What was the reign of terror?
The Reign of Terror, also known as Terror, was a time of state-sanctioned violence and mass executions during the French Revolution. Between September 5, 1793 and July 27, 1794, the French revolutionary government ordered the arrest and execution of thousands of people. French lawyer and statesman Maximilien Robespierre led the Terror, which was caused in part by a rivalry between the two main French political parties: the Jacobins and the Girondins.
What caused the reign of terror?
At the end of the French Revolution, a revolutionary government called the National Convention came to power and formed the First French Republic. The Convention found King Louis XVI guilty of treason in 1792 and beheaded him by guillotine in January 1793. Many regions of France – including Normandy and the city of Lyon – opposed the revolution and rebelled against it. the new government.
In March 1793, an armed revolt in Vendée first resulted in the capture of several towns and finally the entire region by a counter-revolutionary army. After a bloody campaign, the forces of the republic defeated the rebellion, killing an estimated 200,000, New Republic reported.
On March 18, 1793, the French army lost the Battle of Neerwinden to a superior Austrian force, causing further opposition to the rule of the Convention. “The new regime had to devise a new executive form to replace the monarchy,” said Peter McPhee, professor emeritus of history at the University of Melbourne in Australia. All about the story magazine.
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“The critical military and political situation was felt to require an emergency executive,” McPhee said. “In April 1793, the National Convention created a Committee of Public Safety of 12 men, with the aim of taking the emergency measures necessary to save the revolution. According to McPhee, the Committee arrested suspected opponents of the revolution, who were then tried in revolutionary courts.
On September 5, 1793, the Committee of Public Safety declared France “revolutionary until peace”, according to the book by Anne Sa’adah “The formation of liberal politics in revolutionary France“(Princeton University Press, 2014). This meant that a state of emergency was in effect and that the Committee was prepared to use violence against its own citizens to bring stability to France. This triggered what would become the Terror, or the Reign of Terror.
When did the reign of terror go back?
On September 17, 1793, the Convention adopted the Law of suspects in order to identify and punish any alleged enemy of the revolution. This law also created the Revolutionary Court, which would try accused enemies of the state and execute them if found guilty, according to Ian Davidson’s book “The French Revolution“(Pegasus Books, 2016).
The law of suspects also authorized the arrest of any person who “by his writings has shown himself to be a supporter of tyranny”, according to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution, a website operated by George Mason University and the City University of New York. This prevented any criticism or opposition to the Convention.
On June 10, 1794, the Law of 22 Prairial was successful. He said those accused of being “enemies of the revolution” were not allowed to have defense lawyers during the trial, that there would be no questioning or evidence presented. against them, and that the only possible verdicts were acquittal or death, according to Mike Rapport. chapter of the book “Routledge’s History of Terrorism“(Routledge, 2019).
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“After June 10, in the six weeks remembered as ‘The Great Terror’, 1,376 people were sentenced to death, with an average of 30 beheadings daily,” Report wrote. This continued until the dissolution of the Revolutionary Tribunal in 1795.
Who led the reign of terror?
At the start of the Terror, the most influential group in the Convention was called the Jacobins. The most prominent members of this group were Robespierre (1758-1794), Camille Desmoulins (1760-1794) and Georges Danton (1759-1794), according to McPhee.
“Like so many of his peers, Robespierre saw in the political upheaval of 1788-89 the opportunity to rectify the glaring injustices of absolutism and aristocratic privilege,” McPhee said. “It was not until July 1793, at the time of the greatest crisis of the Revolution, that he entered government as an elected member of the Committee of Public Safety, and was widely regarded as its chief spokesperson. Although he had no official role on the Committee, Robespierre was the most influential and vocal of its members.
Victims of terror
Most of those arrested and executed at the start of the Terror were members of the aristocracy, priests, members of the middle class and anyone accused of counter-revolutionary activity, according to historian Sylvia Neely’s book “A concise history of the French Revolution“(Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2007).
