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French Revolution

Maximilien Robespierre

History >> Biography >> French Revolution

Portrait of Maximilien Robespierre
Author: Pierre Roch Vigneron


Where was Maximilien Robespierre born?

Maximilien Robespierre was born in northern France on May 6, 1758. After his parents died, Maximilien and his three siblings went to live with their grandparents. Young Maximilien was a smart child who enjoyed reading and studying law. He soon followed in his father's footsteps by attending school in Paris to become a lawyer.

Law and Politics

After graduating from school, Robespierre practiced law in Arras, France. He became known as an advocate for poor people and wrote papers protesting against the rule of the upper classes. When the king summoned the Estates-General in 1789, Robespierre was elected by the commoners to represent them as a deputy of the Third Estate. He traveled to Paris to begin his political career hoping to improve the lives of the common people.

The Revolution Begins

It wasn't long after Robespierre joined the Estates General that the members of the Third Estate (the commoners) broke away and formed the National Assembly. Robespierre was an outspoken member of the National Assembly and a supporter of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Soon, the French Revolution had begun.

Portrait of Robespierre
Robespierre Led the Jacobin Club
Portrait of Maximilien de Robespierre
Author: Unknown French painter
The Jacobins

As the Revolution progressed, Robespierre joined the Jacobins Club where he found many like-minded people. He was considered a radical who wanted the monarchy overthrown and the people to take over the government.

Robespierre Gains Power

Over time, Robespierre began to gain power in the new revolutionary government. He became the leader of the radical "Mountain" group in the Assembly and eventually gained control of the Jacobins. In 1793, the Committee of Public Safety was formed. This group pretty much ran the government of France. Robespierre became the leader of the Committee and, therefore, the most powerful man in France.

Reign of Terror

Robespierre was determined to see that the French Revolution did not fail. He feared that neighboring countries, such as Austria and Great Britain, would send soldiers to put down the revolution and re-establish the French monarchy. In order to stamp out any opposition, Robespierre announced a "rule of Terror." During this time, anyone who opposed the revolutionary government was arrested or executed. The guillotine was used to chop the heads off of suspected traitors. Over 16,000 "enemies" of the state were officially executed over the next year. Thousands more were beaten to death or died in prison.

Trial and Execution

After a year of harsh rule by Robespierre, many of the revolutionary leaders had had enough of the Terror. They turned on Robespierre and had him arrested. He was executed, along with many of his supporters, by guillotine on July 28, 1794.

Execution of Robespierre
The execution of Robespierre and
his supporters on 28 July 1794

Author: Unknown

Historians often debate the legacy of Robespierre. Was he a monster who had thousands of people killed to maintain power? Was he a hero and fighter for the people against tyranny? In some ways, he was both.

Interesting Facts about Maximilien Robespierre Activities

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More on the French Revolution:

Timeline and Events
Timeline of the French Revolution
Causes of the French Revolution
Estates General
National Assembly
Storming of the Bastille
Women's March on Versailles
Reign of Terror
The Directory
Famous People of the French Revolution
Marie Antoinette
Napoleon Bonaparte
Marquis de Lafayette
Maximilien Robespierre

Symbols of the French Revolution
Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History >> Biography >> French Revolution

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