The Committee of Public Safety was set up by the Girondin Government, with the support of the National Convention, on 6 April 1793 and became the second of the Executive Committees along with the Committee of General Security. From its creation, it very quickly became the most important and powerful institution in France, and by the end of 1793, it was effectively in charge of national government. This power was formalised on 4 December 1793 with the Law of Frimaire, sometimes referred to as the Constitution of the Terror, which granted full executive powers to the committees. In doing so, it greatly diminished any political presence of the elected National Convention, thus diverging from the initial ideals of the Revolution.
The CPS was also colloquially known as the ‘Committee of Twelve’, having twelve members in total including Robespierre, Saint-Just and Couthon. It was established to manage foreign threats and internal rebellion to maintain “public order”, and it is this latter point which caused it to essentially overrule the Committee of General Security. Furthermore, the CPS also appointed generals, was responsible for ministers and conducted French foreign policy.
Overall, the escalation of the Terror can be paralleled with the growing unilateral power of the CPS, and the Thermidorean Reaction itself started with the overthrow of the CPS and the execution of its members.
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