The Law of 22 Prairial Year II (10 June 1794)

Although the most immediate threats to the security of the Republic—foreign invasion, the civil war in the Vendée, the Federalist uprisings, the grain shortage in Paris, and hyperinflation—had abated by June 1794, Robespierre and his allies on the Committee of Public Safety argued all the more strenuously that virtue needed to be enforced through terror. To this end, on 22 Prairial (10 June), they proposed a law that would free the Revolutionary Tribunals from control by the Convention and would greatly strengthen the position of prosecutors by limiting the ability of suspects to defend themselves. Furthermore, the law broadened the sorts of charges that could be brought so that virtually any criticism of the government became criminal.


The Revolutionary Tribunal shall divide itself into sections, composed of twelve members, to wit: three judges and nine jurors, which jurors may not pass judgment unless they are seven in number.

The Revolutionary Tribunal is instituted to punish the enemies of the people.

The enemies of the people are those who seek to destroy public liberty, either by force or by cunning.

The following are deemed enemies of the people: those who have instigated the reestablishment of monarchy, or have sought to disparage or dissolve the National Convention and the revolutionary and republican government of which it is the center:

Those who have betrayed the Republic in the command of places and armies, or in any other military function, carried on correspondence with the enemies of the Republic, labored to disrupt the provisioning or the service of the armies;

Those who have sought to impede the provisioning of Paris, or to create scarcity within the Republic;

Those who have supported the designs of the enemies of France, either by countenancing the sheltering and the impunity of conspirators and aristocracy, by persecuting and calumniating patriotism, by corrupting the mandataries of the people, or by abusing the principles of the Revolution or the laws or measures of the government by false and perfidious applications;

Those who have deceived the people or the representatives of the people, in order to lead them into undertakings contrary to the interests of liberty;

Those who have sought to inspire discouragement, in order to favor the enterprises of the tyrants leagued against the Republic;

Those who have disseminated false news in order to divide or disturb the people;

Those who have sought to mislead opinion and to prevent the instruction of the people, to deprave morals and to corrupt the public conscience, to impair the energy and the purity of revolutionary and republican principles, or to impede the progress thereof, either by counterrevolutionary or insidious writings, or by any other machination;

Contractors of bad faith who compromise the safety of the Republic, and squanderers of the public fortune, other than those included in the provisions of the law of 7 Frimaire;

Those who, charged with public office, take advantage of it in order to serve the enemies of the Revolution, to harass patriots, or to oppress the people;

Finally, all who are designated in previous laws relative to the punishment of conspirators and counterrevolutionaries, and who, by whatever means or by whatever appearances they assume, have made an attempt against the liberty, unity, and security of the Republic, or labored to prevent the strengthening thereof.

The penalty provided for all offenses under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Tribunal is death.

The proof necessary to convict enemies of the people comprises every kind of evidence, whether material or moral, oral or written, which can naturally secure the approval of every just and reasonable mind; the rule of judgments is the conscience of the jurors, enlightened by love of the Patrie; their aim, the triumph of the Republic and the ruin of its enemies; the procedure, the simple means which good sense dictates in order to arrive at a knowledge of the truth, in the forms determined by law.

It is confined to the following points.

Every citizen has the right to seize conspirators and counterrevolutionaries, and to arraign them before the magistrates. He is required to denounce them as soon as he knows of them.

The accused shall be examined publicly in the courtroom: the formality of the preceding secret examination is suppressed as superfluous; it shall take place only under special circumstances in which it is deemed useful for a knowledge of the truth.

If either material or moral proofs exist, apart from the attested proof, there shall be no further hearing of witnesses, unless such formality appears necessary, either to discover accomplices or for other important considerations of public interest.

All proceedings shall be conducted in public, and no written deposition shall be received, unless witnesses are so situated that they cannot come before the Tribunal; and in such case an express authorization of the Committees of Public Safety and General Security shall be necessary.

The law provides sworn patriots as counsel for calumniated patriots; it does not grant them to conspirators.

The pleadings completed, the jurors shall formulate their verdicts, and the judges shall pronounce the penalty in the manner determined by law.

The public prosecutor may not, on his own authority, discharge an accused person sent to the Tribunal, or one whom he himself has caused to be arraigned before it; in case there is no ground for accusation before the Tribunal, he shall make a written and motivated report thereon to the chamber of the council, which shall decide. But no accused person may be discharged from trial before the decision of the chamber has been communicated to the Committees of Public Safety and General Security, who shall examine it.

Source: John Hall Stewart, A Documentary History of the French Revolution (New York: Macmillan, 1951), 528–31.