Political Change and the Repeal of Laws

Following the execution of Robespierre and others, all of the blame for the extremes of the Terror was attributed to Robespierre. It therefore made the National Convention a strange mixture of representatives, some Girondins who were restored to their position, members of the Plain, and Jacobins who had been members of the Executive Committees, who had been part of the Indulgents and those who were former representatives-on-mission.

With this new, revitalised National Convention, deputies were once again able to freely debate, since the constraints of the Terror, and intended to restore the initial ideals of the Revolution such as the rule of law and parliamentary government. In doing so, they formally closed the Jacobin Club on 12 November 1794.

Furthermore, many of the economic controls which has been placed were now removed by the National Convention, including the abolition of the Law of Maximum on 24 December 1794, which meant there were no longer any price ceilings applied to goods. However, economic conditions were still very poor in France, with many bad harvests leading to food shortages and depreciation in the value of the currency. This caused prices to rise by almost 750% over 1790 levels.

It was this economic pressure which prompted the sans-culottes to storm the National Convention firstly on 1 April 1795, called the Insurrection of 12 Germinal, where they demanded a return to the 1793 Constitution. However, this insurrection failed as they did not have the support of the National Guards and there were no clear leaders of the movement. According to Rudé, “it was essentially a social protest, inspired by hunger and hatred of the new rich”. The sans-culottes stormed the National Convention for a second time on 20 May 1795, called the Insurrection of 1 Prairial, again failing due to the lack of leadership and this time a dispersal by the National Guards. The reaction of the Directory (the new government) was severe. It ordered the arrest of 4000 militants and deported them to a military prison on a remote island. It also made it a criminal offence to demand any return to the 1793 Constitution and changed back the National Guard from being an open institution to all social groups to one that was restricted again to the bourgeois. Lefebvre says that “this date [20 May 1795] should mark the end of the revolution; its mainspring had been broken.”

Moreover, the Directory also faced a challenge from the Right in the Insurrection of 13 Vendémaire, on 5 October 1794. Citizens were urged to support the King and the Church, with some 30,000 people in sections of Paris rising up in rebellion. These rebels were considered to be royalists, but they were suppressed and beaten by troops led by Napoleon Bonaparte.


See Also

Execution of Robespierre