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Maximilien Robespierre’s Rise To Power

Maximilien Robespierre was a man with humble beginnings. Growing up in Arras, a small town in Northern France, Robespierre developed into the strong and prominent figure he grew up to be. Robespierre’s parents were not in the picture for the large majority of his rise to power. His father was a lawyer and his occupation influenced Robespierre to head down the same career path; Robespierre moved to Paris and received a degree in law from Lycee Louis-le-Grand.

His rise to political success began with his consistent bashing of the standing French Monarchy in addition to his ability to fight for the common man in France which made up the Third Estate. Robespierre, once a man of the people became a man against the people toward the end of his life. His actions taken by conducting events such as the reign of terror and many other heinous acts have paved the way for modern day terrorism in the late 20th century, and the beginning of the 21st century including right now in 2017 specifically in the Middle East.

Robespierre’s audacious comments never went unheard, he was recorded saying after the arrest of prominent Jacobin, Georges Danton “I say that anyone who trembles at this moment is guilty. ” (Ansart 5). Robespierre is alluding to the law of suspects which clearly stated “those who, by their conduct, associations, comments, or writings have shown themselves partisans of tyranny or federalism and enemies of liberty;” (Duvergier – The Law of Suspects). The law of suspects was a decree put into order by the Committee of Public Safety which Robespierre headed at the time.

They created this decree because Robespierre felt vulnerable to outside pressure by not only other nations but also citizens of France. Robespierre’s newly implemented decree allowed authorities to incarcerate anyone who was heard speaking against the revolution or anyone even thought of going against the revolutionaries. The law of suspects took away natural rights which the revolution sought to restore after the failed monarchy headed by King Louis XVI.

Robespierre’s men took in these suspects some were thrown in prison (estimate on wikipedia is that allowed), others were locked down on house arrest, and many unfortunately had to pay the ultimate price of death; This is terrorism. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines terrorism as the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal. Robespierre’s actions by aiding the installation of the law of suspects and allowing the citizens of the country which he unofficially rules is by definition an act of terrorism.

Francois-Marie Arouet better known as Voltaire preached how thriving governments allow their citizens to have the ability to speak their opinions freely and openly without fear of any repercussions. It was enlightened ideas like these which founded the basis of the revolution which Maximilien Robespierre fought for until he gained power over all of France and turned those ideas against their believers and punished all which thought freely against his revolution and nation.

As seen in recent history militant groups such as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) have much like Robespierre taken over the people, though in different ways, both ISIL and Robespierre received the same end result which they wanted. They both gained the ability to control a population’s opinions and beliefs by inflicting their will upon groups which they oppress due to different ideals. In Syria, ISIL has gone against the Kurdish people who inhabited the region prior to the recent rise of radical islam.

Kurdish people all over the Middle East are being persecuted because of their beliefs which differ from the radical ideology of ISIL and terrorist groups like it. Some people are given the choice by ISIL, either to convert and join their caliphate or die for your believes. As seen in these two side by side comparisons ISIL’s style of persecution and oppression is one which very closely mimics the style which Robespierre practiced. Another practice of Robespierre was his impeccable ability to create fear within the society he ruled over.

In the early stages, the revolution spurred men and women to great flights of enthusiastic idealism, but it also generated enormous anxiety and mistrust. ” (Bell – Terror at the Dawn of Modern Europe ). This quote proved to be very true during the French revolution. People across the nation were swept by a fear that they would be incarcerated or get killed for unlawful actions. The implemented fear upon the people is a form of terrorism. Terrorism in itself does not have to be an act taken upon a person but it is inflicting fear upon a group for your own gain.

With the people of France scared and afraid of anything Robespierre could have done they began to obey him and respect him out of fear. Robespierre most likely took after Machiavelli’s style of leadership. Machiavelli emphasized the importance of being respected not through love but rather through fear and Robespierre was able to put that style of leadership to use and did it very well. Leaders all throughout the world have been influenced by Robespierre’s inherited style of leadership, one leader in particular is Bashar al-Assad.

