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By the end of 1971, Europe was preparing to witness the end of a

seemingly triumphant revolution in France. The country was

restructuring its government in a forceful and bloodless manner, while

the tyrant King Louis the XVI agreed to the demands of the masses

(albeit without much choice). However, due to the fanatical

aspirations of men such as Danton, Marat and Robespierre,it would be

only a matter of months before the moderate stage of social and

political reform was transformed into a radical phase of barbaric and

violent force. In their quest for freedom, equality and fraternity,

the leaders of the Jacobins inadvertently turned the revolution into

an oligarchic dictatorship that threatened to destroy all that was

achieved in the previous two years of insurrection.

The revolution took a sharp turn on August 9th, 1792. The

Municipal government was overthrown in Paris and a Commune was

established by the leaders of the radical forces. During this time

there were continual food riots erupting in every area of the country

and, with the threat of war against Austria and Prussia looming, it

was vital that order was to be maintained during such tumultuous

times. Although the constitution was already enshrined and the

citizens had their freedom and liberties, there was still plenty of

public dissent and disapproval as to whether or not these laws would

help create a new government and prevent the country from breaking

apart. The people had come this far and were not prepared to watch

their efforts lead to failure or the restoration of an absolute

monarch. As a result, the radical forces were able to gain the support

of the citizens in declaring that the constitution of 1791 was

ineffective and useless since it did not suit the needs of ALL the

population of France. Moderate forces preferred to concentrate on the

foreign affairs of “new” France, but the radicals insisted on domestic

stability first. Led by the popular Danton and the merciless Marat,

the Paris Commune discarded the old constitution and called for a

National Convention to begin work on a new, revised version.

The National Convention, divided by the moderate Girondins and

the radical Jacobins, was the place where the future of the country

was to be eventually determined. It was the premise of the Jacobins

that they should eradicate the “enemy within” and secure the destiny

of the revolution through the destruction of counter-revolutionary

forces. They believed that by weeding out those who opposed the

revolution, they could achieve their goals quickly and efficiently.

The Girondins were not so quick to agree with the Jacobins, and so

political deadlock begin to form in the Convention. It was not until

after the September massacres, when 1200 prisoners were executed

without trials, that Robespierre and his followers were able to

justify their premise. They condemned the actions of the unruly mobs

that caused the deaths of innocent Frenchmen and demanded that the

Monarchy be abolished in order to eliminate as many of the royalists

and monarchists that still remained. It was Marat with his want

100,000 heads to fall” speeches that convinced the masses that those

who were not in favour of the revolution had to be dealt with

immediately or the revolution would never succeed.

Once the Monarchy was abolished and France was declared a

republic, Robespierre and the Jacobins proceeded to demand the

execution of the last symbol of the old regime: Louis Capet. The

Girondins begged for a stay of execution for the fallen King (in the

name of constitutional Justice), but the moderate forces were

overwhelmed by the people’s support for the radicals and the fate of

Louis remained unchanged. His death signified the beginning of a time

when nationalism and radicalism would dominate the revolution. On

March 10th, the Revolutionary Tribunal was created in order to

prosecute the enemies of the revolution. Marat became a virtual Grim

Reaper in searching out possible traitors and enemies of the republic.

When the Committee on Public Safety was established on the 26th,

Robespierre and his Jacobins were able to proudly look upon the

reforms that they had injected into the political bloodstream of

France. There was no turning back from the radical phase that the

people had oluntarily entered and the momentum that the Jacobins had

captured placed them in a position of highest authority and almost

unlimited power.

By the summer of 1793, the people of France began feeling that

something had gone wrong, terribly wrong. In what would be known as

the infamous “Reign of Terror”, the National Convention, spearheaded

by the radical zeal of Marat and the infallibility of Robespierre,

began persecuting any person who was suspected of opposing the

revolution. Even the moderate Girondins were accused of

counter-revolutionary actions and were expelled from the Convention.

What was once a legislative, two-sided body had now become an

authoritarian oligarchy led by radicals. Although the masses had

finally deposed the tyrant who had oppressed them for so many years,

they were now being oppressed by an executive group that was ruling

the country without the safeguards of a constitution. Thousands were

dying without the aid of civil liberties or rights and any citizen

accused of treason was deemed guilty until proven innocent. In a

desperate attempt to slow down the intentions of the Jacobins, Marat

was mur ed by Charlotte Corday and Danton began speaking out against

all radicals who were contributing to the deaths of innocent citizens.

Unfortunately, this was to be a stage in the revolution that could not

be undone even with the leadership of Danton. The closing chapters of

the radical stage were filled with the executions of the Girondins and

other suspects (Hebert) who allegedly opposed the will of the

Jacobins, and therefore opposed the will of the republic. Robespierre

never intended to justify his ends through such violent means.

1793 marked a year that could have been prevented, a period that

should never have befallen the liberated citizens of France. Mirabeau

warned that the destruction of the Monarchy would plunge the country

into anarchy and his words rang true. France was not prepared for such

social and political upheaval, and the resulting shift towards a

republic would change the country forever. The Jacobins discarded

their holy bible, the constitution, in order to ensure the security

and stability of the country. Not only did their hasty actions

backfire, but the tens of thousands of lives that perished during

their reign symbolized the radical stage of the revolution in all its

bloody glory.

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