Committee of Public Safety, and for three months dominated the country, introducingthe Reign of Terror and the cult of the Supreme Being. But as his ruthless exercise of power increased, his popularity waned. He was attacked in the Convention, arrested,and guillotined on the orders of the Revolutionary Tribunal.
Georges (Jacques) Danton (1759–94):
French revolutionary politician, born in Arcis-sur-Aube, NEC France. He became alawyer, and was practising in Paris at the outbreak of the Revolution. In 1790 heformed the Cordelier's Club, a rallying point for revolutionary extremists, and in 1792became minister of justice. He voted for the death of the king (1793), and was one of the original members of the Committee of Public Safety. He tried to abate the pitilessseverity of his own Revolutionary Tribunal, but lost the leadership to Robespierre. Hewas arrested, brought before the Tribunal, and charged with conspiracy. Despite aheroic and eloquent defence, he was guillotined.
Louis (Antoine Léon Florelle) de Saint-Just (1767–1794):
French revolutionary, born in Decize, C France. He studied at Soissons and Reims, thenstudied law, and while in Paris began to write poetry and essays, notably
L'Esprit de larévolution
(1791, Spirit of the Revolution). He was elected to the National Convention(1792), attracted notice by his fierce tirades against the king, and as a devotedfollower of Robespierre was sent on diplomatic and military missions. He joined theCommittee of Public Safety (1793), contributing to the destruction of Danton andHébert, became president of the Convention (1794), and sponsored the radicalVentôse Laws, redistributing property to the poor. He was guillotined with Robespierrein the Thermidorian Reaction.
Jacques René Hébert (1757–1794):
French revolutionary extremist who represented the aspirations of the sans-culottes,born in Alençon, NE France. He became a popular political journalist, assumed thepseudonym
le Père Duchesne
after launching a satirical newspaper of that name(1790), and joined both the Cordelier and Jacobin Clubs. He became a member of theRevolutionary Council, playing a major part in the September Massacres and theoverthrow of the monarchy. After denouncing the Committee of Public Safety for itsfailure to help the poor, he tried to incite a popular uprising, but having incurred thesuspicion of Danton and Robespierre, he and 17 of his followers (
Jacques Necker (1732–1804):
Statesman and financier, born in Geneva, SW Switzerland. Initially a banker's clerk, hemoved to Paris (1762), founded a bank, and became a wealthy speculator. In 1776–7he was director of the French Treasury and director-general of finances. He attemptedsome administrative reforms, but tried to finance French involvement in the War of American Independence by heavy borrowing, while concealing the large state deficit.He was dismissed in 1781, but recalled in 1788 to deal with the impending financialcrisis. He summoned the States General, but his proposals for social and constitutionalchange aroused royal opposition, and he was dismissed. His dismissal helped toprovoke the public disorder that ended in the storming of the Bastille, and he washastily recalled in 1789, but resigned the following year.
Louis XVI (1754–1793):
King of France (1774–93), born in Versailles, NC France, the third son of the dauphinLouis and Maria Josepha of Saxony, and the grandson of Louis XV, whom he succeededin 1774. He was married in 1770 to the Archduchess Marie Antoinette, daughter of theHabsburg Empress Maria Theresa, to strengthen the Franco–Austrian alliance. Hefailed to give consistent support to ministers who tried to reform the outmodedfinancial and social structures of the country, such as Turgot (1774–6) and Necker(1776–81). He allowed France to became involved in the War of AmericanIndependence (1778–83), which exacerbated the national debt. Meanwhile, Marie