The Terror in the French Revolution Help
By June 1793, the Committee of Public Safety, established by the National Convention and headed by Maximilien Robespierre, had acquired complete authority over the government and thus over the people. A lawyer, Robespierre had been one of the deputies of the Third Estate who went to Versailles in 1789. As a Jacobin, he had favored the king’s execution.
Under the Committee’s rule, France underwent a period of violence known to history as the Terror. During this period, anyone denounced as an enemy of the state was imprisoned, hastily tried, and taken to the guillotine for execution. Crimes against the state included plotting, speaking, or writing anything that criticized the Revolution. In most cases an accusation was enough—no concrete evidence was necessary—and private conversations were as much of a crime as public statements. Anyone who showed sympathy for an “enemy of the state” could also be imprisoned and executed.
Many of the aristocrats of France who had not already fled to safety were guillotined, Queen Marie Antoinette among them. Fortunately, this disgraceful episode was short-lived. By March 1794, public sentiment turned against the Terror as the people realized that executing the innocent did nothing to pre- serve the Republic. Ironically, Robespierre was among the last to be guillotined.
With the end of the Terror came the downfall of the Committee. The National Convention had become the common enemy of all the factions— royalists, Jacobins, and moderates. It was clear that the Convention would have to give way to some strong central authority more capable of taking control. When the deputies of the Convention realized in October 1794 that it was only a matter of time before the Parisians rose up against them, they appealed for help to the army, then under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars Practice Test
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