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La prison de la Conciergerie.

Prisons of the Reign of Terror indicates a process set up under the Reign of Terror, inaugurated after the lawsuit of the dantonists, then set up in a systematic manner, after the vote of the Law of 22 Prairial (Loi de Prairial). There were several "crimes against humanity", given that the expression indicates neither rebellion nor mutiny, but a concerted plan of physical elimination of innocent prisoners without due process of the law. Some of these manufactured "conspiracies" considered to be criminal, in year III (1795) failed (Abbaye de Port-Royal), others envisaged were prempted because of the events of Thermidor 9, and others still, found their completion 19, 21–22, and 25 messidor, 5–6, and 8 Thermidor year II (7, 9–10, 13, 23–24, and 26 July 1794). Maximilien Robespierre, Saint-Just and Couthon, contrary to one Convention thermidorienne, did share this: they are entirely the work of the Committee of General Security, in connection with some members of the Committee of Public Safety, and particularly Bertrand Barère who said to the Convention: "the committee took its measurements and in two months the prisons will be evacuated".


Some members of Committee of Public Safety and of Committee of General Security had decided by political calculation, with various ulterior motives, to accentuate Terror by "purging" (it is their word) the prisons of Paris. Those were overflowing since the removal of the provincial revolutionary tribunals, in March 1794—the defendants stopped in the provinces were submitted in Paris, the recrudescence of the orders of arrest launched in Ile-de-France, by the Committee of general security and the "administrative slownesses" of the revolutionary Tribunal of Paris, backed-up by the paperwork, and the need for arguing the charges. Under the law of the 22 Prairal, the alleged conspiracies of prisoners made it possible to go more quickly, and to comb out the prisons. All the prisoners of one or the other of the many Parisian prisons, whatever the reason for their imprisonment - suspects, prevented or already judged, were concerned overall. The alleged conspiracy of Bicêtre, which made it possible to get rid, of more than seventy people, from 28 Prairal, until 8 Messidor, assembled by the Committee of general security, and Voulland in particular, with the downstream of Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne, and Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois, was the first operation of great width assembled after the law of the 22 Pairial. The Osselin deputy, implied in corruption affairs, and who knew something about the corrupt practices of his former colleagues, of the Committee of general security, in particular Jean-Pierre-Andre Amar, and who had avoided capital punishment four months earlier, was one of these victims, from whom they feared revelations. It is Valagnos, a prisoner condemned to irons, and on standby of the deportation who had agreed to bear false witnesses, agreed to come out to charge the defendants at the revolutionary Tribunal. This business of false conspiracy was followed by "the business" of Luxembourg, a conspiracy whose reality rested, still exclusively, on the false witnesses of individuals who, against various promises, had to deposit with the revolutionary Tribunal, and which sometimes themselves were carried out thereafter.


Ground after the lawsuit of Danton and its co-defendants to the prison of Luxembourg where was the ex-general Arthur Dillon, Lucile Desmoulins, or Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette, the imaginary conspiracies, revealed and denounced by agents of the political police in the prisons of Paris, put back on an amalgam various unknown people the ones with the others under the same count of indictment - the "rebellion", to avoid dispersing in the maze of the personal cases. It was the Committee of general security (and in particular Jagot and Amar - themselves under the diretion of Vadier, Barère, collot d'Hebois and Billaud-Varennes - which was given the responsibility to supervise, and execute this machiavellian plan, in partnership with Fouquier-Tinville, Martial Joseph Armand Hermann, former president of the revolutionary Tribunal now police chief, with the civil administration, and courts, and the citizens Lanne, and Dupaumier, administrators of police force. All the principals rested on the false witnesses granted, or snatches other prisoners, sometimes of the "false prisoners" who, such Armand and Manini, were sent from prison to prison to obtain confidences or indiscretions of prisoners: for example the practice that certain prisoners had to meet in the cell of one of them, which allowed, if necessary, to suppose that they plotted their escape with an aim of going to cut the throat of the members of the national representates. With the Court, it was always the same question which was put to the defendants: "Were you informed or not of a conspiracy which existed, (with Luxembourg or another prison according to the cases) and which exists there, in this moment even, and you denounced it?" On the affirmative or the negative, one passed to the next.


