The Law of 22 Prairial (1794)


The Law of 22 Prairial, passed in June 1794 by the Robespierre-dominated Committee of Public Safety, sought to expand the Terror by removing the rights of accused persons:


“The Revolutionary Tribunal is instituted to punish the enemies of the people. The enemies of the people are those who seek to destroy public liberty, either by force or by cunning. The following are deemed enemies of the people:

Those who have instigated the reestablishment of monarchy, or have sought to disparage or dissolve the National Convention and the revolutionary and republican government of which it is the centre;

Those who have betrayed the Republic in the command of places and armies, or in any other military function, carried on correspondence with the enemies of the Republic, laboured to disrupt the provisioning or the service of the armies;

Those who have sought to impede the provisioning of Paris, or to create scarcity within the Republic;

Those who have supported the designs of the enemies of France, either by countenancing the sheltering and the impunity of conspirators and aristocracy, by persecuting and calumniating patriotism, by corrupting the representatives of the people, or by abusing the principles of the Revolution or the laws or measures of the government by false and perfidious applications;

Those who have deceived the people or the representatives of the people, in order to lead them into undertakings contrary to the interests of liberty;

Those who have sought to inspire discouragement, in order to favour the enterprises of the tyrants leagued against the Republic;

Those who have disseminated false news in order to divide or disturb the people;

Those who have sought to mislead opinion and to prevent the instruction of the people, to deprave morals and to corrupt the public conscience, to impair the energy and the purity of revolutionary and republican principles, or to impede the progress thereof, either by counterrevolutionary or insidious writings or by any other machinations;

Contractors of bad faith… and squanderers of the public fortune…

The penalty provided for all offences under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Tribunal is death. The proof necessary to convict enemies of the people comprises every kind of evidence, whether material or moral, oral or written, which can naturally secure the approval of every just and reasonable mind. The rule of judgments is the conscience of the jurors, enlightened by love of the nation…

Every citizen has the right to seize conspirators and counterrevolutionaries, and to arraign them before the magistrates. He is required to denounce them as soon as he knows of them.

The accused shall be examined publicly in the courtroom. The formality of the preceding secret examination [deposition] is deemed to be superfluous; it shall take place only under special circumstances…

If either material or moral proofs exist, apart from the attested proof, there shall be no further hearing of witnesses, unless such formality appears necessary…

All proceedings shall be conducted in public and no written deposition shall be received, unless witnesses are so situated that they cannot come before the Tribunal…

The pleadings completed, the jurors shall formulate their verdicts and the judges shall pronounce the penalty in the manner determined by law…”