Marie Antoinette Online Forum

Maximilien Robespierre
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Author:  Vive [ Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

baron de batz wrote:
I must read a biography about Robespierre, because I have always maintained that one cannot express oneself with any legitimacy without having done so. However I would venture to say that that if Robespierre did condone and indeed instigate the Terror, then he is at the origin of one of the greatest crimes committed on French soil, along with the Vendée genocide and the September massacres. And many many innocent people, vicitims of show trials, went to their deaths, including some that were little more than children.


Ah, ah, ah - do not misunderstand me. I find the Terror abhorrent. The Vendee Genocide is unforgivable. I sympathize with Robespierre as a romantic figure, a man who started off so good and then became corrupted, either through a lust for power or overzealous idealism. I am just questioning how much he is to blame for the Terror and the horrors of the Vendee (The September Massacres are VERY debated in regards to who instigated them. Danton's name seems to skim the surface more often than Robespierre's) . I noted already that after his death it is a fact that great deal of his effects are distorted to present a very specific image to the public. His colleagues swiftly accused him of everything in an effort to save their own necks - and admitted to doing so. With this confessed propaganda floating about, what can we accept as truth? Did he try to curb the Terror - as some evidence indicates? As to the Vendee, I know for a fact there are several letters written to him begging for him to curb its violence - and the writers indicate that they wrote to Robespierre because they felt he was the most sympathetic to the plight. Indeed, he did pounce at the jugular at one of the most militant Vendee Republican War Criminals for his atrocities, and I do believe even had him sent to the guillotine for his genocidal crimes - no, I don't recall the name at the moment, so take that statement as you will.

But whether he was more moderate than his contemporaries or not, he definitely inititially encouraged the Terror even if he did later try to mitigate it "Terror is swift justice" and as having a seat on the Committee, he bears some blame for the Vendee. I do not condone this. I'm trying to understand this, try to understand the man - and understand just how guilty he was, if that makes any sense.

As I said numerous times, with the Terror alone we have enough to demonize Robespierre with. All I was saying was that we don't need to make anything up. The truth as it stands is horrific. We don't need to charge the man with pedophilia. We don't need to make up the idea that he gleefully watched victims tumble to their deaths. Those are not true, those are scraps of propaganda. We have enough crimes to lay at his door as it is. That was my initial entry into this thread, and I hope I dispelled some of the false rumors. I don't want my defense to be construed as approval. As Ludy helpfully pointed out, there is a difference between interest and support. I am interested in Robespierre, and I find his story a fascinating one. Do I support him, support what he did? At first, I naturally agree with his stance on avoiding the Austrian War, I agree with his feminist leanings (he said when he was a younger man that he thought women were just as smart as men but in a different way. Forward thinking for the 18th century), I agree with his stance on abolition and finally allowing Jewish peoples Civil Rights, etc --- but he went sour, and I can never support mass killings to any effect, whether we want to cite the Terror, the Vendee, or even blame him for the September Massacres. All three were terrible and you won't find me rallying for them. He went down the wrong path, and I would never follow him there.

Author:  Ludy [ Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

Baron I deny having ever made any personal attacks against you. I merely observed that you jumped to conclusions before reading what I wrote, it is not an insult, in any way, but it is the bare truth.

Now I suggest that we stop quarreling, you are not compelled to react to my posts and I am not compelled to react to yours, isn't that the truth

I can only add that your high intellectual level was not conveyed, in any way, by a few of your recent posts about the fact that "there was never any lynching in England", or that "certain nations are meeker than others", or about the justification for antisemitism, as well as the constant mantra of the British superiority.

If you don't want people to deem you less well-read than you are, I suggest you spare me some of your pointless provocations, which, you will agree, do not in any way give a positive impression with regards to your intellectual standards, or, at least, your values and the respect or regard for the sensitivity of other people, whose value, religion, beliefs may be different to yours, people for instance, who are attached to their motherland.

You are entitled to think that I am ridiculous, and it is my right to write whatever I like on this forum. I suggest therefore that we completely ignore each other.

Thank you by advance.

