I. From Robespierre to Bonaparte
a. Relatively secure after the military victories of 1793-1794, the National Convention repudiated the Terror and struck at the leading terrorists in a turnabout known as the Thermidorian reaction. b. During the four unsteady years of the Directory regime, French armies helped bring revolution to other parts of Western Europe, only to provoke a second anti-French coalition. 1. The Thermidorian Reaction (1794-1795)
a. When the military victories over the coalition and the Vendee rebels in the year II eased the need for patriotic unity, long-standing clashes over personalities and politics exploded in the Convention. b. Robespierre’s enemies made a preemptive strike and denounced Robespierre to the Convention as a tyrant. c. The Convention no longer needed Robespierre’s uncompromising style of leadership. d. On July 27, 1794, the Convention declared Robespierre an outlaw and he was guillotined the following day, along with several loyal associates. Anti-Jacobinism
e. As the convention dismantled the apparatus of the Terror, suspects were released from jail, the revolutionary committees that had spearheaded the Terror were abolished, and some of their former members were arrested in turn. f. The anti-Jacobin thirst for retribution eventually produced a “white terror” against the Jacobins and the sans-culottes that resulted in arrests, assassinations, and, in the south of France, wholesale massacres. g. The Thermidorian reaction also released France from the social austerity of the year II. h. The titles monsieur and madame reappeared, replacing the republican designation of citizen. i. In near-famine conditions, morality rates rose remarkably; police reports spoke of little but popular misery. The Last Revolutionary Uprising
j. In the spring of 1795 sans-culottes began to demonstrate in Paris with the slogan “Bread and the Constitution of 1793”. k. The Thermidorians viewed the Jacobin Constitution of 1793 as far too democratic and looked for an excuse to scrap it all together. l. Thirty-six san-culottes were executed, and twelve hundred more were imprisoned for their activism during the Terror. m. This event proved to be the last mobilization of the Parisian revolutionary crowd and the final eclipse of the egalitarian movement. 2. The Directory (1795-1799)
a. The Thermidorians drafter a new constitution – the constitution of the year III – proclaimed a general amnesty, and hoped to turn a new page. b. The revolutionary government, which had replaced the fallen constitutional monarchy in 1793, gave way to a constitutional republic, known as the Directory after its five-man executive. c. The Directory wished to command the center of the political spectrum, which one historian has aptly called “the mirage of the moderates.” d. In general they refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of organized opposition of any kind. The Political Spectrum
e. For all its repressive qualities, however, the Directory regime was democratic enough to allow most shades of the political spectrum some visibility. f. The most important legacy of all was the apathy born of exhaustion or cynicism. g. On the right of the spectrum, ultra royalists hoped to overthrow the republic all together. h. On the left of the spectrum stood the Neo-Jacobins – democrats in their own eyes, anarchists to their opponents. i. They promoted grassroots activism through local political clubs, petition drives, newspapers, and electoral campaigns to keep alive the egalitarian ideals of the year II, such as free public education and progressive taxation. j. At the far end of the spectrum stood a tiny group of radicals whose significance would loom larger in the next century than it did in 1796. k. Their leader was Francis-Noel Babeuf, who had changed his name to Gracchus Babeuf in 1793. l. The Babeuvists...