Was the Reign of Terror Justified?

For nearly two years, France was a constitutional monarchy. This is a type of government where a monarch acts as head of state within stated parameters. There were eighteen months between the guillotining of Louis XVI and Robespierre. The revolutionary government in Paris needed a military draft in 1973 because a Tribunal and Committee of Public Safety had been created to fight “enemies of the revolution” between March and April of 1793 and as a result counterrevolutionary revolts broke out. The revolutionary government that supported the reign of terror also supported human rights as evidenced by the eradication of slavery in all French colonies in 1794. The government that supported the reign of terror denied civil rights as evidenced by its denial of legal counsel to accused enemies of the revolution. The reign of terror was successful in fighting enemies, both inside and outside France as evidenced by the increase in number of government executions and victory over foreign enemies between April and June 1794.

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France was at war with Austria and Prussia in 1792 and 1793. The two major cities lost by the French in 1792 were Longwy and Verdun. Austria was so concerned about the possible spread of the French Revolution because it was a monarchy and the safety of Louis XVI’s wife who was a daughter in the Austrian royal family. Emigres threatened France by forming armies and allying with France’s foreign enemies. Executing French supporters of the Austrian and Prussian monarchies was not justified since the revolutionary government had already taken over and defeated most of their foreign enemies and local enemies. They should have been arrested instead and dealt with legally.

The shaded areas on the map represent areas of highest resistance to the revolutionary government. The levee en masse was the name given to the military draft. In Auxerre France, government officials took a copper crucifix from the altar and carried it mockingly upside down on a cart as they offered it to passersby to spit on. Many people in the Vendee were killed in 1793 because it was the hub of the counterrevolution. One could use this document to prove that the terror was justified or not justified by reading the events that took place prior to the terror.

This letter was written on 25 August 1793. The letter had been written by a government official in Western France and was addressed to the National Convention, which was the revolutionary government in Paris. The purpose of the letter was to request for more help since the soldiers who had been sent to stop the “rabble” as a result of counterrevolutionary activity had failed. The size of the revolt was huge as evidenced by earlier executions by the government and the letter written by the official requesting for more help since the soldiers had failed in stopping the counterrevolutionary activities.

The purpose of the tribunal was to try all crimes against the state. The judges were appointed by the National Convention and their power would be absolute. The watch committees were set up to fetch and expel any foreigners suspected of counterrevolutionary activities. A person would be in trouble with the Committee of Public Safety if they paused a threat to public safety. Two thousand seven hundred and fifty people were executed by the commissions in the country side. The actions of the Tribunal and Committee of public Safety were not justified since the accused were never given a fair trial or a chance to engage lawyers.