Law of Suspects
(September 17, 1793)
"Immediately after the publication of this decree, all suspects found on the territory of the Republic and who are still at liberty will be arrested." – Law of Suspects
Robespierre’s Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, was, effectively speaking, a political weapon. This ‘weapon’ was aimed at all those who might oppose the revolutionary government. Special ‘revolutionary courts’ were set up to try various rebels and “enemies of the state” for political crimes. These courts were only responsible to Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety, and daily tried innumerable amounts of the accused. However, the courts needed some precendent and/or justification for sentencing seemingly innocent people to death.
In order to successfully butcher possible political enemies without legal repercussions, Robespierre had the Law of Suspects passed on the seventeenth of September 1793. This law clearly defined (in a conveniently vague manner) those who could be arrested for “treasonable” activities and “crimes against liberty”.
“Suspects are… Those who, either by their conduct or their relationships, by their remarks or by their writing, are shown to be partisans of tyranny and federalism and enemies of liberty…” – Law of Suspects
With legal justification from the Law of Suspects, thousands were guillotined, and hundreds of thousands were arrested. This law allowed Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety to enforce their terror.