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The Girondists ( French Girondins ) were the members of a group (Gironde) of MPs mainly from the south of France during the French Revolution , which first appeared on October 1, 1791 in the National Legislative Assembly (Assemblée nationale législative) . Their supporters belonged to the upper middle class. The Girondins took their name from the Gironde department with the capital Bordeaux , from which many of the MPs came.

In the legislative national assembly they found majorities in favor of declaring war on Austria, for the abolition of the monarchy and for more independence in France. In the convent they gradually lost their power to the Montagnards . The sans-culottes uprising in 1793 led to the arrest and execution of leading Girondins.

The Last Moments of the Girondins (The Gazebo, 1880)


1791   October 1 Opening session of the legislature
1792       January - March Unrest in Paris and in the countryside due to supply problems and inflation
March, 15 Appointment of Girondist ministers (Roland, Claviere) by the King ( First Cabinet of the Gironde )
20th of April France declares war on Austria
      May Setbacks by the French troops
June 12 Dismissal of the Girondin ministers
20th June Mass demonstration against the king in the Tuileries
August 10 Storming the Tuileries. The Royal Family imprisoned in the Temple ( Gironde's Second Cabinet )
  September 26th September murders in Paris prisons
September 20th Dissolution of the legislature
21st September Meeting of the Convention. Abolition of the monarchy and establishment of a republic
October 10th Brissot expelled from the Jacobin Club. Separation of the Girondins from the other Jacobins
1793 21th January Execution of Louis XVI.
March 10th Establishment of the Paris Revolutionary Tribunal
March 11 Beginning of the Vendée uprising
May 31st - June 2nd Revolt of the Parisian sans-culottes . Leading Girondins arrested
  6th of June Anti-Jacobean uprisings in the major cities of the province
June 21st With Lebrun the last Girondin minister is dismissed
17th of September Law against the "suspects". Beginning of the Terreur
October 31 Execution of leading Girondists
  November 8th Execution of Madame Roland


In the legislature, the Girondins were called Brissotins - after Jacques Pierre Brissot , one of their leading figures - or the Bordeaux group. In the convent the Bordeaux group was called Girondist. They were distinguished from the group around Brissot right up to the end. Both together were called among other things Rolandists, after the minister they provided Jean-Marie Roland de La Platière and above all after Madame Roland ; she and her salon were the center of the Girondins in Paris. Robespierre used the term “ la faction ” (clique, clique) for them.

The term Girondins as a collective name was first introduced by historiography and popularized by Alphonse de Lamartine's Histoire des Girondins .

Even in the Convention there were no parties in the current sense, no organized groups. Jacques-Antoine Dulaure describes them in the Thermomètre du jour (1791–1793) as "still unstable associations of men". He mentions the Montagne on the far left of the assembly, but not the Gironde . Jean-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne denounced the Gironde in the 1793 trial against the Gironde , but rather the “leaders of the right-wing”.


The Girondins were strongly represented in certain regions, both in very poor départements ( Hautes-Alpes ) and in affluent ( Gironde ). Overall, they came from the south and west of France, in which the large port cities played an important role, from the area of ​​the later federalist uprising.

Among the generally very young MPs in the legislature and in the Convention, the Girondins were on average somewhat older than their colleagues. A careful review showed that Girondists and Montagnards had mostly the same interests. There were nobles in both groups, and both Girondists and Montagnards had bought national goods. The executives of the two camps had higher incomes than their supporters. The people from the inner circle of the Girondins were a little more urban and a little closer to wholesalers and manufacturers than their counterparts from the mountain party. The respective sympathizers lived rather in modest circumstances and came from a homogeneous intellectual petty bourgeoisie. The supporters of the two groups thus belonged to the same social milieu.

Inner circle and sympathizers

Strictly speaking, only the legislative representatives from the Gironde can be called Girondists: Ducos (1765–1793), Gensonné , Grangeneuve , Guadet , Vergniaud - young lawyers and merchants who founded the Jacobin Club of Bordeaux. Gensonné associated with Dumouriez , Guadet and Gensonné with the House of Roland and all together on the subject of slavery with Jacques Pierre Brissot. Barbaroux and his Marseilles comrades soon joined this small group. The men met in the salons of Madame Dodun (Vergniaud and his friends) and Madame Roland (the Brissotins). Unlike z. B. the cordeliers , which were open to everyone, came to the luxurious salons of the ladies only selected personalities. This has contributed to the reputation of the Girondins as schemers, secret agents and tacticians. They also met in the Club de la Réunion founded in 1793 ; and in Madame Valazé's house the Comité Valazé met for agreements and preliminary discussions for the sessions of the National Assembly .

