Revolutionary Tribunal

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The Tribunal, from La Démagogie en 1793 à Paris by Dauban (H. Plon ; 1868)

The Revolutionary Tribunal (French: Tribunal révolutionnaire; unofficially Popular Tribunal[1]) was a court which was instituted by the National Convention during the French Revolution for the trial of political offenders, and eventually became one of the most powerful engines of the Reign of Terror.


The news of the failure of the French arms in the Austrian Netherlands gave rise in Paris to popular movements on 9 and 10 March 1793, and on 10 March, on the proposal of Danton, the Convention decreed that there should be established in Paris the Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal (Tribunal criminel extraordinaire), which received the official name of the Revolutionary Tribunal by a decree of 20 October 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. M. J. A. Herman served as president and Fouquier-Tinville as public prosecutor.

Of all those accused by the Revolutionary Tribunal, about a half was acquitted (the number dropped to a quarter after the enactment of the Law of 22 Prairial) 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 (an average of 28 per day), 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 Security and the Committee of Public Safety jointly, the Revolutionary Tribunal was suppressed on 31 May 1795.[2] Among its most celebrated victims may be mentioned Marie Antoinette, the Hebertists, the Dantonists and several of the Girondists.

Similar tribunaux révolutionnaires were also in operation in the various French departments, but on May 21, 1794 the government decided that the Terror would be centralised, with all the tribunals in the provinces closed and all the trials held in Paris.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Andress (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 447.
  2. ^ Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman 1989 p.479
  3. ^ Ian Davidson - The French Revolution - From Enlightenment to Tyranny - Profile Books Ltd - London, 2016