The Reign of Terror, also known just as “The Terror”, was a brief period of time in the French Revolution full of complete disaster and bloodshed. Over 20,000 people were “officially” executed, while many died in jail, due to many causes, mainly consisting of an organization (Mythyloke; Britannica.com). On September 5th of 1793, the Revolutionary Government of France decided to make “ Terror” the order of the day and to take severe actions against those suspected of being enemies: “It is time that equality bore its scythe above all heads. It is time to horrify all the conspirators. So legislators, place Terror on the order of the day! Let us be in revolution, because everywhere counter-revolution is being woven by our enemies. The blade of the law should hover over all the guilty.” (TellingIt ; History.com )
In Paris specifically, more than 3000 people were executed by a process known as guillotine. Although it was not made by ahim, the guillotine process was introduced in France by Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotine. The main idea was that it was a quick way for all condemned prisoners to be punished with ( Britannica.com ; Mytholyoke) It has been widely debated by many historians the reasons why the French Revolution took such a radical turn during the Reign of Terror of 1793–94. It is clear however that the main cause is due to the leader of the Committee of Public Safety which was created by the National Convention. In 1793, the Jacobins removed the weak Girondists, and set themselves as the new members of the committee ( TellingIt ; Mytholyoke ). Thus, the foundation of the Terror is centered on the April 1793 creation of the Committee of Public Safety and its militant Jacobin delegates.
The National Convention believed that the Committee needed to rule with “near dictatorial power” and the Committee was delegated new and expansive political powers to quickly respond to popular demands (Britannica.com). From June of 1793, the Committee had all of the executive power until the end of the Reign of Terror. The main goal of the Committee of Public Safety was to suppress the revolutions that were coming up again and again. And the way that they chose to do so is by causing fear. The Jacobins didn’t waste any time. They immediately started to exercise virtual dictatorial control over the French government, calling for administrative and political purges, a low fixed price for bread, and a limitation of the electoral franchise to sans-culottes alone. The sans culottes were on of the most radical people; they were the lower class urban workers in France, making up for most of the population in France.
Sans- Culottes literally means without silk socks (which only rich people could afford ). (Britannica.com ; TellingIt ; Mytholyoke ) Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre is most likely the most important figure in the reign of terror. Robespierre, born in 1758, was a French lawyer and politician. Robespierre saw no room for mercy in his Terror, stating that “Terror is only justice: severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country.” (TellingtIt ; Britannica.com )
Very soon, the Committee of Public Safety had accomplished what they had set out for. They had stopped many revolutions, secured the French borders, and stabilized the economy. But, they were starting to push it. The Committee started to shut down churches and guillotine people if they had a single doubt of them being involved in suspicious acts (Mytholyoke). The Jacobins were getting wrapped up in a cycle they created : once they guillotined a person, their friends and family would try and rebel, so they had to guillotine them etc. Through the Revolutionary Tribunal, the Terror’s leaders exercised broad dictatorial powers and used them to instigate mass executions and political purges.
The terror grew very quickly during the months of June and July in 1794, which led to a period called “the Great Terror”, which in turn, led to the Thermidorian Reaction (History.com ; Tellingit ; Mytholyoke ). July 27 1794 is a very important date. On that day, the Terror ended and Robespierre was overthrown. He tried committing suicide the very night but only broke his jaw. The following day he was guillotined, officially marking the end of the Reign of Terror (Britannica.com).
The Reign of Terror, an event which lasted from September 5, 1793 – July 28, 1794, was a period of time burdened with bloodshed and rebellions with death tolls adding up to about 50,000 people (History.com).
“Reign of Terror (French History).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. . “Reign of Terror.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. . “The Reign of Terror.” Mytholyoke. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. . “TellingIt.” ‘TellingIt’ N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2013. .
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