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Law of 22 Prairial

The Law of 22 Prairial, also known as the loi de la Grande Terreur, the law of the Great Terror, was enacted on June 10, 1794 (22 Prairial of the Year II under the French Revolutionary Calendar). It was proposed by Georges Auguste Couthon and lent support by Robespierre. It was one of the ordinances passed during this stage of the French Revolution, by means of which the Committee of Public Safety simplified the judicial process to one of indictment and prosecution. It extended the reach of the Revolutionary Tribunal, and limited the ability of the accused to defend themselves, broadening the scope of those who might be brought within the purview of revolutionary justice. The penalty for all offences under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Tribunal was death.

It provided for a climate of moral suspicion with the clause which stipulated that:

Every citizen is empowered to seize conspirators and counterrevolutionaries, and to bring them before the magistrates. He is required to denounce them as soon as he knows of them.

Many in the Convention were opposed to the law, including some who were on the Committee of Public Safety themselves, fearing that the concentration of power would lead inevitably to dictatorship and damage yet further the Republic. Less than two months later came 9 Thermidor, the downfall of Robespierre and the Mountain and the beginning of the Thermidorian reaction. The Law of 22 Prairial was removed on 1 August 1794 in a manner congruent to the revolution's return to moderation under the Thermidorian government of limited suffrage.

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