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King Of The Reign Of Terror

1348 words - 6 pages

Maximilien Robespierre declared at the trial of King Louis XVI. “The King must die so that the nation can live.” 1 Robespierre advocated the kings demise and with it the ways of the Ancien Régime. However, in an ironic twist of fate his words also foreshadowed his own rise and fall as the leader of the French Revolution. Known as “The Incorruptible”, or alternately “Dictateur Sanguinaire”2 Robespierre is a monumental figure of the French Revolution, but which was he? Was he the incorruptible revolutionist fighting to overthrow the Ancien Regime or a raging radical that implemented his own absolute tendencies under the cover of the revolution? When dissecting the dichotomy of ...view middle of the document...

Engraining himself into the worlds of both philosophy and politics he quickly began gaining a reputation. He found sympathetic listeners in the Jacobin Club and as the unrest grew in France, so did Robespierre’s ideas.
Robespierre was elected as a Third Estate deputy of Artois to the Estates-General that convened at the Palace of Versailles, on May 5th 1789, on the eve of the French Revolution, and subsequently served in the National Constituent Assembly, where his earnest and skillful oratory commanded attention. In April 1790 he was elected president of the Jacobin Club and became increasingly popular as an enemy of the monarchy. On June 1791 King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette attempted to flee from France but the attempt failed and they were captured. A few months later on September 21st a recently elected new assembly that called itself the Convention declared that the French monarchy was abolished and France was a Republic. 5 The king was put on trial for treason against his people, Robespierre spoke, pushing for the king’s execution. On January 21, 1793 King Louis XVI was executed by means of the Guillotine The formation of the man that that is known as Robespierre was complete and his power was only growing.
However, was he a man of Democracy or a man whose ideas and practices bordered on those of absolutism and tyranny? The first characteristic of Absolutism is known as the cult of personalities, the self-identification of being in some way above others. For example Louis XIV claimed to be the “Sun King” and King James I claimed the title of “God’s Lieutenant”. 6-6While Robespierre was not so grandiose in his sobriquet he did gain the title of being “The Incorruptible”6 by his self-professed virtue, incorruptibility, and representing the pure republic 7. The title of “The Incorruptible” was taken up with fervor by his contemporaries. Even his adversaries agreed that he was incorruptible in his purpose, one even saying that Robespierre “would pay someone to offer him gold just so he could refuse it”. 8 The belief that Robespierre had in his virtue later lead to his leadership of the Cult of the Supreme Being, which in turn is another aspect of his absolute inclinations coming into play.
Another characteristic of Absolutism is that of the subjugation of the church. While previous absolute rulers either appointed the clergy or became the head of the church Robespierre took a different direction by forming his own religion. The Cult of the Supreme Being was developed by Robespierre based on a radical concept of deist beliefs, but with the addition of the quest for virtue and civic duty as well as emphasizing reason. Robespierre stated that his religion would banish “all the ridiculous phantoms that the ambitions of priest and the politics of kings have commanded us to obey in the name of heaven.” 9 On May 7, 1794 Robespierre introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being to the National Convention and on June 8 the Festival of the...

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