The National Convention (which was created in 1792 as part of a campaign to convert France into a constitutional monarchy) amid high pressures, decided to set in place a centralized government which provided everyone with food, support and direct the war effort, and punish counterrevolutionaries (611). Headed by Maxmilien Robespierre, this new government was based on the principles of virtue, in which the government sought to educate and/or force the citizens to become virtuous. Inspired by enlightenment thinkers Montesquieu and Rousseau, he believed in the importance of a government by terror.
Robespierre justified his beliefs by saying stuff like: “To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is barbarity. ” So began what is now known as the Reign of terror. Robespierre strictly believed that “terror” would set the citizens in place; with this terror, the public along with the upper class could be controlled. This so called terror was blanketed with the idea of nationalist pride- pride in their nation, backed by songs, posters, books, engravings, paintings, sculptures, and slogans (615). Robespierre justified his regime by constantly exclaiming that virtue was born from terror.
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Robespierre said, “The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny. “ Although this quote seems confusing at first, further studied despotism is another word for tyranny or dictatorship, which basically means that a government in revolution is the tyranny of liberty against tyranny- the tyranny of freedom over tyranny. Before his reign, the guillotine was used for only nobles condemned to death and commoners were usually hanged, but when in power it was Robespierre’s instrument of choice when it came to dealing with the people that disagreed with him or was a threat to the government.
Also created was a Committee of Public Safety, which sent deputies on missions to purge unreliable officials and organize the war effort (612). Of course, with every regime, there is always a resistance. In this case, many were unhappy and showed their unhappiness. Soon it all turned into a civil war with the appearance of many counterrevolutionary armies and uprisings. “Across the country, the official Terror cost the lives of at least 40,000 French people, and as many as 300,000 (1/5 of the French people) went to prison as suspects between March 1793 and August 1794 (619).
Robespierre was overthrown on July 27 of 1794 and was executed the next day on the guillotine. Some 150 years later, we saw more leaders who possessed the same ideologies: Stalin, who himself launched what was known as The Great Purge to get rid of people accused of treachery and treason in the Communist Party and Hitler, who rose to power by initially winning the hearts of people by starting a new movement totally different from the movement. Today, we see the same agenda on the minds of terrorists.
Since a great deal of the human population have a greater understanding of democracy and many are democratic nations, it isn’t common to see a leader who will take complete charge, become a dictator and issue a reign of terror. There are, of course, many militant groups that form and commit acts of terrorism with the thought that “fear will instill virtue. ” These days, people are more resistant to being forced to do something, even if it is violent. There will be a great resistance and the people who attempt to use fear to instill virtue will be put on most wanted and threat lists by many nations.
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