reign of terror


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Acronyms, Idioms, Wikipedia.
Related to reign of terror: French Revolution

Reign of Terror,

1793–94, period of the French RevolutionFrench Revolution,
political upheaval of world importance in France that began in 1789. Origins of the Revolution

Historians disagree in evaluating the factors that brought about the Revolution.
..... Click the link for more information.
 characterized by a wave of executions of presumed enemies of the state. Directed by the Committee of Public Safety, the Revolutionary government's Terror was essentially a war dictatorship, instituted to rule the country in a national emergency.

Origins of the Terror

Initially the Committee of Public Safety was created (Apr. 6, 1793) to preserve the reforms of the French RevolutionFrench Revolution,
political upheaval of world importance in France that began in 1789. Origins of the Revolution

Historians disagree in evaluating the factors that brought about the Revolution.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Its membership took final form on Sept. 6. Among its twelve members were Bertrand Barère de VieuzacBarère de Vieuzac, Bertrand
, 1755–1841, French revolutionary. A member of the Revolutionary National Assembly and of the Convention, he moved from a moderate to a radical stand, voting for the execution of King Louis XVI.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Lazare CarnotCarnot, Lazare Nicolas Marguerite
, 1753–1823, French revolutionary, known as the organizer of victory for his role in the French Revolutionary Wars. A military engineer by training, Carnot became the military genius of the Revolution and was chiefly responsible for the
..... Click the link for more information.
, Georges CouthonCouthon, Georges
, 1755?–1794, French revolutionary. An able lawyer, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly (1791) and to the Convention (1792). He became (1793) an important member of the Committee of Public Safety, the dictatorial body that ruled France in 1793 and
..... Click the link for more information.
, M. J. Hérault de SéchellesHérault de Séchelles, Marie Jean
, 1759–94, French revolutionary. A lawyer, he became a favorite of Queen Marie Antoinette, but nevertheless joined the revolutionary cause in 1789.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Maximilien RobespierreRobespierre, Maximilien Marie Isidore
, 1758–94, one of the leading figures of the French Revolution. Early Life

A poor youth, he was enabled to study law in Paris through a scholarship.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and Louis de Saint-JustSaint-Just, Louis de
, 1767–94, French revolutionary. A member of the Convention from 1792, he became a favorite of Maximilien Robespierre and was (1793–94) a leading member of the Committee of Public Safety (see Reign of Terror).
..... Click the link for more information.
 and the Hébertists, J. N. Billaud-VarenneBillaud-Varenne, Jean Nicolas
, 1756–1819, French revolutionary. A violent antimonarchist in the Convention, the revolutionary national assembly, he and Jean Marie Collot d'Herbois were the two members of the ultrarevolutionary Hebértists (see Hébert, Jacques
..... Click the link for more information.
 and J. N. Collot d'HerboisCollot d'Herbois, Jean Marie
, 1750–96, French revolutionary, originally an actor and playwright. Although a member of his Jacobin club, he favored a constitutional monarch.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Robespierre became the dominant member. Their aim was to eliminate all internal counterrevolutionary elements, to raise new armies, and to assure food supplies for the armies and cities. Some of their measures were demanded by the people of Paris, whose support was essential.

Confinement and Execution

Responsibility for the police measures taken during the terror lay also with the Committee of General Security, which had control over the local committees formed to ferret out treason. The Law of Suspects (Sept. 17, 1793) defined those who could be arrested for "treasonable" activities; it was enforced by the Revolutionary Tribunal. Estimates vary as to the number of victims; thousands were guillotined, and over 200,000 were arrested. Representatives on mission, who were agents sent out by the Committee of Public Safety, had absolute power to enforce the terror, including the establishment of special courts.

The counterrevolutionary uprising in the Vendée (Oct.–Dec., 1793), which was suppressed with a heavy loss of life, and revolts against the Convention in Lyon and several other cities served as a backdrop to the intensification of the terror of Jan.–Mar., 1794. In Nantes mass drownings called noyades claimed at least 3,500 lives. In June, 1794, the Committee of Public Safety introduced a new law, which strengthened the power of the Revolutionary Tribunal; the court could return only verdicts of either acquittal or death. Executions increased greatly.

