties on both sides. And the figures are in no way commensurate: the war in the Vendée, the insurrections in the Midi and their repression, cost tens of thousands of lives. The Paris Tribunal, out of 4,021 verdicts delivered between 6 April 1793 and 9 Thermidor year II, pronounced 2,585 condemnations to death versus 1,306 acquittals.28 The notion of Terror appears in this light as the artificial conflation of very different events.

It can be historically convenient to refer to a certain period of time as ‘the Terror’; thus volume 3 of Mathiez’s Histoire de la Révolution française is entitled ‘La Terreur’. But what is much more debatable is to view the Terror as a theory of government, a system deliberately chosen and proclaimed.

At the famous session of 5 September 1793, Drouet challenged his fellow deputies:

Are you not called scoundrels, brigands, murderers, from every side? Well, then! Since our virtue, our moderation, our philosophical ideas, have been of no use, let us be brigands in the service of the people, let us be brigands … (angry murmurs, calls for the speaker to be brought to order) … I would like you to declare to these guilty men [the suspects] that if, impossibly, liberty were imperilled, you would massacre them without pity (heckling drowns the speaker’s voice).

And Thuriot, in a heated response, was greatly applauded when he exclaimed: ‘Far from us the idea that France should be tainted by blood; it is only being tainted by justice.’29

On 4 Germinal of year II (4 April 1794), a deputation from the popular society of Cette (Sète) came to the bar of the Convention. ‘Treason is once more somersaulting around the people; it wants to be hoisted with the monarchy; well! Let us hoist it to the scaffold! Legislators, make death the order of the day!’ The hall protested, and Tallien replied from the president’s chair: ‘It is not death that is the order of the day, but justice … The language you have just used in this precinct is unworthy of a republican.’ The deputation was dismissed and referred to the Committee of General Security.30

Saint-Just, in his report of 8 July 1793 ‘on the thirty-two members of the Convention detained by virtue of the decree of 2 June’, used the term ‘terror’ more than once, always in a negative sense (‘the attempt has been made to dominate the National Convention by disorder and terror’; ‘the plan to stifle Paris … had been attempted by means of armed force, then they thought to succeed by means of terror’; ‘the plan of Valazé, that of assembling citizens through terror’; ‘to confound the government with terror and declamations’).31 In his report of 8 Ventôse year II (26 February 1794) ‘on persons incarcerated’, he contrasted the effectiveness of justice with the garrulousness of terror: ‘Justice is more fearsome for the enemies of the Republic than mere terror. How many traitors have escaped terror, which talks, and would not escape justice, which weighs crimes in its hand! … Justice makes the people happy and consolidates the new order of things. Terror is a double-edged weapon, which some have used to avenge the people, and others to serve tyranny.’32

Robespierre himself, in a famous passage in his speech of 17 Pluviôse year II (5 February 1794), related the notion of terror to that of justice: ‘Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a specific principle as a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to the homeland’s most pressing needs.’33

Terror with a capital T is a historically inconsistent notion, and it is an ideological artifice to superimpose a theory of Terror on the events of this time. As Haim Burstin has written, ‘the stereotype [of the Terror] has been increasingly distanced from its concrete origin, its actual materiality, to serve all kinds of political reflections on the history of France, eventually symbolizing by metonymy the Revolution itself.’34


1Aulard, La Société des Jacobins, vol. 5, p. 342.

2A. P., vol. 75, p. 123. Thuriot, a deputy from the Marne, was an ambiguous character: a violent opponent of the Girondins who often took advanced positions, but resigned from the Committee of Public Safety and became its adversary. Some believe he was later involved in the Conspiracy of Equals.

3Ibid., p. 131.

4Saint-Just, Œuvres complètes, pp. 628–45. This speech contains some of Saint-Just’s most famous sayings: ‘Those who make revolutions in the world, those who seek to do good, can only sleep in the tomb’, and, ‘It is impossible to govern except severely.’

5Journal historique et politique, 31 August 1793.

