It is Thermidor — Month of Heat — by that queer artifact of the times, the Revolutionary calendar, and in the blistering summer the guillotine rots its own scaffold.
It is the climax of that emblematic moment of the French Revolution, often wrongly standing to casual observation as synonymous with the entire revolution. Jarring indeed how brief the span of those pregnant, dangerous days, that upon the storming of the Bastille the guillotine had not yet been erected and from that traditional birthdate of the Revolution were eclipsed successively the Bourbon monarchy, the Constitutionalist Assembly, the Girondin liberals, Marat, Danton … culminating in the bloody hegemony of Robespierre and the fatal test between the Jacobins and their enemies.
By the spring and summer of 1794, Paris is delivered fully to Robespierre. “Terror,” he says, “is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country.” A blip on the screen chronologically, this period seems endless to those who survive it, and it reverberates endlessly to those who succeed it.
For the next week, join Executed Today in 1794’s Month of Heat as day by day the Terror rages at its apex, inscrutably suffering citizens to live or die — until of a sudden it succumbs to its own rot.
July 22 (4 Thermidor): The Noailles family
July 23 (5 Thermidor): Alexandre de Beauharnais
July 24 (6 Thermidor): Not Thomas Paine
July 25 (7 Thermidor): Andre Chenier
July 26 (8 Thermidor): Loizerolles and others for the “Conspiracy of the Prisons”
July 27 (9 Thermidor): The last cart of the Terror, not including the Marquis de Sade
July 28 (10 Thermidor): Maximilien Robespierre