Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution 1789-1799 - Vol. 2

By Samuel F. Scott; Barry Rothaus | Go to book overview

U

UPRISING OF 12 GERMINAL ( 1 April 1795), the first of the two Parisian insurrections of the Year III. The technical cause of popular distress in the spring of 1795 was the removal of price controls with the abolition of the maximum (24 Nivôse, 13 January 1795). This was compounded by the disappearance of the coercive apparatus of the Terror, which rendered illusory any government attempt to maintain regular food supply from rural areas.

Paris enjoyed a privileged status after the abolition of the maximum since, unlike elsewhere, an official subsidized distribution of bread (at 3 sols per pound) and meat (at 21 sols per pound) was continued. Holders of bread cards were normally entitled to one and a half pounds per head daily for manual workers and one pound for others. A free market was permitted in addition to the subsidized market. However, incoming supply rapidly contracted, leaving massive shortages while, after an initial surge following the abolition of the maximum, prices on the free market continued to rise steeply. During Nivôse and Pluviôse, the subsidized distribution of bread was maintained only at the cost of running down reserve grain stocks. In Ventôse, these were exhausted and the subsidized distributions frequently fell to eight ounces or less, with significant numbers of people receiving nothing. Supply from outside the city failed to arrive in any quantity. By the beginning of Germinal, the twenty-five districts designated to supply the capital had defaulted on 700,000 quintals of grain. At the same time, the free market prices rose relentlessly, bread reaching 25 sols just before the Germinal rising and 65 sols just after it. Price levels placed the free market out of reach of the mass of the population, among whom real wages were probably back to the crisis levels of 1789. Popular misery was aggravated by an exceptionally hard winter and by the scarcity and exorbitant price of wood and of other foods not subject to subsidy.

The political crisis of the spring of 1795 occurred at two levels. In the Convention, although matters remained confused and the committees of government hesitant, the reinstatement of the proscribed Girondists on 18 Ventôse (8 March)

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