1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Revolutionary Tribunal, The
REVOLUTIONARY TRIBUNAL, THE (le tribunal revolutionnaire), a court which was instituted in Paris by the Convention during the French Revolution for the trial of political offenders, and became one of the most powerful engines of the Terror. The news of the failure of the French arms in Belgium gave rise in Paris to popular movements on the 9th and 10th of March 1793, and on the 10th of March, on the proposal of Danton, the Convention decreed that there should be established in Paris an extraordinary criminal tribunal, which received the official name of the Revolutionary Tribunal by a decree of the 29th of 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. With M.J.A. Hermann as president and Fouquier-Tinville as public prosecutor, the tribunal terrorized the royalists, the refractory priests and all the actors in the counter-revolution. Soon, too, it came to be used for personal ends, particularly by, Robespierre, who employed it for the condemnation of his adversaries. The excesses of the Revolutionary Tribunal increased with the growth of Robespierre's ascendancy in the Committee of Public Safety; and on the 10th of June 1794 was promulgated, at his instigation, the infamous Law of 22 Prairial, which forbade prisoners to employ counsel for- their defence, suppressed the hearing of witnesses and made death the sole penalty. Before 22 Prairial the Revolutionary Tribunal, had pronounced 1220 death-sentences in thirteen months; during the forty-nine days between the passing of the law and the fall of Robespierre 1376 persons were condemned, 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. Although Robespierre was the principal purveyor of the tribunal, we possess only one of these lists bearing his signature. The Revolutionary Tribunal was suppressed on the 31st of May 1795. Among its most celebrated victims may be mentioned Marie Antoinette, the Hébertists, the Dantonists and several of the Girondists. Similar tribunals were also in operation in the provinces.
See H. A. Wallon, Histoire du tribunal révolutionnaire de Paris (Paris, 6 vols., 1880-82); E. Campardon, Le Tribunal revolutionnaire de Paris (Paris, 2nd ed., 2 vols., 1866); C. Berriat Saint-Prix, La Justice révolutionnaire à Paris, Bordeaux, Brest, Lyon, Nantes, ... (Paris, 1861), and La Justice révolutionnaire (août 1792–prairial an II.) d'apres des documents originaux (Paris, 1870); also G. Lenôtre, Le Tribunal revolutionnaire (1908). For a bibliography of its records see M. Tourneux, Bibliog. de la ville de Paris ... (1890, vol. i. Nos. 3925-3974).