Robespierre: Defense of Terrorism or Defending the Indefensible

Maximilien Robespierre, a bête noire of this blog and the person most responsible for the terror during the revolution in France has had this following remark entered into posterity...

"...Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country. The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny...” See the complete article here...

From an Address to the Convention, 5 February 1794

More on Robespierre, here, < here, and mentioned here...

Thanks and a tip of the beret to http://marie-antoinettequeenoffrance.blogspot.com/.

Dieu Sauve le Roy!


Anonymous said...

Actually the savage mobs spit on Robespierre and cursed. They delighted in the prolonged agony he had endured from the gunshot wound. So much for the mob's Christian charity.

Brantigny said...

surely you are not trying to defend this monster.

Anonymous said...

Which monster?


Brantigny said...


Anonymous said...

Robespierre as a young lawyer and later Deputy, championed the rights of the underdog. He took cases pro bono to defend poor and helpless in Arras. He was kind to his family and even animals. His personal morals were good and he was highly self-disciplined.

Robespierre was passionately devoted to bettering political and social conditions; God bless the man for that! He wanted equality for French Jews and Protestants. He fought against torture and (strangely) even the death penalty.

Robespierre was one of the few White dudes to advocate abolition of slavery and rights for Blacks. I am Black, my ancestors were slaves, so God bless Robespierre. He is honored in Haiti.

During the Revolution Robespierre somehow wound up with too much power, along with some others. He became out of touch and likely didn't realize so many victims were no threat at all to the new Republic. Instead he pushed forward with mass executions as a type of "war-time" necessity.

Why was he not stopped sooner and ousted from the Convention and Committee of Public Safety? He was only one man. What does that say about the weakness of that entire convention?


Anonymous said...

Trivial pursuit - was Robespierre right-handed? You can sometimes tell by the signature.

Brantigny said...

If you are going to defend this fellow by stating his opposition to slavery, it is unfortunate that you should pin your only defense on his opposition of slavery. He was a monster who stood by as tens of thousands were murdered, most with out any other crime than not agreeing with the revolution. In a supposedly tolerant regime, whose avoid aim was the removal of absolutism he was pretty damn absolutist. His being totaly unprepared to rule he did what every petty dictator does he ruled through threat and killing. in many ways Stalin was taking a cue from him.

He attempted to destroy the Church
with the cult of reason. too much.

And I do not care that you are a blck man. It is insulting to me that you would lay any discussion with race.

You may wish to see what happened to the abolution of slavery after the crown.


Anonymous said...

My intention was to emphasize the many admirable aspects of Robespierre, not to justify excesses springing from the Committee of Public Safety of which he was one member.

If you want to talk about real tyrants, start with many kings, emperors, Church leaders, and slave owners. Their destruction was far worse than Robespierre's real or alleged crimes.

p.s. - wrong about Robespierre destroying the Catholic Church. Although a Deist in adulthood, he had been raised Catholic and was good to priests. He hated Atheists.

Anonymous said...

How could one man accumulate so much power?

Anonymous said...

Puzzled about the shooting of Robespierre. Was he right-handed? (note his signature)

The bullet entered the left side of his face.

Brantigny said...

A picture of the arrest warrent of Danton is found here...
This is an interesting site, it is in french though.

His hand writing looks like mine, and I am right handed.

If he studied in a Catholic shchool in that century and into this he would have been taught to write only with his right hand. The left hand was considered "sinister'. If you have ever read the writing of someone forced to write with the wrong hand it is noticable.

However he could also be ambidextrous. Stil the word sinister has an application.

Anonymous said...

Brantigny, thanks for that sample document. Fascinating. I read French but the words are blurred on the computer screen.

Robespierre looks like a right-handed signature. Hard to imagine a right-handed man attempting to shoot with his left hand.

A gendarme claimed he shot Robespierre. It would be interesting what kind of medical care he got; what analgesics they had in that era. Also if he were fully conscious throughout the coming hours up to the guillotine. (was that really done face up?)

