The Girondins during the French Revolution in the 1790s were originally a faction of the Jacobins Club who hailed from the Gironde department. They become a powerful political faction in Revolutionary France after merging with the Brissotins, supporters of Jacques Brissot. They supported the declaration of war by France on the Austrian Habsurg Empire on 20 April 1792. After dismissing the anti-war Legislative Assembly, King Louis XVI appointed a radical government containing several prominent Girondins who voted overwhelmingly for the declaration of war.
Despite their opposition to Louis, the Girondin deputies were forced to offer him their support to protect their newly gained power in late July 1792. The Federes, militant revolutionaries, were planning an uprising to depose the King at the urging of Maximilien de Robespierre. Although Louis XVI rejected their help and was subsequently arrested on 10 August 1792, the Girondins found themselves in the majority in the newly formed Convention.
The Girondins decline began at the trial of Louis XVI. The Jacobins demanded his execution to prevent a restoration of the monarchy while the Girondins were suspicious of Robespierre's motives. When the King was found guilty and sentenced to death by a margin of 99 votes, the Jacobins accused the Girondins of being royalists and counter-revolutionary despite the fact that more than half of their deputies had voted for execution.
On 2 June 1793, 80,000 National Guardsmen surrounded the Convention, armed with cannon. They demanded the expulsion of the Girondin deputies, who complied to avoid a massacre. The National Guardsmen were predominately sans-culottes who fanatically supported the Jacobins.
Although the Girondins were moderates compared to the Jacobins, they were no less radical or murderous, as Bertrand Barère, himself a member of the Girondins, declared his intention to turn Vendee into a cemetery.
- Doyle, William. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. (2001), 120pp; online edition