The Girondists played a prominent role in the French Revolution. In the south of France there is a province named ‘Girond’ and the men who belonged to it came to be known as Girondists.
The significant leaders of this party were Brissot, Dumoureiz, Condercet, Vergniaud, Petain and Madam Rolland.
They were full of patriotism and sincerity. The chief aim of Girondists was to establish republican form of government in France. They were full of bookish knowledge and practical experience.
Though they were staunch revolutionaries, they did not favour violence, lawlessness and anarchy. Madam Rolland, the impressive woman leader of this party, played a significant role in the French Revolution. Hazen has written about her:
“They were a group of eloquent young men led by a romantic woman.”
The members of Girondist party were in favour of continuing the war against Austria, but there was no able general in France during that period, hence France was defeated in the war.
As the responsibility of defeat was laid at the door of the king, the infuriated public attacked the palace of the king and murdered his bodyguards.
In fact the crowd of Paris and the Paris Commune were beyond the control of the Girondists and they contributed a lot to their downfall.
They wanted to punish those persons who were responsible for the September massacre but did not succeed in their objective.
The death sentence of King Louis XVI enfeebled their position all the more. Devaluation of assignats and soaring prices brought bad name to the Girondists.
Dumoureiz, the foreign minister, and Pache, the war minister, left the Girondist party at a very critical moment and let their party go to dogs.
When 21 prominent members of the Girondist party were arrested and put to death, the downfall of the Girondists had become quite inevitable. The following reasons are adduced as being responsible for the fall of the Girondists:
1. The leaders of the Girondist party were not capable of holding the reins of empire under adverse circumstances. They had only bookish knowledge and were deprived of any practical experience. Hence they failed in the practical affairs of life.
2. Paris was the centre of revolution from the very inception of the French Revolution. Owing to this the Girondists opposed the Paris Commune. Opposition of the Paris Commune also helped in their downfall.
3. As the Girondist leaders, Pache and Dumouieiz, fled to the enemy camps having deserted the party, the fall of Girondists became inevitable.
4. The eminent newspapers of Paris were either published by or were under the control of the Jacobin leaders and they opposed the policies of the Girondists and defamed them.
5. The lack of foodgrains and devaluation of assignats proved detrimental for the Girondist party. In fact, it is difficult to control a hungry man. This internal problem led to the fall of Girondist party.
6. National Convention had fixed the rates of various articles by passing the ‘Law of the maximum’, but Girondists opposed it due to their economic policy and attracted popularity to themselves.
The leaders of the Girondist party wanted to crush the power of the Paris Commune but the National Guards encircled the Convention. Many Girondist leaders fled France but whosoever was arrested guillotined.
Thus a powerful Girondist party failed in its aim of maintaining peace and order during the course of revolution and had to surrender before their powerful opponents, Jacobins. Thus the Girondists met their doom and failed in achieving their aims.