Revival of the Mountain

The Directory’s constitution had ensured the rights of assembly, free speech, and a limited suffrage; for former Jacobins now deprived of their clubs and of their power in the legislature, these constitutional liberties offered the potential to rebuild a democratic movement. To others, especially the Directory’s leaders, the possibility of a revived network of clubs and newspapers represented more than just a desire to participate in politics under the terms of the new constitution; such a revival was too evocative of the Terror. Thus, one such leader, Antoine–Claire Thibaudeau wrote here of Jacobin speeches in the legislature as trying "to reestablish the Terror."


Once again, they [the Mountain] tried to reestablish terror in the heart of the Convention. Virulent reports and speeches were delivered, the dangers were exaggerated, and the Convention was accused of having squandered the fruits of victory of [crushing a riot on] 13 Vendémiaire [5 October 1795]. Petitions were filed which stated that the patriots of '89 had trembled "under the ridiculous pretext of an imaginary terror," and they called for the annulment of elections and the deportation of all the royalists. The only topics of discussion were about saving the People, measures to take for the public safety and all those boring clichés, fateful harbingers of tyranny. The witness stand and the tribunal echoed only with the most revolutionary of proposals. The Mountain displayed an audacity such as had never been seen. The public courts were rich with accomplices who applauded thunderously, outraging the deputies, calling for the respect due the constitution, and who struggled with all their might to stop this torrent. . . .

Even though their leaders had the upper hand in the committees, they were still bothered there by the presence of their colleagues, such as myself, who did not agree with their plans. . . .

[Paul] Barras, a general and a deputy, dictator to the camp and to the tribunal, summed up the events of 13 Vendémiaire, and what preceded and followed that date.

In his report, he suggested that since the 9th of Thermidor [the fall of Robespierre], nothing had been done except things that helped the counterrevolution, and said that "terrorist was an insignificant word." He accused [Jacques-François] Menou of complicity with the leaders of the rebellious sections, and asserted that the column [of soldiers] that appeared by the Quatre-Nations bridge during the day on the 13th, had marched forward yelling "Long Live the King." . . .

In the evening, I had returned home, my heart overflowing with bitterness. Summing up in a word the immense progress that the Mountain had made in so few days, I despaired for the State. Since the 13th, the Convention no longer deliberated except in the midst of an armed camp. In the surrounding areas, the tribunals, even the rooms themselves, were taken over by soldiers and terrorists. According to the limits that we ourselves had set for ending the session, we only had four more days of existence, but I trembled that these limits would be overruled and that we would once again be set adrift in the revolutionary ocean.

On the 1st of Brumaire [23 October], I returned to the Convention, full of these sad forebodings. I met a group of representatives of the Mountain on the terrace of the Tuileries who had been arrested in Prairial, and recently released by the governmental committees. These deputies surrounded me and said, "Today is the day that the Commission of Five is supposed to propose measures for public good, annul the elections, and adjourn the meeting of the legislative body. Patriots are counting on you." "They are right to count on me," I replied, "and I am heading there to stymie these appalling projects." I went into the hall, excited by the imminence of danger and going over in my head the ways to prevent it. I could neither put my thoughts in order, nor contain myself. . . .

Put on the defensive, the Committee of Five no longer had the strength to prevent the next legislature from being seated. The Convention decreed only that the commission would deliver its report the next day and adjourned the session, convinced that it had escaped a great danger and determined not to let the fruits of this victory be stolen.

Source: Antoine-Claire Thibaudeau, Mémoires sur la Convention: et le Directorie, vol. 1 (Paris: Baudouin frères, 1824), 243–62. 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), 276–78.