Georges Jacques Danton was a moving force in the French Revolution that saw France become one of the first countries to vacate the old and decaying institution of monarchy.

Born in 1759, Georges Jacques Danton was, like his contemporary Maximillien Robespierre, born into a family of lawyers. Danton was born at the Northern France town of Arcis-sur-Aube.

In 1780, he moved to Paris and began an apprenticeship with a local lawyer and by 1784, he was called to the bar of Paris.

Danton was not an ambitious lawyer and was usually broke, known as a bon vivant. In the bars of Paris, he was soon in the thick of critical talks of the unpopular and ruinous monarchy of King Louis XVI. When he married Antonette Charpentier in 1787, her large dowry allowed him to pay off his debts and buy a lucrative law practise.

In 1789, he met his lifelong friend and fellow lawyer, Camille Desmoulins, and was elected to represent the Cordeliers District of Paris in the National Assembly.

By 1790, in part due to his extraordinary oratory talents, he had become a national hero for his risky defence of his fellow-revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat.

Georges DantonIn 1791, he fires up his political brokerage in earnest, first espousing a republic model for France, with a nominal monarchy - which he calls a constitutional monarchy. But when Louis XVI is caught trying to escape France, Danton changes his position and pronounces against any monarchy.

In his personal life, he started to purchase land near Le Chêne, transactions which would later haunt him when, in the midst of Robespierre's La terreur, all wealthy people are suspected of anti-revolutionary sentiments.

Danton was Minister of Justice when, suddenly, in August 1792, first in Paris and then throughout France, the peasants rose in a violent and murderous tsunami of rage against what was left of the nobles, and against the church. As thousands were guillotined in the name of the Revolution, Danton recognized it for the insanity it had become, and distanced himself.

As the tide of killing and rioting swung one way and then another, Danton resigned his justice ministry and threw himself into the war against Prussia, and relations with England, even as Louis XVI was put on trial and executed. Danton, thoug, voted in favour of the sentence.

Just as rumours and actual evidence began to surface implicating him and Louis XVI in corruption practices, circa 1791, Danton was hit in his personal life when both his wife and a stillborn child did not survive the birthing process.

In 1793, Danton reared back and regained his influence becoming a member of the all-powerful Committee of Public Safety (Comité de salut public). The Comité was given exclusive jurisdiction to propose new laws.

But by July of that same year, he was not on the new roster of new appointments to the Committee.

Along with Desmoulins, Danton publicly criticized the government and especially La terreur and its radical supporters. Danton demanded clemency and a return to law and order and judicial process.

He vigorously opposed the Terreur's summary executions of military leaders for any lost battle and the trial of the former Queen, Marie-Antoinnette, projecting that her execution would take from the revoluitionary government any hope for international acceptance and legitimacy.

In October of 1793, claiming exhaustion, he retired to Arcis-sur-Aube and remarried. But in November 1793, a new political crisis forced him to return to Paris.

Danton tried desperately to rally a coalition against the legislative demands of the ever-present radicals, which were increasing their political  influence on the government.

The members of the government, including Robespierre, secretly judged Danton to be a threat to national security, a death sentence, and suddenly, on March 24, 1794, had him arrested, along with Desmoulins, among others.

His trial lasted from April 2 to 5, 1794. Bombastic that he was, to the end, Danton's trial was sensational but the conclusion, foregone.

The Revolutionary Tribunal was a kangaroo court, an instrument of the government explicitly designed not to try and apply justice, but to ferret-out and eliminate persons not openly supportive of the government.

There was only one available sentence: execution by guillotine.

The official indictment referred to a:

"... conspiracy tending to reestablish the monarchy and to destroy national representation - une conspiration tendante à rétablie la monarchie, à détruire la représentation nationale".

At trial, Danton and this co-accused Lacroix desperately demanded to call witnesses but were refused by the chief justice. By the end of the third day of trial, the jury indicated it was able to return a verdict. At the start of proceedings on April 5, 1794, all the accused but one (Louis-Marie Lullier) were condemned and all were guillotined later that same day, including the formidable patriot, Georges Jacques Danton.

Some historians suggest that the larger-than-life Georges Danton does not fully deserve the title of hero of the French Revolution; that the record shows that he did make and take bribes.

Nonetheless, Danton, contrary to Robespierre, is a celebrated hero of France and not just for his role in the Revolution generally - a harbinger of modern democracy - but especially for his heroic and, for him, fatal demand to end the hated government policy of murder-by-government, known then as La terreur.

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