Political Parties of the French Revolution

Jacobin Club

          Seen as ultra-radical revolutionary group later on

          Founded after 1789 Estates-General in Versailles

          Originally composed solely of deputies from Brittany

          Some of the earliest members: Mirabeau [a renowned orator], Abbé Sieyès [author of What is the Third Estate?, a later member of the Directory, conspirator with Napoleon during the Coup of 18 Brumaire, the original Second Consul during the Consulate, and then president of the Senate], Antoine Barnave [one of the most influential orators of the Revolution], Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve [president of the Constituent Assembly, second mayor of Paris, first president of the Convention for Eure-et-Loir, and member of the first Committee of Public Safety; later jealousy of Robespierre led him to become a Girondin], Maximilien Robespierre [see below], Louis de Saint-Just [close friend to Maximilien Robespierre and a member of the Committee of Public Safety], and Joseph Fouché [who would later become Napoleon’s Minister of Police]

          It’s members would eventually include the Louis Philippe, the future king of France

          During the National Constituent Assembly, the club gathered in the Jacobin Church on Rue St. Honoré

o    ‘Jacobin’ was a term used to refer to Dominicans, because their first church in Paris was on Rue St. Jacques

o   The Jacobin Club was named after the Jacobin Church it gathered in

          After the promulgation of the constitution of 1791, the club was titled Société des amis de la constitution séants aux Jacobins a Paris

          Name changed on 21 September 1792 [after the fall of the monarchy] to Société des Jacobins, amis de la liberté et de l’égalité

          The Club’s objects:

o   1.  To discuss in advance questions to be decided by the National Assembly

o   2.  To work for the establishment and strengthening of the constitution in accordance with the spirit of the preamble (that is, of respect for legally constituted authority and the Rights of Man)

o   3.  To correspond with other societies of the same kind which should be formed in the realm


o   President: elected monthly

o   4 Secretaries

o   A Treasurer

o   Committees elected to superintend elections and presentations, the correspondence, and the administration of the club

          They had a policy of admitting similar societies in France as associates, which quickly gave them branches all across the country

o   This gave them a widespread yet highly centralized organization, which lent to their growing power

          Could dismiss members who were seen as acting against the constitution or the Rights of Man

          Maximilien Robespierre: the driving force behind the Jacobin party

o   The ‘oracle of political wisdom

o   Strict on ‘virtue’; later advocates justice through terror

          Centralized Republic concentrating more on collective rights of man than on personal rights

          Few in number but well organized, unlike the rest of the parties during the time

          Most members were well-to-do for their class

          Lost power after the execution of Robespierre


          Sometimes called ‘Brissotins’, after Jacques Pierre Brissot, the mouthpiece of the Girondins in the National Assembly and Jacobin club

          Not an official political party, but rather a collection of people holding similar ideals within the Legislative Assembly and National Convention

          Named after the region of Gironde, where the most brilliant of the people associated with this group came from

          Quoted as being “a brilliant and eloquent group of orators”

          In the Legislative Assembly, their views weren’t fully Republican, but were much more advanced than royalist

o   Wanted a Republic like that of Ancient Rome before the Empire

          Notable members: Thomas Paine [from the American Revolution], Claude Fauchet [Revolutionary bishop and one of the leaders of the storming of the Bastille], Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud [seen as the best orator of the Girondins], Jacques Pierre Brissot [one of the Revolution’s most vocal supporters], and Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve [see Jacobin Notable Members]

          Gathered at Mme. Roland’s salon

          Represented the principle of democratic revolution within and of patriotic defiance to the European powers without”

          Held a large amount of power in the Jacobin club

          Supported war with Austria

          Opposed to the monarchy

          Although ideal-wise very similar to the Montagnards, their leaders were in complete opposition to each other

          During the Legislative Assembly they were seen as radical and opinionated

          During the Convention, compared to the other groups, they were seen as conservative

          Did not like to associate with the Parisian mob, which was a mistake on their part

          Were men of little action, which greatly contributed to their downfall

          Wanted a return to normalcy, while the Montagnards and Jacobins felt that it was in their better interest to continue the revolutionary fervor

          Jacobins and Montagnards allied to overthrow the Girondins

          Girondins had a majority in the Convention

          Robespierre took the head of the Jacobin Club from the Girondists

          When the Girondins voted for an ‘appeal to the people’ at the trial of Louis XVI, they were denounced as royalists