First conspiracy of Luxembourg


Lucile Desmoulins, supposedly conspiring in the plot of the prisons.

The first conspiracy of Luxembourg was assembled by part of the Committee of general security to carry out a certain number of people, supposed accessory to Hébert and Danton, without those being able to express publicly, on the true reasons of their presence to the revolutionary Tribunal. This technique which consisted in closing the mouth of the marked "defendant", with a collective offence of "conspiracy", under the law of the 22 Prairal, which dispensed with public debates. Joined together are Lucile Desmoulins, and the general Arthur Dillon who had sought to communicate by message from a cell with the other, were joined together and amalgamated with their alleged "accomplices": Chaumette, Gobel, Francoise Hébert, the Lécuyer general who were charged, by the Court that prisoners themselves were in danger, and died like the Laflotte diplomat, or the comte de Ferrières-Sauvebeuf.

Second conspiracy of Luxembourg

One of the administrators of Prison of Luxembourg, Wiltcherich, which had fabricated the alleged plot of Arthur Dillon, and of the woman of Camille Desmoulins Lucile (5 at 13 April 1794) will cooperate again with the Committee of general security in its task with "purging" the prison of Luxembourg of its prisoners. To join together a sufficient number of denunciations and false witnesses, it made sure of collaborators subordinates among whom: *un tailor of Saint-Omer named with the rank of lieutenant of infantry, Pierre Joseph Boyenval that the revolutionary army had found makes indignant at it and who, imprisoned since the 20 brumaire year II, in Luxembourg, had charged Lucile Desmoulins and its co-defendants with the revolutionary Tribunal the 24 germinal year IIBoyenval was guillotine with Fouquier-Tinville in 1795;

  • Beausire, lampoonist, whose wife - Nicole Leguay, baroness of Oliva - was especially famous to be mixed with Affair of the queen's collar (1784-85);
  • le counter clerk or carry-key named Joseph Verney;
  • an old aide-de-camp of the general Jean-François Carteaux;
  • the named Mercies, a robber "good for the gibet";

The organization however was chapeautée by Jean-Pierre-Andre Amar of Committee of General Security, which, for this purpose, had on the spot dispatched its Leymerie secretary who acted in concert with the administrator of Faro police force charged with the "research" in the prisons. They thus recruited a certain number of writers of denunciations, and in Luxembourg, the principalLes others named Denis-Michel Julien, Jean-Louis Benoist, old Swiss, ex-police chief of the executive council, in the department of the Eure, Lenain, Antoine Vauchelet, trader, Meunier, Amans, Letellier, Louis Baraguay d'Hilliers, and Jean-Louis All Saints' day Beausire was, of not to doubt, Pierre-Joseph Boyenval besides, the Guyard caretaker, and his assistant the Verney clerk, had order to leave it and come to his own way, to nourish it suitably and to take care that it was as often as possible in liaison with the prisoners men and women. Boyenval was probably the indicator more cooperative the day before of Thermidor 9, it developed a news "conspiracy" of Luxembourg where it was understood that one would sacrifice two hundred people., with an Italian named Manini who prevailed in Saint-Lazare, the ex-count of Tool bag-Sauvebeuf to La Force or Louis-Guillaume Armand which had work with Holy-Pelagie for the account of Dossonville, principal agent of the Committee of general security, itself invested of quasi-unlimited capacities. Joined together "in council", the four collaborators, "brigands", consulted each other so as to draw up a list of names. This was not only the titles of nobility which appointed the prisoners but also resentments, whims or love. Such conspired because he had refused to let one of the four men be useful in his snuffbox, such other because he was not generous with the counter clerk, a third because he was the husband of a woman that Boyenval condescended to find pleasant. This one for example had registered on the list of condemned, the one named Gant whose wife was also locked up in the prison of Luxembourg. He deposited against Gant and the evening, he was with the feet of the frightened woman; two days after, one saw him giving the arm to that from which he came to send the husband to the guillotine. When the number of conspirators had reached the number of 154, one stopped. The list was dispatched by the Committee of general security with Fouquier-Tinville. Contrary to the wishes of Bertrand Barère which wanted to consider the presumedly conspiry of the prison of Luxembourg, only once, they were distributed by Armand Hermann in three groups that were judged, after law the 22 Prairal year II - without debates and means of defense - in three meetings. In the parts given to the public prosecutor several denunciations, some not very detailed, as the others. That of Verney was to even be used for the alleged third conspiracy of Luxembourg which took place ten days later, Thermidor 4 year II. It was thus conceived:

