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"The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant." - Maximilien de Robespierre

Maximilien de RobespierreMaximilien de Robespierre (b. 1758, in Arras, France) was the leader of the Jacobin political movement established in 1779, one of the most radical political groups involved in the French Revolution, and was a principle figure in the Revolution and the following Reign of Terror.

He was born the oldest of four children who were raised by their maternal grandparents after their mother died when Robespierre was six and his father left. He was educated in Paris and graduated with a law degree in 1781, after which he returned to Arras, in Northern France and earned a comfortable living practicing law while also taking a keen interest in politics.

Aged 30 he was elected to the Estates General of the French legislature and earned popularity for advocating for democratic reforms, attacking the monarch, and opposing the death penalty and slavery. His rigid opinions and refusal to compromise alienated his colleagues who considered his ideas extreme and impractical, so he left the legislature in order to pursue his cause outside of government.

In April 1789 he was elected president of the Jacobin political faction. The following year he participated in writing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen which became the foundation of the French constitution. When Parisians rose up against King Louis XVI in August 1792, Robespierre was elected to head the Paris delegation to the new National Convention. He successfully argued for the execution of the king and continued to encourage the crowds to rise up against the aristocracy.

Louis XVI was sent to the guillotine in January 1793. In July of that year Robespierre was elected to the Committee of Public Safety, with effective dictatorial control. Two months later, in September, he initiated the Reign of Terror. Over the next eleven months, about 300,000 suspected enemies of the Revolution were arrested and more than 17,000 were executed--including many of Robespierre's political enemies. The purges continued until July 1794, when a coalition of moderates and revolutionaries formed to oppose Robespierre. He and many of his allies were arrested and imprisoned. Shortly after he managed to escape and tried to commit suicide. He failed and was soon recaptured and summarily executed along with 21 of his allies.

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