The Law of Suspects


The Law of Suspects


This law, passed on 17 September 1793, authorized the creation of revolutionary tribunals to try those suspected of treason against the Republic and to punish those convicted with death. This legislation in effect made the penal justice system into the enforcement arm of the revolutionary government, which would now set as its primary responsibility not only the maintenance of public order but also the much more difficult and controversial task of identifying internal enemies of the Republic—such as "profiteers" who violated the Maximum—and then removing them from the citizenry, where they might subvert the general will.


Jean-Baptiste Duvergier, Collection complète des lois, décrets, ordonnances, règlements, avis du conseil d'état . . . de 1788 a 1830 . . . , 2d ed., 110 vols. (Paris, 1834–1906), 6:172–73.


September 17, 1793





1. Immediately after the publication of the present decree, all suspects within the territory of the Republic and still at large, shall be placed in custody.

2. The following are deemed suspects:

1– those who, by their conduct, associations, comments, or writings have shown themselves partisans of tyranny or federalism and enemies of liberty;

2– those who are unable to justify, in the manner prescribed by the decree of 21 March, their means of existence and the performance of their civic duties;

3– those to whom certificates of patriotism have been refused;

4– civil servants suspended or dismissed from their positions by the National Convention or by its commissioners, and not reinstated, especially those who have been or are to be dismissed by virtue of the decree of 14 August;

5– those former nobles, together with husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, and agents of the émigrés, who have not constantly demonstrated their devotion to the Revolution;

6– those who have emigrated between 1 July 1789, and the publication of the decree of 30 March (8 April 1792), even though they may have returned to France within the period established by said decree or prior thereto.


“The Law of Suspects,” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed February 22, 2024,