Bashar al-Assad has been the president of Syria since 2000 and his reign of power has been anything but kind to the people of Syria. Bashar’s leadership style which reflects the one of which Robespierre had, kept the people he ruled over in constant fear. The people of Syria have been victimized by Bashar’s uncalled for attacks. Waller R. Newell has brought to our attention “the gruesome paradox about their (french) revolution is that the coming world of perfect harmony requires excess of mass murder and warfare. (Newell – Understanding Tyranny and Terror).

Much like during the French Revolution with mass executions led by Robespierre and handed down by the guillotine; Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people to “scare them straight. ” He (Bashar) is taking advantage of his power by also ruling in the style of an “emergency rule” which in fact Robespierre also had used. Emergency rule is when there is no set law and order within the country, all of the rules and regulations are made up on the spot by the ruler at the time.

In addition to all of this Bashar has ordered his troops to kill over hundreds of thousands of people to attempt to “fix” the conflict in Syria. It is quite weird to think Robespierre who ruled in the late 1700s was able to influence a cruel ruler in the 21st century whose country is over 2,500 miles away, it is evident that ruling styles of Bashar mimic the ones of Robespierre’s. Towards the end of the Revolution, Maximilien Robespierre came out with a report on the principle of morality. In this detailed excerpt he highlighted a few very controversial topics including: the economy, liberty, and most importantly terrorism.

One of the most famous lines in his report was “To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty. ” (Halsall -Modern History Sourcebook: Maximilien Robespierre: On the Principles of Political Morality, February 1794). Robespierre’s ideal he portrayed in this report is both contradictory to his actions in the way which he did in fact punish those who did not believe in his cause but also paved the way for future leaders carrying out acts of oppression on those who do not agree with their policies.

An example of a modern leader oppressing the opposition is Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran. The Ayatollah’s Judiciary Chief has went on the record and said “The authorities should refrain from making speeches that could obstruct Khamenei or speeches that betray a lack of unity. ” (Ahishali – Iran President Warned against Opposing Supreme Leader). The Supreme Leader of Iran is oppressing all opposition and discouraging any public displays of negativity toward the standing ruler.

This is most definitely inspired by the actions taken by Robespierre during the Revolution because he took in people who rallied against him and proceeded to jail them. Khamenei has been doing the same in Iran. As a matter of fact Khamenei feels so paranoid about any possible threats, much like Robespierre did, he has jailed candidates who ran against people representing his party. Khamenei’s relentless regime has just further proved that terrorism in our world has come to life in many forms and branches and it all originates from the same tree stemming from the grueling and unconventional hate of Maximilien Robespierre.

In Robespierre’s iconic work, On the Moral and Political principles of Domestic Policy he wraps up his speech with this powerful yet grim line. “Subdue by terror the enemies of liberty, and you will be right. ” (Halsall – Modern History Sourcebook: Maximilien Robespierre: Justification of the Use of Terror). Robespierre is preaching how to defeat the enemies of liberty. Liberty is used in a very broad way here. Liberty in this situation means what Robespierre is fighting for, in this case it is not actual liberty, and he further proves that by saying to defeat liberty you need terrorism.

Robespierre truly thought that terror was the most effective methodology of overcoming opposition. He crafted what would later become modern day terrorism. He used citizen’s ideologies as well as their actions against them. He imprisoned and executed people who were not with him and his party. His influence on what know as modern day terrorism is irreversible. Leaders who have had detrimental effects on Europe after Robespierre including: Hitler, Lenin and Stalin have all used the same methods of terrorism which all branched from one man, Maximilien Robespierre.

At first glance historians would only believe his ways of terrorism have only affected Europe but it grew to a much larger scale engulfing the majority of the Middle East. The Middle East was once a melting pot of culture and religion but now it is something very different. The Middle East is a home for irreparable government’s, radical terrorist groups, and oppression. In countries such as Syria and Iran leaders have taken the methods of Robespierre, perfected them, and elaborated on them to fit their needs of the 21st century.

Furthermore, radical groups like ISIL have exploited people based on religious views and beliefs and imprisoned, executed and evicted thousands of people with the use of Robespierre’s influence on terrorism. In conclusion, Robespierre who was once known as “The Incorruptible,” should now be better known as the biggest influence on modern day terrorism our world has ever been so unlucky to witness. His backgrounds of fighting for freedom and liberty have reached the opposite end of the spectrum with his large influence and his ability to diversive terrorism.

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