There advantages and disadvantages of the Terror as an instrument of the French Revolution on the common folk had to be cautious, foreigners who were confused, and leaders of the revolution who should have concentrated the many other problems in France.
The Terror kept made common people fear for their lives. General Ronsin, a leader of the Revolutionary Army, said in a letter that during a rebelling in Lyon over 400 rebels were killed. This would serve as an example to anyone thinking of rebelling. A chart shows the percentage of people killed in France, and 68% of the people killed were peasants or part of the working class. Those two classes were the easiest to target because they were a majority and could pose a threat, not that they were likely to. Camille Desmoulins, a journalist, writes, “Could you make a single man perish on the scaffold without making ten enemies for yourself from his family or his friends?” This makes a good point that the government makes more enemies as they kill more people. The enemies the government made weren’t very likely to rebel, but they were accused of conspiring against the government and were killed. Public opinion collected by the government showed “that they acquit the innocent and punish the guilty, although murmurs are heard among the public at their judgments”, which showed that the people didn’t really agree, but couldn‘t do anything about it. One citizen thought that good people were imprisoned. Another citizen said, “The law is just, it strikes rich and poor indiscriminately.” He was really being sarcastic and meant that the rich were overlooked but the poor were watched very carefully. One last citizen said that “there is no section in Paris which is not dissatisfied with its revolutionary committee or does not seriously desire to have them abolished.” The Terror was a disadvantage for the common people.
The Terror made the foreigners confused, but it also made them intimidated. Charles James Fox, a reformist of Parliament, said “What a pity that a people [the French] capable of such incredible energy, should be guilty or rather be governed by those who are guilty of such unheard of crimes and cruelties.” He thought that it was wrong that people were being killed when there were better ways of dealing with their problems. William Pitt, who was British Prime Minister, said in a speech to Parliament, “Their efforts are merely the result of a system of restraint and oppression, the most terrible and gigantic, that has, perhaps, ever existed. …what rational prospect can their be of the permanence of their exertions?” He didn’t understand why France was doing this to itself. Britain and all the countries that were at war with France at the time must have been scared of being killed so they left the country, which was an advantage of the Terror.
The leaders of the revolution should have dealt with their other numerous problems and not worry about themselves. They kept themselves and higher ranked people safe during the Terror. A chart shows that nobles and clergy only made up 10% of the people killed during the Terror which proves that they were a lot safer off than lower ranked people in society. Maximilien de Robespierre said, “To good citizens revolutionary government owes the full protection of the state; to the enemies of the people it owes only death.” This means that the country was just ridding itself of its “bad people” to solve all its problems. Ironically, most of France’s good citizens were high ranked people in society. Louis Antoine de Saint-Just talked about how there were tons of problems in France and the Terror was the biggest problem. How could the government not realize this? The Terror was an advantage for the revolutionist leaders, but not for France.
There advantages and disadvantages of the Terror as an instrument of the French Revolution on the common folk had to be careful, foreigners who were puzzled, and leaders of the revolution who should have dealt with the numerous problems in France.