I understand other deputies swarmed around him to taunt and torment. Kicking a man when he's down doesn't seem right to me.

Brantigny said...

You bring up an interesting point. He received no medical care as far as I can see, except for a rag to tie his mouth up. The ball seems to have cut into his tongue, which dangled out of his mouth. An account of his death may be seen in the book Cross and the Guillotine, by Dr Warren Carroll,

As far as suffering, as a Catholic, I would say that his last hours would have been an opportunity to relfect on his sins, make a good Act Contrition even if it were interiorly. The God he rejected he was about to meet.

Pain and suffering was a normal part of life in the 18th century, no pain killers, cold in the winter, hot in the summer. We in the 21st century place a bit too much reliance on being comfortable.

Do not make out RP as a martyr. the commune did that in 1870.

Her is what really ended the terror.


I had not posted their actual trial summary but it is well worth reading. It is found in Dr Carroll's book also.


Anonymous said...

Robespierre suffered much more than he should have in the last torturous hours. Even some primitive pain-killers should have been used and were likely available. As said, kicking a man when he's down is despicable.

Who allowed that suffering? Fate? Karma? God? His vindictive enemies? In a sense their cruelty made him a martyr.

Robespierre never denied God's existence. I am not Catholic so cannot understand the "act of contrition".

Anonymous said...

Does modern man overly emphasize comfort? No. As one involved in medicine and as a practical man, there is no excuse for enduring primitive conditions when people had brains to improve.

This is shameful B/S backwardness:

No running water. No electricity. No heat or a/c. No telecommunications. No mechanized transportation. No novocaine or anesthesia, analgesics.

Never should have taken so long to correct the above, much less scold for insisting upon decent living standards which affect our lives and health more than "comfort".

At least some pre-Christian Ancients had sewage and running water.

Too comfortable today? Turn off electricity, fire up a wood stove. Use the outhouse, dig a well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting interesting links.

Brantigny said...

Not Karma, not Fate. He unleashed evil with the Terror. Terror always begits terror.

Many times today we resolve to take the attitude that if a heinous crime was committed, an a peerson is sent to be punished society forgets about that person. The same was true in that time. It doesn't make it right it makes it the way it is.

In Williamsburg Virginai there is a court house, where on can listen to the justice that was metted out in colonial times. There were no such a thing as a misdemeanour. Each crime was a felony. The court to sentence a person, depending on their station to a punishment. the lower the station the less the punishment, and exceeding that station with a punishment could result in the execution of the person administering the punishment, namely the clerk of court. some of the punishments were, switching on the back. if the switch was allied to harshly the clerk was liable. The revolutions cahnged all thar and made all the accused the same. Unfortunate for the accused, if his station was raised to that of a landowner no? I prayer for dudgement was a literal prayer, an F was branded into the palm. Woe be the man who arrived in court with an F on his palm for the same crime.

An act of contrition is a prayer. i don not know what faith group you belong to to make it understandable. Use the Email I wrote you in the last comment.


Anonymous said...

Williamsburg VA was home of the mighty plantation owner, William Byrd. Byrd whipped and tortured slaves, even making one slave drink his own urine. Byrd was never whipped, he got no punishment.

Cruel and obscene punishments like branding, whipping, branks, stocks, pillory, etc were common until more enlightened people like the Quakers and Robespierre spoke out against them. Robespierre could have done much good as a humanitarian if he had not gone wrong in politics.

Anonymous said...

A real TYRANT, a real DICTATOR, would have been the likes of William Byrd, Pierce Butler, Preston Brooks, John Calhoun and countless others who degraded the Black man.

Still, if Byrd had been wounded before a trial and punishment, as an honorable Black man, I would have restrained my anger and NOT kicked him when he was down. It takes more manly strength to restrain anger than to curse, mock, poke, hit and spit on a wounded man.