          Tried Jean-Paul Marat and Jacques Hébert on trial and attempted to abolish the revolutionary Commune; all of these failed due to popular uprisings

          Became even more unpopular after the assassination of Marat, which was the final seal on their fate

          On 28 July 1793 the Convention published a list of 21 deputies to be put on trial by the Revolutionary Tribunal, and on 31 October they were all guillotined as ‘traitors and enemies of France’

          The Girondins were formally reinstated after the fall of Robespierre and seen as ‘martyrs of liberty’



          Formally known as the Society of the Friends of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

          Members were from the district of Cordeliers

          Originally held meetings in the church of the monastery of the Cordeliers (the name the French gave to the Franciscan Observantists)

          From 1791 onwards they met in a hall in the Rue Dauphine

          This group popularized the motto Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

          Aim was to keep an eye on the government

          Wanted to strike against the monarchy

          More moderate members, such as Georges Danton [leading figure of the Revolution] and Fabre d’Églantine [president and secretary of the club and a member of the Jacobins], left

          At that point the Enragés, such as Jacques Hébert [author of the journal Le Père Duchesne], took control

          Moved to create the Revolutionary Army

          After Danton and Desmoulins opposed the club’s views on the continuation of the Terror, it disowned them and attacked Robespierre

          As a result, on 24 March 1794 the leaders of the club were guillotined and the club died away



           Radical revolutionaries

          Enemies of the Jacobins

          Some of the original leaders were Jacques Roux, Jean Théophile Victor Leclerc [who was expelled from the Jacobin club for being too radical], and Jean Varlet

          Their demands:

o   Controlled prices on grain

o   Making the assignat [the new revolutionary paper money] the only valid currency

o   Repression of counter-revolutionary activities

o   A progressive income tax

          Supported by the san-culottes

          Wanted a direct Democracy ran by the san-culottes, state-owned business, and death for anyone seen as monarchic

          Gave support to the Revolutionary Republican Women

          After fighting against Robespierre, they  reemerged as Hérbertistes


          From 1793-1794

          Followers of Georges Danton

          Notable members: George Danton, Camille Desmoulins, and Marie Jean Hérault de Séchelles [president of the Legislative Assembly]

          Preached an end to the Terror [although they originally had supported it]

          Wanted to establish a Committee of Clemency instead, to review charges against the accused

          Were not nearly as interested in the fine definition of ‘virtue’ or the ideals of Rousseau, which was a sharp contrast to the Robespierrists

          Dantonist mouthpiece: Desmoulins’ journal Le Vieux Cordelier


          Followers of Maximilien Robespierre

          Notable members: Maximilien Robespierre, Augustin Robespierre [the more famous Robespierre’s brother, and an early supporter of Napoleon], Jacques-Louis David [the most influential French artist of the 19th century], and Georges Couthon [member of the Committee of Public Safety for some time and later became the president of the Convention]

           Revolved around the idea of ‘Virtu’ [or virtue] and the supremacy of public good over personal good

          Before taking power, Robespierre fought against the death penalty

          Believed that the people of the Revolution were innocent and good, while those of the Ancien Régime were evil

o   Justification for the Terror: the evil of the old government had to be cleared away for the new virtuous one to take control

o   Justification for the Law of 2 Prairal (denying the accused of the right to a lawyer, to witness, and to defense): the desire of defending oneself against the state was a definition of guilt

§  The law also represented the Robespierrists fear that people could twist words against their beloved ‘virtue’, and so denied them the chance

§  Believed that it was a vice to separate the meaning of a word from personal meaning

          Were against both atheism and Catholicism

          Obsessed with death, incorruptibility, and constant claims to martyrdom



          Followers of Jacques Hébert

          Prominent members: Jacques Hébert and Joseph Fouché [see Jacobin Notable Members]

          Very similar to the Enragés

o   Differed in as much as they didn’t support complete state-owned business or price-fixing on grain

          Main goals:

o   Death for the Ancien Régime

o    De-Christianization

§  The movement was atheistic

          Was popular based and not very politically strong

          Perhaps the group that took the greatest joy and thrill from the executions

          Shared the Robespierrist belief in the basic goodness of the people of the Revolution

          Created the Cult of Reason; meant to counter Robespierre’s Cult of the Supreme Being



          Originally part of the Jacobin club

          Notable members: Marquis de Lafayette [General in the American Revolution and later opponent of Napoleon], Jean Sylvain Bailly [president of the Third Estate, leader of the gathering at the Tennis Court, and the first mayor of Paris], Dr. Joseph Guillotin [inventor of the guillotine], and Antoine Barnave [one of the people who escorted Louis XVI back to Paris after his famous flight and was the one who led the club out from the Jacobins]

