Monday, 14 March 2016

The Republic in crisis: the fall of the Girondins

Henri de la Rochejacquelein at the battle
of Cholet, Musée d'Art, Cholet

War and conscription

On 1 February France declared war on Britain and Holland, pre-empting a British declaration. With France at war with two major colonial powers, the war became a world war. On 7 March the Convention declared war on Spain. 

On 24 February the Convention announced a levy of 300,000 men for the armies. In effect, though not technically, this was conscription.  Each department was to meet a quota of new recruits, either by volunteering or by ballot.  

Food riots

In the early spring of 1793 troubles piled up for the Convention, both economic and military.

The government’s massive issue of paper assignats led to predictable results. The assignat lost fifty per cent of its value and food prices rose to new heights. On 13 February activists in the Paris sections petitioned for state control over the price of bread, but the Convention saw this as a contravention of market forces. From 24 February food riots broke out in Paris over the price of bread and soap as the population, including many women (especially laundresses), established a ‘just price' for these products.  Dozens were arrested and the riots convinced Robespierre that the people, virtuous in themselves, were being corrupted by 'aristocratic' elements.