The Downfall of Maximilien Robespierre

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Did Robespierre’s Love of the Revolution Cause His Immense Paranoia, Corrupt His Belief System and Eventually Lead to His Execution? Extended Essay

                Name: Nicola Watson Date: 9th January, 2008                                                                                                      Word Count: 3483


        Maximilien Robespierre was well known as the protector of the French Revolution. He would stop at nothing in order to keep it alive. As he continuously gained power, and influence over the people of France, he became increasingly paranoid. In fear of danger to the Revolution, Robespierre used extreme scare tactics, and called for the executions of many people, including some of his friends and colleagues, many citizens began to worry if they might be the next victim of Robespierre’s executions. This brings about the question, was the execution of Robespierre caused by his paranoia? The severe paranoia which Robespierre developed seemed to have been brought about by his original passion for the Revolution. This led to an obsession with maintaining power in order to protect it. To decide this, an analysis of his speeches such as The Philosophy of Terror, and his address to the Constituent Assembly in regards to the death penalty have been conducted. In addition, an assessment of the events such as the creation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the execution of Danton, the Festival of the Supreme Being, and the last time he addressed the National Convention, has also been conducted. In reviewing a numerous sources, it must be concluded that the severe paranoia caused by his great love for the Revolution, drove him mad, and, led to his execution by his peers. Robespierre’s peers felt that his death, was necessary to end the Reign of Terror, which he had instilled on the people of France, during the French Revolution. They felt this way because they felt threatened by Robespierre’s lists of alleged conspirators. Robespierre become overcome with paranoia, and was not fit to be running a country. The only way possible to remove him from power, was to execute him.

The French Revolution had many important figures, one of which was Maximilien Robespierre, the creator of the Reign of Terror. Robespierre came to power through his radical ideas, his eloquent speaking and his political views. He gave the lower classes of France hope for a future without Feudalism. As time progressed, Robespierre gained more power, and began to develop an immense paranoia. This paranoia was expressed through his increasingly radical speeches, and extreme actions. In the assessment of the speeches by Robespierre, opinions of his peers, and the events of the Reign of Terror, the question of examination arises, ‘Did Robespierre’s love of the Revolution cause his immense paranoia, corrupt his belief system and eventually lead to his execution?’

Rise to Power
         Robespierre was a lawyer who was born in Arras. Though, having come from a poor family, he was able to study law through a scholarship. After law school Robespierre returned to Arras, where he became well respected by the lower class, and a well known representative of the less fortunate in court. This gained Robespierre a reputation as the “upholder and the wretched avenger of innocence” (Furet). Robespierre acquired many of his ideals and theories from the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract. Robespierre’s rise to power began with two main things, his election to the Estates General as part of the Third Estate and his rising influence in the Jacobins, a radical political club, who believed in left winged politics.  

       Between the years 1793...
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