Today I attended another one of the tours that I love because I learn so much about Paris. Take this statue….
Who is Danton and why does he rate having a statue in Paris? This statue is located in the Latin Quarter, near the Odeon metro stop. Who is this man, you might be asking. I know that I ask that about many of the statues that I see around France.
It turns out that he was an important figure in the early stages in the French Revolution. He was the president of the Cordeliers Club, which was one of the first organizations to accuse the royal court of being irreconcilably hostile to freedom. They also were the centre for the notion that France should be a country of its people under popular sovereignty.
When the fleeing King and Queen (King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette) tried to flee France, he was behind the crowd that gathered and then turned into the massacre of the Champ de Mars in 1791. Afterward he fled to England for the rest of the summer fearing backlash.
By September, he was back in Paris in a subordinate post in the Paris Commune. The following August, when the popular forces marched on the Tuileries Palace and the King and Queen took refuge with the Legislative Assembly, it is not clear what his role was. He may have been at it’s head since after the fall of the monarchy he became the minister of justice. He is accused of being part of the September Massacres, in which 12-1400 prisoners were executed while the government officials tolerated it. The massacres spread to many of other cities in France.
In January 1793, he voted for the death of Louis XVI and reportedly said, “The kings of Europe would date challenge us? We throw them the head of a king.” He was eventually made head of the Committee of Public Safety initially known as the Danten Committee. One of the things that he supported while on the committee was retract legislation instituting terror as the order of the day. He wanted to work on issues such as controlling high bread prices and making peace with foreign powers. The Committee was at war with he majority of European powers. His presence on the committee did not last long but it he continued to support the centralization of power by the committee.
He was never able to retract the terror legislation and so the Reign of Terror in France continued and the tide eventually turned against him. He was accused of shady dealings and many financial misdeeds including taking bribes from foreign powers. His chief ground for execution was a scheme that involved the French East India Company. It was a complicated, messy affair that involved insider trading knowledge and blackmail.
A groups of 15 men were tried and guillotined that day in 1794, Danton was the last. He is officially credited with sparking the revolution and overthrowing the monarchy which led to the establishment of the First Republic.