The Reign Of Terror Essay

The Reign Of Terror Essay

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been called for almost two centuries, and now it's workings seemed outdated.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


... middle of paper ...


...al
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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