9 Thermidor: The Conspiracy against Robespierre

This account of the proceedings in the Convention Hall on the 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794) describes how Robespierre and Saint–Just, facing an organized attack by other members of the Committee of Public Safety, tried one last gamble, appealing to the deputies of the "Right" to come to their aid. These deputies repudiated the appeal, and the Convention unanimously voted for the resolution condemning them.


Meanwhile, the Reign of Terror was reaching its end. Robespierre had become unbearable, even to his own accomplices. The members of the committees were in a power struggle with him, and were afraid that sooner or later, they would become his victims. When faced with his tyranny in the Convention, everyone whimpered, not daring to attack him. But soon Robespierre, through his speeches and actions, would give "hope to the damned" for Tallien, Bourdon-de l'Oise, Legendre, Le Cointre, and others, who feared sharing the fate of Danton and Lacroix. Every tyrant who threatens but does not strike, is himself struck. Tallien, Bourdon and two or three other Montagnards who had been threatened could no longer sleep, so, to defend themselves, they formed a conspiracy against Robespierre. But how to go about overthrowing him? Robespierre was in charge of all of the Parisian authorities, all of the club agitators, and counted Henriot, the commander of the Armed Forces, among his devoted followers. Only a decree from the Convention could fell this Colossus, because nothing is more powerful than morality in a war of opinions. But there were other problems. The Right, with more votes, was, as they should have been, less a friend of the threatened Montagnards, who had often called for their arrest and indictment, than of Robespierre who had constantly protected them. (No doubt to keep them as a backup if the need ever arose.) However, since no other way existed, the Montagnards turned to us. Their emissaries came to us. They spoke with Palasne-Champeaux, Boissy-d'Anglas and myself, all of us former members of the Constituent Assembly, and whose example would convince others. They used everything they could to help us make up our minds. . . .

On 9 Thermidor, a few moments before the famous session, Bourdon-de-l'Oise met me in the gallery, touched me on the hand, and said, "Oh, how brave they are, those men of the Right." I went up to the Hall of Liberty, where I strolled for a moment with Robère. Tallien approached us, but then immediately saw Saint-Just at the rostrum and left us saying, "There is Saint-Just at the rostrum, we must be done with this." We followed him, and from his seat at the top of the Mountain, heard him sharply interrupt Saint-Just and start the attack. The stage thus set, Billaud-Varenne took over from Tallien and spoke even more vehemently.

Robespierre went up to the rostrum to defend Saint-Just. The only words that could be heard were: "Down with the tyrant! Arrest him!" Since the Mountain was still acting alone, Robespierre turned to us and said: "Deputies of the Right, men of honor, men of virtue, give me the floor, since the assassins will not." He hoped to receive this favor as a reward for the protection he had given us. But our party was decided. There was no answer, just dead silence until the debate over the decree to arrest Robespierre and his accomplices, for which we all voted in favor, which made the decision unanimous.

Source: Pierre-Toussaint Durand de Maillane, Histoire de la Convention Nationale (Paris: Baudouin, 1825), 198–201. Translated by Exploring the French Revolution project staff from original documents in French found in John Hardman, French Revolution Documents 1792–95, vol. 2 (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1973), 253–54.