CHAPTER X. FROM THE 9TH THERMIDOR TO THE 1ST PRAIRIAL, YEAR III. (20TH MAY, 1795). EPOCH OF THE RISE AND FALL OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
The 9th of Thermidor was the first day of the revolution in which those fell who attacked. This indication alone manifested that the ascendant revolutionary movement had reached its term. From that day the contrary movement necessarily began. The general rising of all parties against one man was calculated to put an end to the compression under which they laboured. In Robespierre the committees subdued each other, and the decemviral government lost the prestige of terror which had constituted its strength. The committees liberated the convention, which gradually liberated the entire republic. Yet they thought they had been working for themselves, and for the prolongation of the revolutionary government, while the greater part of those who had supported them had for their object the overthrow of the dictatorship, the independence of the assembly, and the establishment of legal order. From the day after the 9th of Thermidor there were, therefore, two opposite parties among the conquerors, that of the committees, and that of the Mountain, which was called the Thermidorian party.
The former was deprived of half its forces; besides the loss of its chief, it no longer had the commune, whose insurgent members, to the number of seventy-two, had been sent to the scaffold, and, which, after its double defeat under Hebert and under Robespierre, was not again re-organized, and remained without direct influence. But this party retained the direction of affairs through the committees. All its members were attached to the revolutionary system; some, such as Billaud-Varennes, Collot-d'Herbois, Barrere, Vadier, Amar, saw it was their only safety; others, such as Carnot, Cambon, the two Prieurs, de la Marne, and de la Cote-d'Or, etc., feared the counter-revolution, and the punishment of their colleagues. In the convention it reckoned all the commissioners hitherto sent on missions, several of the Mountain who had signalized themselves on the 9th Thermidor, and the remnant of Robespierre's party. Without, the Jacobins were attached to it; and it still had the support of the faubourgs and of the lower class.
The Thermidorian party was composed of the greater number of the conventionalists. All the centre of the assembly, and what remained of the Right, joined the Mountain, who had abated their former exaggeration of views. The coalition of the Moderates, Boissy d'Anglas, Sieyes, Cambaceres, Chenier, Thibeaudeau, with the Dantonists, Tallien, Freron, Legendre, Barras, Bourdon de l'Oise, Rovere, Bentabole, Dumont, and the two Merlins, entirely changed the character of the assembly. After the 9th of Thermidor, the first step of this party was to secure its empire in the convention. Soon it found its way into the government, and succeeded in excluding the previous occupants. Sustained by public opinion, by the assembly, by the committees, it advanced openly towards its object; it proceeded against the principal decemvirs, and some of their agents. As these had many partisans in Paris, it sought the aid of the young men against the Jacobins, of the sections against the faubourgs. At the same time, to strengthen it, it recalled to the assembly all the deputies whom the committee of public safety had proscribed; first, the seventy-three who had protested against the 31st of May, and then the surviving victims of that day themselves. The Jacobins exhibited excitement: it closed their club; the faubourgs raised an insurrection: it disarmed them. After overthrowing the revolutionary government, it directed its attention to the establishment of another, and to the introduction, under the constitution of the year III., of a feasible, liberal, regular, and stable order of things, in place of the extraordinary and provisional state in which the convention had been from its commencement until then. But all this was accomplished gradually.
The two parties were not long before they began to differ, after their common victory. The revolutionary tribunal was an especial object of general horror. On the 11th Thermidor it was suspended; but Billaud-Varennes, in the same sitting, had the decree of suspension rescinded. He maintained that the accomplices of Robespierre alone were guilty, that the majority of the judges and jurors being men of integrity, it was desirable to retain them in their offices. Barrere presented a decree to that effect: he urged that the triumvirs had done nothing for the revolutionary government; that they had often even opposed its measures; that their only care had been to place their creatures in it, and to give it a direction favourable to their own projects; he insisted, in order to strengthen that government, upon retaining the law des suspects and the tribunal, with its existing members, including Fouquier-Tinville. At this name a general murmur rose in the assembly. Freron, rendering himself the organ of the general indignation, exclaimed: "I demand that at last the earth be delivered from that monster, and that Fouquier be sent to hell, there to wallow in the blood he has shed." His proposition was applauded, and Fouquier's accusation decreed. Barrere, however, did not regard himself as defeated; he still retained toward the convention the imperious language which the old committee had made use of with success; this was at once habit and calculation on his part; for he well knew that nothing is so easily continued as that which has been successful.