Twenty-seven thousand. Seventeen thousand executed, ten thousand died in prison.

This is slightly less than 1/1000th of the French population.

This was the Terror? A higher percentage of Americans died in WWII, the Civil War, this pandemic (1 in 500) and nothing compared to, say, the Great Irish famine or hell, tons of other geopolitical events.

Now I’m not saying it was good, but the shadow it throws over our imagination is HUGE and I genuinely thought far more people had died because of it.

Perhaps it’s who mostly died: first aristocrats then various radicals (largely bourgeois) as they fought among themselves. Mostly somewhat important people. That must have terrified everyone of importance in every other European country: if it spread, they were for the chop. They wrote the first edition of history, and their personal terror has come down to us.

Napoleon, now his wars killed a vast number of people, somewhere between 3,250,000 to 6,500,000, but the Terror itself? No.

Mark Twain probably said it best in his “The Other Terror”, which I’ve quoted before and will quote again today.

THERE were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.

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