Anonymous said...

In slavery days a Black man could not intervene to protect his wife or daughter from rape or whipping without risking punishment. Way i feel, if some White "master" threatened the women in my family I could not live with myself unless i did all i could to protect them.

Brantigny said...

You have sent me an amazing amount of comments. I can not answer all coherently. We are talking for different points of view. I will take excerpts and reply to them in a bullet form...

"Does modern man overly emphasize comfort? No. As one involved in medicine and as a practical man, there is no excuse for enduring primitive conditions when people had brains to improve..."

I think they do. In an emergency, no lights, no heat and no running water and man folds. It does not take a government to take control, it takes common sense. I live literally in the woods, and while I have electricity, running water and heat and air, I also have candles, a bucket and I can use an outhouse. It doesn't even phase me. I have been a farmer in the but ebnd of sourthern ohio and the farmhouse had only a coal stove, fireplace and and outhouse. I felt comfortable.

I admire the quakers, though I do not agree withn their theology. RP used terror freely so he is not a good representation of enlightenment.

Speaking of this enlightenment albiet not nescessarily at the orders of Robespierre, (yet he who is in charge is always responsible) we have this post which I posted,
ans means years, moins is months, see the list of ages at the bottom. Truly these where brutes. (I do not know if you have french I occasionally post in French and use French sources.)

"At least some pre-Christian Ancients had sewage and running water."

...And they were pagans too.
my point is we may use our notion of humanity and congratulate ourselves on it yet we are no different from them, and we cannot judge them on their care or lack there of. Would we be so caring of Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, William Byrd? When Saddam Hussien was executed his executrioners rejoiced. (I tell you if OSB is captured and killed I may take a pause to cheer at his demise) You may or I may but the next man may not.

"...A real TYRANT, a real DICTATOR, would have been the likes of William Byrd, Pierce Butler, Preston Brooks, John Calhoun and countless others who degraded the Black man. "

"Still, if Byrd had been wounded before a trial and punishment, as an honorable Black man, I would have restrained my anger and NOT kicked him when he was down. It takes more manly strength to restrain anger than to curse, mock, poke, hit and spit on a wounded man...."

Bet me, I work in a prison as a cousellor.

These men were evil.

And yet the evil perpetrated on the Blackman and woman continue...

Do you complain about these?

"In slavery days a Black man could not intervene to protect his wife or daughter from rape or whipping without risking punishment. Way i feel, if some White "master" threatened the women in my family I could not live with myself unless i did all i could to protect them."

That is laudable; quite proper. I find slavery appalling, yet it exists. You were passionate about that one, weren't you.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I can read French.

Anonymous said...

A sinister character seems to have been Antoine St. Just. Understand this thug had served time for stealing from his Mother. ugh

Now, what's up with The Incorruptable allowing such an non-virtuous (!!) thug to be his right-hand man?

Any biographies of St. Just?

Brantigny said...

I have not writen any. However Elena Maria Vidal at Tea at trianon is the most knowledgable person I know on the period. All I knw about St Just is what was written about him by Baroness Orczy. She wrote the Scarlette Pimpernel

Anonymous said...

When a society is primitive (no running water or electricity, no machines, no medical/dental knowledge), then you essentially have a Third World environment. That negatively affects health and safety.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this Blogspot. I got interested in the French Revolution particularly Robespierre, through Black History studies. His anti-slavery stance made an impression on the class. Also I studied French in HS. I trace my ancestry back to slavery especially French territory around New Orleans.


Brantigny said...

...When a society is primitive (no running water or electricity, no machines, no medical/dental knowledge), then you essentially have a Third World environment. That negatively affects health and safety...

Yet we survived, and more prospered.

It is good to know that you have traced your ancestry. Your people survived, as did mine yours from slavery.

Here is an article about the tolerance of Louis XVI.


Did you hear about this in college?

Anonymous said...

