The French Revolution

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How did the Reign of Terror lead to the replacement of the National Convention by the Directory?

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I think that the argument could be made that the Revolutionary Government, of which the National Convention represented, was significantly weakened by the Reign of Terror.  The immediate aftermath of the Reign of Terror was that while it quelled internal dispute, it showed the revolution to have no real legitimacy amongst the people.  The military expanded under the Jacobins as the desire for control and stability ended up becoming more needed and desired than the zeal of freedom and demand for change.  The Reign of Terror exposed how the Revolution could splinter the calls for reform and actually hasten a desire for a sense of control and normalcy.  It is here where the Directory was actually preferred and could be seen as a form of a government that would be perceived as more desirable than anything else that the Revolution would strive to offer.  The National Convention as well as extensions from the Revolution lost credibility in the eyes of the people. The "excesses of the Terror" did much to usher in the Directory and the centralized form of control that the Revolution sought to dismantle in the first place.

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Robespierre and the Jacobins massively overreached during the Terror. The Terror was getting rapidly out of hand, destroying the lives of many who, by no stretch of the imagination, could reasonably be described as hostile to the Revolution. It seemed to many in the National Convention that no one was safe from the guillotine.

Furthermore, there were tensions within the Committee of Public Safety regarding the future direction of events. Robespierre, for his part, remained utterly convinced of his own unimpeachable integrity as well as the moral purity of the Terror. Other members of the Committee, such as Carnot, resented Robespierre and what they saw as his growing dictatorship. In due course, Robespierre found himself caught in the middle between radicals and moderates. With growing economic problems and public unrest, the difficulties assailing the revolutionary government were increasing by the day.

Also, as the Revolutionary Army continued to chalk up an impressive string of victories, the threat of foreign invasion receded sharply. Under those conditions, it became increasingly difficult for the Jacobins to justify their reign of terror. Inside the National Assembly, the Montagnards, the large mass of deputies who had kept their heads down during the Terror, finally came to life, whipped up into action mainly by men such as Barras, himself a deputy, who convinced many of his colleagues that their names were on a death list drawn up by Robespierre.

Robespierre unwisely confirmed such fears with an ill-judged speech in the Convention on 9 Thermidor (a month in the French Revolutionary calendar). In it, he detailed the existence of growing plots and conspiracies against the regime and spoke of an unnamed group of traitors in the Convention. The instinct for self-preservation among the deputies now kicked in, stiffening their resolve to overthrow Robespierre and his despotic regime. Robespierre's speech was shouted down by a hostile Convention, which accused him of being a tyrant.

Robespierre was finally done in by the narrowness of his political power base. The Jacobin Club and the more radical Communes rallied to his defense, but the Convention had now declared him a tyrant and an outlaw. Crucially, it had the force of arms on its side. Eventually, Robespierre and a number of his most radical followers went to the guillotine. The Committee of Public Safety was replaced by the Directory, a five-man executive which proceeded to carry out its own repressive agenda against opponents on the Left, the so-called White Terror.

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