Government and Economy

The machinery of government was centralized in the hands of the Committee of Public Safety. Military mobilization, planned by Carnot, and based on the levée, a requisition of able-bodied males between the age of 18 and 25, was followed by a complete reorganization of the armed forces that paid dividends in the French Revolutionary WarsFrench Revolutionary Wars,
wars occurring in the era of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic era, the decade of 1792–1802. The wars began as an effort to defend the Revolution and developed into wars of conquest under the empire.
..... Click the link for more information.
. In the field of economics, the demands of the enragésenragés
, term applied to a small group of Parisian radical extremists in the French Revolution. Rising prices and food shortages provoked them in Feb.–Mar., 1793, to pillage the city's food stores.
..... Click the link for more information.
 in Paris brought strict controls. The law of the maximum and other measures set price and wage ceilings, forbade hoarding and withholding from the market, requisitioned food and supplies for the army, and instituted rationing. Land purchase by the peasants was made easier. Despite these measures, economic problems continued to intensify.

Outcome

When French military success began in June, 1794, popular discontent with the brutal measures at home grew evident. By this time the members of the committee were at odds with one another and with the Committee of General Security. The members of the National Convention, fearing that the new purge would be turned against them, joined forces with Robespierre's enemies on the committees and overthrew Robespierre on 9 ThermidorThermidor
, 11th month of the French Revolutionary calendar. The coup of 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794) marked the downfall of Robespierre and the end of the Reign of Terror.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (July 27, 1794).

The Reign of Terror was followed by the Thermidorian reaction under a reconstituted Committee of Public Safety (1794) and by the White Terror, in which many former terrorists were executed. While the Reign of Terror answered the need for a strong executive and saved France from anarchy and military defeat, its effect upon public opinion, especially foreign opinion, was extremely harmful to the Revolutionary cause.

Bibliography

See D. Greer, The Incidence of Terror during the French Revolution: A Statistical Interpretation (1935); R. R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled (1941, repr. 1968); S. Loomis, Paris in the Terror (1964); S. Schama, Citizens (1989); D. Andress, The Terror (2006); T. Tackett, The Coming of Terror in the French Revolution (2015).


Terror, Reign of:

see Reign of TerrorReign of Terror,
1793–94, period of the French Revolution characterized by a wave of executions of presumed enemies of the state. Directed by the Committee of Public Safety, the Revolutionary government's Terror was essentially a war dictatorship, instituted to rule the
..... Click the link for more information.
.

Reign of Terror

all roads led to the guillotine (1793–1794). [Fr. Hist.: EB, IX: 904]

Reign of Terror

(1793–1794) revolutionary government made terror its means of suppression, by edict (September 5, 1793). [Fr. Hist.: EB, IX: 904]
References in periodicals archive ?
At the same time, Les Piques, 1992-93, presents a significant reversal of this theme in its allusion not to repression but to anarchic rebellion, to the masses of sansculottes brandishing the impaled heads of aristocrats through the streets of Paris during the Reign of Terror.
As negotiations drag on between the United Nations and the military thugs who have taken over the government, ordinary Haitians endure a reign of terror.
ISLAMABAD -- All Parties Hurriyet Conference Chairman, Syed Ali Gilani has urged the Organization of Islamic cooperation (OIC) to prevail upon the United Nations to fulfill its commitment to the people of occupied Kashmir and persuade India to stop reign of terror and tyranny in the valley.
Talking to international media team in Islamabad on Saturday, he said that India had unleashed a reign of terror in the held territory.
THE SCORPION KING ITV, 5pm A ruthless warlord resolves to rid the desert of its few remaining tribes, prompting them to seek the help of a legendary assassin to end the despot's reign of terror by destroying his source of power - a beautiful but deadly sorceress.
North Korea is currently engaged in a reign of terror while carrying out massive purges in order to consolidate Kim Jong-un's power.
Imiela was given seven life sentences in 2004 after claiming eight victims in a year-long reign of terror.
No less culpable was Saddam's heir apparent, Qusay, the third axis in the Husseins' reign of terror; a reign of terror no more after a world with Bush.
Given that Hussein helped to send an estimated 1 million Iraqis to their early deaths in his nearly 25-year reign of terror, Iraq -- even at current levels of bloodshed -- is better off than it was under his rule.
1793: The Reign of Terror, in which thousands went to the guillotine in the French Revolution, began.
Commission on International Religious Freedom reports a reign of terror against religion in this Marxist-Stalinist country.