Due to their personal relationships with Brissot, there are about 60 Girondins in the inner circle. They had the ability to carry others away and were more individualistic than their following. In their voting behavior, the small group was more divided than the larger circle of sympathizers, who also tended to be lenient in the roll-call votes, for example in the trial against the king.

The Brissotins, Girondins and Rolandists lacked unity on the decisive occasions. It was not until the reign of terror in 1793 that a closed group was created. It was 29 Girondins who were excluded from the convention after the popular uprising of June 2 as factieux (rebellious) members. 46 Girondists are then named in the indictment before the people's tribunal. If you add to these 46 "rebels" those who protested in any way against the act of violence of June 2nd, you get 140 Girondins.


In the legislature the groups of the future Girondists and the future Montagnards had jointly opposed the policy of the Feuillants and tried to curtail the authority of the king. In the convention there were then conflicts between the two groups. In the past, the causes for this conflict were sought in social, economic, generation-specific and ideological differences. Today the split in the revolutionary camp is derived from the power struggles that have arisen.

In addition to the accusation of the formation of a faction , the charges of the trial brought by the Montagne before the Revolutionary Tribunal are limited to royalism and federalism .

Historiography added three other charges: the unreflective use of revolutionary violence, frivolous incitement to war, and social selfishness. Edgar Quinet justifies the first accusation : By supporting the popular uprising of June 20, 1792, the Girondins approved the first violation of the right to represent the people. On the second accusation, Jean Jaurès and Albert Sorel write : The Girondins wanted to secure their personal power through the war and not the victory of the revolution. The war was unnecessary and the Girondins were unable to wage it. They did not understand that through the war they carelessly linked their fate with the luck with weapons. On the third allegation, Albert Mathiez thinks : The struggle between Girondists and Montagnards was a hidden class struggle. The Girondins wanted to end the revolution in order to protect their interests and defend their property.

Jules Michelet misses “the divine fire of the revolution” among the Girondins. “Your Brissot is a pretentious spirit [...], a man of tricks and fantasies; her pleasure an absent-minded esthete [...] ”, judges Mona Ozouf .


The fight with the Feuillants had identified the Girondists as opponents of the constitutional monarchy , but the war forced them to come to an agreement with the supporters of Lafayette and with Narbonne , who had been Minister of War since December 1791. So they negotiated the accusation of royalism, which was fed by their government participation in April 1792 ( Clavière , Roland and later Servan). After the first military setbacks in May 1792 and the dismissal of the Girondi ministers by the king in June, they resumed their policy of intimidating the king with the support of the mass demonstration on June 20, but soon afterwards again with the court around the Return to their offices to negotiate. August 10th brought her back to the Ministry under different circumstances. This did not silence suspicions of royalism, and their delaying maneuvers in the trial of the king seemed to confirm it.


Until the end, the Girondins believed in the sovereignty of the Convention and in the unity of the republic. Condorcet's failed draft constitution was in no way federalist. Only Buzot had sympathy for the American model.

In their hatred of the Commune , they called for the revolutionary Parisian sections to be retaken. On May 18, Guadet denounced the Paris authorities at the Convention; the Girondins achieved the establishment of a commission of inquiry. If one understands by federalism their hatred of the Paris authorities and the refuge in the provincial departments, then it was their most constant, unifying idea.


The same ambiguity as in their relation to the court the Girondists had in their relation to legality. They did not initiate the revolutionary uprising of June 20, 1792, but they took advantage of it. They prepared for the popular uprising of August 10th and committed themselves to it. In view of the September murders, like all parliamentarians, they reacted horrified, but they tried to relativize this massacre and to minimize it as a kind of popular justice. In 1793 they were on the side of legalism in view of the agitation of the sans-culottes. But when they attacked Marat in April 1793, they didn't care that this was a member of the convent. The Girondins' approval of exemptions depended on the situation and was determined by opportunism.

