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 Some French Revolution Facts 
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Post Some French Revolution Facts
1. The guillotine was the only method of execution in France until 1977 when capital punishment was outlawed.

2. The guillotine was invented to provide a 'humane' method of execution for the nobility. Previous to the guilotine the nobility died like the lower classes - decapitation with an axe or being drawn and quartered.

3. The nazis during WWII guillotined more people than were killed in the French revolution. Twenty thousand political prisoners were guilllotined in 1942 and 1943 alone.

4. The first 'guillotine' was used in Ireland in 1307.

(Source - HistoryWiz Guillotine)


Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:17 am
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
Very interesting, thank you.

I read somewhere (unfortunately, I can't remember where), that the idea behind the guillotine was to make execution quick and painless for everyone, not just nobility. Nobility could pay the executioner for a sharper axe or a quicker death; where as the poorer citizens had to endure several blows to completely sever the head, be hanged, or other gruesome deaths. Therefore, the invention of the guillotine was more of an equalizer between the regular citizens and the nobility.

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Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:23 am
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
The official executioner of the French Revolution, Charles-Louis Sanson, said on April 25, 1792:

Today the machine invented for the purpose of decapitating criminals sentenced to death will be put to work for the first time. Relative to the methods of execution practised heretofore, this machine has several advantages. It is less repugnant: no man's hands will be tainted with the blood of his fellow being, and the worst of the ordeal for the condemned man will be his own fear of death, a fear more painful to him than the stroke which deprives him of life.

You're right, Brittany. The guillotine, though designed for the nobility, became the great equalizer among all classes. It certainly is quick and efficient though messy (the heart continues to pump after the head is severed). As a member of the nobility, I'll take the guillotine...the head is held firmly in place; you don't see the blade falling and, should Charles Louis have a fight wth Mrs. Sanson that morning and be shaking with anger, you don't have the chop, chop, chop of the axe. Plus it is said that the larger the tip you gave the executioner, the better the chop he'd give you. With my luck I would hve left my louis d'or in my other culottes.


Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:44 pm
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
Thank you, Artois, for this information!
I didn't know the guillotine continued to be used until 1977!

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With my luck I would hve left my louis d'or in my other culottes.


ahahah! :lol:

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Fri Mar 27, 2009 8:19 pm
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
thanks for the infoo :)


Fri May 01, 2009 12:35 am
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
so much death and madness in the revolution!!! :twisted: and arguments :argue: and the death of dear louis-charles,dauphin de france :king:

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Sat May 02, 2009 1:17 am
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
COMTESS DE PROVENCE wrote:
so much death and madness in the revolution!!! :twisted: and arguments :argue: and the death of dear louis-charles,dauphin de france :king:


What a sad fate our poor boy king faced :disgust:
I just read the most interesting book about him it was called The Lost KIng Of France by Deborah Cadbury if anyone would like to read more into his unfortunate fate


Mon May 04, 2009 3:51 am
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
One major point about decapitation: it was ONLY for the nobility. It was probably (when properly done) less awful than hanging (though in theory that's supposed to break the neck, not strangle). So beheading commoners was actually something of a democratizing "upgrade".

Beheadings certainly went wrong, the most famous case being the very young Sanson's dreadful mutilation of General Lally (unfairly convicted as a scapegoat for France's loss in India). When a month later he beheaded the young Chevalier de la Barre in Abbeville, supposedly La Barre said, "You made him suffer!" and Sanson replied "It's not my fault, Monsieur! He kept moving!".

A very French response.

The worst punishment (by the eighteenth century anyway) was breaking on the wheel, in which the person's bones were actually broken on a St. Andrew's cross. The wheel came into play when they were tied to its rim to suffer for a while.

This was so awful that when the last one was tried (under Louis XVI), the crowd rushed the scaffold and prevented it from going forward.

Otherwise, we should all bear in mind the unintended consequences of Dr. Guillotin's invention. He was not the last to try to help humanity and then watch the results backfire.

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Mon May 04, 2009 6:08 pm
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
quote

3. The nazis during WWII guillotined more people than were killed in the French revolution. Twenty thousand political prisoners were guilllotined in 1942 and 1943
end quote

Can this really be true ?
the Nazis executed 20.000 political prisoners maybe... but Ive never heard anyone
mention them using a guilloteen !


Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:45 pm
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
In a book I'm reading about Lafayette, the author says that 200,000 French were known to have died in the Revolution, and of those 17,000 were beheaded by the guillotine. The author also says this number wasn't equaled until the 20th Century, so I guess what the Nazis did is what he was talking about.


Mon Sep 20, 2010 4:12 pm
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
The Nazis did indeed employ the guillotine, but it seems to have been an execution reserved for special cases. It was not their favorite method of murder, as we all know.

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Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:38 am
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
It wasn't just the nobility who were executed by the guillotine during the Terror. The majority of them were common folk, merchants, laborers, etc.


Fri Oct 01, 2010 2:37 am
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Post Re: Some French Revolution Facts
To comment on the chief discussion in this thread: The Nazis did guillotine thousands. I have seen it estimated that they decapitated around 16,000 with this method, which would put them on par with the French Revolutionaries. And then they had their death camps and gas chambers on top of their guillotining.

But the 16,000 is an estimate. I've seen it shot higher and lower (the lowest count I've seen being around 2,500) depending on the scholar we're citing.