I undersigned Joseph Verney, carry-key at the prison of Luxembourg, declare that there still exists in this house of the accomplices of the conspiracy of Dillon, Simon, Boisgelin and above the marshal's wife de Lévis (...) and that its accomplices mainly are named… the

(a list of name follows). And he adds:

I attest moreover than named Beausire, Boyenval, Amans and Vauchelet, is in the case of to attest that all these individuals are truly the accomplices of this conspiracy, even the principal agents. In Paris, 22 messidor, etc

First meeting - 19 messidor (7 July 1794)

In front of revolutionary Tribunal the procedure was led with as much contempt, and absence of equity that in the preceding "affaires", in particular, that of the fifty-four accomplices of the plot of the foreigner that the presecution and execution of the red shirts [Procès et exécution des chemises rouges] to go to the torment. Fifty-nine marked were joined together on the benches of the Court where one asked them to answer by yes or no, the two questions which were asked to them: conspired? and be informed of a conspiracy?. Fifty-nine people were condemned and guillotined. Among them, an eighty year old man: Jean-Baptist-Augustin de Salignac, Abbot of Fénelon. Among the others appeared in particular Denis-Pierre-Jean Papillon of Ferté, above intendant of the menu of the king, Guillaume-Joseph Dupleix de Bacquencourt above intendant of Burgundy, Marc-Antoine-François-Marie Randon of the Tower (administrator of the Treasury), Louis-Joachim-Paris, Louis-Joachim Potier, duc de Gesvres (compatriot of Louis de Saint-Just), Charles-Alexandre-Marc-Marcellin de Boussu de Chimay, prince d'Hénin, Aymar-Charles Nicolaï (ex-first chair Room of the Accounts) and Florent-Alexandre-Melchior de La Baume, count of Montrevel-en-Bresse Château de Lugny.

Second meeting - 21 messidor year II (July 9, 1794)

This second meeting was composed of fifty marked. It had this remarkable thing; that two of the defendants were discharged; one of them admittedly was a 14 year old child. On the other hand, the great architect Pierre-Louis Black-Desproux was included in this batch without same to be judged.

Third meeting - 22 messidor year II (July 10, 1794)

In this meeting which proceeded like the preceding ones, was present Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon - the son of the famous naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, who, when he went up to the scaffold, shouted with reproach: "I am the son of Buffon". Present also was Jacques-Raoul Caradeuc of Chalotais, son of Louis-Rene Caradeuc of Chalotais, who was then known to be in a state of insanity.

Third conspiracy of Luxembourg on Thermidor 4 year II (July 22, 1794)

This last raid in the prison of Luxembourg involved the execution of forty-five people among whom above the duchess of Brissac, the viscountess de Noailles accompanied by her mother, the duchess of Ayen, born Henriette d'Aguesseau and from her grandmother, the marshal's wife de Noailles, like her great-uncle Philippe de Noailles, duc de Mouchy and his wife. With them the hurdy-gurdy countess of Lachâtre, general of Flers, the Roger citizen of the section of Humanity,

Last charrettes

From the 25 messidor year II (July 13, 1794), the figure of the daily victims never went down below thirty and reached that of sixty sometimes. All the famous names of Ancien Régime were reproduced on the list of the defendants. But on these tragic lists were also day laborers, soldiers, and ploughmen.

Conspiration of Plessis

This project was a failure - it had there only three condemned to died - thanks to the courage of the Haly caretaker. See the letter of Gourreau quoted by Henri Wallon. See also Coittant p. 187: six indicators recruited by Benoist, which had already worked in Luxembourg, namely: Cupif, above inspector of the gardens of Tileries; Anne Cruau, shoe-maker; Charon, old domestic; Schaff, clock and watch maker; Folâtre, old ordering battalion de Bonne-Nouvelle.

