Reign of Terror

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After the fall of monarchy, the French revolutionaries faced large popular insurrections and division among the people. In the early days of the revolution, many people still sided with the monarchy which brought on accusations of treason against the new republic. A new stable government was needed to end the chaos, and the Committee of Public Safety was created with Maximilien Robespierre as its leader. He wanted to create a "republic of virtue" in which the government would force the people to become virtuous republicans through a massive reeducation program. And thus began the Reign of Terror which had the purpose to eliminate opposition and to cow citizens into submission. For Robespierre, the Terror was necessary and inevitable to maintain the Republic by revealing the enemy within France. However, the Reign of Terror proved to be a distortion of revolutionary ideals because instead of helping the country to unify and obtain greatness, in essence it victimized its own citizens.

As Robespierre eloquently explained, the main goal of the French Revolution was "the peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality." (Lualdi, pp. 116). The revolutionaries wanted a fair government that could allow all social classes to enjoy the same rights without making the huge distinction with aristocrats. There was an immense gap between the First Estate and the Third Estate, and the revolutionaries were trying to diminish it. (Hunt, pp. 593). However, the reign of Terror did nothing to promote liberty or equality. Instead, it terrorized the people through executions in the guillotine and desperate measures. Robespierre wanted what was best for the people, and eventually he believed what was best for the people could only be achieved by ruling over them. He wanted control over people's lives and believed that ruling with an iron fist would move the country forward. Robespierre talked about natural virtue in his speech, and emphasized that a nation becomes corrupt when the people...
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