The Ninth of Thermidor

Having carried the day in the Jacobin Club, Robespierre rose to speak the next day in the Convention, where he attacked members of the Committee of Public Safety and Committee of General Security, until now his closest collaborators, for their extreme use of the Terror. He also hinted that such "terrorists" should be purged from the Convention. Fearing for their own safety, some members of those committees, a number of deputies noted for their harsh repressive measures, and others who feared for their safety introduced to the Convention measures they had prepared in advance that condemned Robespierre. In effect, the "Incorruptible’s" turn against immoderate use of the Terror created a conspiracy against him where one had not existed before. The resolution was passed and Robespierre, his brother Augustin, Louis–Antoine Saint–Just, Georges Couthon, and several others were arrested. Robespierre’s supporters, hoping to mobilize the sections to influence the Convention deputies on their own behalf, called for a general mobilization. As the text below shows, a crowd gathered outside the Convention Hall to demand "liberty" for the arrested leaders.


(9 Thermidor [27 July 1794])

After the reading of correspondence, about eight o'clock in the evening, the crowd being very large and the galleries filled with citizens and citizenesses from all quarters of the city, someone asked that a member of the Convention report on its meeting that day. Chasles, a deputy of the départment of Eure-et-Loire, wounded at the siege of Lille, climbed to the rostrum with the aid of his crutch. He began to give his report, but was interrupted after almost every word by a universal clamor condemning the decree that had been passed against the two Robespierres, Couthon, Saint-Just, and Le Bas. . . .

At nine thirty, a member rushed into the meeting, hurried to the front and said: "Citizens, I am going to announce some good news." A great silence fell upon the assembly. "Citizens, the cannoneers with their cannons at this moment surround the Committee of Public Safety; they are preceded by some magistrates and followed by a large crowd of people. The magistrates again demand from the Committee, in the name of the people and the law, the liberty of Robespierre, Couthon, Le Bas, and Saint-Just." At these words, cries of "Long live Liberty! Long live Liberty!" broke out throughout the hall and throughout all the galleries; hats were waved in the air, people applauded with their feet and their hands, and expressions of the liveliest and most intense joy were prolonged for several minutes.

It was then that commissioners were appointed to fraternize with the Commune and other commissioners sent to the sections on the same mission.

 

Source: From THE NINTH OF THERMIDOR by Richard Bienvenu. Copyright (c) 1970 by Oxford University Press, Inc., 228–30. Used by permission of Oxford University Press, Inc.