Conspiracy of the Carmelite friars


The prison of the Carmelite friars.

After the prison of Luxembourg was "purged" by the process, in the same way, they applied it to other houses of detention. It was still the office of Armand Hermann who caused the denunciations. They brought in front of revolutionary Tribunal the fifty-one prisoners of Prison of the Carmelite friars. The first prisoners of the prison of the Carmelite friars were judged on Thermidor 5 year II YEAR, and forty-six of them were condemned to die on the vague denunciations of the indicators. Among them: Andre-Jean Butcher d' Argis (ex-lieutenant particular to Châtelet); François-Charles-Antoine d' Autichamps (canon with Notre-Dame) and brother of Vendean general; Louis-Marthe de Gouy d' Arsy (former deputy with the constituent Assembly); the general Alexandre François Marie de Beauharnais; Joachim-Charles de Soyecourt; Louis-Armand-Constantin, prince de Rohan-Montbazon; Gilles de Santerre (banking); Louis de Champcenetz (collaborator with the royalist newspaper Acts of the Apostles ). The prisoners of the Carmelite friars were shown to have formed the project to escape.

Conspiracy of Saint-Lazare

Among the indicators of Prison Saint-Lazare, the prisoners quoted: *Pierre-Athanase Pip-Desgrouettes, former lawyer, itself, on the bolster since his arrest the 2 floréal. It was implied in one of these innumerable blackmails, to the warrant for arrest near suspect rich person, have his fate was between the hands of its former Dossonville accomplice; * Augustin-Germain Jobert the Belgian, who hopelessly sought to escape the scaffold which it menaçaitil was carried out besides on the run on Thermidor 11 year II by the diligence of Barère;

  • les citizens Robiquet, Coquerey, Tap and Roger the Point.

The worst, if one can say, came from Manini, who, like Boyenval in Luxembourg, made zeal, preceding the desires of its employers. Besides one closed the eyes on his "indelicacies" because it was notorious that he made "to contribute" prisoners. Several prisoners, like Aimee de Coigny, Montrond, or the former deputy Thomas de Treil de Pardailhan, managed against money, to be made stripe lists of prisoners denounced, little before the series of "lawsuit" in front of the revolutionary Tribunal.

Meeting of Thermidor 6 year II - (July 24, 1794)

The prisoners of the prison of Saint-Lazare appeared twice. It was with the first meeting, on July 25, that Fouquier-Tinville made a sadly dreadful pun. Marie-Louise of Laval-Montmorency old of seventy-two years old, abess of Montmartre, was deaf. Jean-Baptiste Coffinhal, which chaired, having questioned it, she kept silence, and as Fouquier-Tinville addressed the word in his turn to him, one of marked pointed out to him that prevented did not hear. Fouquier-Tinville murmured: "They are good, they are good, we will put on the sentence that she conspired" dully. The writers Andre-Marie Chénier and Jean-Antoine Roucher also sat on the docks. With these writers appear the baron Frédérik de Trenck, seventy years old, the former adviser Louis-Valentine Goesman. Among the twenty-four condemned one still notices the marquis Gratien de Montalembert and of Roquelaure, the duke Charles-Alexandre de Créqui de Montmorency, the count Henri-Joseph de Bourdeille, the brother Joseph Raoul.

Meeting of Thermidor 8 year II - (July 26, 1794)

On July 26, 1794, the countess of Mursin, born Isabelle de Pigrais, paralysed, Mrs. Jolly de Fleury born Elisabeth Dubois de Courval; above the countess of Butler; the princess of Monaco; the marquis Louis-Armand-Joseph d' Usson (seventy-four years); the count de Beausset; Desfossés; Nicaut (ex-adviser at the Parliament of Dijon); Athanase-Jean Butcher (secretary of Jean-Sylvain Bailly); Dorothée de Cambon (woman of a former president of the Parliament of Toulouse); the two brothers Trudaine (Charles-Louis and Charles-Michel) and seventeen marked were condemned to death. A second meeting during which were considered defendants imprisoned with above convent des oiseaux and at the conclusion which condemned were joined together to the twenty-two of the "conspiracy" of Saint-Lazare, changed the full number of the executions envisaged on Thermidor 8 year II, to fifty three. On the fifty three condemned, seven women declared themselves pregnant, and were sent to the old people's home of the revolutionary Tribunal for examination. Several of them, the following day, belonged to the last cart of the Terror which a famous drawing of Raffet illustrates.