Author:  Lilly [ Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

Enough! This is getting nasty.

Author:  Ludy [ Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

Vive, I agree with your later post that there is bold line to be drawn between approval and interest. However, my fascination for the French revolution, as well as for the 30s, is very much grounded on the fact that those periods were actually close to my own experiences, though I do not wish to expand on that point : this is no forum for psychological help. In that sense I said that I felt close to Robespierre and I really mean it.

I think Robespierre, like Hitler, but more obviously so in the case of Robespierre did achieve a lot of things through hard work and intellectual abilities -more than Hitler ever did, though I have personnally never thought that Hitler was intellectually mediocre. And I think like a lot of revolutionnaries, his talent was not ackowledged by society, because, quite similarly to what we are going through now, society was pretty much bogged down.

I heard recently that Lars von Triers was banned from the Cannes festivales because he said that he understood Hitler. I cannot say that I stand by any of the things that Hitler did, especially the massive exterminations undertaken in Europe and such. I have read about it and quite in details. However, I think that without siding with him, you can fathom out certain of the causes that led him astray. I was truly moved when I read a passage where he told about his youth in Vienna when he was imoverished, and described how he was hungry all the time. He wrote that he yearned to go to the opera but, somehow, he knew that if would have to save on a meal if he would. Tears came to my eyes, and honestly, I will never ever stand by what he did, but this is something I feel extremely close to and, which touches me a great deal.

I am fascinated with such people like Joachim von Ribbentrop, or Goebbels because they embody a generation of lost souls, of unrecognized talents, and all the woes they caused on this earth is also explainable by the society that led them astray by rejecting them. It is clear that Goebbels would have never ended up the way he did if a theatre had eventually accepted his writing, or if he had found a decent job. In fact this guy was brilliant, he had a doctorate, and he worked as a bank clerk to make ends meet. And you can feel in the way Ribbentrop always made a point that he should be called "von Ribbentrop", or Goebbels always reminded everyone of his Doktor title, their crave for social recognition.

Now about the bold line between approval and interest, I am sorry to say that I find it hard, sometimes to bear that in mind.

Primo Levi said that when you start to understand, you already begin to justify, and in a way it is true. You start finding causes and accounting for the unjustifiable. It is all the truer that as Walter Benjamin put it "the Nazi invented the aestethic of politics". I once read a text about a Nazi opponent who attended a Nazi meeting and wound up doing the Nazi salute as the others, simply because he found himself in that atmosphere. And when you see the parades, the SS costume (designes by Hugo Boss), you start feeling somehow enticed -as Woody Allen put it : when you listen to Wagner, you suddenly feel an urge to invade Poland !

Somehow, the genius of Nazism, and of any political speech is to appeal to our lowest insticts, and it takes fortitude to restist it.

So after being so engrossed by Nazism and the Second World war, at some point I really needed to take a break, because I felt I could no longer make out between the simple interest and the growing sympathy I was beginning to feel.

I hope you will not think I am a Nazi sympathizer and understand what I mean.

Author:  Vive [ Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

Ah, no misunderstandings at all. I understand what you mean to the letter. Frankly, that is one of the main reasons that I haven't dived too deeper than the surface in regards to World War II - some things are not as black and white as we would like to believe, and when it comes to things so recent, sometimes it is better to just bow out and avoid distasteful labels. I am cowardly that way. I certainly won't vilify you for double checking the facts.

It gets to the point where you read up on some faction that you do start to sympathize, because you begin to know them and to put it simply, we are always more indulgent with our friends. That is why well-rounded research is necessarily, wading through all the shades of gray and blacks and whites and finding just what really went down. In regards to finding yourself understanding the motives behind atrocities-- I think it is almost necessarily to try and understand. Ignorance is what leads to so much evil, and if we can understand our predecessors we can try to sidestep their mistakes and avoid establishing a new Committee of Public Safety. Don't police officers often hunt for a motive behind a crime? Finding that Mr. Herbert murdered his wife because she had been cheating on him and understanding why he did it doesn't mean that you agree with his course of action - it is just the facts.

