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Long after sansculotte influence on the government had waned, social conflicts continued to drive some revolutionary events. Throughout 1794 and 1795, urban and rural radicals alike demanded "bread and the constitution of 1793," meaning that the government should feed the people and grant universal male suffrage. One such radical, who took the name Gracchus Babeuf, supposedly organized the "Conspiracy of Equals," a secret group that he hoped to lead in a surprise insurrection to take power and use it to distribute land equally among all citizens. When the "conspiracy" was betrayed, Babeuf was arrested and tried. Before being sentenced and executed, Babeuf offered a statement of his principles and a defense of his action. His attack on private property scandalized many at the time, but others later called him the first socialist. In short, to those who would look back to the Revolution as the unsuccessful birth of socialist movements, Babeuf would remain an inspiration. To his contemporary critics, who were influenced in part by the Directorys successful propaganda, Babeufs conspiracy demonstrated the instability of the Republic and the need for forceful government repression of popular political activity. In their view, such an approach would ensure stability and prevent a return to the chaos of the Terror.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 to provide an authoritative list of human rights that could serve as an international standard for all peoples and nations. An affirmation of human rights seemed especially urgent once the horrors of the German genocide against the Jews and Japanese atrocities in China became well known. Although many of the rights in this document can be found in the traditional rights recognized by the U.S. Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration also includes a series of social and economic rights such as education, employment, and the ability to participate in the cultural life of the community that extend significantly the North American and French revolutionary conception of rights. The extension of rights to include economic and social issues has provoked continuing controversy.
Virginias Declaration of Rights (1776)
The Declaration of Rights drafted in 1776 by George Mason for the state constitution of Virginia influenced both Jeffersons Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. It clearly states that rights are "the basis and foundation of government." The Virginia Declaration of Rights also influenced the drafting of the Bill of Rights added to the U.S. Constitution as the first ten amendments.
The King Accepting the Constitution amid the National Assembly, 14 September 1791
The EstatesGeneral, reborn as the National Assembly, finished its work by completing a new constitution. This document provided for an executivethe Kingas well as a legislative body. Suffrage was male and restricted to certain economic levels. Overall, it was a moderate document that created a constitutional monarch and privileged the wealthy to a considerable degree at a time when the monarchy had discredited itself and popular classes wanted more. In retrospect, one could wonder how contemporaries believed this constitution would survive.
"Constitution of 1793"
The primary task of the Convention, when seated in the fall of 1792, had been to draft a new, republican constitution. Only after the purge of the Girondins, however, did the Convention complete this task, with what became known as the Constitution of 1793 or sometimes the "Montagnard Constitution." Particularly notable was the commitment to political democracy; universal manhood suffrage with no property requirements for voting or holding office at national or municipal levels was implemented, and the equal application of the law to all citizens was emphasized. This constitution also required the government to ensure a "right to subsistence," while simultaneously reiterating the inviolability of personal property. To many, especially the Jacobins, the Constitution of 1793 provided a model framework for an egalitarian, democratic republic; however, owing to the ongoing war the Convention suspended constitutional rule in October 1793 in favor of "revolutionary government . . . until the peace."
Revival of the Mountain
The Directorys 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 Directorys 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, AntoineClaire Thibaudeau wrote here of Jacobin speeches in the legislature as trying "to reestablish the Terror."
Chapter 7: War, Terror, and Resistance
Complicating the controversy over the monarch in 1792 was the beginning of the war between France and the royal heads of state in Europe. Totally unprepared for war, the French immediately suffered losses; the popularity of the government, and indeed of the Revolution, waned. By the summer of 1793, France was increasingly divided between supporters and opponents of the Revolution. This chapter follows the efforts of those who favored continuing the Revolution and their reliance on terror to stay in power. The opposition to their measures only mounted as the war continued into 1794. But eventually the Terrorists would triumph at home and abroad. This victory in August 1794 relieved the country of the need for such stringent regulation and this powerful government led by Robespierre fell. Over the next four years, France would be consumed by a continuing battle over the course of the country.
A Paris political society that had a more popular orientation than the Jacobins. Officially named the Society of the Friends of the Rights of Man and Citizen, it met in a former Franciscan monastery on the rue des Cordeliers. Although expelled from the building, the club kept the nickname. The Cordeliers section, led by Georges-Jacques Danton, Jean- Paul Marat, and Camille Desmoulins, spearheaded democratic agitation in Paris in 178990. When the sections were created, the club soon dominated them. Women played a prominent role in the club. In the summer of 1791, the Cordeliers again championed democratization, this time of the new French constitution. Delegates met with a crowd on 17 July 1791, on the Champ de Mars, but the crowd was dispersed by the National Guard. Subsequent repression focused on the club. Restored to prominence by the summer of 1792, the Cordeliers were at the heart of the movement that overthrew the monarchy on 10 August, called for the election of the National Convention and the widening of the suffrage to include all men. The Cordeliers also played an important role in the expulsion of the Girondins from the National Convention in MayJune 1793 as they came under the influence of first the Enragés and then Jacques-Réné Hébert. In Ventôse, Year II (March 1794), the club was purged and the Hébertistes sent to the guillotine. The club then submitted to the Jacobins, and a few members continued to meet until the spring of 1795, but by this point the club had little influence.
Elected in September 1792 to write a constitution that would not include the King, this body held power until 5 Brumaire Year IV (27 October 1795). Elected via universal manhood suffrage, this assembly functioned as both the executive and legislative branches of government. It tried the King, executed him after a lengthy and divisive trial, prosecuted a war with most of Europe, faced enormous fiscal problems and two internal rebellions. In addition, a constitution written and submitted to the public in 1793 was suspended until the peace. The depth of these crises led it to resort to a systematic use of Terror as a method of facing the situation. The Convention also delegated much of its power to a twelve-member Committee of Public Safety headed by Maximillien Robespierre for nearly a year in 179394, until after the coup of 9 Thermidor (27 July). It took more than a year after the end of the Reign of Terror for the Convention to submit once again to the will of the voters, but it tried to limit continuing factionalism by promulgating a new constitutionthat of 1795and requiring that two-thirds of the deputies to the new legislature be current members of the Convention. Despite concrete achievements, the Convention failed to dampen factional violence and place the republic on secure footing.