Talk:Reign of Terror

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Threats of Foreign Invasion - New Addition Proposal[edit]

We would like to propose the addition of a Threats of Foreign Invasion section to Influences of the Reign of Terror subsection. After France's declaration of war on Austria, tensions in the nation rose greatly. A series of defeats in various battles such as the Siege of Coné placed significant pressure on needing to unify the nation and eliminate internal threats so resources could be devoted to the war. This was not only a cause but what was often used as justification for the Terror. Sources to support this include the Popkins book already cited on the page and sources from accounts of the battles lost. Along the same note, we would like to propose an expansion of the section regarding the influence of the Enlightenment on the Reign of Terror as Rousseau was not the only philosopher that was substantially influential. Other philosophers of note would include Montesquieu and Voltaire as well. Sources include: Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws, 1748 (excerpts) and Voltaire, Selections from the Philosophical Dictionary

Ebristol9097 (talk) 17:47, 16 October 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Pressures for Control[edit]

I would like to explain how the Enlightenment, popular pressure, and religion fueled the Reign of Terror. Rousseau's ideas of the general will, the sans-culottes' demands, and the desire to remove religious authority lead the Committee of Public Safety to impose Terror in order to centralize authority and create an enlightened Republic. Agmmmk (talk) 19:28, 1 May 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Comment regarding Catholic Church- needs clarification[edit]

The second paragraph makes the following statement: "The Roman Catholic Church was generally against the Revolution, which had turned the clergy into employees of the state and required they take an oath of loyalty to the nation (through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy)."

The problem is not the church's stance for or against, it was the Revolution and the Reign of Terror that committed atrocities against society at large as well as the church. First removing all church authority and self governance, making all clergy servants of the state and requiring them to put the authority of the state above their faith at the cost of DEATH for any refusal. That some "bad" priests may have betrayed the church (sparing their lives) and sided with the state does not make them church representive siding with the Government. The Church was for individual religious freedom, hence it was against such tyranny against individual freedom...this does not make it for or against a particular governmental entity- in this case "The Revolution"- but against unjust governmental policy. There is a difference.

To implicate that ANY institutional entity (religious or not) is for or against a government (or other power) which is violating such basic human rights of its own Clerics/representatives not to mention many others with such atrocious crimes against humanity is simply absurd and just misses the point. Thus my concern. Please correct or clarify this silly and obtuse statement...Thank you. Micael (talk) 01:39, 29 December 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You will need to provide some sources for that interpretation, however. --Saddhiyama (talk) 10:34, 6 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sorry but this is not an interpretation, the very article explicitly states as noted above that those running the reign of terror (hence the very name) did make clergy "employees of the state and required they take an oath of loyalty to the nation" . These are facts already mentioned in the article, hence my mere point is that is sounds quite silly that the article also mentions "The Catholic Church was GENERALLY against the Revolution" despite its tyrannical rulings and persecution pf the Church (an obvious contradiction to the goals and the very purpose of the Church - why would any authentic non-coerced Catholic desire the destruction of the Church?)

Regardless here is the documentation: The Civil Constitution of the Clergy made it clear that Catholic clergy were under the supreme authority of the state

The Church proclaimed that it was that it was clearly against the tyrannical rulings of the French National Assembly particularly related to the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy". Pope VI's encyclical Caritas(On the Civil Oath in France) in April 1791 stated that any Cleric proclaiming himself in line with the Revolution's proclamation not only did not represent the Church but was to be considered a schismatic(separated from the Church) : PP 10-11 "For the right of ordaining bishops-belongs only to the Apostolic See, as the Council of Trent declares; it cannot be assumed by any bishop or metropolitan without obliging Us to declare schismatic both those who ordain and those who are ordained, thus invalidating their future actions.

