Abstract

Reactionary culture helped shape Thermidor's retreat from the ideologies, social policies, and political practices of the Terror. This article explains how it did so by examining the most popular newspaper of the French Revolution's Year III (1794–95), L'orateur du peuple, and editor Stanislas Fréron's appropriation of revolutionary inventiveness to discredit revolutionary activism. Between Robespierre's defeat in July 1794 and the adoption of a new constitution in late summer 1795, Fréron used radical language to condemn first the Terror and then radical republicanism, progressing from attacks on specific legislators to an assault on social welfare, political militancy, and universal suffrage. Elaborating a right-wing ideology that was neither Catholic nor royalist, L'orateur du peuple illuminates the conservative uses of revolutionary political culture. Fréron and the reactionary polemicists among whom he worked forged a virulent reactionary populism in the Year III whose legacy endures today.

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