The Case of the Missing Constitution

in The Terror of Natural Right

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226184388
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226184401 | DOI:
The Case of the Missing Constitution

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On April 10, 1793, Maximilien Robespierre demanded that Jacques Pierre Brissot, Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud, Armand Gensonné, Marguerite-Elie Gaudet, and “all of Charles-Francois du Perier Dumouriez's other accomplices” be called before the revolutionary tribunal. It had not taken long for the conventionnels to seek to exploit their new institutions for political gain. The Convention balked, but two days later, the Girondins had Jean-Paul Marat dragged before the tribunal's bar, only to see him gloriously acquitted on April 24. Was it with this purpose in mind that the Jacobins (and even some Girondin deputies, such as Maximin Isnard) had approved the creation of the tribunal criminel extraordinaire? In this context of political recrimination and power struggles, one might wonder whether it is even relevant to recall the natural right foundation of the laws and institutions of the Terror. This chapter argues that power and policy, the twin faces of politics, were inseparable during the Terror. It examines a central event of 1793, the suspension of the Constitution, which is oddly glossed over in histories of the French Revolution.

Keywords: Maximilien Robespierre; Terror; French Revolution; Constitution; natural right; power; policy; Jacobins; revolutionary tribunal; Jean-Paul Marat

Chapter.  20891 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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