World History 1793

About the history of the world in 1793, Paganini begins playing violin in public, the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1793

* By decree of the Convention, the Louvre Palace became a public museum. Built in 1546 by Francois I, patron of Leonardo da Vinci, it houses one of the world's most valuable collections, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.

* In Italy Niccolo Paganini, 11, began to play the violin in public. His astonishing virtuosity would make him a popular idol and give rise to the legend that he was in league with the devil. (His burial in consecrated ground was delayed until five years after his death.)

* Jan. 21 Louis XVI, 39, having said farewell the previous night to his distraught family, ascended the scaffold with composure, his last words: "I pray that the blood you are now going to shed may never be visited on France." A moment later his severed head was held aloft to cries of "Long live the republic!"

Feb. France declared war on Britain and Holland, now allied with Austria and Prussia. The Convention boasted that it would carry the war to every nation in Europe and assist all peoples wishing to overthrow their governments.

Apr. 6 In response to counterrevolutionary activity within France and Austrian victories without, the old Executive Council of the Convention was replaced by the Committee of Public Safety as an emergency measure. Its 12 members, including Danton and extremist Maximilien Robespierre, held secret meetings, used spies and informers, and wielded ruthless dictatorial powers. A "Revolutionary Tribunal" was appointed to prosecute crimes against the state.

June. 2 The Reign of Terror began as representatives of the Paris Commune, in league with the radicals, invaded the Convention to demand the arrest of moderate leaders. Radical journalist Jean Paul Marat read off the names of 29, all of whom knew their days were numbered. Eventually those radical leaders who began the Terror would be guillotined or assassinated themselves: Marat would be stabbed in his bath by moderate heroine Charlotte Corday on July 13,1793 (See "Assassinations," Chap. 9). Danton and Robespierre would be executed in April and July, 1794, respectively.

From June,1793, until July, 1794, at least 300,000 suspects were arrested; 17,000 were officially executed, and many others were held without trail. The Terror's harsh measures were directed against radicals on the left as well as antirevolutionary elements on the right. Ironically, 85% of its victims were commoners.

Oct. 14 Queen Marie Antoinette was found guilty before the Revolutionary Tribunal of conspiring with foreign and internal enemies of the republic.

* A "barbers" conspiracy" to save the queen, involving 500 people, was discovered by police spies. It was masterminded by a blind lacemaker, a 14-year-old bootblack, and two barbers, one just 18.The conspirators included locksmiths, pastry cooks, winesellers, grocers, butchers, masons, and house painters. They planned to attack the prison where the queen was being held but never got a chance to try. The 14-year-old was imprisoned; the other leaders were guillotined.

Oct. 16 Marie Antoinette, 38, was guillotined. Dressed in a thin, white negligee, a cap over her shorn head, she was taken to the scaffold riding backwards in a common cart, her hands tied behind (Louis XVI had ridden to his execution in a coach). On reaching the platform, she stepped on the executioner's foot. Her last words were "Pardon, sir. I did not do it on purpose."

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