Conspiracy envisaged the day before Thermidor 9

Among the papers found after Thermidor 9, those intended to inform the lawsuit of Fouquier-Tinville and his consorts, show that other mass executions were envisaged in the following days, while the arrests and imprisonments, were increasingly numerous. All the nobility of Neuilly-sur-Seine, Boulogne and Auteuil, had been captured in raids, and they waited to appear before the revolutionary Tribunal. They had also brought back to Paris, all the prisoners from the prisons of Chantilly, Amiens, and other places. In all, several hundred people languished in the blocked prisons. It was all to be carried out from the political will of Barère, probably on order of certain foreign cabinets, to deprive France of its elites, and to make a bloodless prey, to parcel out like Poland. Contrary to this, that one believed and repeated, the takeover by force of Thermidor 9 year II, in the spirit of Barère, was to make it possible to get rid of Robespierre to continue with more rigour the great project of Terror, and the destruction of the Republic. The "day of the dupes" on Thermidor 9, reversed the course of things, and the members of the joined committees, in the impossibility to continue their crimes, made against misfortune good heart and suddenly joined the Thermidoriens, to make accord with the opinion that, since Terror was stopped on Thermidor 10, it was well the exclusive work of Robespierre and his "accomplices", in all, a hundred men of Thermidor were carried out, without due process of the law, 10 and 11. They died instead of the hundreds of prisoners who were going to be marked, to conspire in the prisons. The principal houses of detention in which one still erected scaffolding, the day before the chimerical conspiracies, those of Madelonnettes Papiers were found, II, p. 417: report/ratio of Faro on a letter "found" in Madelonnettes, revealing the existence of a conspiracy; of Free Port; of Plessis where the Courlet citizen had been requested to make denunciations against his fellows-prisoner to save his head. Other projects were in hand again to the Carmelite friars and even in Luxembourg who still counted to a great number of prisoners lately incarcerated, Olivier Blanc, the last letter, prisons and condemned revolution, Paris, 1984. Outstanding people were planned for this butchery and in particular Thomas Paine, future Mrs. de Fontenay Thérésa Tallien, girl of the Cabarrus banker, it marquis de Sade, Joséphine de Beauharnais, the general Lazare Hoche, the countess of Simiane born Aglaé of Damas, friend of Fayette, the painter Hubert Robert, Miss Contat of the French Comedy, it duchess d' Orleans, etc…


The most tested prisons were Luxembourg (315 executions 19,20, and 21 messidor then on Thermidor 4), Saint-Lazare (165 executions Thermidor 6,7 and 8), Bicêtre 76 executions 28 prairal, and 8 messidor, the Carmelite friars (49 executions on Thermidor 5). All the victims of the conspiracy of the prisons were buried in Picpus Cemetery.

After the fall of Maximilien de Robespierre Thermidor 9 year II (July 21, 1794) the prisons were opened and the prisoners released.

Political consequences

The terror falls with the Thermidorian Reaction: the responsibility for these crimes projected on the "Robespierrists".



  • Almanac of the prisons or anecdotes on the interior mode of the Caretaker's lodge, Luxembourg and on various prisoners who lived these houses (...) , Paris, Michel year III (1795).
  • White Olivier, The Last Letter, prisons and condemned of Révolution , Paris, Robert laffont, 1984.
  • Joseph Paris of Spinach, My return to the life after fifteen months of anguish. Anecdote which can be used for knowledge of the homme , (1794)
  • Prudhomme, General and impartial history of the errors, the faults and the crimes committed during the Revolution française , Paris, year IV (1797).
  • Alexandre Tuetey, Repertory of the handwritten sources of the history of Paris during Révolution , (volumes X and XI).
  • Walloon Henri, History of the revolutionary Tribunal. With the newspaper of its actes , Paris, hatchet, 1880-1882 (volumes IV to VI)
  • Elme Marie Caro, Andre Chénier in Saint-Lazare, according to news publications , (1875)

See also

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