The Terror- The End Justifies The Means Essay, Research Paper
It was 1789 and the citizens of France were fed up. They had had too many years of dealing with a monarchial government, one ruled solely by a king. Where had this gotten them? No where good they were bankrupt and the greatest percentage of the citizens was considered in the lower class. This was not a successful country; they were in a horrible economic and social state. What to do? Have a revolution!
So in comes Robespierre, creating a sort of socialist dictatorship. Many believed that this was no better alternative to the monarchy until they were fully able to realize the extent to which Robespierre s control helped their nation and ended up saving their republic and paving the way for a greater future for France. Though they may not have realized it until after his rule reaped the benefits that it set out to, it was Robespierre s policies that saved France, and the seemingly unpleasant ways that he achieved this were merely a necessary trade-off for what was to come.
Robespierre s reign of terror can hardly be called a terror, given the outcome of what he set out to do. The means were often times unpleasant, but they were more than justified by the ends. In order to save the French republic, his citizens had to be healthy and strong. Healthy and strong citizens must eat. So he created a policy where bakers were only permitted to make “bread of equality,” bread that was made of available flour, inexpensively and without wasting good flour on such luxuries as pastries and white bread (McKay, 711). This wasn t fun at the time, obviously, but look at the ends that it achieved: all of the citizens of France ate, no one went hungry, and the only negative aspect was the inability to make pastries.
In order to achieve a unified and successful nation, all citizens had to gather under one ideology and work to support it. Otherwise the nation will be factious and continually in turmoil. Robespierre realized this and created a system where those who were “enemies of the nation” were strictly punished (McKay, 711). This couldn t have been pleasant at the time, however it is fully justified in the ends that he achieved: a unified nation able to join together to save the country. By making it clear that they had to band together if this were to work, Robespierre created a sense of nationalism and pride. This then provided united citizens willing to fight and suffer in order to provide for an infinitely better republic in the future. Robespierre s strict punishment of those decreeing disloyalty to the nation can hardly be considered consequential when you consider what would have happened had he not done this France would now still be a nation full of differing and continually disagreeing and fighting political groups rather than the successful republic that it currently is.
The final goal that Robespierre had to achieve in order to finally save the republic was to have a strong and ready to fight army. He created a system in which every single unmarried man in France was subject to the draft. Though this probably wasn t a welcome policy to those single young men, the eventual creation of a force consisting of one million men and the subsequent victories over all opposing forces greatly outweighs the momentary unhappiness of those men who were subject to the draft (McKay, 713).
In the end, France was victorious on all fronts they achieved a republic, which was what they set out to do. No more monarchy, no more continual social, political and economic unhappiness. However, none of this would have been achieved had Robespierre not instituted his so-called “reign of terror.” Given, his policies at the time were probably not popular, who really wants to have to make only yucky brown bread as opposed to pastries, and who wants to be subject to the draft simply because of who they were? But this unhappiness that only lasted for a short time is miniscule when compared to the ends that these unpleasant means achieved. Without strict ways to provide food for all of his citizens, policies to unite his nation, and measures taken to form a strong army, Robespierre would have never succeeded. But since he DID realize that he must use these means, and he DID end up using them, he achieved the all-important end that was the goal of everyone in France. The ends justified the means.
McKay, John P. A History of Western Society, 5th Edition. Houghton Mifflin, 1995.