Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror ( September 5, 1793- July 28, 1794) was a period of time where France was under
the control of political radicals. France was caught in a period of radicalization and dictatorship, which was commonly
associated with Maximilien Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety. The Reign of Terror lasted
approximately 10 months and ended with the deaths of many key committee members, most notably amongst them was
Robespierre. The committee and its leaders took the lives of over 18,500 to 40,000 people while in power,
and due to the fall of the Committee of Public Safety, the end of the Reign of Terror is considered by many
to be the beginning of the deterioration of the French Revolution. Robespierre claimed his killings and
terror tactics were all legally justified and would better France. In his speech on Revolutionary Government
Robespierre stated " in the laws of the tyrants, who are happy enough to abuse their exercise of
authority without seeking out its legal justification." He, however, became little more than a tyrant by
killing those who stood in the way of his ideal government.

Table of Contents
I. Maximilien Robespierre
II. The Committee of Public Safety
III. Leading up to the Reign of Terror
IV. During the Reign of Terror
V. Post Reign of Terror

I. Maximilien Robespierre

Maximilien Robespierre was one of the main leaders of the French Revolution. He was the most
powerful leader during the radical years of the Jacobin party. Robespierre defended the poor as aexternal image robespierre.jpg
lawyer, while also serving as a deputy to the third estate. Preceding the attempts to create a constitutional monarchy by Louis the XVI, Robespierre was against the death penalty, later during the revolution he killed thousands of innocent people. During the Reign of Terror, which was during the time of the Jacobin government, Robespierre became a spokesman for the sans cullotes. Over these months, the commoners, lead by the sans-cullottes, became the "masters" of the republic also known as the reign of terror. On February 5, 1794, Robespierre made a speech to the National Convention justifying his reign and the terror tactics he used. In this speech called "The Terror Justified" Robespierre spoke of the goal he planned to achieve. "What is the goal for which we strive? A peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality, the rule of that eternal justice whose laws are engraved, not upon marble or stone, but in the hearts of all men." He claimed that the terror he was imposing came from virtue, and would all help for the greater good in improving France. During maximillien's most radical and powerful stage he was the leader of the committee of public safety. Maximilien's pride and determination towards the french revolution caused many innocent deaths by execution. Maximilien was later executed in July of 1794 the day after he executed Georges Danton for campaigning against the terror.

II. The Committee of Public Safety

The Committee of Public Safety was established on the date of June 6, 1793 by the National
Convention. the Reign of Terror was in motion, the committee formed France's new de facto executive
government. The committee was in general, a council with nearly limitless power in France, that
controlled formal denunciations and trials, as well as public executions, which were supervised by
the twelve members of the committee. The committee passed the Maximum Price Act on September
29, 1793, creating a maximum legal price on grain. While the committee is accredited with the
suppression of rebellions and counter-revolution activities, many forget to mention the near million
people that died in these rebellions. In many aspects the committee had many followers due to the
high appeal of the system, but if one were to look deeper into the subject they would see many
deaths, requisitions, and a very large amount of corruption. The corruption in the system turned a
blind-eye to the lower class as well as hospitals, schools, and many charitable organizations.
During the committee's most extreme time, Maximilian Robespierre was the leader. Most of the
deaths and executions happened during the time of the leadership of Maximilian.

III. Leading Up to the Reign of Terror

In 1972, tensions started to build within France due to France's speculation of internal enemies.
In hopes of stifling the highly threatening and potentially reckless France, bordering countries gathered
forces and marched upon the border of France. France posed a specific threat to many of their
surrounding countries, that generally had Monarchy's, whilst France had a Popular Sovereignty.
This created the European appeal of invading and suppressing the French Revolutionaries alongside
their Republican and Democratic ideas, with the concept of protecting their own regimes and
maintaining political stability. The new French government was under heavy fire from other
European countries to release Louis XVI unharmed and to reinstate the monarchy with him as

IV. During the Reign of Terror

During the Reign of Terror, the Jacobin party was in power,
Political Cartoon of Jacobins
Political Cartoon of Jacobins
leading alongside Maximilien Robespierre.
During the French revolution the reign of terror was the most radical period. Between 1793 and 1794 many people who disagreed with the revolution were executed. Robespierre claimed the royals to be enemies, claiming that by killing them he was protecting the peaceful citizens. "Society owes protection only to peaceable citizens; the only citizens in the Republic are the republicans. For it, the royalists, the conspirators are only strangers or, rather, enemies." The reign of terror took place in the period following the time of the committee of public safety. The committee of public safety, also called the "great committee" was held responsible for conduct of war, economic policy, supervision of the government agencies, and the enforcement of the law. Maximilian Robespierre was in charge of the Committee of public safety during the most extreme radical time. During his famous speech "The Terror Justified", Robespierre spoke of a Democratic government being the only way to satisfy the need of the French people. He hoped to transform the government to become a model for other countries. However, he ruled brutally and far from
the way a democratic government today would deem sensible. The reign of terror was at its apex when
Georges Danton was executed, by Maximilian, for leading a campaign against the terror. The day after
this execution Maximilian was arrested along with some other people of the Jacobin party.
The reign of terror was terrifying for most. There were over 300,000 suspects that were eventually put
into prison, and 17,000 executed for disagreeing with the French revolution.

V. Post Reign of Terror

Robespierre was arrested in July of 1794 after issuing threats to the National Convention. He attempted
suicide by shooting himself, but was unsuccessful. On July 28, 1794 he was guillotined, putting an end
to his horriffically terrifying reign. The aftermath of the Reign of Terror resulted in the multiple eruptions
of an event called the White Terror. The White Terror occurred in countries such as: Hungary, Germany,
Russia, Finland, Ethiopia, China, Taiwan, Spain, and Bulgaria. The original White Terror was in simple terms a
persecution of radical Jacobins and those suspected of being followers. The non-French White Terror's
were anti-communist movements such as the Nationalist campaign constructed by Chiang Kai-shek
against communists in China. The anti-communist movements were against communists or
believed-to-be communists, and imprisoned them and in some cases executed them. In China's
and Taiwan's instances, communists were imprisoned and executed for their opposition against the
Kuomintang ( Nationalist Powers). After these events was the Thermidorian Reaction, which was a
political revolt against remaining members of the Reign of Terror, and ended with the death of Robespierre.

VI. Bibliography

Hibbert, Christopher . The Days of the French Revolution. New York: Quill-William Morrow, 1981

Kerr, Wilfred Brenton. Reign of Terror, 1793-1794. London: Porcupine Press, 1985.

Linton, Marisa. "Robespierre and the Terror." History Today Aug. 2006: 1-4. MAS Ultra, School Edition. Ebsco. Derryfield Library. 28 Nov. 2007 <>

Robespierre, Maximilien. "Justification for the Use of Terror." France. 1749. 2 Dec. 2007 <>.

Robespierre, Maximilien. "Speech on Revolutionary Government." France. 5 Dec. 2007 <>.

Robespierre, Maximilien. "The Terror Justified." France. 5 Feb. 1794. 4 Dec. 2007 <>

Steel, Mark. Vive La Revolution. 3rd. London: Scribner, 2003.

"Reign of Terror." World History: The Modern Era. 2007. ABC-CLIO. 6 Dec. 2007 <>.