- Robespierre, Maximilien-Marie-Isadore de
- (1758-1794)political figureOne of the most influential figures of the revolution of 1789 and one of the principal exponents of the Reign of terror, Maximilien-Marie-Isadore de Robespierre was born in Arras to a bourgeois family and was educated in Paris at the Lycée Louis le Grand, where camille desmoulins was his classmate. Through his studies, he became an enthusiastic devotee of the social theories of the philosophes of the 18th century, especially those of jean-jacques-rousseau, whom he visited at Ermenonville and whose theory of the general will, as stated in the Contrat social, became Robespierre's guiding principle. An attorney, Robespierre was elected in 1789 as a deputy for the Third Estate to the estates general, and subsequently to the National Constituent Assembly, where his oratory brought him to the attention of his peers. in April 1790, he was elected president of the jacobin Club and became popular (particularly after the departure of antoine barnave) as a foe of the monarchy and an advocate for radical reform. He was especially opposed to the moderate Girondin faction then dominant in the government. After the fall of the monarchy (August 1792), he strongly urged the execution of the King louis XVI. In May 1793, with popular support, he forced the girondins from the National Assembly and in July was elected to the Committee of Public Safety, the chief executive body. unopposed, he gained control of the government and, in the name of the nation and the revolution, proceeded to eliminate all whom he considered to be its enemies, whether moderate or extremist. The ensuing Reign of Terror led to the execution of many, including the revolutionary leaders jacques hébert and georges danton. At his insistence, the Convention proclaimed the cult of the supreme Being, antagonizing both atheists and believers. with the support of the powerful Paris commune, however, Robespierre was elected president of the Convention as the Terror intensified, with even many Jacobins fearing for their lives. After a series of military victories in Cholet; Vendée; Fleurus, Belgium; Wattignies, in northern France, made extreme security measures less urgent, a conspiracy was formed to overthrow Robespierre and, on 9 Thermidor, Year II (July 27, 1794), he was banned from speaking at the Convention and placed under arrest. An uprising in his support was suppressed on July 28, and Robespierre was executed along with his close associates georges couthon and louis saint-just and a number of other supporters. The death of Robespierre soon brought an end to the Terror.
France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.
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