Author:  Ludy [ Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

The WWII is a very tough subject because indeed we are drilled into that they are the good ones and the bad ones. There is no denying that the Germans carried out manslaughters on a huge scale in occupied territories. But it is nontheless true that the Nurnberg trial was a sham, which enabled the victorious (or not so victorious in the case of France) powers to turn a blind eyes on the attrocities they were themselves committing, maybe not on such a large scale, but still in their cruelty, equal to what the Nazi had beein doing.
In fact, even as far as law is concerned, the definition of crime against humanity was confined to Japan and Germany, so that the law had to be later modified in France. I think that indeed, those events are way too recent and that eventually the truth will come out. It is a matter of generations.

To go back to the Terror, there are various interepretation of it among historians. I personnally believe that this was the result of exterior and interior threats, and that if the policy implemented was horrendous, it was not astonishing that the situation went out of hand.

I also personnally believe that the price and the value bestowed on human life is always linked and dependent on the conditions of life of the majority of the population in a given country. A European who had been living in the DRC, a country that has been going through the harshest conflict in terms of number of casualties since the WWII once told me that human life has no value there. And it reminded me of an interview of a Congolese rebel, Laurent Nkunda, who was asked if he was not ashamed of turning his country upside down, and answered simply that one cannot destroy what is not there in the first place, because, he said, "there is no life in Congo" anyway.

During the storming of Versailles, most of the individuals who were part of the populace had been eating only loaves of black bread for days and days. They had nothing to lose in indulging in ransacking and violence. The same way those who became the sans-culottes were mainly composed of people who had no hope whatsoever of social promotion by the time of the monarchy and who basically lived in terrible predicament (with high unemployment, low salaries and rising prices). It is not astonishing that they were but too happy to indulge in massacres and violence, all the more that at the beginning, the revolutionnary army and by and large the revolutionnary institutions were means for social promotion.

And by the way, it is well known that war is a way to avoid interior turmoil. That is why Petitfils argues that Louis XVI was a fool not to go waging a war in Holland when he could have, thus averting the upheaval.

Author:  Délicate fleur [ Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

We do encourage lively debate here, in fact it often results in the most wonderful of discussions. However, the most sophisticated salons in Paris thrived because people sparred with witty repartee, they never resorted to addressing the person instead of the issue. I am not taking sides on this.

Please continue the discussion, I do not want to make an issue out of this, but it cannot pass unnoticed.

We love having you all here! :king:

Author:  Ludy [ Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

Délicate fleur wrote:
We do encourage lively debate here, in fact it often results in the most wonderful of discussions. However, the most sophisticated salons in Paris thrived because people sparred with witty repartee, they never resorted to addressing the person instead of the issue. I am not taking sides on this.

Please continue the discussion, I do not want to make an issue out of this, but it cannot pass unnoticed.

We love having you all here! :king:

Ain't I just hopeless ? :lol:

Author:  Délicate fleur [ Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

Of course not! :bunny:

Author:  Vive [ Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maximilien Robespierre

To revive a sensitive topic, I have to confess that in my absence I've been doing more research on this revolutionary. And as frightening as you may find this, the more I learn about him, the more I like him.

To be frank, I like Robespierre. I like Robespierre because I am against the Reign of Terror. This is less a contradiction than it seems. While Robespierre certainly advocated a Terror, it becomes evident to me from his reaction to his colleague's activities that the governmental policy of Terror that he advocated was not the one that was practiced.

For example, when the city of Lyons rose in rebellion against the Revolutionary government, the Committee of Public Safety sent Couthon, a political ally and personal friend of Robespierre's, to conquer the city and summarily punish the traitors. Couthon did, and during the entire duration of his stay he beheaded thirty people. This is definitely putting the Terror into practice, and Robespierre's friendship and alliance with Couthon was unaffected by this hemorrhage.

However, the thirty beheadings seems rather small in comparison with what happened in Lyons after Couthon left due to illness and was replaced with one of Robespierre's political rivals, Collot d'Herbos. Understanding that the situation in Lyons had not changed, and that there had been no renewed spirit of rebellion since the Robespierrist Couthon left, the execution of 2000 people is inexcusable, even from the perspective of a revolutionary government seizing the reins of power.

