- "New order never comes without destruction of the old. And if men are made to fear untrammeled liberty, so much the better. A brief taste of chaos will remind them why they crave obedience."
- ―François-Thomas Germain on the reasons for his instigation of the Terror, 1794.[src]
The Reign of Terror, sometimes referred to simply as the Terror, was a period of intense social and political violence in France - and particularly in Paris - during the French Revolution. During the Terror, thousands of people across the country were executed, imprisoned or exiled for perceived crimes of treason against France.
The Terror was secretly planned by François-Thomas Germain, Grand Master of the French Templars, as the final phase of the "Great Work". Germain and his radical faction within the Order sought to turn the revolution as chaotic and violent as possible; doing so would crush the old social order and lead to a capitalist society in which the Templars could control the populace in far greater secrecy. The people would also fear the concept of revolution, as the Terror made an anarchic revolutionary society appear violent and brutal.
Due to the machinations of the Templar Marie Lévesque, the royal family came to be held responsible for the food shortages across France during the revolution. In January 1793, King Louis XVI was sent to the guillotine for high treason, and the Jacobins under the Templar Maximilien de Robespierre continued to gain power. Queen Marie Antoinette would follow months later, along with the Girondist party, the main rivals of the Jacobins.
The newly formed Revolutionary government run by the Committee of Public Safety was tasked to defend France from the threat of invasion and supposed counter-revolutionary activities, and was given increasingly dictatorial powers. Thousands of people accused of being opposed to the revolution were guillotined. In April 1794, Jacobin critics of the Terror such as Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins were also guillotined.
In July 1794, the Terror intensified into "The Great Terror" before finally ending on 27 July, when several revolutionaries revolted against the Terror's leaders and their excessive violence. Soon after, most of the Terror's instigators were executed, including Robespierre, becoming the last victims of their own violent reign, though the day after their fall witnessed the worst mass executions when seventy-seven people were executed in a single day.