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Jacobins(jăk`əbĭnz), political club of the French RevolutionFrench Revolution,
political upheaval of world importance in France that began in 1789. Origins of the Revolution
Historians disagree in evaluating the factors that brought about the Revolution.
..... Click the link for more information. . Formed in 1789 by the Breton deputies to the States-General, it was reconstituted as the Society of Friends of the Constitution after the revolutionary National Assembly moved (Oct., 1789) to Paris. The club derived its popular name from the monastery of the Jacobins (Parisian name of Dominicans), where the members met. Their chief purpose was to concert their activity and to secure support for the group from elements outside the Assembly. Patriotic societies were formed in most French cities in affiliation with the Parisian club. The members were, for the most part, bourgeois and at first included such moderates as Honoré de MirabeauMirabeau, Honoré Gabriel Riquetti or Riqueti, comte de
, 1749–91, French revolutionary and political leader; son of Victor de Mirabeau.
..... Click the link for more information. . The Jacobins exercised through their journals considerable pressure on the Legislative Assembly, in which they and the FeuillantsFeuillants
, political club of the French Revolution. It emerged in July, 1791, when those Jacobins who opposed a petition for the dethronement of the king split off and began to meet at the former Feuillant convent. Its chief member was Antoine Barnave.
..... Click the link for more information. were (1791–92) the chief factions. They sought to limit the powers of the king, and many of them had republican tendencies. The group split on the issue of war against Europe, which the majority, including the Brissotins (see under Brissot de Warville, Jacques PierreBrissot de Warville, Jacques Pierre
, 1754–93, French revolutionary and journalist. He began his career by writing numerous pamphlets and books. His Théorie des lois criminelles (1781) was a plea for penal reform.
..... Click the link for more information. ) sought. A small minority opposed foreign war and insisted on reform. This group of Jacobins grew more radical, adopted republican ideas, and advocated universal manhood suffrage, popular education, and separation of church and state, although it adhered to orthodox economic principles. In the National Convention, which proclaimed the French republic, the Jacobins and other opponents of the Girondists sat in the raised seats and were called the MountainMountain, the,
in French history, the label applied to deputies sitting on the raised left benches in the National Convention during the French Revolution. Members of the faction, known as Montagnards [Mountain Men] saw themselves as the embodiment of national unity.
..... Click the link for more information. . Their leaders—Maximilien RobespierreRobespierre, Maximilien Marie Isidore
, 1758–94, one of the leading figures of the French Revolution. Early Life
A poor youth, he was enabled to study law in Paris through a scholarship.
..... Click the link for more information. and Louis de Saint-JustSaint-Just, Louis de
, 1767–94, French revolutionary. A member of the Convention from 1792, he became a favorite of Maximilien Robespierre and was (1793–94) a leading member of the Committee of Public Safety (see Reign of Terror).
..... Click the link for more information. , among others—relied mainly on the strength of the Paris commune and the Parisian sans-culottes. After the fall of the Girondists (June, 1793), for which the Jacobins were largely responsible, the Jacobin leaders instituted the Reign of TerrorReign of Terror,
1793–94, period of the French Revolution characterized by a wave of executions of presumed enemies of the state. Directed by the Committee of Public Safety, the Revolutionary government's Terror was essentially a war dictatorship, instituted to rule the
..... Click the link for more information. . Under Robespierre, who came to dominate the government, the Terror was used not only against counterrevolutionaries, but also against former allies of the Jacobins, such as the Cordeliers and the Dantonists (followers of Georges DantonDanton, Georges Jacques
, 1759–94, French statesman, one of the leading figures of the French Revolution. A Parisian lawyer, he became a leader of the Cordeliers early in the Revolution and gained popular favor through his powerful oratory.
..... Click the link for more information. ). The fall of Robespierre on 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794) meant the fall of the Jacobins, but their spirit lived on in revolutionary doctrine. The movement reappeared during the DirectoryDirectory,
group of five men who held the executive power in France according to the constitution of the year III (1795) of the French Revolution. They were chosen by the new legislature, by the Council of Five Hundred and the Council of Ancients; each year one director, chosen
..... Click the link for more information. and in altered form much later in the Revolution of 1848 and in the Paris Commune of 1871.
See I. Woloch, Jacobin Legacy: The Democratic Movement under the Directory (1970); M. L. Kennedy, The Jacobin Club of Marseilles (1973); Kennedy, The Jacobin Clubs in the French Revolution (2 vol., 1982–88).
during the French Revolution, members of the Jacobin Club. The Jacobins represented the interests of the revolutionary democratic bourgeoisie, which was allied with the peasantry and the plebeian masses. After the secession of the Girondins from the Jacobin Club in October 1792, the term “Jacobins” was commonly used to designate those remaining in the club; actually, the rift between the Jacobins and the Girondins within the Jacobin Club dates back to the overthrow of the monarchy on Aug. 10, 1792.
The Jacobins, led by M. de Robespierre, J.-P. Marat, G. J. Danton, and L. A. Saint-Just, were in effect a political party. Their stated purpose was to defend the gains of the revolution and promote its development. They were firm advocates of complete political equality, and many of them, such as Robespierre, Saint-Just, and P. G. Chaumette, wanted to establish a republic without the contrast of poverty and wealth.
Coming to power as a result of the popular uprising of May 31-June 2, 1793, the Jacobins established a revolutionary democratic dictatorship. The struggle among the various Jacobin currents became more intense in early 1794. Danton and his followers, the Dantonists, demanded a relaxation of the revolutionary dictatorship’s rule. They were opposed by the left, or “extremist,” Jacobins (such as Chaumette, J. R. Hébert, and the latter’s followers, the Hébertists), who had adopted many of the demands of the Enrages (“madmen”). The left Jacobins advocated further implementation of social and economic measures in the interests of the poor and called for intensified revolutionary terror.
In March 1794 the Hébertists openly declared their opposition to the revolutionary government. The Jacobin nucleus rallied around Robespierre. In the struggle against the opposition groups, Robespierre and his followers resorted to execution of the leading Dantonists and left Jacobins in March and April 1794. This failed to prevent the split in the Jacobin bloc and the growing crisis of the Jacobin dictatorship. The counterrevolutionary Thermidorian coup (July 27–28, 1794) put an end to the power of the Jacobins. Robespierre, Saint-Just, and their closest associates were guillotined on July 28, and many other Jacobins were executed in the days that followed.
In the words of V. I. Lenin, “The historical greatness of the true Jacobins, the Jacobins of 1793, is that they were ’Jacobins with the people,’ with the revolutionary majority of the nation, with the revolutionary advanced classes of their time” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 216).
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