- Revolutionary Tribunal
The Revolutionary Tribunal ( _fr. Tribunal révolutionnaire) was a
courtwhich was instituted in Parisby the Convention during the French Revolutionfor the trial of political offenders, and became one of the most powerful engines of the Reign of Terror.
The news of the failure of the French arms in
Belgiumgave rise in Paris to popular movements on March 9 and 10, 1793, and on March 10, on the proposal of Danton, the Convention decreed that there should be established in Paris an extraordinary criminal tribunal, which received the official name of the "Revolutionary Tribunal" by a decree of October 20, 1793.
It was composed of a jury, a public prosecutor, and two substitutes, all nominated by the Convention; and from its judgments there was no appeal. With
M.J.A. Hermannas president and Fouquier-Tinvilleas public prosecutor, the tribunal terrorized the royalists, the refractory priests and all the actors in the counter-revolution.
Soon, too, it came to be used for personal ends, particularly by Robespierre, who employed it for the condemnation of his adversaries. The excesses of the Revolutionary Tribunal increased with the growth of Robespierre's ascendancy in the
Committee of Public Safety; and on June 10, 1794was promulgated, at his instigation, the infamous Law of 22 Prairial, which forbade prisoners to employ counsel for their defence, suppressed the hearing of witnesses and made death the sole penalty. Before 22 Prairial the Revolutionary Tribunal had pronounced 1,220 death-sentences in thirteen months; during the forty-nine days between the passing of the law and the fall of Robespierre 1,376 persons were condemned, including many innocent victims.
The lists of prisoners to be sent before the tribunal were prepared by a popular commission sitting at the museum, and signed, after revision, by the
Committee of General Securityand the Committee of Public Safety jointly. Although Robespierre was the principal purveyor of the tribunal, we possess only one of these lists bearing his signature. The Revolutionary Tribunal was suppressed on May 31, 1795. Among its most celebrated victims may be mentioned Marie Antoinette, the Hebertists, the Dantonistsand several of the Girondists. Similar tribunals were also in operation in the provinces.
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