I recall reading that Robespierre was Godfather to Desmoulins' son. Thought you had to be a practicing Catholic to be a Godfather.

Brantigny said...

He was Camile's sons Godfather. That is true, It did not stophim from having Desmoulins (along with Danton) being tried and convicted and get the national haircut. Desmoulins wife appealed to RP for the life of her husband but to no avail.

An account of it is in the Guillotine and Cross, by Dr Carroll


Brantigny said...

And yes you did have to be a practicing Catholic. But now a-days as then sometimes the Godparents are chosen for "family or political reasons" with the Godparent ignoring responsibilty.
I teach Catechism and I have just Taught on that. It is wise to choose good Godparents. My daughter Genevieve's Godmother was a french nun, who never failed to remember Genevieve's date of being born again into the body of Christ.

Catholics are Baptisted in their infantcy which is the date of their being born again. I wa baptisted 3 days after I was born on 11 Sept 1955.

Anonymous said...

Read that Robespierre's father was a deadbeat dad who deserted his 4 children after the wife died in childbirth. Wonder why the authorities didn't pursue the man as they would today (probably a felony to abandon children).

Brantigny said...

If it is true, it was too common. It was not done anywhere in the world.

Brantigny said...

What I mean to say is it was common, even into the 2)th century.

Anonymous said...

Wondered if Danton received the Last Rites before dying? And if his widow was executed as was Desmoulins' widow.

Desmoulins' mother-in-law wrote to Robespierre to spare Lucille. She called him a tiger with bloodied claws. Not sure if Robespierre received the letter in time but apparently it was saved for posterity.

Brantigny said...

The "Last rites" in the Catholic Church are not last rites, (it is what Protestants call it when referring about this sacrament)during this time the terminology said it was Extreme Unction, now a-days it is called "Anoiting of the Sick", because one does not necessarily need to be in "Extremis" but sick. Incidentally one has to be alive during this rite. Calling a priest after one dies is too late. The priest will then have no choice but to make a prayer for the departed. (I always think about JFK, was he still alive?)

As for RP asking for the sacrement I do not know I have never read that he did. By this time he was too full of pride and may have believed in his "cult of Reason" to submit himself as Voltare once did the first time he was on his death bed.(The second time he did not.)

All corespondence was kept. Take Marie-Antoinette for example take the last letter of Marie-Antoinette to Madame Elizabeth, (The king's sister)found here...
This article was written by my friend Elena-Maria Vidal, who is in my opinion the most knowledgable American woman on Marie-Antoinette.


Anonymous said...

Surprised to learn Danton's widow was not guillotined like Lucile Desmoulins. Wonder who cared for Danton's 4 kids - orphanage?

Who was the "Widow Robespierre", and why did she get a pension?

Brantigny said...

The widow Robespierre was a non-entity during the Revolution.

Dantons 1st wife died while he was in Belgium spreading the "revolution". When he found out about his wifes imminent death he rushed back to Paris. it was too late and he entered into a period of mourning. His children's tutor/governess Louise Gély found Danton's heart and married him, but not before she conviced his to be confessed by a non-juring priest in a garett room in secret, (non-juring priests did not sign the civil Constitution of the Clergy)http://lefleurdelystoo.blogspot.com/2010/09/genocide-in-vendee.html
It was at this time which I believe that Danton had a metanoia and seeing that his past actions were excessive and immoral. His change of heart placed him in conflict with the revolution.

Louise Gély was scarcly 16 years old, was married to danton and within a years tiome was widowed. She was castigated for "diverting" Danton from a politcal life to one of a more rustic and family life.

She later, after the period of mourning married Claude-François-Étienne Dupin, who became baron under the 1st Empire.

She lived until 1856 and she is buried in the cemetery of the Montparnasse.

Vive le Roy.

Anonymous said...

Danton's widow was lucky to escape punishment. Desmoulins' wasn't.