11. When We had completed this business, We resumed the task of replying to the bishops. This task had become more troublesome and time-consuming because of the many new developments which subsequently affected it. After examining all the articles in order to make clear to everyone that in the judgment of this Holy See, which has been sought by the French bishops and is eagerly awaited by French Catholics, We declared that the new Constitution of the Clergy is composed of principles derived from heresy. It is consequently heretical in many of its decrees and at variance with Catholic teaching. In other decrees it is sacrilegious and schismatic. It overturns the rights and primacy of the Church, is opposed to ancient and modern practice, and is devised and published with the sole design of utterly destroying the Catholic religion. For it is only this religion which cannot be freely professed, whose lawful pastors are removed, and whose property is taken over. Men of other sects are left at liberty and in possession of their property. We pointed all this out clearly, but We stated mildly that We had hitherto refrained from excommunicating the authors of the ill-omened Civil Constitution of the Clergy. It was Our duty, however, to emphasize that We would be obliged against Our will to declare schismatic all who did not reject the errors We had revealed (the customary procedure of this Holy See in these cases). This threat applied to the authors of the Constitution as well as to those who swore to observe it, whether they supervised the election of new bishops, consecrated those who were elected, or accepted this consecration. For none of these would have either a lawful appointment or be in communion with the Church." Caritas (on the Civil Oath in France)

Lastly Butler’s Lives of the Saints on the Chapter "Martyrs of September(1792)" specifically describes the massacre which occurred during the reign of terror where over 1400 savagely murdered of which nearly 200 priest or religious were killed- pages 14-16. With its promulgation of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy on 12 July 1790 the Constituent Assembly effectively alienated any support of the Church might have given to the Revolution. Declaring the French clergy to be public servants independent of the Holy See it required each one to take an oath of allegiance to the Constitution. Initially any cleric who refused to swear was to be deprived of all he possessed, but later on, in 1792, the penalty became death by execution. (pg 14) Butler's Lives of the Saints

Hence the statement in the article should be modified in some sense and state that although some Priest may have sided with the Revolution initially, the Church was NATURALLY against the Revolution as it attempted to make the Catholic Church in France subordinate to the nation state - separate from the Catholic Church, demanded absolute allegiance to the State above Church, and anything less made it a capital offence. Micael (talk) 00:22, 17 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thank you very much for taking your time to find some sources regarding this. My main objection was to your statement "that some "bad" priests may have betrayed the church (sparing their lives) and sided with the state does not make them church representive siding with the Government", which was very much subjective and completely unsourced. A large number of French priests and other clergy actually took the oath, the majority iirc, and far from all of them in order to "spare their own lives", during the initial phases of the law it was "only" a question of them losing their career, not their lives, that only came later. However of course Rome was very much against it for us obvious reasons, as they lost influence and property in one of their most prosperous Catholic countries. However you have to assume that all this is not familiar to the reader, and you have to make that clear with sources when writing about this. You should perhaps also acquaint yourself with Wikipedias policy of verifiability through the use of mainly secondary reliable sources for general claims. You seem to have found only primary sources, which is of course acceptable when sourcing the views of the people or institutions who published such sources, but can't be used to make interpretative statements as "...made it clear that Catholic clergy were under the supreme authority of the state" and similar examples. --Saddhiyama (talk) 00:36, 17 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'm sorry if I can't make myself clear, but my problem with this article is specifically with the statement "The Roman Catholic Church was GENERALLY against the Revolution, which had turned the clergy into employees of the state and required they take an oath of loyalty to the nation (through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy" (EMPHASIS MINE)

I agree I was trying to find the reasoning (interpretation) for using the word "GENERALLY" - but my guessing is immaterial to the bottom line I'm trying to make. I think there is a misunderstanding, my point is that there is no reason to state that the Catholic Church in any way supported the Revolution and this should be clarified...and primary sources can not exemplify this fact any better. Particularly since we are not looking for an interpretive statement but a simple fact that the Catholic Church -the view of the institution- did in fact declare it was against the Revolution. This is not about a consensus its a simple and clear fact which the article should properly represent. Anything less is a misrepresentation of he institution being discussed- the Catholic Church.

