How were Robespierre and Danton similar and different during the French Revolution?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maximillen Robespierre and Georges Danton were born within a year of each other, both came from middle-class backgrounds, both became lawyers passionately opposed to the French monarchy, and both were leading figures in the French Revolution.  Both supported the violent overthrow of the monarchy and the execution of the King Louis XVI.  Both played major roles in the new republic, both were Jacobins, and both would die by the guillotine, albeit with slightly more humor on the part of Danton, whose last words reportedly were, "Do not forget to show my head to the people, it is well worth seeing."

The differences come down to degree of ruthlessness, with Robespierre's becoming the name synonymous with the Reign of Terror.  They were rivals for power, and both engaged in Machiavellian maneuvers within the revolutionary government.   The main difference was Danton's pleas for an end to the reign of terror, which he saw as increasingly self-destructive for the revolution.  Robespierre, in contrast, wanted to prolong and intensify the terror, so as to ensure the physical elimination of all potential enemies of the revolution.  Robespierre would emerge the victor in their rivalry, with Danton being subjected to a show trial and executed, to be followed four months later by Robespierre's own execution.