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Analysis / Reign of Terror

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Named after the Reign of Terror in The French Revolution, which lasted less than a year between 1793-1794 in a revolution which lasted anywhere from five to fifteen yearsnote , but is remembered as its most infamous part, where 16,594 people were sent to the guillotine and at least 25,000 more were summarily executed (all in less than a year, remember - that works out to something like 115 executions a day, or one death every fifteen minutes, non-stop). Like most of its successors, the original Terror was justified as a necessity, in this case because France was about to be invaded by a coalition as the result of a war started by the "moderate" Girondins which the Jacobins had at first opposed and then embraced, and was embroiled in civil war. To combat this, emergency measures were called for and the National Convention, elected by universal male franchise, elected the Committee of Public Welfare. The Committee submitted its actions to regular review and its services had to be renewed every month, but at the height of the Terror and during phases when the war did not go well, oppositional members of the Convention had to reckon with the possibility that they themselves would be expelled and compelled to make close acquaintance with "the republican razor". Terror was described as the "state of siege" France was under and the response described by Robespierre was to "fight fire with fire". While people think of the Terror as being filled with daily around-the-clock executions, the original Terror's executions were done in batches, and followed major victories on the warfront since the Committee was largely a war committee and did not attend to "backlog" of executions until immediate threats were handled. Most of the executions, outside of Paris, were relegated to areas affected by civil war, insurrections and the borders, while the vast majority of France was relatively unaffected by it. But that aside, it was very successful in creating a general climate of fear, as pretty much anyone who did not follow the narrow path of Robespierre's circle had to worry about being hauled in front of a revolutionary tribunal, and that included people who had helped the republic through their actionsnote . The original Terror ended with the coup of 9 Thermidor II (27 July 1794) and was followed by the "White Terror" (Terreur blanche) of 1795, a campaign of violence and murder in the South-East of France directed against "Terrorists" and other perceived radicals. It was perpetrated mainly by Royalists, whose party colour was white, and was tied to social conflicts in the region. The "White Terror" of 1795note  resulted in at least 2000 deaths before the Thermidorian government finally took steps and put a stop to it.

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