Robespierre seems to have been appalled by Collot's activities. He supported the arrest of Collot's accomplices, Ronsin and Legendre - although they were later released under Collot d'Herbois' orders. He could not secure the arrest of one of Collot's chief lieutenants, Fouche, but he did dismantle the betrothal that had been promised between the Terrorist and his little sister. So it would seem that Robespierre disapproved of the holocaust in Lyons, which is one of the greatest tragedies of the Revolution.

Another one of the tragedies of the Revolution would be the events at the Vendee, which is largely agreed to have been the site of one of the first genocides in modern human history. Most of us have heard of how Jean Carrier instituted horrendous drownings of Vendeans, sinking ships filled with women and children as well as 'suspects' into the Loire River. Robespierre, when he was informed of the drownings by one of his spies in the Vendee, urged the CPS to have Carrier recalled to Paris. They did, and Robespierre also secured the recall of Bourdon de l'oise (who had been wielding republican authority in the Vendee), Tallien (who was known for butcheries in the Marsailles) and Barras and Freron (these last two beheaded 412 people in what seems to have been some distortion of prototypical communism). This latter bunch would later paint themselves as legalistic moderates, but their body count disproves that claim. In other words, Robespierre made strides to curb a great deal of the 'excesses' of the Revolution.

Around this time, Robespierre also proposed that a Committee of Clemency be established, which would examine arrests and release those who were innocently and wrongly detained. His proposal was carried by a delighted Convention, however, Bilaud-Varenne, another member of the CPS and another one of Robespierre's political rivals, violently opposed it, and actually went as far as to condemn Robespierre for moderation. Due to his empowered protest, the scheme was tabled.

During the height of the Reign of Terror, Robespierre was inactive in government. Throughout his entire year of power, he signed 544 arrest warrants. Being that he was head of the Police Bureau for a few months this number is by necessity rather large. However, it is not large comparatively. Committeeman Carnot, Barere, and Prieur each ordered twice that number of arrests. The only people on the CPS who signed fewer arrest warrants than Robespierre were the two other Robesierrists who were generally off on mission or ill (St. Just and Couthon) and Saint-Andre, who was generally absent overseeing the navy. So among those who is present in the Committee of Public Safety, Robespierre signed the fewest arrest warrants.

Thermidor is particularly telling. It was organized chiefly by mass-murderers who felt threatened that Robespierre was going to make them answer for their crimes via guillotine. That this was their motive is evident from the letters in Robespierre's mailbag, which contain several frantic messages from Terrorists demurring against charges against excess. Robespierre had even managed to order the arrest of one terrorist, Alexandre Rousselin. These facts urged them into action. Thermidor was organized the night before by Tallien and Fouche, mass-murderers. Robespierre was prevented from speaking and defending himself initially by Collot d'Herbois who had held the president's chair. Bilaud-Varenne and Vadier, who had both ordered more arrests than Robespierre and in fact had been steering the government during the height of the Terror (which coincides with Robespierre's absence, incidentally) leveled the charges that would lead Robespierre to the scaffold. They were tellingly not for any bloodlust but for objecting the the arrest of Catherine Theot, appointing a former to a military position, objecting to the arrest of a secretary who had allegedly stolen money from the government, for playing truant, and other such paltry crimes. His arrest was called for by a man named Louvet, who was well-known to support the Terror. Later, the squadron that was deployed to capture him, was led by Barras.

I could explore the Reaction, and present my evidence that Robespierre's death had not been necessary for the Terror to end, but I imagine I've bored most of you. But Robespierre was brought down by some of the worst contributors to the Reign of Terror. He called for Terror, but his bark was much worse than his bite: one only has to look at what he does, rather than his verbose words, to realize what his true contribution was. He was by no means perfect, and I'll be the first to jump and browbeat you with some of the stupid (Prairial Law) things he did throughout his tenure in power. But he wasn't a dictator, and he had to navigate the government with other men, such as Collot d'Herbois, who seemed determined to seep the Revolution in more blood than he even imagined.

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