Who was Maximillian Robespierre?
Robespierre had been a successful Parisian lawyer prior to the Revolution, and later became a member of a Jacobin faction known as "the Mountain." The Jacobins were opposed by another political faction, the Gerondins. The conflict between the two was so great that the economic woes of France were ignored, and a second revolution seemed imminent. The Directory (France's ruling body) created a special group known as the Committee on Public Safety which was headed by Robespierre. He imposed dictatorial economic controls on the country, and created special "Revolutionary Courts" to deal with those perceived as traitors. It was the actions of these courts which became the "Reign of Terror" in which over 40,000 people either died on the guillotine or in prison. In March, 1794, Robespierre had over 1300 men executed who did not embrace his program wholeheartedly. His actions were so radical that many in his own party believed he had gone too far. I a speech to the Directory on July 27, 1794, Robespierre was hooted down by members of his own faction. He ended his speech by saying, "I ask for death," an apparent attempt to shock the members of his party into compliance. Instead, he got his wish. When deputies arrived to arrest him, Robespierre pulled two pistols, one of which fired and blew away the lower part of his jaw. He was tried the same day in that condition and led immediately to the guillotine. Witnesses report that when the executioner grabbed Robespierre by his injured jaw, he screamed in pain. Many believed he screamed from cowardice in facing death.
Robespierre was the most important leader of the French Revolution. He was a major leader of the revolution from its beginning until he was executed in 1794.
Robespierre was a lawyer before the revolution. He was elected to the first Estates General. Once there, he pushed for the creation of a constitutional monarchy. When this attempt failed, he became more radical. He ended up calling successfully for the execution of King Louis XVI. He became a major leader of the Jacobins and was instrumental in creating the "Reign of Terror." He eventually fell victim to the terror that he had created when he was executed by his political enemies.