The September Massacres (1792)

The September Massacres (1792)

The September Massacres

Mobs in the streets. (Public Domain photo. Info can be found here)

With the removal of the King France was in a state of complete chaos, with no one that could stop any other group from making decisions. The mob of poor peasants known collectively as the Paris Commune technically had more power than the Assembly, but since they were leaderless it was hard to manage their actions in any real way. The individuals in this Commune started to refer to themselves as the Sans-culottes, and were known for attacking anyone who was seen as counter-revolutionary. The problem with this was that there was no clear definition on how far to take this, so just about anyone could be accused of being in this category at this point. The intense fear the people had about this was shown in the next election. Very few people chose to vote despite having near universal suffrage (voting rights) because they were afraid of the backlash that might happen if they chose a side in this.

When the Prussian army invaded France under the Duke of Brunswick it seriously shocked the people. The French believed that someone had committed treason and was helping the Prussians, because there was no way, in their minds, that the French army could be losing in battle. An intense fear spread through the people that the Prussians would free prisoners and use them against the French as they invaded, so mobs of people stormed the prisons and conducted their own impromptu trials of these people. There was no question that these wild gangs would find the people guilty, so the group would kill over 1,200 prisoners in the span of 48 hours.

Other mobs were roaming the streets looking for anti-revolutionaries to kill. They would kill over 200 priests and bishops in a wave of anti-religious hysteria and would leave the bodies of these men in the streets for days. The Assembly wanted to put an end to this madness but was powerless to speak up against the mob. They knew elections were around the corner and were worried about the cost of speaking up. The French did, however, get a huge wave of volunteers for the military, in the hopes of protecting their government from the invaders. Around 60,000 men would sign up at the Champ de Mars site alone during these massacres.

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