The Mountain

This article is about the historical political group. For other uses, see The Mountain (disambiguation).
The Mountain
La Montagne
Leaders Georges Danton,
Maximillien Robespierre,
Paul Barras,
Bertrand Barère
Founded September 6, 1792 (1792-09-06)
Dissolved May 21, 1795 (1795-05-21)
Headquarters Tuileries Palace, Paris
Newspaper L'Ami du peuple
Le Vieux Cordelier
Le Père Duchesne
Political club(s) Jacobin Club
Cordeliers Club
Ideology Radicalism[1][2]
Totalitarian democracy
Political position Left-wing[5][6]
Religion Deism
Arrest of Robespierre and his followers. At the centre of the image, gendarme Merda fires at Robespierre. (Colour engraving by Jean-Joseph-François Tassaert after the painting by Fulchran-Jean Harriet - Musée Carnavalet).

The Mountain (French: La Montagne) was a political group during the French Revolution whose members, called Montagnards, sat on the highest benches in the Assembly. They were the most radical group and opposed the Girondists. The term, which was first used during a session of the Legislative Assembly, came into general use in 1793. Led by Maximilien Robespierre, the Montagnards unleashed the Reign of Terror in 1794.



It is difficult to pinpoint the conception of the Montagnard group, because the lines which defined it were themselves quite nebulous early on. Originally, members of "The Mountain" were the men who sat in the highest rows of the Jacobin Clubs, loosely organized political debate clubs open to the public.[7] Though members of the Montagnards were known for their commitment to radical political resolutions prior to 1793, the contours of political groups presented an ever-evolving reality that shifted in response to events. Would-be prominent Montagnard leaders like Jean-Baptiste Robert Lindet and André Jean Bon Saint-André were tempted by early Girondin proposals, and soon, many moderates – even anti-radicals – felt the need to push for radical endeavors in light of threats both within and without the country.[8] It was only after the trial of Louis XVI in December 1792, which united the Montagnards on a position of regicide, that the ideals and power of the group fully consolidated.

Rise and Terror

The rise of Montagnards corresponds to the fall of the Girondins. The Girondin party hesitated on the correct course of action to take with Louis XVI after his attempt to flee France on 20 June 1791. Some elements of the Girondin party believed they could use the king as figurehead. While the Girondins hesitated, the Montagnards took a united stand during the trial in December 1792 – January 1793 and favored the king's execution.[9] Riding on this victory, the Montagnards then sought to discredit the Girondins. They used tactics previously employed by the Girondins to denounce them as liars and enemies of the Revolution.[10] They also formed a legislative committee in which Nicolas Hentz proposed a limitation of inheritances gaining more support for the Montagnards. Girondin members were subsequently banned from the Jacobin club and excluded from the National Convention on 31 May- 2 June 1793. Any attempted resistance was crushed. Maximilien Robespierre then continued to consolidate his power over the Montagnards with the use of the Committee of Public Safety.[11]

Decline and fall

The fall and exclusion of the Montagnards from the National Convention began with the collapse of the Revolution's radical phase and the death of Robespierre on 10 Thermidor (28 July) 1794. While the Montagnards celebrated unity, there was growing heterogeneity within the group as Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety overextended themselves with their tight control over the military and their extreme opposition to corruption in the government.[12] Their overextension drew the ire of other revolutionary leaders and a number of plots coalesced on 9 Thermidor (Thermidorian Reaction) when collaborators with the more moderate group the Dantonists acted in response to fears that Robespierre planned to execute them.[9] The purge of Robespierre was strongly similar to previous measures employed by the Montagnards to expel disagreeable factions, such as the Girondins. However, as Robespierre was widely considered the heart of the Montagnards, his death symbolized the collapse of the party. Few desired to take on the name of Montagnards afterwards, leaving around only about 100 men.[8] Finally, at the end of 1794, the Mountain largely devolved into a party called The Crest (French: crête), which lacked any real power.[13]

Factions and prominent members

'The Mountain' was born in 1792, with the merger of two prominent left-wing clubs: the Jacobins and Cordeliers. Initially the Jacobins were moderate republicans and the Cordeliers were radical populist, but in late 1792, Danton and his supporters wanted a reconciliation with the Girondists, which caused a break with Robespierre. After the trial of Girondists in 1793, Danton became strongly moderate while Robespierre continued his authoritarian policies. The Moderates of Danton were also rival to the Jacques Hébert's "Enragés", that wanted the persecution of the all non-montagnards and the dechristianisation of France. When Robespierre eliminated first the Hébertists (March 1794) and then the Dantonistes (April 1794), his group ruled The Mountain until the Thermidorian Reaction, when several conspirators supported by The Plain instituted a coup d'état, executed Robespierre and his supporters and split from The Mountain to form the Thermidorian Left. The Montagnards that survived were arrested, executed or deported. From 1794 to 1795, the Mountain was effectively obliterated.

Electoral results

National Convention
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1792 unknown (#2) unknown
200 / 749
Maximillien Robespierre


  1. "Montagnard". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. Prachi Mital (2012). "Essay on the Ideological Differences between the Girondists and the Jacobins". Preserve Articles.
  3. Howard G. Brown (3 August 1995). War, Revolution, and the Bureaucratic State: Politics and Army Administration in France. Clarendon Press. p. 370.
  4. Edward Berenson (1984). Populist Religion and Left-Wing Politics in France. Princeton University Press. p. 308.
  5. Jennifer Llewellyn; Steve Thompson (2015). "The Girondins and Montagnards". Alpha History.
  6. Gregory Fremont-Barnes (2007). Encyclopedia of the Age of Political Revolutions and New Ideologies. Greenwood Press. p. 867.
  7. "Definition of 'mountain' - Collins English Dictionary".
  8. 1 2 François Furet and Mona Ozouf. A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. (Belknap Press, 1989), 380-390.
  9. 1 2 Jeremy D. Popkin, A Short History of the French Revolution, 5th ed. (Pearson, 2009), 72-77.
  10. Marisa Linton, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution. (Oxford U.P., 2013), 174–75.
  11. Robert J. Alderson, This Bright Era of Happy Revolutions: French Consul Michel-Ange-Bernard Mangourit and International Republicanism in Charleston, 1792-1794. (U. of South Carolina Press, 2008), 9-10.
  12. Peter McPhee, Robespierre: A Revolutionary Life. (Yale U.P., 2012), 271.
  13. "Montagnard". Encyclopedia Britannica.


Further reading

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