Economic liberalism

Economic liberalism was not a dogma for the Girondins: in the field of foreign trade they represented protectionism and during the economic crisis in spring 1792 Fauchet suggested dirigistic measures. The economic conception of the Girondins corresponded to that of the Convention, which rejected all demands for taxation (official fixing of the price of bread and flour) in February 1793.


From December 1791 on, Brissot had the idea of ​​eliminating the feuillants and cornering the king with a short war limited to the continent. Among the Girondins there were skeptics (Fauchet) and procrastinators ( Guadet , Gensonné ) who only joined the idea of war at a late stage, but Robespierre remained quite alone as a war opponent in the mountain party. The will to war characterizes not only the Girondin group, but the entire patriotic left. Even so, the discussion on this matter has left the feeling that the Gironde is defined by war. This led to the image of a blind Girondist party and a clear-sighted party of the Montagnards. The series of defeats in the spring of 1793 and the betrayal of General Dumouriez , a friend of Brissot, hastened its early end.


The conflict between Girondists and Montagnards that dominated the convent was not determined by social differences between the two groups, but was a clash of strong personalities in the struggle for power. On the war question, Robespierre argued against Brissot. This heralds the later break-up of the patriotic left. In the trial against the king Robespierre and Saint-Just stood alone with their arguments, and Robespierre again in the economic crisis of spring 1793. In their struggle for rule in the convent, the two party leaders sought every opportunity for confrontation.


The idea that most united the Girondins after August 10, 1792 was that of ending the revolution. After his exclusion from the Jacobin Club in October 1792, Brissot declared that of the three necessary revolutions only the third remained: the fight against anarchy. In March 1793, Vergniaud divided the convention into a group that wanted to stir up revolutionary unrest, namely the Mountain Party, and another that believed the time had come to end the revolution. The Gironde thus won sympathizers in the convention, who helped her to a majority four days before her overthrow in the vote on the reintroduction of the Twelve Commission. The last two roll-call votes in the Convention - the vote against Marat and for the reinstatement of the Twelve Commission - show a homogeneous Girondin group: the Gironde , almost a large party.


  • This article essentially follows Mona Ozouf: The Girondins . In: François Furet and Mona Ozouf (eds.): Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution . 2 vol., Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1996 pp. 585-602. ISBN 978-3-518-11522-0
  • Eberhard Schmitt: Introduction to the history of the French Revolution . 2nd edition, CH Beck Verlag, Munich 1989. ISBN 978-3-406-07590-2
  • Albert Soboul: The Great French Revolution . 5th edition, Athenäum-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 978-3-610-08518-6
  • Antoine Court (ed.): Les Girondins des Lamartine . Édition du Roure, St. Julien-Chapteuil 1988–1990
  • Alphonse de Lamartine (author), Denis Raffet (engraver): Girondists and Jacobins . Desch, Munich 1947
  • Bernhardine Melchior-Bonnet: Les Girondins . Tallandier, Paris 1989, ISBN 2-235-01837-8
  • François Furet et al. a. (Ed.): La Gironde et les Girondins . Payot, Paris 1991, ISBN 2-228-88400-6
  • Albert Soboul et al. a. (Ed.): Girondins et Montagnards. Actes du colloque, Sorbonne, 14th dec. 1975 . Soc. des Études Robespierristes, Paris 1980.
  • Robert Griepenkerl: The Girondists. A tragedy in 5 acts . Schlodtmann, Bremen 1852.
  • Charles Nodier : The last banquet of the Girondins («La dernier banquet des Girondins»). Hausen, Saarlouis 1919.

Web links

Commons : Girondists  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ernst Schulin: The French Revolution . 3rd edition, Beck, Munich 1990 p. 197.
  2. after Ozouf p. 585.
  3. after Ozouf p. 585.
  4. Ozouf, pp. 599f.
  5. Steven Kale: French salons . Johns Hopkins University Press , Baltimore 2006, pp. 57f.
  6. after Ozouf, p. 591.
  7. Ozouf, p. 591.
  8. ^ Ozouf p. 597.