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By this time Austria and Prussia had, with the encouragement of Louis XVI already declared war on France.(Thomson, 1990, p.34)The National Assembly who was at this time controlled by the more moderate Girondins had to declare war on Austria and Prussia to maintain their political position.Laws were passed that defined those who should be arrested as counterrevolutionaries, and committees of surveillance were set up to identify suspects and issue arrest warrants.
A combination of food scarcity and rising prices led to the overthrow of the Girondins and increased the popular support of the Montagnards, who created the Committee of Public Safety to deal with the various crises.
On September 5, 1793, the Convention decreed that “terror is the order of the day” and resolved that opposition to the Revolution needed to be crushed and eliminated so that the Revolution could succeed.
The Reign of Terror instituted the conscripted army, which saved France from invasion by other countries and in that sense preserved the Revolution.
However, for the most part, it destabilized the country, rather than solidifying the gains of the Revolution and leading to a virtuous and happy republic, as its authors had hoped.
Maximilien de Robespierre was the most prominent member) exercised virtual dictatorial control over the French government.
In the spring of 1794, it eliminated its enemies to the left (the Hébertists) and to the right (the Indulgents, or followers of Georges Danton).
Still uncertain of its position, the committee obtained the Law of 22 Prairial, year II (June 10, 1794), which suspended a suspect’s right to public trial and to legal assistance and left the jury a choice only of acquittal or death.
The “Great Terror” that followed, in which about 1,400 persons were executed, contributed to the fall of Robespierre on July 27 (9 Thermidor).
(Hooker, 1996, p.1)Things for the moderate Girondins were getting bad, as the Austrian and Prussian armies invaded France the lower classes revolted and attacked the royal palace.
Louis XVI fled and tried to find haven with the Assembly, but the radicals had seized the government and persuaded the Assembly to hand Louis XVI and his family over to be tried for treason.