Maximilien Robespierre (6 May 1758 – 28 July 1794) was a French lawyer, politician, and one of the bestknown and most influential figures of the French Revolution. His supporters called him "The Incorruptible", while his adversaries called him dictateur sanguinaire (bloodthirsty dictator).
As a member of the powerful Committee of Public Safety, Robespierre was instrumental in justifying, implementing, and greatly expanding the use of terror during the period commonly known as the “Reign of Terror”. “Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country ...”
During the Reign of Terror, any person who openly disagreed with Robespierre’s views, or who were simply neutral, or who were simply not actively promoting the revolutionary goals du jour, were subject to arrest and possible execution. It is estimated that 500,000 people were arrested, and the guillotine, the new instrument of egalitarian justice, was put to work. Public executions were considered educational. Women were encouraged to sit and knit during trials and executions. The Revolutionary Tribunal ordered the execution of 2,400 people in Paris by July 1794. Across France 30,000 people lost their lives. This period ended shortly after Robespierre’s arrest and execution in July of 1794.
Robespierre was an idealist who championed the rights of the common man. His speeches were exceptional, and he had the power to change the views of almost any audience by invoking virtues and morals. However, it was his misguided idealism that was his undoing. He praised revolutionary government and argued that the Terror was necessary, commendable and inevitable. He reasoned that the Republic could be saved only by the virtue of its citizens, and that the Terror was virtuous because it attempted to maintain the Revolution and the Republic. His ideals went beyond the needs and wants of the people of France. He became a threat to what he had wanted to insure and the result was his downfall.
The French Revolution began in 1789, and as it gradually progressed, witnessed the end of the power of the Monarchy and the Catholic Church and the nationalization of their assets. The ensuing internal turmoil and external wars stretched the finances of the new state to the point of bankruptcy. The government issued assignats-certificates representing the value of confiscated church properties, from 1789-1796. Originally meant as bonds, they evolved into a currency used as legal tender. Initially a successful financial strategy, assignat issues were used to retire a significant portion of the national debt. Eventually, excessive printing caused the value of the assignats to crash, causing hyperinflation and riots. Later efforts to resolve the inflation crisis failed until Napoleon’s introduction of the franc as the new currency in 1803. These assignat notes frequently show allegorical symbols of the Revolution: two female figures representing Justice, with her scales, and the new Constitution, with a tablet inscribed Droits de l'Homme (The Rights of Man).
DATA: Album open measures: 11” x 7.5” Album folded measures: 5.5” x 7.5” Note: FRANCE 50 SOL ASSIGNANT
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