Jacobins, the most celebrated of the clubs of the first French revolution. Its origin is traced to a society established a few days after the opening of the states general at Versailles, in May, 1789, by the deputies from Brittany, called the club Breton. On the removal of the constituent assembly from Versailles to Paris, this club established itself there in the old convent of Dominican friars of St. James, or Jacobins, in the rue St. Honore, admitted any citizen who was presented by four members, and assumed the name of societe des amis de la constitution, but was also, from its place of meeting, styled Jacobins. It soon became very numerous, not only deputies, but all who aspired to political influence, seeking admission to it. Every political question and every motion was here debated before being presented to the national assembly; the most popular orators participated in the debates, and were anxious to secure the favor of the majority; the club became the controlling power of the revolution. Extreme opinions gaining the ascendancy in it, its original founders abandoned it, and established the societe de 1789 or des Feuillants, where more moderate notions were entertained. The only result was to make the Jacobins more radical and boisterous.
They extended their influence all over France, 1,200 branch societies being established previous to 1791, and this number increasing in the following years. All the affiliated societies obeyed orders from the headquarters in Paris. The Journal de la societe des amis de la constitution was added to the ordinary means of correspondence in May, 1791, and conveyed revolutionary principles to every corner of the kingdom. The Jacobins were foremost in the insurrectionary movements of June 20 and Aug. 10, 1792; they originated the revolutionary commune de Paris, which became a formidable power, and changed their former name to les amis de la liberte et de l'egalite. From this time they ruled supreme, and for a while the convention itself was but their tool. Robespierre was indebted for his political supremacy to the popularity he had secured among them. The revolution of the 9th Thermidor, which overthrew him, was a fatal blow to the Jacobins; the terror they had inspired gradually vanished; the reactionary affiliation styled la jeunesse doree went in force to attack their headquarters, and the convention issued decrees for the suspension of their meetings and the closing of their hall (November, 1794). The scattered remains of the party attempted to regain influence by establishing the club du manege, and then the club de la rue du Bac, but in vain.