Reign of Terror in the French Revolution

The Reign of Terror was the piece de resistance of the French Revolution (1789-1799) and shook the whole of Europe especially Europe’s surrounding monarchies. When the haze of smoke of violence settled down, more than 40,000 Frenchmen were guillotined and more died by brutal means such as drowning i.e. 3,500 were victims of mass drowning termed as noyades in Nantes1 and death by mob lynching. The most celebrated head shown to the jeering, cheering mob belonged to Queen Marie Antoinette, the daughter of Queen Maria Theresa of Austria and the sister of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II. Earlier in that fateful year 1793, her husband, King Louis XVI was butchered via the guillotine for alleged crime of treason together with all those perceived to be "enemies of the revolution". The latter were either guillotined or mass executed by firing squad without due process of law2 . Most of the victims were those from
The Reign of Terror was also marked by dechristianization as Christianity was banned temporarily, a result of massive sentiment by the ‘enragees’ or extremists3 against the clergy for its special privileges such as the the right to tax the feudal estates via the ‘dime’or tithe4, its political power (it possessed a third of the voting power of the Estates General) and its possession of untaxed vast landholdings all over France. In its stead, was established the revolutionary religion termed as the Cult of Reason. Hatred against the clergy even caused the Julian calendar to be flung aside in favor of the Republican calendar.5
The Reign of Terror also saw the ascendancy to power of the common people, the peasants, the working class and the disadvantaged who were radicalized by the hunger and famine, the widespread unemployment, the excessive consumption of the royalty in the Versailles palace6, the civic inequality produced by dispensation of special privileges to the aristocracy, the burden of feudal taxation and the surging inflation that went haywire to drive them to bare subsistence. When these sans-culottes’ (literally without knee breaches) aspirations were amalgamated with the Mountains’ (the radical Jacobins) resolution to abolish monarchy, we had the perfect formula for an explosive group that would ignite and power a radical revolution that would be unparalleled in its cruelty and brutality. This combination jumpstarted the Reign of Terror. By wresting control of the National Convention, which previously abolished the monarchy and convicted King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, they were able to engineer an extermination of all the enemies of the republic , particularly the counter-

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