The trial of Danton and the Indulgents

The trial of Danton and the Indulgents

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Title: Interrogation of Camille Desmoulins and Danton (12 Germinal Year II / April 1, 1794).

Creation date : 1794

Date shown: 01 April 1794

Dimensions: Height 38 - Width 25

Technique and other indications: manuscript; printed header

Storage place: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: W / 342 / file 648.3th part / pce 45

Interrogation of Camille Desmoulins and Danton (12 Germinal Year II / April 1, 1794).

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The elimination of factions

From 5 Nivose Year II (December 25, 1793), Robespierre denounced the “enraged”, led by Hébert, and the “indulgents”, led by Danton and Desmoulins. The "indulgents", in The Old Cordelier, protest against dechristianization and terrorists. But they are also discredited by their involvement in various affairs (Compagnie des Indes, betrayal of Dumouriez).

Image Analysis

An interrogation at the Luxembourg prison

On 12 Germinal Year II, at 11 a.m., Fouquier-Tinville, public prosecutor of the Revolutionary Tribunal, accompanied by secretaries provided with interrogation forms, entered the Luxembourg Palace transformed into a prison, where Danton, Desmoulins and their friends were imprisoned . The defendants appear one after the other.

Danton is questioned after Desmoulins: he was arrested two days earlier at his home on rue Marat where he returned to settle despite warnings from his friends. Sure of his prestige and his status, he believes himself to be unassailable. Yet he is accused of venality, concussion, treason and commerce with the enemy; he and his friend Fabre d´Eglantine were involved in the liquidation of the Compagnie des Indes. There are many who claim his head. On 10 Germinal (March 30), Robespierre allowed himself to be convinced by Saint-Just, who wrote the decree of accusation. The gravity of the charges portends the outcome of a pre-trial trial.

In front of Fouquier-Tinville, Danton does not dismantle. Indeed, he hopes, thanks to his talents as a speaker, to turn the situation to his advantage during his trial, as Marat had done. The pride in his responses ("That he had been a Republican even under tyranny, and that he would die") and the assurance of his signature are testament to his confidence. But in reality, a majority of Convention members are claiming his head, and the announcement of his arrest on the morning of 11 Germinal (March 31) does not raise any reaction in the capital. Moreover, his accusers, aware of his qualities as a tribune, decide to silence him. In accordance with an opportune decree of the Convention taken on 14 Germinal (April 3), Fouquier-Tinville will forbid him to speak during the trial, on the pretext of "his impudence".
Danton and his co-defendants were guillotined on 16 Germinal Year II (5 April 1794).

Interpretation

Robespierre's flight forward

Until Germinal Year II, the Parisian people were the main players in the revolutionary days. For the first time a crisis is resolved by the Convention and the Committees alone, without appealing to the sans-culottes. For the first time, popular leaders fall under the knife of the Republic they helped found. Now the revolutionary government derives its legitimacy from the people. The latter's ouster makes the Jacobin dictatorship too blatant. Together with the intensification of the Terror in the months that followed, the lack of popular reaction prepared the 9 Thermidor.

  • Desmoulins (Camille)
  • Convention
  • execution
  • revolutionary figures
  • Terror
  • Hébert (Jacques-René)
  • indulgent
  • enraged
  • speaker
  • Danton (Georges)

Bibliography

Patrice GUENIFFEY The Politics of Terror: Essay on Revolutionary Violence: 1789-1793 Paris, Fayard, 2000.

To cite this article

Delphine DUBOIS and Régis LAPASIN, "The trial of Danton and the Indulgents"


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