A Parisian on the growing Terror (1794)


In early April 1794 a Parisian named Ruault wrote to his brother, discussing the progress of the Terror, the fall of Danton and the increasing power of Robespierre:


“The ferocity among the patriots is more savage than ever. The Committee of Public Safety has just had executed some 20 of the most notable revolutionaries, including Clootz, Hébert and Ronsin, commander of the armée révolutionnaire. The unfortunate Clootz, bowing his head to the blade, cried out, ‘Farewell humanity!’ Danton has just been arrested, on the night of 10 Germinal. This occurred because Danton and Desmoulins tried to halt the action of the guillotine, so now they will have to suffer it themselves. Their good intentions will be snuffed out with their lives.

Tomorrow they will be compelled to go before the tribunal of blood which they helped to set up. It is Danton’s misfortune to have recovered some credit among good patriots, and even among people of fashion, since his milder sentiments became known, after he joined with Camille Desmoulins in ‘Le Vieux Cordelier’ newspaper to try to stop the massacres of the Revolutionary Tribunal. These two men, leaders of a party which has become too notorious, have kept some trace of humanity and hoped that an honourable return to good principles might cause their follies, and even their cruelties, to be forgotten.

Danton’s popularity gave offence to Robespierre, who today is King of the Revolution, High Priest of the Eternal and apostle of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, which he has had placarded across the entrance to every temple.”