6Brissot, Vergniaud, Gensonné, Duperret, Carra, Gardien, Dufriche-Valazé, Duprat, Brulart-Sillery, Fauchet, Ducos, Boyer-Fonfrède, Lasource, Lesterpt-Beauvais, Duchastel, Mainvielle, Lacaze, Lehardy, Boileau, Antiboul and Viger. In the Convention, Osselin proposed to add to the list the names of 73 (75?) deputies who had publicly protested against the journée of 2 June. Robespierre opposed this: ‘the National Convention must not attempt to multiply the guilty. It is the leaders of this faction who must be singled out.’

7Gérard Walter, Actes du tribunal révolutionnaire, Paris: Mercure de France, 1968/1986, pp. 236–41.

8Saint-Just, Œuvres complétes, p. 640.

9These young generals were spotted by the representatives on mission. ‘The commissioners who had lived among the general staffs were able to discover talents so far unknown, and with the scarcity of leaders being so palpable, bring forth, from the lowest ranks of the army, generals devoted to the Republic. Hoche, Marceau, Kléber, Jourdan, Masséna, Brune, Macdonald and even Bonaparte owed their good fortune to the representatives on mission’ (Mémoires de R. Levasseur de la Sarthe, Paris: Rapilly, 1829).

10Carnot’s leading role as ‘organizer of victory’ was exaggerated by the Thermidorians (Carnot was to be a major figure in the post-Thermidor Convention, subsequently becoming a member of the Directory in place of Sieyès, who had refused nomination).

11A. P., p. 101.

12Ibid., vol. 72, p. 262ff.

13Joseph Fayet, La Révolution française et la science, Paris: Libraire Marcel Rivière, 1960, p. 241. The following section draws substantially from this work.

14One major absentee among these illustrious figures was Lavoisier, convicted and guillotined for his role in the Ferme-Générale. The idea of the wall of the Farmers-General, so hated by the people of Paris, was not implausibly ascribed to him. At his trial, the remark of the Tribunal’s president, Coffinhal, that ‘the Republic has no need for scientists or chemists’, is probably apocryphal.

15Michelet, Histoire de la Révolution française, vol. 2, p. 601.

16Ibid., p. 603.

17Emerging with honours of war, this garrison could no longer fight on the same front. It was then transferred to the Vendée.

18Martine Braconnier, Couthon, Polignac: Éditions du Roure, 1996, p. 182.

19Mémoires de Barras, Paris: Éditions littéraires et artistiques, 1946, p. 129.

20Cited by Mathiez, La Révolution française, vol. 3, p. 64.

21See chapter 3 of Jean-Clément Martin, La Vendée et la Révolution: ‘À propos du “genocide vendéen”‘.

22Articles 3 and 4 of the decree, Le Moniteur, vol. 18, p. 104.

23Cited by Jaurès, Histoire socialiste, vol. 6, pp. 320–1.

24Edgar Quinet, La Révolution [1865], Paris: Belin, 1987, in particular book 17, ‘Théorie de la Terreur’; Claude Lefort, ‘La Terreur révolutionnaire’, in Essais sur le politique, Paris: Le Seuil, 2001, pp. 81–119; Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, New York: Viking Press, 1963; Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution; David Andress, The Terror, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005, and ‘La violence populaire durant la Révolution française’, in Michel Biard (ed.), Les Politiques de la Terreur, Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2008 (Actes du colloque international de Rouen, 2007).

25Martin, Violence et Révolution, p. 188.

26Jacques Guilhaumou, ‘“La terreur à l’ordre du jour’: un parcours en révolution (1793–1794)’,, 2007.

27See Allan Potofsky, Constructing Paris in the Age of Revolution, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, p. 164.

28Walter, Actes du tribunal révolutionnaire, p. 33.

29A. P., vol. 73, p. 423.

30Ibid., vol. 88, p. 145.

31Saint-Just, Œuvres complètes, pp. 602–19.

32Ibid., p. 669.

33Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, p. 115.

34Burstin, ‘Entre théorie et pratique de la Terreur: un essai de balisage’, in Les Politiques de la Terreur, p. 39.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!