The Reign of Terror by Luka Cuk
The Revolution and the Beginning of the Terror
The Reign of Terror was the bloodiest time of the French Revolution. The Terror went on from 1793-1794. Anyone who disbelieved in the revolutionary government was to be executed. The government had an immense amount of power and control, which they used to their advantage; to execute anyone who was in their way. But for the people, the frustration within them was understandable. The struggling, poor peasants had to pay taxes while rich nobles did not have to. A very strange law in my opinion. To make matters even worse, a hailstorm ruined crops and harvest, wages we sinking, and the prices of food were rocketing due to the minimal amount. The leaders of all groups of the French society made up the Estates General who tried to solve France’s problems.[ii] But the country was so corrupt, it was nearly impossible. When Louis XVI’s wife, Marie Antoinette, was guillotined, insanity came and the Terror arose.
Robespierre was one of the most influential people if the Revolution and the Terror as him and his crew, The Committee of Public Safety were influencing the killing. As a child Robespierre’s parents were killed and I think this might have had an influence on his behavior as an adult. He was forced to be a leader in taking care of his younger siblings. Also, he always was interested in politics and became a lawyer later in his life. It must have been difficult to win an argument with him. He was a well cleaned up man who enjoyed writing and reading his speeches. When he became older and joined the Committee of Public Safety and they gained power amongst the Revolution, then the Terror began. They beheaded anyone who disagreed with them and were not in the revolutionary spirit. Meanwhile he had to fight off foreign attackers from places such as Britain and Austria, which he said called for extreme measures. Once Robespierre and his government were overthrown Robespierre was condemned and attempted to kill himself. He failed in doing so, and was arrested and guillotined shortly after. I am surprised there is not a statue or some sort of monument made after him considering what he had done for France in modernizing it and impacting it in a way no one had seen before.
The Action During the Terror
During the Terror, anyone was could be executed, with or without a proper trial. Laws were made that you could be killed if you disagreed with the government. One of which were if you did not provide a signed certificate saying you were a citizen you would be executed. Also if it was believed that you were not loyal to the Revolution, you were to be executed. They were forced to believe in the Revolution and be a part of it or they would be guillotined. Also the people must have been devastated without sugar, coffee or bread throughout the Revolution, some of their favourite foods. The Terror alone held 17,000 just by guillotine, the main torture device used. In addition 200,000- 300,000 people were arrested. During the Terror, any new comers to the land were treated just like those who lived there, really infuriating the citizens. But what shocked me was learning that some of the Revolutionary leaders even thought there was too much killing during the Terror. One of the men who said so was a member of the Committee of Public Safety, Jacques Danton. He ordered to calm the killing, surprising Robespierre. One of the more infamous quotes of the Terror was: “Terror will be the order of the day.”
The End of the Terror and the Recovery
When Robespierre was executed is when the Terror began to ease. Although did not end immediately after he was executed, it slowly weakened and died out as his associates were executed too. France went into recovery mode and sought after a new government and a reformed set of rules or laws. The Directory is what was created after, where the middle class had most of the power and the richer citizens had the ability to vote. The Terror left an enormous mark on the French Revolution and the French Revolution left a large mark on the world and Revolutions to come. As for Robespierre he certainly left his mark on the people of France, in a positive way for some, and in a negative way for most. Up next for France was the Napoleon era, and he had a lot in store for France after the Reign of Terror.
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[i] Cranny, Michael William. “The French Revolution.” Crossroads: A Meeting of Nations. Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice Hall Ginn Canada, 1998. Page 84.
[ii] Davenport, John C. “The Reign of Terror.” The French Revolution and the Rise of Napoleon. New York: Chelsea House, 2012. Pg. 327