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 Maximilien Robespierre 
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
I do not think Robespierre was that bad of a man. Most of what is said about him was written by his opponents.

He was an astoundingly intelligent person, with incredibly modern ideas.


And about the whole "manipulation" theory, well, all revolutions happen that way. You will never find any "genuine" upheavals of masses, they have to be somehow organized.

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Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:30 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Still, it seems that he was not intelligent enough to cut off the bloodshed - because everybody was suspicious in his eyes. I am averse to this way of thinking.

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Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:18 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Why should he have cut off the bloodshed ? The revolution was mainly a Parisian one, the Province did not follow. Besides, Europe was coalized against France. In such a situation, moral is a luxury.

Either you agree with the revolution and you have to admit that such a transitory period was unavoidable, or you disagree with it, which is defendable opinion. But saying that it could have happened in a different way seems very naive to me. The king was also responsible for the bloodshed by refusing in fact the constitutional monarchy, which could have set a regime similar to England's.

There are of course other countries, such as England where changes occured through reforms. Why is it impossible in France ? This is a much debated issue, although interesting one, Burke and Tocqueville are both valuable readings to answer this point.

And about Robespierre :

1) many of his ideas, which he expressed in 1793 constitution (never implemented) are now common places in France and in other countries. If you haven't read it, I think you should, it is a stunning text.
2) There is great suscpiscion about the extent of his guilt in massacres, and Terror was very short-lived, meant to be transitory. On can't say for certain what would have happened had he continued to rule the country.

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Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:26 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Ludy wrote:
Why should he have cut off the bloodshed ? The revolution was mainly a Parisian one, the Province did not follow. Besides, Europe was coalized against France. In such a situation, moral is a luxury.


"In such a situation, moral is a luxury" - I would say such a statement in no circumstances. But forgive me this thought. I am from a country who belonged to a totalitarian regime for 43 years, maybe that's why I am very afraid of such statements :wink: Even so, I wouldn't question your knowledge about your country's history, for the life on me . If you say this kind of terror was necessary for France, I believe you.

Ludy wrote:
Either you agree with the revolution and you have to admit that such a transitory period was unavoidable, or you disagree with it, which is defendable opinion. But saying that it could have happened in a different way seems very naive to me.


I don't agree. An other regime = an other implementation. At all events, I believe the result could be the same, a Directory or a constitutional monarchy similar to the Citizen King's - without such a bloodshed. But we will never come to know.

I read all of Robespierre's speeches from the very beginning. I also read his design about a new Constitution. Unfortunately I didn't get to like him by them.

As for Burke, he died in 1797 so he couldn't see the end of these events (and we all know that the Revolution was a process, it did not break off in 1794, lasted until Brumaire 19, or, like some historians affirm, until 1830) so Burke couldn't see the whole process...

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Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:27 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Aha ! I do understand, I did not notice you are from Hungary. Well, indeed, the ideas of Robespierre are very linked with those of the Bolshevik revolution and I can perfectly understand this a painful memory for Hungarian people -but also because these ideas were imposed by a foreign regime. I lived in Russia, and they have the same point of view about all this.


And about the peaceful transition, I beg to differ. It was made impossible because the nobilty refused any kind of reforms. By the time of king Louis XIV for instance, it was quite easy to become artisocrat, if you had acquired a certain status in civil society. But from the reign of Louis XV onwards, things changed, and it grew almost impossible to become noble, whereas (or because) bourgeoisie became increasingly strong, and nobilty increasingly impoverished and indebted. This was an absurd situation. Yes, and the whole aristocracy as well as the king were responsible for the bloodshed because of the sheer refusal of any reforms.

Of course Burke wrote before the Terror, this is precisely why his book is amazing, because he foretells everything that's going to happen. I evoked Burke and Toqueville because they perfectly explain the difference between England and France, and why France is an unreformable country, where all changes happen through violence.

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Sun Feb 20, 2011 5:01 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Ludy wrote:
Yes, and the whole aristocracy as well as the king were responsible for the bloodshed because of the sheer refusal of any reforms.


Seriously?


Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:08 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
It's ok! I just tried to explain why I can't be pleased with the ideas of the Montagnards... Some elements of the Terror re-appeared in the XXth century, too. But I think, if I were a Western European or an American, I would think the same.

You are Parisian, so it can be that you understand better your country's conditions in the days of old. But I just can't believe that there was no alternative! I think Tocqueville and I would have a great chat about it, because in my opinion the peaceful solution was given, for example by the king (who, as I observed, didn't miss any chance to do his best to come to an arrangement with the Revolutionaries) or by the Girondists who were modest and sober enough to make an accord. But.... the Jacobins?! No way! The solution could come from Robespierre least of all, who, like some members of the forum wrote at the beginning of this topic, was a disturbed man! By his speeches, he was an egoist who wasn't able to handle the heft of responsibility from the end of 1793. When he drew a Constitution by his own ideas, he was quite OK. But later, he went totally aberrant! If he stops at the time of the arguments on war, which war he traversed, he would had been the most glorious person in the history of the Revolution! But he didn't.

An other personal opinion: his career (and all his life) became incapable by childhood losses, so I think, it was a mistake that this insane man entered in politics.