          Supported a constitutional monarchy

          Enemies of the Girondins due to their opposition to the war with Austria

          Main beliefs:

o   Freedom of the press

o   Freedom of speech

o   Belief in the Rights of Man and Citizen

o   Land requirement for voting

          Met in the former monastery of the Feuillants on the Rue Saint-Honoré

o   Feuillants were a Cistercians order of monks

Société des Républicaines Révolutionaires [Society of Revolutionary Republican Women]

          Created in 1793 by women of the sans-culotte

o   Originated by Pauline Léon and Claire Lacombe [known for her vehement arguments on the Convention for the right of women suffrage]

o   Lasted only 6 months before being closed down by the government

          Identified as part of the Enragés


o   President, VP, 4 Secretaries

§  elected first Sunday of every month

§  reelection allowed only after 2 months

o   2 Monitors

§  one to check members’ cards upon entrance, the other to keep order

o   Treasurer and 2 assistant treasurers

§  the two were to keep check on each other

o   Archivist and an assistant archivist

§  position kept for 3 months

o   3 committees: Administration, Relief, and Correspondence

§  Each had 12 members, 6 of which are replaced every 3 months

o   Elections done by role-call voting

          Accepted only ‘citoyennes of good habits’[1]

          Must be at least 18 years of age to become a member

o   A mother’s children were allowed in, but did not have any say in the deliberations

          Allied with the Jacobins in the Girondin/Jacobin struggle


o   obtaining bread for the people

o   improving literacy

o   women suffrage

o   the right to bear arms


Société Fraternelle de l’Un et l’Autre Sexe [Fraternal Society of One and the Other Sex]

          Founded in February of 1790 by Claude Dansard [


o   civic education for the people

o   equal rights for women

          Entrance fee: only 2 pennies

          2 male and 2 female secretaries

          Notable members: Jean-Lambert Tallien, Merlin of Thionville, Jacques Hébert, Etta Palm d’Aelders [a female spy before the Revolution], Louise de Kéralio [first female writer-in-chief of a newspaper ; specifically Newspaper of State and Citizen], and Théroigne de Méricourt [one of the leading women figures of the Revolution who ran her own salon, visited by many of the other heads of the Revolution]

          From 1791, women in the club were not to marry men dubbed as aristocrats

          Became a branch of the Jacobins


          Not very much of a group at all, but rather a collection of middle-class ex-militia men whose troop was dissolved and who wanted to stay together

          From June to July of ’93 they were part of the Girondins, but in August they were completely dissolved


Club des Impartiaux

          First Royalist club of the Revolution

          Was gone by the time of the Constituent Assembly


Club of 1789

          Royalist group consisting of more moderate members of the Breton club who refused to be part of the Jacobin club [which was what the Breton club had become]

          Notable members: Lafayette and Abbé Sieyès

          Part of this club eventually became the Feuillants

12 Responses to “Political Parties of the French Revolution”

  1. This great info.
    Its brief and right to the point, good job

  2. Straight to the point. Gave me basic outline of the political structure during the French Revolution

  3. Very nice information and comprehensive as well.

  4. I have a question Says:

    who painted the First photo

  5. this is good info thanx

  6. You really have a point there, I have never analyzed it like
    it like that before. You make it sound so alluring.
    I am going to have to play around with this more!

  7. may i ask ,are the mountains also jacobins or mountains and girondins fall under jacobins?

    • The Girondins were not as official of a group as the Jacobins, as there was no “Girondin club,” but at least many of them (especially the followers of Brissot, a.k.a. the Brissotins) were formerly Jacobins. The mountain referred to a group specifically in the National Convention (as compared to the Jacobins, which was a debating group), although it was made up largely of Jacobins, albeit generally more radical ones.

  8. You are so interesting! I don’t believe I’ve read through a single thing like this before.
    So nice to discover somebody with unique thoughts on this issue.
    Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This website is one thing that
    is needed on the internet, someone with some originality!

  9. french person Says:

    the main parties in terms of influence were “les montagnards” (‘mountainers’ because their seats were in the upper position in the building of assembly) and the ‘Girondins’.
    Roughly said, the Montagnards were more extreme revolutionaries, leaning to the left, while the Girondins were more moderate and center-leaning.

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