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Twelve Who Ruled – Why Tenacious Terror Was Necessary

1351 words - 5 pages

In the year 1793-94, the Reign of Terror invoked by the twelve members of Committee of Public Safety (CPS) was unavoidable and led the way for a metamorphosis to occur within France during the French Revolution. While the word terror is often associated with Halloween or stories meant to be frightening for fun, the word held a far more serious meaning to the people of France. The theme of fear allowed the CPS members to change the monarchy to a revolutionary government in hopes of eventually enacting the constitution already written (75).
A group of well-educated radical republicans known as the Jacobins developed the CPS in the fifth year of the French revolution and each of the twelve members dealt with a monthly election to continue governing France (72). During this time, France and its people required assistance. The monarchy that controlled France eight centuries earlier ignored and heavily taxed the lower/middle class inhabitants (the san-culottes) who ironically happened to be the majority and poorest. The purpose of the CPS was to establish the rights and privileges to the middle and lower class only the nobility and clergy relished. While the nobles endured the negative consequences of the revolution and wars from the previous years, most of the nation dealt with the affects much more severely. One of the major duties as the new revolutionary government included repairing the damage imbued by the monarchial previously in power. Other agendas included supervising the Revolutionary Armies, along with the generals of the real armies working to purge France of impending invaders and the distribution of food supplies and necessities to live (74). The CPS never intended a revolutionary government to be a permanent solution, but an important transitional stage for the greater good, which Saint-Just submitted to the Members of the Convention, “The provisional government of France is revolutionary until the peace (75).”
The new revolutionary government realized immediately that in order to attain the goals and freedoms of a constitution, the people would have to give up the freedoms in advance. The twelve divided the work and each member was much like the United States cabinet officials are today. Each member assigned a task such as Finance, Security, etc. Originally, no member could make a decision without seven other members to avoid personal vendettas (67). As discussed in class, the CPS worked about twelve hour each day with only one day off per week, which meant every ten days. The first order of business for the CPS was to hunt for possible candidates who participated or potentially were involved in counter-revolutionary activities. The main suspects included “…refractory priests, émigrés (nobles and clergy members who fled the country because of the revolution), hoarders and monopolists (66).” This did not stop the CPS from watching the entire population of France, but was an obvious place to begin considering the nobles were part of...

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