The French Revolution. Robespierre: Dictatorship & Terror, 1792-1794. Key Time Line: 1792-1794. 1792 Republican Elections New Convention Meets September Massacres Girondin versus Jacobin tensions Creation of the Committee of Public Safety Creation of the Committee of General Security
Robespierre: Dictatorship & Terror,
May 1758-July 1794
Robespierre (http://www.flickr.com/photos/63794459@N07/6547996409/) / Skarakommun (http://www.flickr.com/photos/63794459@N07/) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)http://www.flickr.com/photos/63794459@N07/6547996409/
August 1767 - July1794
Le Jour ni l'Heure 4097 : artiste anonyme, portrait de Saint-Just, “l'Archange de la Terreur”, 1767-1794, musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Palais Saint-Pierre, vendredi 3 juin 2011, 16:16:34
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/7313591@N02/5866060528) / Renaud Camus (http://www.flickr.com/photos/renaud-camus/) / CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)http://www.flickr.com/photos/7313591@N02/5866060528
October 1759-April 1794
Tarbes : statue de Danton, bas-relief: Danton haranguant les femmes à la halle. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/10699036@N08/2413980500/) / Frédérique PANASSAC (http://www.flickr.com/photos/10699036@N08/) / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/)
All our present troubles – war, bloodshed and revolution – are the result of false ideas about liberty and equality.
Men grew passionate about absurd theories. Reformers and thinkers said that it was necessary to purify religion; that kings were set up for the good of the people and not the people for the good of kings; that law must not be the will of one man.
These ideas could only have had good effects if they had been used by virtuous men and if they had not given rise to uncontrollable passions.
Instead, the French Revolution is destroying laws, morals, religion and all legal authority
As the affairs of France very naturally engross the whole of the public attention, we have made it our business to collect the occurrences that have happened with as much precision as circumstances would admit. In the history of mankind, we have no precedent of such wanton and disgraceful excesses.
… We have very good authority for the detail that follows. Many of the facts have been related to us by a gentleman who was an eye-witness to them, and left Paris on Tuesday—and other channels of information furnish us with the news of Paris up to last Thursday noon—These facts stand not in need of exaggeration. It is impossible to add to a cup of iniquity already filled to the brim.
… The city had been a scene of bloodshed and violence without intermission since Sunday noon, and although it is difficult and indeed impossible to ascertain with any precision the number that had fallen victims to the fury of the mob during these three days, we believe the account will not be exaggerated when we state it at TWELVE THOUSAND PERSONS
…Those who were not on the spot, can have no idea of the slaughter or the cruelties that happened on that memorable day; and Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday last were merely a revival of them, though somewhat in a different shape. On the 10th of August, thousands died in defending their lives—but in this last massacre, there was no resistance; the unhappy victims were butchered like sheep at a slaughter house.
to prime minister Pitt, in 1792
The safety of the Country must, I am persuaded, depend on the Body of the well affected to the Constitution... in some shape or other taking an open or active and declared part to check the first appearance of sedition.
I am pressed almost from every quarter to give countenance and engagement to such a species of association, but as it is a very delicate point for Government in the present moment to make associations of one head, when they will be called upon soon to condemn so many others, I have not ventured upon my own single judgement to give way to these calls... at the same time I am free to declare it as my opinion that they are become absolutely necessary.
God save great Thomas Paine
His 'Rights of Man' explain
To every soul.
He makes the blind to see
What dupes and slaves they be,
And points out liberty,
From pole to pole.
Thousands cry 'Church and King'
That well deserve to swing,
All must allow:
Birmingham blush for shame,
Manchester do the same,
Infamous is your name,
English Radical song, 1790s
French_Revolution_Louis_XVI_Execution (http://www.flickr.com/photos/httpoldmaisonblogspotcom/2783109030/) / Charles LeBlanc (http://www.flickr.com/photos/httpoldmaisonblogspotcom/) / CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
I think it was somewhere about [that] time ... that my thoughts were first directed to political questions. Until then I had not been in the way of hearing anything respecting them...
It was generally affirmed that it was a good thing to beat the French, but as to either the quality or the extent of this asserted good, I was totally uninformed.
Thomas Carter, Knights Weekly Volume: Memoirs of a Working Man, London, 1845 , pp 83-84
Jacques-Louis David: The Death of Marat (Pompidou Museum - Metz, France) (http://www.flickr.com/photos/israelmendoza/5179189211/) / iz.mendoza (http://www.flickr.com/photos/israelmendoza/) / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/ (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)
All suspect persons shall be placed under arrest. The following are considered suspect persons.