I can see your point if if the statement being discussed stated something like "It is generally regarded that the Catholic Church was against the Revolution", but that is not what it says. Instead, it makes a statement about VIEW OF THE INSTITUTION ITSELF - "The Roman Catholic Church was GENERALLY against..." when the fact is the Catholic church was absolutely against the Revolution regardless of anyone else's opinion , and documents(primary sources) clearly exemplify this fact. Thank you. Micael (talk) 04:07, 17 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Neutrality of article - specifically, images[edit]

An engraving of Robespierre guillotining the executioner after having guillotined everyone else in France

The first (and most prominent) image used in this article is this one, which is displayed alongside the introductory session. I note that its caption takes no account of its satirical/fictional intent: clearly Robespierre did not guillotine everyone else in France, and the original source ("La guillotine en 1793" by H. Fleischmann) notes at the end of that same caption Caricature de l'epoque i.e. contemporary caricature - at the very least this explanatory note should be included here, I think.

While the use of a satirical image to illustrate major historical events is in itself problematic ( and should in my opinion be replaced with a better attempt at a historical depiction, such as,_supplice_de_9_%C3%A9migr%C3%A9s.jpg ), I think neutrality must be a concern here - by presenting this very partisan viewpoint uncritically I think we end up only presenting one point of view.

These are my suggestions, would be keen to discuss them and am happy to be corrected / informed of things I haven't considered Heeblemona (talk) 09:17, 17 May 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Agreed with all of that. I've swapped the lead image for the more neutral depiction of the guillotine and moved the caricature down into the body. Modest Genius talk 12:32, 27 July 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Images d'Epinal, as they say in Serbocroatian[edit]

This article contains 23 mentions of Robespierre (as an instigator of Terror, even, which is nonsense as he did not instigate the system), one of Saint-Just (I am surprised we are not given the typical psychoanalytical nonsense), but none of Barere de Vieuzac (the actual instigator of the terror), Carrier, Fouche, Barras, the biggest butchers of it, or Collot d'Herbois, all good committee members who unlike Robespierre actually attended meetings of the CPS and signed death sentences. Coincidentally all of these men became good thermidorians (and Barras even became a good monarchist when the title of viscount was dangled in front of his eyes) when the time was right. I'm sure in the months after the "coup" (Robespierre had effectively no formal power and little auctoritas left in the committees by that point) people believed it somehow but considering of the thermidorians who were not deported or executed, the remainder amounted to Barras (whose handling of the directoire was only slightly less bloody than his handling of Provence) and Fouche (the borderline sociopath head of Napoleon's secret police) it's hard to maintain this view 200 (or even 50, seeing as even enemies of Robespierre defended his memory at that point) years down the line. (talk) 16:32, 7 October 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

P.S.: Half the descriptions of the period read like they're taken from someone who only read the scarlet pimpernel, this detestable drivel which seems to assume the revolution could only have been the work of jews and masons jealous of not having been born aristocrats. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:39, 7 October 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Guillotine in 1789 ?[edit]

In the "six points" section it is written "From March to September 1789 sixty-six people had been guillotined. By the end of the year, that number had risen to 177". According to Wikipedia the first person executed by the guillotine was Nicolas Jacques Pelletier in ~23 March 1792 long after the indicated date in the quote. The guillotine was introduced in the Terror, so the date of 1789 seems to be strange. Am I wrong ? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Shmuel Saporta (talkcontribs) 14:10, 22 March 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You're right. The original contributor meant "1793". SteveStrummer (talk) 18:26, 22 March 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"is the label given by some historians to"[edit]

This phrase in the lede strikes me as unnecessarily wordy. Of course it's a label given by some historians to the period - that's what all names for periods are. --IslandHopper 973 17:34, 7 April 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Reasons I deleted the "Why 'Reign of Terror'" section[edit]

The editor of this section makes a very good point that "Reign of Terror" is a subjective framing and we should avoid uncritically affirm that frame and explain how the name came into being. (Like, I cannot agree more.) However, I think this section fails to do the job. First of all, the Law of Suspects stated only that suspects would be "imprisoned until peace", so it's not the cause of the number of death sentences. Second, if I'm not mistaken, the "terror" is at first a Thermidorian construction. Third, it seemed unreasonable to single out Robespierre for mentioning the word "terror", since it was part of the discourse of many politicians at the time (e.g. the famous sentence "Let's make terror the order of the day" was first uttered by an audience of the National Convention and then framed by Barère). And at any rate, singling out the Law of Suspects and War in Vendée seemed rather unreasonable, since many other policies of the period (e.g. the Law of Prairial, the reorganization of the Revolutionary Tribunal) could also be said to have contributed to the name "reign of terror", and the section would be rather pointless if we list every important policies during the terror - it's already done in the "major events during the terror" section.

