The French Revolution— Volume 3

Author: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine


Destruction of the Girondin party. — Proscription of the Deputies of the "Right". — Imprisonment of the 73. — Execution of the 21. — Execution, suicide, or flight of the rest.

In all this there is no intention to spare in Paris the chiefs of the insurrection or of the party, either deputies or ministers; on the contrary, the object is to complete the subjection of the Convention, to stifle the murmurs of the "Right," to impose silence on Ducos, Boyer-Fonfrède, Vernier, and Couhey, who still speak and protest.[103] Hence the decrees of arrest or death, launched weekly from the top of the "Mountain," fall on the majority like guns fired into a crowd. Decrees of accusation follow: on the 15th of June, against Duchâtel, on the 17th against Barbaroux, on the 23rd against Brissot, on the 8th of July against Devérité and Condorcet, on the 14th against Lauze- Deperret and Fauchet, on the 30th against Duprat Jr., Valée and Mainvielle, on the 2nd of August against Rouyer, Brunel and Carra; Carra, Lauze-Deperret and Fauchet, present during the session, are seized on the spot, which is plain physical warning: none is more effective to check the unruly. — Decrees are passed on the 18th of July accusing Coustard, on the 28th of July against Gensonné, La Source, Vergniaud, Mollevaut, Gardien, Grangeneuve, Fauchet, Boilleau, Valazé, Cussy, Meillan; each being aware that the tribunal before which he must appear is the waiting room to the guillotine. — Decrees of condemnation are passed on the 12th of July against Birotteau, the 28 of July against Buzot, Barbaroux, Gorsas, Lanjuniais, Salles, Louvet, Bergoeing, Pétion, Guadet, Chasset, Chambon, Lidon, Valady, Defermon, Kervelégen, Larivière, Rabaut-Saint- Étienne, and Lesage; pronounced outlaws and traitors, they are to be led to the scaffold without trial as soon as they can be got hold of. — Finally, on the 3rd of October, a great haul of the net in the Assembly itself sweeps off the benches all the deputies that still seem capable of any independence: the first thing is to close the doors of the hall, which is done by Amar, reporter of the Committee of General Security;[104] then, after a declamatory and calumnious speech, which lasts two hours, he reads off names on two lists of proscriptions: forty-five deputies, more or less prominent among the Girondins, are to be at once summoned before the revolutionary tribunal; seventy-three others, who have signed secret protests against the 31st of May and 2nd of June, are to be put in jail. No arguing! the majority dares not even express an opinion. Some of the proscribed attempt to exculpate themselves, but they are not allowed to be heard; none but the Montagnards have the floor, and they do no more than add to the lists, each according to personal enmity; Levasseur has Vigée put down, and Duroi adds the name of Richon. One their names being called, all the poor creatures who happen to be inscribed, quietly advance and "huddle together within the bar of the house, like lambs destined to slaughter," and here they are separated into two flocks; on the one hand the seventy-three, and on the other, the ten or twelve who, with the Girondins already kept under lock and key, are to furnish the sacramental and popular number, the twenty-two traitors, whose punishment is a requirement of the Jacobin imagination;[105] on the left, the batch for the prison; on the right, the batch for the guillotine.

To those who might be tempted to imitate them or defend them this is a sufficient lesson. - Subject to the boos, hisses and insults from the hags lining the streets, the seventy-three[106] are conducted to the prisoners’ room in the town hall. This, already full, is where they pass the night standing on benches, scarcely able to breathe. The next day they are crammed into the prison for assassins and robbers, "la Force," on the sixth story, under the roof; in this narrow garret their beds touch each other, while two of the deputies are obliged to sleep on the floor for lack of room. Under the skylights, which serve for windows, and at the foot of the staircase are two pig-pens; at the end of the apartment are the privies, and in one corner a night-tub, which completes the poisoning of the atmosphere already vitiated by this crowded mass of human beings. The beds consist of sacks of straw swarming with vermin; they are compelled to endure the discipline,[107] rations and mess of convicts. And they are lucky to escape at this rate: for Amar takes advantage of their silent deportment to tax them with conspiracy; other Montagnards likewise want to arraign them at the revolutionary Tribunal: at all events, it is agreed that the Committee of General Security shall examine their records and maintain the right of designating new culprits amongst them. For ten months they thus remain under the knife, in daily expectation of joining the twenty-two on the Place de la Révolution. — With respect to the latter, the object is not to try them but to kill them, and the semblance of a trial is simply judicial assassination; the bill of indictment against them consists of club gossip; they are accused of having desired the restoration of the monarchy, of being in correspondence with Pitt and Coburg;[108] of having excited Vendée to insurrection. The betrayal of Dumouriez is imputed to them, also the murder of Lepelletier, and the assassination of Marat; while pretended witnesses, selected from amongst their personal enemies, come and repeat, like a theme agreed upon, the same ill-contrived fable: nothing but vague allegations and manifest falsehoods, not one definite fact, not once convincing document; the lack of proof is such that the trial has to be stopped as soon as possible. "You brave b------ forming the court," writes Hébert, "don’t trifle away your time. Why so much ceremony in shortening the days of wretches whom the people have already condemned?" Care is especially taken not to let them have a chance to speak. The eloquence of Vergniaud and logic of Guadet might turn the tables at the last moment. Consequently, a prompt decree authorizes the tribunal to stop proceedings as soon as the jury becomes sufficiently enlightened, which is the case after the seventh session of the court, the record of death suddenly greeting the accused, who are not allowed to defend themselves. One of them, Valazé, stabs himself in open court, and the next day the national head-chopper strikes off the remaining twenty heads in thirty-eight minutes. - Still more expeditious are the proceedings against the accused who avoid a trial. Gorsas, seized in Paris on the 8th of October, is guillotined the same day. Birotteau, seized at Bordeaux, on the 24th of October, mounts the scaffold within twenty-four hours. The others, tracked like wolves, wandering in disguise from one hiding-place to another, and most of them arrested in turn, have only choice of several kinds of death. Cambon is killed in defending himself. Lidon, after having defended himself, blows out his brains, Condorcet takes poison in the guard-room of Bourg-la-Reine. Roland kills himself with his sword on the highway. Clavière stabs himself in prison. Rébecqui is found drowned in the harbor of Marseilles, and Pétion and Buzon half eaten by wolves on a moor of Saint-Emilion. Valady is executed at Périgueux, Dechézeau at Rochefort, Grangeneuve, Guadet, Salle and Barbaroux at Bordeaux, Coustard, Cussy, Rabout-Saint-Étienne, Bernard, Masuyer, and Lebrun at Paris. Even those who resigned in January, 1793, Kersaint and Manuel, atone with their lives for the crime of having sided with the "Right" and, of course, Madame Roland, who is taken for the leader of the party, is one of the first to be guillotined.[109] - Of the one-hundred and eighty Girondins who led the Convention, one hundred and forty have perished or are in prison, or fled under sentence of death. After such a curtailment and such an example the remaining deputies cannot be otherwise than docile;[110] neither in the central nor in the local government will the "Mountain" encounter resistance; its despotism is practically established, and all that remains is to proclaim this in legal form.


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Chicago: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, "X.," The French Revolution— Volume 3, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Ingram, J. H. (James Henry) in The French Revolution—Volume 3 (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed March 23, 2019,

MLA: Taine, Hippolyte Adolphe. "X." The French Revolution— Volume 3, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Ingram, J. H. (James Henry), in The French Revolution—Volume 3, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 23 Mar. 2019.

Harvard: Taine, HA, 'X.' in The French Revolution— Volume 3, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, The French Revolution—Volume 3, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 23 March 2019, from