Those who by their conduct, their connections, their remarks, or their writings show themselves to be the enemies of liberty. Also, former nobles, all of the wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, or agents of the émigrés who have not consciously shown their attachment to the Revolution.
The civil and military tribunals can, if necessary, order the arrest and imprisonment of suspects.
Persons may be arrested even if there are no grounds for accusation. People may also be arrested who have previously been acquitted.
Robespierre: On the Moral and Political Principles of Domestic Policy, 1793
If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs.
It has been said that terror is the principle of despotic government. Does your government therefore resemble despotism? Yes, as the sword that gleams in the hands of the heroes of liberty resembles that with which the henchmen of tyranny are armed. Let the despot govern by terror his brutalized subjects; he is right, as a despot. Subdue by terror the enemies of liberty, and you will be right, as founders of the Republic. The government of the revolution is liberty's despotism against tyranny… Indulgence for the royalists, cry certain men, mercy for the villains! No! mercy for the innocent, mercy for the weak, mercy for the unfortunate, mercy for humanity.
Society owes protection only to peaceable citizens; the only citizens in the Republic are the republicans. For it, the royalists, the conspirators are only strangers or, rather, enemies… Are the enemies within not the allies of the enemies without? The assassins who tear our country apart, the intriguers who buy the consciences that hold the people's mandate; the traitors who sell them; the mercenary pamphleteers hired to dishonor the people's cause, to kill public virtue, to stir up the fire of civil discord, and to prepare political counterrevolution by moral counterrevolution-are all those men less guilty or less dangerous than the tyrants whom they serve?
26 February, 1794
How long must we be fooled by enemies at home? How long must we allow our foreign enemies to benefit from our weakness?
Spare the aristocracy and you will bring about fifty years of trouble. You must be daring! Our enemies cannot resist for long. I am without mercy to the enemies of the nation. A Republic must have powerful laws. The foreigner wants to rule over us by discord, so we must imprison our enemies and their supporters. Return war for war!
Destroy traitors and celebrate liberty. Your Committee recommends this decree: the goods of persons recognized as enemies of the Revolution will be confiscated for the profit of the Republic. Those persons will be detained until the declaration of peace and then banished for ever.
Speech to the Convention, 5 February 1794
Towards what goal do we move? The peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reign of that eternal justice in which laws are not engraved in stone, but in men’s hearts.
Let France become the model for all free nations, the glory of all free peoples, the support for those who are oppressed. What kind of state can bring about these marvels?
Only government that is democratic or republican, in which the sovereign people, guided by laws they have made do all they can do themselves and the rest through their representatives. But what is the fundamental principle of democratic government?
Virtue; I speak of the public virtue that is the love of the fatherland and its laws. This love necessarily embraces love of equality. You must at the same time fight the tyrants of Europe, maintain 1,200,000 men under arms and the government must deal with all the problems left to us by our enemies. How do we achieve this? Only through Virtue.
Letter to the Home Office,
6 May, 1794
Presuming that in a crisis like the present it must be satisfactory to the Government to see the Middling Class of People who cannot contribute liberally towards augmenting the internal defence of the kingdom, but have a property to protect, ready to unite in repelling our Foreign and domestic Enemies, I have in conjunction with Mr. Morfit been endeavouring to raise a Military Association in this Town, in which we have already so well succeeded as to have enrolled between Fifty and a hundred Members, and knowing a very considerable number more who are equally disposed to join if the measure is approved.
on Robespierre and the Cult, 1794
“It’s not enough for him to be dictator –
he has to be God too.”
It was not enough to struggle against the aristocracy of birth and against fanaticism. Another peril threatened the Revolution of equality: it stemmed from the ‘conquering’ bourgeoisie.
The patriots, who were aware of this danger, rejected the hegemony of wealth and the supremacy of notables. They increasingly regarded wealth, condemned in its outward manifestations, as a presumption of a politically suspect attitude... The ‘rich’ were the focus of resentment among the poor, who used the term to describe those who had enough to eat while the poor were hungry. Economic and social problems were therefore seen as a consequence of ‘the appetite for power of the ruling class’.
The notion that wealth posed a domestic threat to the Revolution thus became widespread.
We once gave enthusiastic support to the philosophic ideas of bold and witty writers.
Voltaire won us over. Rousseau touched our hearts; and we felt a secret pleasure when we saw them attack an old social structure that appeared to us harsh and ridiculous. So whatever our privileges and power, we enjoyed this war against authority. These battles did not seem to us to affect the superiority that we as nobles enjoyed.
How wrong we were; we were destroyed by the very ideas we loved.