The Reign Of Terror

Powerful Essays
The Reign of Terror

History is said to be written by the winners, but is it possible to

rewrite history? In a way, the French, like many who have preceded them, and

many who will proceed them have done the impossible, rewriting history. From

trivial folklore, such as George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, to the

incredibly wrong, the African slave trade; people's views of history can be

shaped and molded. The French have done a superb job of instilling all of us

with the concept that their Revolution was a fight for liberty, justice and the

good of all Frenchmen everywhere. Their glorification of the Bastille with it's

depictions in painting and sculpture and how the Revolution was the beginning of

a new age pales to some of the events during this period. In fact, the storming

of the Bastille was merely a hole in the dike, and more would follow. The

National Guard, the Paris Commune, the September Massacre, are all words that

the French would prefer us not to hear. These events were a subtle dénouementto

an climax that was filled with both blood and pain. The Reign of Terror, or the

Great Terror, was a massive culmination to the horror of the French Revolution,

the gutters flowing with blood as the people of Paris watched with an

entertained eye. No matter what the French may claim, if one chooses to open

his eyes and read about this tragedy, they are most certainly welcome.

The revolution begins quietly in the fiscal crisis of Louis XVI's reign.

The government was running deeply into bankruptcy, and at the urging of his

financial advisors, he called the Estates General. The governing body had not

been called for almost two centuries, and now it's workings seemed outdated. A

small number of people said that the Third Estate, that which was drawn from the

towns, should have power to equal the other Estates. Clubs of the bourgeoisie,

the middle class, were formed, proclaiming, "Salus populi lex est." It was a

simple cry meaning "the welfare of the people is law." To these people, the

Estates General was like a pair of shoes that no longer fit. Reformed seemed

iminent, the phrase, "The Third Estate is not an order, it is the nation itself"

began to circulate.1

With much fanfare and circumstance, the three estates were called

together. However, on trying to meet, the Third Estate found the doors to t...

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depiction of man at his worst. The sad truth is that events of this nature have

occurred with amazing regularity. Perhaps if the Reign of Terror was just one

appalling moment of human cruelty, the world would be a different place. With

such things as the Gulag, the Holocaust, the African Slave Trade, and even

returning back to ancient times of the Assyrians and the Crusades, man has been

known to slaughter his brethren wholesale. We are a race, bred with violence

coursing through our veins, and we can do little about it. Perhaps my

speculations are wrong, but if such tragedies have occurred over and over, can

we truly ever change. The Reign of Terror is just the culmination to the

bloodiness and the atrocities of the French Revolution. It is quite ironic that

a Revolution based on the ideals of Reason and the fight for the people, would

kill over thirty thousand of their countrymen. In conclusion, the Reign of

Terror was the climax of this terrible Revolution. The violence and paranoia of

the sans culottes, the lust for political power in the convention, and the petty

differences of one person to another finally reached a head, exploding into a

mass execution.
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