Thoughts of change and freedom were sparked in the minds of people in the late 1780’s, influenced by terror, hate and hunger. The French Revolution changed the history of Europe irrevocably, and caused much destruction throughout France. The man behind that turmoil was Maximilien Robespierre, a man that abused the authority given to him. In his youth, he was a kindhearted boy that faced many deaths of family and friends. However, through the years when he was given control, his behavior changed, as well as his beliefs. In the course of a rough time of the French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror, France was under the rule of Robespierre. His ideas on expressing justice through terror and virtue were horrifying. Thus, he alleged that terror and virtue were extremely alike. Robespierre may have been a brilliant lawyer with good intentions in the beginning, but his power over others turned him into a vile dictator, which eventually led to his downfall.
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Accordingly, the behavior of an adult is influenced by their childhood. The youth of Robespierre gives some clarity about his character, and his opinionated views of the government. At the young age of six, he was forced to mature quickly, because his mother died in childbirth. Not only that but, his father went into deep depression and became a heavy alcoholic, causing the boy raise his sisters without much help. Soon enough his father disappeared and he thrust himself into the role of responsibility and leadership for his family. With the help of other family members, the children were brought up, but the four children remained exceptionally close throughout their childhoods (McLetchine). There was still hope for the serious boy; countless people may have recalled him as a cold even inhumane individual without many friends. However, his sister Charlotte proclaimed that he was a bright boy that threw himself into his work and redoubled his efforts to become successful and he was capable of love and affection despite his serious demeanor (Scurr 33). This proves that he had so much potential of learning and life. As the years passed, he earned a scholarship to College Louis de Grant in Paris where he diligently presented himself as an intelligent young man that won the respect of his teachers also his peers, (Jordan 25).The support from his sister helped influenced him to work even harder. The historian Ruth Scurr, pointed out that once he was chosen to present a speech to the king and queen, out of five-hundred other pupils, because of his intelligent rhetoric usage. Consequently, he was left drenched in the rain by the snobbish king and queen (33). This justifies that hate was building in the innocent heart of Robespierre. He was given such an impressive honor, but he was left wet, and angry. This sparked the anger in him that hidden, but by adding in his chaotic past that left a young man with a hope of replacing the brainless monarchy, with a superior government. After a few years, he completed his studies with distinction, and he became prosperous by taking up his fathers law practice in Arras. He quickly assumed the public role of an advocate of political change for a new government (“Maximilien”). Robespierre wanted a change in the government, and he did what ever he could to earn that position.
In the beginning by nature, man is kind, they are strong at first, but when they are given power they become corrupt. This is evident in Robespierre because, when he was elected to the Estates General in 1789, he quickly attached himself to the left wing of the court and demanded attention. By doing that, he joined that wing which was known as the radical side. Hitherto, his influence grew daily and the mob frantically admired him and boosted his incorruptibly quickly (Kreis). For example, in his last speech, he quoted, “Death is the beginning of immortality, (qtd. in Scurr preface).” This is significant because, he believed that the death of others could lead to the start of their eternal living. Additionally, it gives insight to his beliefs about how people should die. By expressing his radical views, he began to win little support from others, but he already gained the title, “The Incorruptible,” (“Maximilien”). Regardless, he became the Jacobin leader, that slowly gained power, and his ideas of a, “republic by virtue,” began by wiping the away past of France. For example, he changed the calendar by dividing the twelve months with different names, also with 30 days each only (Bech 660). Numerous historians agree that the period between September 1793 to July 1794 was a massive blood bath of the deaths of the innocent, known as the Reign of Terror (“French Revolution”). During the Terror, under his leadership the “enemies,” were tried and later that morning, they were sent to the guillotine (Bech 660). The pace of the guillotine grew rapidly, but the government drifted slowly into ruins (Kreis). Robespierre believed that a new government would benefit France; however, his actions put them into a dire position. Even though his authority increased, his popularity waned severely.
Likewise, terror and virtue are different, but in the mind of Robespierre, they were especially common. He used terror and virtue to express his ideas to the populace of France, but it was a costly mistake that lead to his own demise. He saw a universal connection between virtue, and terror, he commented, “…Virtue without terror is murderous, terror without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing else than swift, severe, indomitable, justice; it flows, then from virtue, (qtd. in Bech 660).” He is reasoning that only fair justice is given through terror, which allows the goodness of it to teach a valuable lesson. He used horror, to spread the idea that anyone who prevented them from establishing the republic was an enemy, and was to be executed. For instance, when he theorized that, “Society owes protection only to peaceable citizens; the only citizens in the republic are the Republicans. For it, royalist, the conspirators are only stranger, or rather enemies, (qtd. in ââ‚¬Å“The Cultââ‚¬).” He felt that if anyone who gave him trouble was a foe, or someone that annoyed him. However, he was a protector of the real citizens, which had faith in his madness. On the contrary, he became paranoid during the Terror and issued the executions, even though France was doing better (“The French Revolution”). Robespierre views of terror and virtue caused a disturbance within the other members of the Convention and they were frightened that they were on his death list next. Rapidly, they had him and his associates arrested on a treason charge (“Robespierre Executed 2). After he was arrested in July 1794, he tried to shoot himself but missed, and spent the last few hours of his life with his jaw hanging off. In addition, he spent the last few hours of his life being silenced. The last person to climb the deadly guillotine was none other than Robespierre himself (“Use of Terror”). Ultimately, he had grown too dominant, and like the Roman dictator Julius Caesar, he became too ambitious and needed to be taken down.
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Furthermore, Robespierre may have been a brilliant lawyer with good intentions in the beginning, but his power over others turned him into a despicable tyrant, which eventually led to his own demise. Through his troubled childhood, he faced several problems that affected his behavior. He was a good, young man, but his rage and his cleverness helped him succeed in obtaining power. Additionally, when he ruled through the Reign of Terror, abundant amounts of people were sent to the bloody guillotine. His power kept escalating however, his popularity was declining. The way he expressed justice, was through virtue and terror. In his outlook, terror and virtue were frequently similar. At first, he wanted to protect the people but a fatal flaw in his leadership caused his decisions to alter, and causing more havoc towards France. Thus, causing his power to wobble greatly and with it so did his rule, leaving him walking to the guillotine.
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