Read when Robespierre first arrived in Paris (spring 1789), he roomed with a Pierre Villiers. The latter recalled that Robespierre was paying a young woman 25% of his income for whatever reason. Why?

Then he abruptly cut her off and refused to talk even when she came wailing and banging on his door.

If true, Robespierre was using her for more than "friendship", though she worshiped him. The Incorrputible was not pure but strove to appear so once he entered public life.

A boy was born in Jan. 1790. Although details are sketchy, a young soldier surfaced about 20 years later who many said bore distinct facial resemblance to Robespierre.

Anonymous said...

Whenever some public figure tries to appear morally superior, he usually has something to hide -- often of a sexual nature.

Not saying Robespierre was a pervert, pedophile, or abuser of women. We just don't know. But given his Puritanical coldness and supposed "chastity", he might well have had a dark side.

(How many times have "sinless" Evangelical Preachers gotten caught with a mistress? Especially after their Hellfire and Brimstone sermons on virtue!)

Anonymous said...

Were there many Blacks in France at the time of the Revolution?

Brantigny said...

A famous one was Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, married Marie-Louise Élisabeth Labouret, the daughter of an innkeeper. Thomas-Alexandre, then a general in Napoleon's army, fell out of favor and the family was impoverished when Dumas was born. His mother was an Afro-Creole woman. Thomas -Alexandre was a general in revolutionary army, who fell out of favor when Napoleon restored slavery to France.

Prior to that in the Ancien Regime there were Janisaries, who in reality were blacks.

Brantigny said...

and more, although I generally do not use Wiki for a reference

Brantigny said...

and more, although I generally do not use Wiki for a reference

Anonymous said...

Saw "La Revolution Francaise". There was a scene where Desmoulins was attacked by thugs on his way home from work and beaten. Supposedly Robespierre hired those thugs to "teach Desmoulins a lesson" and make him discontinue his anti-Robespierre journal.

Did that really happen?

Anonymous said...

Real Tyrant, Maximilan I of 16th c. Bavaria:


Other tyrants: Torequemada, Cenci, Frederick William of Prussia, slaver William Byrd, Capt. William Bligh, Preston Brooks.

Anonymous said...

Another brutal sadistic tyrant (who ruled as a "christian" in the 1400s), was Dracula. (Vlad the Impaler)

Brantigny said...

A we can name Mohammad as brutal dictator, and paediophile. Sulaman the magnificent. the old man of the mountain. etc...

Brantigny said...

Not to his people only to the turks

Anonymous said...

When Robespierre was gravely injured by a bullet, former colleagues taunted him mercilessly, laughing, spitting, poking him with knives. Would Robespierre himself have engaged in that behavior? I find it hard to imagine Robespierre tormenting a suffering person. In fact I don't recall that he ever assaulted anyone, or even cursed.

Brantigny said...

Stop, you have me crying. Possibly he was unable to talk, or perhaps he was pensive and repntive being he was on his way to God.

Anonymous said...

Really cruel men usually die peacefully in their sleep (slave-owners, torturers like Topcliffe, Dracula). Robespierre's use of political dictatorship was supported even more by his colleagues and he personally never hurt anybody. He was known as a humanitarian in 1-1 relations with people.

Brantigny said...

St. Jean Vianney taught in a sermon of his , that a man will die as he lived -- so live well
if you wish to die well. The Cure of Ars, in that same sermon, in fact made a point of saying that Voltaire was in hell not withstanding the allegation he had a priest on his deathbed.

Slave days are over. You were never a slave, get over it.

Anonymous said...

Ann Frank lived a good life -- nice girl, never harmed anyone. She suffered great misery and died a wretched death in Bergen-Belsen.

Anonymous said...

Best way, only way, to "get over" any injustice is to guarantee it never happens again. NEVER AGAIN as Holocaust survivors say.

Brantigny said...

Find some one who owns or owned slaves I do not.