The September massacres

The September massacres


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  • Massacre at the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, September 2, 1792.

    ANONYMOUS

  • Massacre at the Salpêtrière, September 3, 1792.

    ANONYMOUS

  • Massacre of prisoners at Bicêtre and Châtelet, September 3, 1792.

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Title: Massacre at the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, September 2, 1792.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown: 02 September 1792

Dimensions: Height 9,2 - Width 15

Technique and other indications: Drawing in black ink, gray wash.

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Mage

Picture reference: 06-503568 / 3641DR

Massacre at the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, September 2, 1792.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Mage

To close

Title: Massacre at the Salpêtrière, September 3, 1792.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown: 03 September 1792

Dimensions: Height 9.6 - Width 15

Technique and other indications: Drawing in black ink, gray wash.

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Magesite web

Picture reference: 06-503569 / 3642DR

Massacre at the Salpêtrière, September 3, 1792.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Mage

To close

Title: Massacre of prisoners at Bicêtre and Châtelet, September 3, 1792.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown: 03 September 1792

Dimensions: Height 10 - Width 15.4

Technique and other indications: Drawing in black ink, gray wash.

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Magesite web

Picture reference: 06-503541 / 3613DR

Massacre of prisoners at Bicêtre and Châtelet, September 3, 1792.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Mage

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

A capital moment in the history of the French Revolution, the day of August 10, 1792, indeed marks the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the Second Revolution. Three powers took center stage the day after the capture of the Tuileries: the insurrectionary Commune of Paris, now dominated by Robespierre; the Legislative Assembly resulting from the elections of September 1791; the Provisional Executive Council, at the head of which is Danton, Minister of Justice, de facto Prime Minister, assisted by Roland at the Interior, Servan at War, Clavière at Finances, Lebrun-Tondu at Foreign Affairs and the learned mathematician Monge in the Navy. This "competition" with the Commune leads the Assembly to radicalize its policy. On August 17, 1792, she created a criminal court to judge the king's defenders during the capture of the Tuileries.

The surrender of the town of Longwy on 23 August heightened fears of a foreign threat to the capital. The Assembly decrees the enlistment of 30,000 volunteers who will move to the northern and eastern borders. She instructs the Commune to carry out house visits on the night of August 29 to 30, to seize the weapons and arrest the suspects. The siege of Thionville and Lille, the surrender of Verdun on August 29, helped to strengthen the thesis of the “prison conspiracy”: in a capital deserted by volunteers, the detained counter-revolutionaries would escape, slaughter the patriots, liberate Louis XVI to finally deliver the capital to the Prussians. From September 2 to 6, 1792, Parisian prisons were therefore taken over by the sans-culottes who massacred nearly 1,300 prisoners. These September massacres fueled an abundance of iconography, often of popular and anonymous origin.

Image Analysis

The first of the three drawings represents the place where these massacres started: the Abbey prison, so named because it had long depended on the abbey. On September 2, in the middle of the afternoon, prisoners arrested on August 10 were transferred, on the order of the Supervisory Committee created by the Insurrectionary Commune of Paris, to the abbey where a group of sans- panties. Armed with clubs, axes, sabers and pikes, they are put to death without trial. In the foreground lie the piled up corpses. Visible on the left, the National Guard lets it go.

The second drawing represents the massacres perpetrated at the Salpêtrière hospital-prison on September 3, 1792. In this establishment, 186 women are detained, mainly prostitutes and adulterous women. On the order of two commissioners from the Finistère section, the prisoners were taken out of their cells. In the center of the image, a commissioner reads the nut register as sans-culottes armed with axes, maces and clubs exterminate the unfortunate women. In the foreground, two men search the corpses to seize any goods that will be handed over to the section. The bodies will then be buried in the hospital cemetery.

The last document shows two other sites where massacres of prisoners took place. The drawing on the left represents the summary executions carried out on September 3 at the Bicêtre hospital, a place where the insane are then locked up and where teachers and parents place recalcitrant adolescents "in correction". From a screened window appears a head planted at the end of a spike. The other scene has the towers and high walls of Châtelet as a background. Extracted from their jail, the detainees are delivered to the murderous fury of the "septembriseurs", again without the National Guard intervening.

This iconography clearly highlights the horror and cruelty of these massacres and therefore seems to be part of the rejection and condemnation of this first Terror.

Interpretation

The massacres of September 1792 constitute one of the peaks of revolutionary violence. They took place in a context of collective psychosis provoked by the Austro-Prussian invasion and by the fear, maintained by the press, of a turnaround in favor of the royalists and the monarchy. Posters invite the patriots to “purge the Nation before running to the borders”. In his diary The friend of the people, Marat calls for the massacre of the enemies of the Revolution. In The People's Speaker, Fréron denounces the inertia of the constituted authorities - Legislative Assembly, Executive Council, Paris Commune: "When the law is deaf and silent, citizens must act with transport. The Poissonnière section, soon followed by many others, is the first to demand the trial of inmates in Parisian prisons suspected of participating in the "conspiracy".

However, most historians - Pierre Caron and Albert Soboul, among others - believe that these massacres were neither premeditated nor organized: for them it was a spontaneous outburst of popular fury. According to Michel Foucault, it is "an act of war against the internal enemy, a political act against the maneuvers of those in power and an act of revenge against the oppressive classes". And indeed, the victims are mainly refractory priests and aristocrats whose most famous figure is the Princess of Lamballe, "tender friend" of the queen. The sans-culottes did not take into account the condition, age or sex of the inmates they tortured. Powerless, the authorities let it happen. On September 3, Roland, Minister of the Interior, said: “Yesterday was a day that perhaps needs to be cast aside. "

In the days that followed, Olympe de Gouges was the first to be moved by these horrors. She published the pamphlet "The Pride of Innocence", in which she stigmatized the massacres: "The blood, even that of the guilty, shed with cruelty and profusion, eternally defiles revolutions. " The French Patriot, de Brissot, is the only newspaper to oppose the conspiracy thesis and to condemn summary executions. Be that as it may, this first Terror effectively eclipses the monarchical principle and leaves the field open to the republic, which will settle, in fact, in a divided country on the brink of civil war.

  • revolutionary days
  • September massacres
  • Paris
  • sans culottes
  • Terror
  • civil war
  • popular imagery
  • Claviere (Etienne)
  • Danton (Georges)
  • Foucault (Michel)
  • Iconography
  • Lebrun-Tondu (Pierre)
  • Monge (Gaspard)
  • Montespan (Madame de)
  • nudity
  • Gouges (Olympe de)
  • Lamballe (Princess of)
  • hurry
  • Roland de la Platière (Jean-Marie)
  • French Revolution
  • Robespierre (Maximilian of)
  • Servan (Joseph)
  • Marat (Jean-Paul)

Bibliography

Frédéric BLUCHE, September 1792. Logics of a massacre, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1986. Pierre CARON, The September Massacres, Paris, Maison du Livre français, 1935.Marcel DORIGNY, “Massacres de Septembre”, in Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution, Paris, P.U.F., 1989. Paul and Pierrette GIRAULT DE COURSAC, September 1792: organized death, Paris, F. X.de Guibert, Paris, 1994. Mona OZOUF, “September massacres: who is responsible? ", In The story n ° 342, May 2009, p. 52-55.Georges SORIA, Great history of the French Revolution, Paris, Bordas, 1988.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "The September massacres"


Video: The September Massacres 09-02


Comments:

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  5. Jory

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