Maximilien Robespierre, Justification of the Use of Terror...

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Maximilien Robespierre: Justification of the Use of Terror Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) was the leader of the twelveman Committee of Public Safety elected by the National Convention, and which effectively governed France at the height of the radical phase of the revolution. He had once been a fairly straightforward liberal thinker - reputedly he slept with a copy of Rousseau's Social Contrac t at his side. But his own purity of belief led him to impatience with others. The committee was among the most creative executive bodies ever seen - and rapidly put into effect policies which stabilized the French economy and began the formation of the very successful French army. It also directed it energies against counter-revolutionary uprisings, especially in the south and west of France. In doing so it unleashed the reign of terror. Here Robespierre, in his speech of February 5,1794, from which excerpts are given here, discussed this issue. The figures behind this speech indicate that in the five months from September, 1793, to February 5, 1794, the revolutionary tribunal in Paris convicted and executed 238 men and 31 women and acquitted 190 persons, and that on February 5 there were 5,434 individuals in the prisons in Paris awaiting trial. Robespierre was frustrated with the progress of the revolution. After issuing threats to the National Convention, he himself was arrested in July 1794. He tried to shoot himself but missed, and spent his last few hours with his jaw hanging off. He was guillotined, as a victim of the terror, on July 28, 1794. ** Important term: Civic virtue - the cultivation of habits of personal living that are claimed to be important for the success of the community. Civic virtue is also the dedication of citizens to the common welfare of their community even at the cost of their individual interests.*** But, to found and consolidate democracy, to achieve the peaceable reign of the constitutional laws, we must end the war of liberty against tyranny and pass safely across the storms of the revolution: such is the aim of the revolutionary system that you have enacted. Your conduct, then, ought also to be regulated by the stormy circumstances in which the republic is placed; and the plan of your administration must result from the spirit of the revolutionary government combined with the general principles of democracy.
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