The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook

By Philip G. Dwyer; Peter McPhee | Go to book overview

14

THE THERMIDORIAN REACTION

The Gilded Youth attack the Jacobin Club, November 1794

The fall of Robespierre brought about a political reaction against the worst aspects of the Revolution, namely the Terror and Jacobinism. In the south of France this often led to political executions (see p. 120 below), but in Paris the 2-3,000 individuals who comprised what is known as the Gilded Youth, right-wing thugs, confined themselves to beating up their enemies, the Jacobins. Their headquarters was the Café de Chartres in the Palais Royal. Much like the sans-culottes had been used by the Jacobins, the Gilded Youth were used by the Thermidorians to terrorise their political opponents. This extract from the memoirs of Georges Duval (1772 or 1777-1853), a playwright who lived in Paris during the Revolution, gives an indication of who made up the Gilded Youth, and recounts their attack on the Jacobin Club in November 1794.

Fréron's Gilded Youth, * which was not in the least gilded, were called that because of their tone, their manners and the cleanliness of their dress which was in marked contrast with the language, the vulgar manners, and the official filthiness of the Jacobin costume. It was made up of all the young people who belonged to the upper classes of Paris society which had more or less suffered from the Revolution, several of whom had relatives or friends who had been drowned in that enormous shipwreck [that is, the Terror]. It was also made up of all the clerks of notaries, solicitors or appraisers, almost all the merchants' clerks, and finally all those who belonged to the honourable bourgeoisie. United, they formed in the middle of Paris a large enough army for the

* Stanislas Fréron (1754-1802), a Conventional, put himself at the head of a band of youths who were dubbed Fréron's Gilded Youth.

-115-

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The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • A Note on the Revolutionary Calendar xv
  • Chronology xvi
  • 1 - The Ancien Régime Challenged 1
  • 2 - Revolutionary Action 16
  • 3 - Creating a Regenerated France 24
  • 4 - Exclusions and Inclusions 35
  • 5 - The Church and the Revolutionary State 43
  • 6 - Monarchy and Revolution 51
  • 7 - The Revolution at War 60
  • 8 - The End of the Monarchy 68
  • 9 - The Peasantry and the Rural Environment 80
  • 10 - A New Civic Culture 84
  • 11 - The Republic at War 90
  • 12 - Revolt in the Vendée 97
  • 13 - The Terror at Work 103
  • 14 - The Thermidorian Reaction 115
  • 15 - The Directory 121
  • 16 - Bonaparte 128
  • 17 - Law and Order 140
  • 18 - Rule by Plebiscite 149
  • 19 - Governing the Empire 155
  • 20 - Resistance and Repression 169
  • 21 - The Russian Catastrophe 175
  • 22 - Collapse 187
  • 23 - The Hundred Days 193
  • 24 - French Men and Women Reflect 202
  • Index 209
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