The Terror



Historians have debated when the Terror actually began. Some argue that it began with the September Massacres, some the execution of the King, and others the Girondin expulsion and the resultant Federalist Revolt.


Anti-Jacobin activity began to develop in the provinces as most people supported the Girondins outside of Paris and were angered by their expulsion from the National Convention. At the start of June there were similar expulsions in Avignon, Bordeaux, Cach, Marseilles and Toulon. 60 of the 83 departments protested against the expulsions and there was serious conflict in eight of these. These revolts were not neccesarily counter revolutionary but were a reaction to the centralising control of the Jacobins in Paris and thus appeared to pose a significant threat to the Jacobin concept of war.

In Toulon the Jacobin revolt merged with a royalist reaction. The city appealed for help from the Anglo-Spanish fleet and proclaimed Louis XVII as King. Toulon was a key naval base with 26 ships (1/3 of all French ships) at anchor there. A revolutionary army was sent to lay siege to the city.

The Montagnards drew up a new constitution on 24th June 1793 which was linked to a modified version of the Decleration of rights and was created by a constitutional commitee:

  • all adult males (including foreigners living in France) had the right to vote
  • every man had the right to express himself through direct political action (an uprising against a goverment which violated 'the rights of the people' was legitimate.)
  • everyone was entitled to public assistance; the state must provide the people with work, or give those unable to work 'the means of sustenance'

It established an 'Executive Council' which was to be subservient to to the Assembly, to replace the King and his ministers. However, this constitution was not introduced because it was aggressively constitutional which stressed that 'society' was more important than the individual


The CPS was established in March 1793 and was responsible for the conduct of war, diplomacy, supplies, control of the army and application of revolutionary laws. It had authority over the CGS and other ministers and goverment agencies. It consisted of 9 men who were to be elected monthly by the National Convention and whos meetings would be 'closed' to outsiders. It reported weekly to the National Convention.

The CPS were meant to carry out the orders of the Executive Council however if the CPS thought the orders were against National interest they could refuse to execute them. If 2/3 of the CPS voted for an order then it must be carried out and the Executive Council could not stop this. This meant that, in reality, the CPS had more power than the Council. Although the CPS had to report to the convention weekly, there was little the Convention could do to stop them. The CPS also assumed authority over the CGS and supervised all other groups and commitees.

Membership was meant to change monthly but by September


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