The Terror - Purge of the Hebertists and Indulgents


Background
The Terror was not a consciously planned event, the revolution never expected to turn so blood thirsty however the Convention was being pushed in 1791 to meet the ultra radical needs of the Sans Culotte.
The suspension of the King after his attempted escape in the Flight to Varennes (20th – 21st of June, 1791) saw revolutionary emergency measures put in place. The Comités de Surveillance (Committee of Vigilance) now saw every member of the nation a ‘suspect’ or ‘enemy’ of the revolution. The Kings execution created a similar crisis to his suspension and the revolution in early 1793 was on the fringe of disaster.
The events leading to the Terror were fuelled by suspicion and paranoia. In April 1793 a desperate move by the now moderate party, The Girondins, called for Marat the so called friend and champion of the people’s arrest. Marat appeared before the revolutionary tribunal but was almost immediately dismissed, his supporters leaving the tribunal howling his triumph. That was the fall of the Girondin. In early June Marat, fuming after his arrest called for the arrest of 22 members of the Convention that formed the backbone of the Girondin party. Their arrest was forceful and the execution undermining. Death had now become the answer to a revolution struggling to survive. The September Massacres of 1793 saw Paris turn to a bloodbath and the Revolutionary Government finally took control of the violence.
“Let us be terrible in order to prevent the people from being terrible”. Georges Danton

Nature of Event
The Terror formally began on the 5th of September 1793 when passed in the Convention. “Terror will be the order of the day”. Barère
It was a bloodbath that covered the streets of Paris and spewed out across the countryside of France. The early part of the Terror saw the death of the people, clergy, nobility and counter revolutionaries all losing there life’s, however the revolution was now turning on its creators. Jacques – Réné Hébert and his followers were strong supporters of the revolution and the Terror, forming an ultra radical group with a strong relationship with the Sans Culotte. They urged the Terror to expand across France, almost on a kill as you please basis. Hébert and Robespierre, thought to be the architect of the Terror however clashed and Hébert was walking on a knives edge when he continually urged the Sans Culotte to place pressure of the Convention. An important leader was about to fall, the revolution already had an ultra radical mob it had no time for an organized club with the same agenda. Hébert and his members were arrested on the 17th of December and faced the tribunal however without real evidence escaped sentencing. Hébert again pushed for the Sans Culotte to up rise but this time they didn’t respond. Robespierre followed by the convention arrested Hébert and his men and they were executed and their party abolished.
Political members who were to moderate were also seen as enemies of the revolution. After his part in the creation of the Terror Danton was now fighting for its end. He’s group, known as the Indulgents was hugely popular in France as many people without voicing there opinion also wanted an end to the violence. Robespierre and the Committee of 12 however feared that Danton’s attempts to dissolve the Terror were to in turn make him ruler of France. Robespierre feared the consequences of attempting to destroy Danton, Desmoulins and his followers, however after countless attempts to create a friendship between himself and Danton and the push of members of the committee he had the Indulgents arrested. Their trial was unfair, biased and corrupt. Danton and his man were guillotined on the 5th of April.

Response
The governments response to the failing war efforts and the loss of control resulted in the Terror occurring. Powerful leaders who continually manipulated the people of Paris, such as Marat, caused many bloody incidents throughout Paris including the Champ de Mars Massacre and September Massacres. The Convention attempted to resolve these issues, initial with emergency measures aimed to fear the people and dissolve things such as religion which were able to unite people with things such as the set up of the Committee of Vigilance and the act of dichristianisation. These emergency measures heightened the paranoia across the Nation and the Convention now began to fear their own lives. The idea of the Terror was to take attempt to take violence away from the people however the use of the guillotine became to much of an escape method for a failing government. Its use created new powerful enemies in the Vendee and other major towns such as Lyon and Bordeaux another challenge that would create greater tension and more counter revolutionary activity across France.

Significance
The Terror had now begun a new phase. People would not only be killed for crimes against the revolution but also their potential to do so all simply not meeting some type of criteria or stereotype. This was the beginning of the Republic of Virtue. The Terror had squashed 40,000 so called enemies of the revolution but in turn created many, many more. It was unable to sustain itself destroying its numerous creators which resulted in many lives being wasted. Its creation was in response to an uncontrollable situation however it just created more problems. It was created with purpose but ended with none making the significance incredibly hard to judge. Some historians see the Terror as one of the most violent, unnecessary events which has occurred to date however it played a valuable role in creating a new government which would be imitated across the world playing a pivotally role in today’s society.

Tom Kelly