Advantages And Disadvantages Of The Reign Of Terror

841 words - 4 pages

Almost instantaneously after the death of Louis XVI in 1793, the Committee of Public Safety took over with Maximilien de Robespierre as head. Those in control believed that anyone blocking their path to liberty should be annihilated, and went to many extents to do so. From 1793 to 1794 France was in the midst of the Reign of Terror, which was characterized by mass executions. Those who supported the revolution thought of the executions as a step on the path to liberty; however, others stood firmly against the revolution as did many outside of France.
Those who called themselves patriots thought the executions would sweep out obstructions on the path to victory. Maximilien de Robespierre believed that the government owed its people “full protection of the state; [and] to the enemies of the people it [owed] only death” (Doc. 4). As the mastermind behind the Reign of Terror, Robespierre was most radical in his beliefs in regards to liberty and found it appropriate to automatically do away with potential conspirators through execution. Some peasants believed that the law of the Revolutionary Tribunal struck “the rich and poor indiscriminately” and could not comprehend why a fellow peasant would oppose the revolution (Doc. 8). Due to the fact that members of the Committee of Public Safety were also members of the bourgeoisie, the peasants depended on them to carry out the law justly. Some peasants also trusted that the tribunals evaluated suspects justly “and that they [acquitted] the innocent” (Doc. 7). Despite the fact that a fellow peasant may have been selected for execution, they never second guessed the tribunal’s reasoning.
Those who stood against the executions of people thought of it as an inhumane and inappropriate way to resolve issues. In a speech to the National Convention, Louis Antoine de Saint Just pointed out that French “history [was] a lesson about the terrible extremities to which indulgence leads” (Doc. 5). So many things were occurring outside of France, and Saint-Just found that France only concerned itself with its own issues distracting it from more practical issues that would actually help the country. Camille de Desmoulins, a former ally of Robespierre, stated that Robespierre began to target those who did “not merit [his] wrath” (Doc. 6). As a former ally of Robespierre, Desmoulins witnessed the executions from Robespierre’s perspective; however, he gradually began to see the guillotine as a weapon of fear and mass destruction when the weak were executed....

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