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The Reign of Terror , or The Terror French: la Terreur , refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established in which multiple massacres and public executions occurred in response to revolutionary fervor, anti-clerical sentiment, and frivolous accusations of treason by Maximilien Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety. Several historians consider the "reign of terror" to have begun in , placing the starting date at either 5 September,  June  or March birth of the Revolutionary Tribunal , while some consider it to have begun in September September Massacres , or even July when the first lynchings took place ,  but there is a consensus that it ended with the fall of Maximilien Robespierre in July Between June and the end of July , there were 16, official death sentences in France, of which 2, were in Paris. There was a sense of emergency among leading politicians in France in the summer of between the widespread civil war and counter-revolution. Robespierre in February in a speech explained the necessity of terror:. If the basis of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the basis of popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is baneful; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue; it is less a principle in itself, than a consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing needs of the patrie [homeland, fatherland].
The Legislative Assembly
The French Revolution's reign of terror (In Our Time)
However, its tenure overlapped with a period of extreme political and social chaos. The Legislative Assembly first met on October 1, under the Constitution of , and consisted of members. Few were nobles, very few were clergymen, and the majority came from the middle class. The members were generally young, and since none had sat in the previous Assembly, largely lacked national political experience. The rightists within the assembly consisted of about Feuillants constitutional monarchists , whose chief leaders, Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette and Antoine Barnave, remained outside the Assembly because of their ineligibility for re-election.
In Paris a wave of executions followed. In the provinces, representatives on mission and surveillance committees instituted local terrors. Power in this assembly was divided between the more moderate Girondins , who sought a constitutional monarchy and economic liberalism and favored spreading the Revolution throughout Europe by means of war, and the Montagnards , who preferred a policy of radical egalitarianism. 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. 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.
Featured in Macworld - one of the best history sites on the web. Maximilien Robespierre. More Information. The Terror was designed to fight the enemies of the revolution, to prevent counter-revolution from gaining ground. Most of the people rounded up were not aristocrats, but ordinary people.