Quote:
Otherwise, we should all bear in mind the unintended consequences of Dr. Guillotin's invention. He was not the last to try to help humanity and then watch the results backfire.


I also wanted to comment on this, because I never quite understood the argument. The cliche is "where there's a will there's a way" not "where there's a way there's a will." The implication I'm getting, from reading this response, is that the Terror would not have been so bloody had the Revolutionaries not had access to the guillotine.

But the guillotine was actually a very inefficient method for mass-executions. Indeed, when a terrorist wanted to absolutely "purge" a province, getting rid of the guillotine was one of their first steps. And before we try to argue that their machine was perhaps working inefficiently, some of these terrorists, such as Collot d'Herbois, actually had executioners who were breaking records for speed. These men had the fastest, most efficient executioners in the entire French Republic during the Terror, and they still lamented their inefficiency.

Now, confronted with this problem did they merely hang their heads and go home? Unfortunately for humanity, no. Necessity is the mother of innovation.

Collot developed a liking for the firing squad. His partner-in-crime, Joseph Fouché, preferred canon shot and referred to it in his correspondence as "riding the thunderbolt." Jean Carrier, after lamenting about the overwhelming capacity in his prisons became the overseer of the infamous Nantes Noyades. In the wild Vendee some ghoulish creature decided to bury his prisoners alive. Horrible, all of them: but they didn't use a guillotine.

From these terrible displays of creativity I think we have to conclude that the guillotine was the tool of the Terror but it wasn't the cause of the Terror. Had it never been invented we would probably be reading more about firing squads. The end result is still death. By any measure Collot, Carrier, and Fouché's methods were crueler than decapitation but they were, from the perspective of a mass-murderer, more efficient. It might be better said that the high death toll of the Terror occurred despite the guillotine, rather than because of it.

But as to the death count:

There's really not much room for debate. There were ~16,500 legal executions during the Reign of Terror (beginning the count, I think, in September 1792). We know this because the Jacobins were actually very diligent record keepers. However, when (for example) the aforementioned Jean Carrier goes mad and has a few thousand prisoners drowned 1. he isn't counting, and if the executioner himself isn't keeping score than an historian is helpless and 2. he is acting illegally, and his actions are not sanctioned by the Republican government, as he was recalled from his position, so it is a tenuous claim of his toll being included in the 'Reign' of Terror, since his actions were taking place outside the reign and into the realm of illegality.

When you start citing figures in the 40,000 (or---did I see 200,000 up there? What? What even?) range you are certainly beginning to include the deaths that took place in the wars, most notably the Vendean war. While the deaths of noncombatants can be justly cited as victims of 'Terror' I don't know if soldiers can - it was a Civil War, after all, and I rarely see Abraham Lincoln accused of "murdering" millions of Americans in doing battle with the South, so I don't see why Lazare Carnot (or Robespierre, or Prieur, or any of the Committee) should endure a similar charge. In wars people go into battle. And then people die.

Now, there were certainly atrocities committed - but there were atrocities performed by both royalists and Republicans. I briefly mentioned Carrier's noyades but the rebellion began with the murder of 600 Republican civilians (an event that I rarely see allegedly pacifistic royalists who insist that they condemn all violence even mention, let alone condemn).

So...are we including Republican casualties in our total victims of the Reign of Terror? I can't help but think to cite Republican deaths at the hands of Royalist rebels as proof of Republican depravity to be a little deceptive.

Quote:
The author also says this number wasn't equaled until the 20th Century, so I guess what the Nazis did is what he was talking about.


We could make an argument that the number was surpassed even before the French Revolution broke out. The estimated casualties for the 1521 peasants' revolt is 100,000. And golly lolly, just a few years after the Terror, 1798, during the Irish Rebellion, the British Royalists were also estimated contemporarily to have killed 100,000 Irish rebels in their smashing of the rebellion! This number has since been debated down to 20,000 - making it comparable to the actions of the French Republicans. On that royalist note, some estimate (historians such as George Lefebvre, Gerard Walzer, Clifford D. Conner) that the White Terror equaled or surpassed the Jacobin Terror when it comes to a death toll, but admittedly this is a hotly debated topic, with Republican historians likely exaggerating the figure and Royalist historians likely mitigating it. Lefebvre is generally cited as the expert on the White Terror but he had a bit of an ideological ax to grind, if you get me.

Not that we need the White Terror to discuss bloodbaths overseen by counter-revolutionaries when we have the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871. When the counter-revolution took hold, 20,000 people were killed in one day, rather than the Jacobin Terror which slaughtered a similar number in one year. Of course one of these events receives more moralizing than the other. I suspect that the comparative attention paid to them is because the victims of 1871 were Communists and we know Communists are bad, so we really shouldn't feel sad because Communists are very bad and inhuman because they engage in wholesale slaughter, don't 'ya know.

I was being sarcastic, by the way. I'm not a Communist but I for one subscribe to the perhaps controversial theory that Communists are human beings. The wholesale slaughter of Communists is just as monstrous as the wholesale slaughter of Capitalists, or Catholics, or whatever your favorite political/theological orthodoxy. It's humanity we're lamenting, not ideology.

Which is just a long-winded way of saying that the Nazis were not the first to match/surpass the death toll doled out by the Jacobins in 1793-1794. We have events that took place as far back in the past as 1521 or as recent as 1871 to compare. If you want to condemn the Terror feel free to do so. But don't think it was an aberration of human nature. Unfortunately, violence is very much the norm.

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Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:46 pm
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