Sunday, February 27, 2011
The Terror Grips France
Foreign armies were not the only enemies of the French republic. The Jacobins had thousands of enemies within France, rival leaders who were stirring up rebellion in the provinces.
Robespierre Assumes Control
Maximilien Robespierre slowly gathered control into his own hands. Robespierre and his supporters set out to build a “republic of virtue”. They tried to wipe out every trace of France’s past monarchy and nobility.
They divided the year into 12 months of 30 days and renamed each month. The new calendar had no Sundays because the radicals considered religion old-fashioned and dangerous. They even closed all churches in Paris, and towns all over France soon did the same.
In the summer of 1793, Robespierre became the leader of the Committee of Public Safety. He decided who should be considered enemies of the republic. Robespierre governed France nearly as a dictator, and the period of his rule became known as the Reign of Terror.
In October 1793, revolutionary courts pronounced death sentences on many of the leaders who had first helped set up the republic. Their only crime was that they were less radical than Robespierre.
Besides leadin political Figures, thousands of unknown people were sent to death on the flimsiest of charges. A revolutionary court sentenced a 18-year-old youth to die by the guillotine for sawing down a tree that had been planted as a symbol of liberty. A tavern keeper was executed because he sold sour wine “to the defenders of the country”.
During the Terror, approximately 3,000 people were executed In Paris. About 85% were peasants or members of the urban poor or middle class.
End of the Terror
By july 1794, the members of the National convention turned into Robespierre. A group of conspirators demanded his arrest, shouting “Down with the tyrant!”.
French public opinion shifted dramatically to the right after Robespierre’s death. They were also tired of the skyrocketing prices of bread, salt, and other necessities of the life after the Terror.