An essay discussing the statement "The Terror was the triumph of violence over ideals" includes quotes and bibliography

Essay by vivHigh School, 11th grade May 2004

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"The Terror was the triumph of violence over ideals. Discuss"


At its core, the French Revolution was a political movement devoted to liberty and equality. In spite of this the spirit of idealism that gripped France during the early phases of the Revolution gave way to mass paranoia and extremism, culminating in Robespierre's cruel regime. The idealology that drove the revolution was grossly distorted and misused to justify the brutal violence in the Terror.

In the beginning the French Revolution had been more intellectual, fuelled by the ideas of the enlightenment, the Reign of Terror philosophy seemed like a panacea for societal woes. Prominent philosophers like Rousseau, Voltaire, and Diderot contributed to a new mentality in France, against the feudalistic society of the "ancien regime" instigating mass revolts such as the storming of the Bastille. The formation of the National Assembly, solidified by the Oath of the Tennis Court, was so influential that the King relented to legalize the National Assembly, thus recognizing the grievances of the French common people.

The National Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and in 1791 drafted a constitution that permitted a limited monarchy. The origins of the Reign of Terror can already be witnessed in this phase of the Revolution, in which a mob mentality took control of Paris and France in general. Although the political and social ideologies that underpinned the Revolution were admirable, the Revolution was fragmented and chaotic. Mobs, inspired by their victories, by their idealism, and their radicalism, turned revolutionary ideology on its back.

In the early 1790s, several political clubs and groups formed in Paris to contend in the newly formed Legislative Assembly. Two of the more famous clubs, which would become influential during the Reign of Terror, were the Girondists and the...