One of the most famous victims of the reign of terror was Marie Antoinette, the fallen queen of France. She was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on October 14, 1793 and executed two days later.
Some members of the revolutionary government were also killed during the Terror, including the Girondins, who were, at the time, the largest faction in the Convention. This group was more moderate than the Jacobins and had been sympathetic to the monarchy. Some of its members had opposed the execution of Louis XVI.
In June 1793, a popular uprising of the Parisian workers forced the Girondins to leave power, leaving the majority Jacobins in power. On October 24, 1793, the most eminent Girondins were tried and executed by guillotine a week later at the Place de la Révolution in Paris.
The executioner took 36 minutes to behead 22 Girondins, including the body of the one who had already committed suicide at the trial, according to the book by historian Simon Schama “Citizens: a chronicle of the French Revolution”(Vintage, 1990). A number of other Girondins were later found and either died by suicide or executed.
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Estimates of the number of arrests during this period range from 300,000 to 500,000, but no one knows the exact number, according to Davidson. “It was certainly tens of thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands,” he wrote.
The number of those executed during the Terror is also uncertain. According to historian Hugh Gough’s book, official court records of those sentenced to death number 16,594, but another 18,000 to 23,000 may have been killed without trial or may have died in prison.Terror in the French Revolution“(Red Globe Press, 2010).
Opposition to terror
One of the most prominent opponents of the reign of terror was Georges Danton, an influential member of the Jacobins and political rival to Robespierre. In the fall of 1793, Danton asserted that the instability threatening the revolution, which had justified the Terror, was over.
In a speech to the Convention on November 20, 1793, Danton called for an end to the killings. “I ask that we spare the blood of men! May the Convention be fair to those who are not avowed enemies of the people,” he said, according to David Lawday’s book “The giant of the French Revolution: Danton, a life(Grove Press, 2010). Danton also co-edited a newspaper which criticized the Terror, the Convention and Robespierre.
In March 1794, Danton and his allies were arrested on several counts, including an attempt to rescue King Louis XVI, unfair transactions with the Girondins and secret friendships with foreigners.
No witnesses were allowed to testify at the trial, and on April 5, 1794, Danton was sentenced to death. As he was being led to the guillotine, he would have turned to the executioner and said to him: “Show my head to the people, it is worth seeing”, according to Neely.
How did the reign of terror end?
On July 26, 1794, Robespierre gave a long speech denouncing several members of the Convention and claiming that there had been a conspiracy against the government, according to McPhee. “The rambling and emotional nearly two-hour speech was vague to the point of being inconsistent because at that point almost everyone was suspected of conspiracy,” McPhee wrote in his book.Robespierre: a revolutionary life“(Yale University Press, 2012).
When Robespierre refused to name one of the conspirators, the Convention turned against him, booing and shouting at him to prevent him from speaking. “He was silenced with cries of ‘Down with him! Down with him! “” McPhee wrote. “Robespierre repeatedly tried to speak amid the general cacophony. Finally, he shouted: ‘I ask for death.'”
The convention voted for Robespierre’s arrest and declared him and his allies outlawed. Around 2:30 am the next day, soldiers arrive to arrest the group, and during a fight, Robespierre is shot in the jaw. Robespierre and his supporters were executed on July 28, 1794.
“While most stories link the overthrow of Robespierre and his associates on July 27, 1794 to the end of the Terror, it is more accurate to see a continuing period of ‘terror’,” McPhee said. This time, however, it was directed against the Jacobins and lasted until the abolition of the Revolutionary Tribunal on May 31, 1795. This period may have seen as many as 6,000 extrajudicial revenge killings across the country, according to McPhee.
– “The French Revolution: a very short introduction“, by William Doyle (Oxford University Press, 2001)
– “The advent of terror in the French Revolution“, by Timothy Tackett (Harvard University Press, 2015)
– “Citizens: a chronicle of the French Revolution, “by Simon Schama (Vintage, 1990)