CHAPTER VIII. FROM THE 2ND OF JUNE, 1793, TO APRIL, 1794
The revolutionary government was formed; it was proclaimed by the convention on the 10th of October. Before the 31st of May, power had been nowhere, neither in the ministry, nor in the commune, nor in the convention. It was natural that power should become concentrated in this extreme situation of affairs, and at a moment when the need for unity and promptitude of action was deeply felt. The assembly being the most central and extensive power, the dictatorship would as naturally become placed in its bosom, be exercised there by the dominant faction, and in that faction by a few men. The committee of public safety of the convention created on the 6th of April, in order, as the name indicates, to provide for the defence of the revolution by extraordinary measures, was in itself a complete framework of government. Formed during the divisions of the Mountain and the Gironde, it was composed of neutral members of the convention till the 31st of May; and at its first renewal, of members of the extreme Mountain. Barrere remained in it; but Robespierre acceded, and his party dominated in it by Saint-Just, Couthon, Collot-d'Herbois, and Billaud-Varennes. He set aside some Dantonists who still remained in it, such as Herault de Sechelles and Robert Lindet, gained over Barrere, and usurped the lead by assuming the direction of the public mind and of police. His associates divided the various departments among themselves. Saint-Just undertook the surveillance and denouncing of parties; Couthon, the violent propositions which required to be softened in form; Billaud- Varennes and Collot-d'Herbois directed the missions into the departments; Carnot took the war department; Cambon, the exchequer; Prieur de la Cote- d'Or, Prieur de la Marne, and several others, the various branches of internal administration; and Barrere was the daily orator, the panegyrist ever prepared, of the dictatorial committee. Below these, assisting in the detail of the revolutionary administration, and of minor measures, was placed the committee of general safety, composed in the same spirit as the great committee, having, like it, twelve members, who were re-eligible every three months, and always renewed in their office.
The whole revolutionary power was lodged in the hands of these men. Saint- Just, in proposing the establishment of the decemviral power until the restoration of peace, did not conceal the motives nor the object of this dictatorship. "You must no longer show any lenity to the enemies of the new order of things," said he. "Liberty must triumph at any cost. In the present circumstances of the republic, the constitution cannot be established; it would guarantee impunity to attacks on our liberty, because it would be deficient in the violence necessary to restrain them. The present government is not sufficiently free to act. You are not near enough to strike in every direction at the authors of these attacks; the sword of the law must extend everywhere; your arm must be felt everywhere." Thus was created that terrible power, which first destroyed the enemies of the Mountain, then the Mountain and the Commune, and, lastly, itself. The committee did everything in the name of the convention, which it used as an instrument. It nominated and dismissed generals, ministers, representatives, commissioners, judges, and juries. It assailed factions; it took the initiative in all measures. Through its commissioners, armies and generals were dependent upon it, and it ruled the departments with sovereign sway. By means of the law touching suspected persons, it disposed of men's liberties; by the revolutionary tribunal, of men's lives; by levies and the maximum, of property; by decrees of accusation in the terrified convention, of its own members. Lastly, its dictatorship was supported by the multitude, who debated in the clubs, ruled in the revolutionary committees: whose services it paid by a daily stipend, and whom it fed with the maximum. The multitude adhered to a system which inflamed its passions, exaggerated its importance, assigned it the first place, and appeared to do everything for it.