Narrowing of the Political Spectrum

Given the internal and external pressures that France was facing by mid-1793, there was growing factionalism within the Jacobin party. This primarily stemmed from the de-Christianisation campaign led by Hébert and the sans-culottes, as well as those within the party who questioned the ongoing legitimacy of the Terror by late 1793, by which time the Vendée and the Federalist revolts were well and truly suppressed, and the French army was also performing well in the international war.

Robespierre viewed any and all factionalism and political opposition as being counter-revolution, further exacerbating these internal divisions. He positioned himself as the centre of the Jacobins so those who were more radical than he, such as Hébert, were considered ultra-revolutionaries, and those who were more moderate, such as Danton and Desmoulins were considered citra-revolutionaries (sometimes called the Indulgents), who called for a moderation of the Revolution, a restoration of parliamentary regime through the National Convention and a decrease in the power of the Executive Committees.

Consequently, with the ultra-revolutionaries challenging Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety from the Left, Hébert was arrested and executed on 24 March 1794, thereby ending the political opposition from the Left, since the sans-culottes had also now lost their de-facto leader, Hébert. For citra-revolutionaries like Desmoulins and Danton, they had used the press, such as Desmoulins’ newspaper Le Vieux Cordelier, to popularise their views to moderate the Revolution, therefore challenging Robespierre and the CPS from the Right. As a result, both Danton and Desmoulins were charged with royalism, corruption and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and were executed on 5 April 1794.

Both these Left and Right factions were crushed because they deviated from Robespierre’s revolutionary orthodoxy and because they posed a threat to the authority of the Revolutionary Jacobin Government. However, popular dissatisfaction with the CPS and the Revolutionary Government escalated especially after the execution of Danton and Desmoulins who were very popular figures.

By July 1794, Robespierre became increasingly uncompromising in his views and paranoid, refusing to consult with others. This extreme form of power centralisation, coupled with the fractured state of the Jacobin party and the general exhaustion of the people with the Terror, propelled the downfall of the CPS.


See Also