Despite my disagreements, the original editor makes a very good point that we should explain the reason behind the framing instead of uncritically accepting it. So - can anyone do it? Vanialiang (talk) 08:53, 5 May 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Enlightenment thought and Terror[edit]

The link between Enlightenment thought and Terror is problematic. --Wordyhs (talk) 20:59, 11 February 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Confused framing and narrative[edit]

This reads like a coherently written article that has had major chunks haphazardly stripped out and replaced with sloppy attempts to control narrative. After reading the entire article, I wound up completely confused as to what the reign of terror is actually referring to, and what Robespierre's role was in any of it. Starting at the beginning, we have:

  • There is disagreement among historians over when exactly "the Terror" began. Some consider it to have begun only in 1793
  • Others, however, cite the earlier time of the September Massacres in 1792, or even July 1789
  • The term "Terror" being used to describe the period was introduced by the Thermidorian Reaction who took power after the fall of Maximilien Robespierre in July 1794, to discredit Robespierre and justify their actions.
  • Today there is consensus amongst historians that the exceptional revolutionary measures continued after the death of Robespierre, and this subsequent period is now called the "White Terror".
  • The "Date" listed in the Part of the French Revolution" box at the top right is: 1793–1794

Okay, so the reign of terror began in 1789, 1792, or 1793, and continued after Robespierre's death in 1794, though it was also "introduced by" the Thermidorian Reaction who took power after that time. No wait, it means the word "terror" was applied only by the "Thermidorian Reaction" (apparently an entity?), to discredit the prior period under Robespierre? Okay okay, so the French revolution was 1789 to some time after 1794, and one phase during Robespierre's life is "The Reign of Terror," and after Robespierre dies it becomes "White Terror," the first name being coined by "the Thermidorian Reaction," the latter name being coined by a consensus amongst modern historians. Did I get that right? Maybe this next section "Terror as the order of the day" will clarify things:

  • What Robespierre calls "terror" is the fear that the justice of exception shall inspire the enemies of the Republic.
  • He opposes the idea of terror as the order of the day, defending instead "justice" as the order of the day.
  • In February 1794 in a speech he explains why this "terror" is necessary as a form of exceptional justice in the context of the revolutionary government

Huh? I thought the word "terror" had only been assigned after Robespierre died. Now I'm told Robespierre both opposed terror (meaning fear of justice), but also defended terror (meaning exceptional justice) as necessary during his revolutionary time. What are we even talking about, who is Robespierre?!

  • Some historians argue that such terror was a necessary reaction to the circumstances.
  • Others suggest there were additional causes, including ideological and emotional.

Gee, did Robespierre's headless corpse reach through the grave to edit this article? Pretty big red flag that a history article is written so defensively of someone's actions. And since the article doesn't specify what those actions actually were, I'm left to speculate. What would have instead been helpful, is any explanation of who Maximilien Robespierre was, and more broadly, what the Reign of Terror was. I mean I see one reference to "Maximilian rule," and one image description notes he was actually on the Committee of Public Safety, which seems to have played a role in the administration of the Reign of Terror, whatever that was. And I think the committee guillotined Robespierre? The article is never explicit. Guess they had a falling out--sounds like a pretty fascinating time! Maybe someday I'll learn about it. PS, I looked at the article one thousand versions ago, and it contained a proper introduction full of expository information entirely absent from the current version. Imho, all the preemptive historiography/revisionism, which I'm not disputing, should be in a separate section or article, save for a brief mention here or there maybe. It certainly should not be replacing the actual historical information the uninformed reader would come to this article to read. (talk) 23:20, 16 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree, I just read this after reading several books on the French Revolution; this Wikipedia article stinks of revisionism and politics rather than sounding like an encyclopaedia entry. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:05, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]