5. Georges Danton
Georges Danton, who came from a respected but not wealthy family, had a background in law before the French Revolution. He became the leader of the Cordeliers Club, a meeting of people who supported popular sovereignty for France and believed that the monarchy was irreconcilable with notions of freedom for the people. Critical to his later demise, he was accused of being the mastermind behind the September Massacres, when over a thousand prisoners were murdered in France’s war with Austria. Despite the allegations, he was elected to the National Convention when it convened in 1792.
He went on to become a member of the Committee of Public Safety, which was effectively France’s government during the Reign of Terror. He also helped create the Revolutionary Tribunal, which tried alleged political dissidents of the revolution and also disarmed the populace so that they could not rise against the new dictatorial government.
However, he became a more moderate voice that spoke against the institution of terror as normative for the government. He also advocated better international diplomacy so that France’s new government would be respected throughout Europe.
Danton’s ideas were very much out of favor with Robespierre, who began looking for a means of charging Danton with counter-revolutionary activities. He was accused of taking bribes from foreign governments and using the revolution for personal gain and met his end with Madame Guillotine in 1794.