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Sun Feb 20, 2011 9:26 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
I agree with Ludy that France was and is an unreformable country. However I don't agree with the statement that morality was a luxury. That sort of thinking brought down the Revolution. People were sick of the bloodshed and terror. And that is why none of it lasted and the monarchy came back in 1815 (but what a pitiful monarchy it was) As for Robespierre I haven't read enough about him but I was unaware that he personally drafted the 1793 constitution? As for Louis XVI, indecisive as he was, he did feel that he had to go along, at least to a certain extent, with what his people wanted, which is why he resisted the pressure from the Ultras abroad, who were pushing him to reject all negotiation with the revolutionary leaders. The Varennes flight showed him that even if the revolution was a Parisian movement, there was deep feeling in the provinces too. This made him think....and doubt.

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Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:00 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Well, Robespierre was not the only person thinking that moral is a luxury. Didn't Elizabeth advocate civil war ? And what about Marie-Antoinette, who had no qualms about betraying France by sending military plans to the Austrians ? Thousands of lives were also at stake. Why is it any better than what Robespierre did ?

Besides, Louis XVI, who was very willing to spare the lives of his subjects, actually provoked a lot of deaths because of this : think about what happened in the Tuileries.

Unfair violences always occurs in cases of civil war, there is no such thing as a "clean resistance" or a "clean civil war". Think about the French resistance during the Second World war, and the "epuration".


And I am not mentioning the "White Terror" after Napoleon's downfall, people seem to be stragly oblivious of.

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Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:12 am
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Actually, Louis XV was very responsible for the revolution by failing to carry out the crucial reform of tax system. All the ministers that were audacious enough to try to achieve it were fired, like famous Monsieur de Silhouette. He was also responsible for letting the "réaction nobiliaire" (aristocratic reaction) develop and block the highest positions to members of the bourgeoisie, which was the very cause of the revolution.



Nobilty was not a bad thing in itself. But nobilty used to be a sheer honor meant to reward merits. It also went hand in hand with duties, especially military ones. But by the end of the Ancien Régime, regular armies had been created, and the very existence of nobilty lost all its "raison d'être". In the army, talented that could not prove 40 or 60 "quarters" had to make do with lesser positions, than the ones to which they could hope to reach (for instance, Choderlos de Laclos). Commanding positions were reserved exclusively to aristocrats utterly devoid of any military talent, such as infamous Monsieur de Soubise. Nobles ended up being seen as a cast of parasites, and their unwillingness to accept reforms sparked off the revolution.

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Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:31 am
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Anouk wrote:
It's ok! I just tried to explain why I can't be pleased with the ideas of the Montagnards... Some elements of the Terror re-appeared in the XXth century, too. But I think, if I were a Western European or an American, I would think the same.

You are Parisian, so it can be that you understand better your country's conditions in the days of old. But I just can't believe that there was no alternative! I think Tocqueville and I would have a great chat about it, because in my opinion the peaceful solution was given, for example by the king (who, as I observed, didn't miss any chance to do his best to come to an arrangement with the Revolutionaries) or by the Girondists who were modest and sober enough to make an accord. But.... the Jacobins?! No way! The solution could come from Robespierre least of all, who, like some members of the forum wrote at the beginning of this topic, was a disturbed man! By his speeches, he was an egoist who wasn't able to handle the heft of responsibility from the end of 1793. When he drew a Constitution by his own ideas, he was quite OK. But later, he went totally aberrant! If he stops at the time of the arguments on war, which war he traversed, he would had been the most glorious person in the history of the Revolution! But he didn't.

An other personal opinion: his career (and all his life) became incapable by childhood losses, so I think, it was a mistake that this insane man entered in politics.


Well, I think you do make a fair point about his mental state. You're very well informed, but personnally, I have always doubt he was really insane. He strikes me as a very rational person.

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Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:39 am
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Post Varennes
Baron, the constitution drafted by Robespierre, eventually, was never implemented.

I agree with Ludy that the Revolution was a Parisian one. During the flight of Varennes Louis XVI must have felt rural people's age-long confidence put in the king's person. For the men of the countryside, I think, it didn't take too long to hit it off with the jovial Louis. Then again there were certain officers in the country, too, who had to inhibit the royal desertion.

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Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:26 am
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
I think quite the contrary Anouk. When Louis XVI returned from Varennes he was forced to concede by what he had experienced that the Revolution was far from being just a Parisian phenonemon.

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Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:26 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Yet at the same time, Jean-Baptiste Drouet, the postman who identified them at Varennes, cannot be grouped in with the general population of France. He proved himself later to be a man with averse feelings to the monarchy, playing a somewhat substantial part in the Revolution. At the least, he opposed the Girondins and voted for the King's death, without appeal. In the National Assembly, he was a man filled with animosity - to say the least, he was simply aggressive in nature.

More on topic, however: I think revolution requires force; this holds true for almost all great revolutions that have occurred. Look at Egypt in recent times, even - a peaceful march would most certainly have not resulted in any overthrowing of the government. It's not an argument as to whether the revolutionaries or the counter-revolutionaries are the right ones, and history is, as we all well know, written by the winners.

Robespierre knew this, but I believe his suspicions and fear of the Revolution being unsuccessful simply drove him over the age, into the beginning of the Terror and so forth. Unnecessary blood was shed, we can all agree.

Is morality really a luxury in times of revolution? I have to disagree. A revolution has, in history, normally been about fighting for truth, governmental transparency, and basically freedom and liberty. That Robespierre put the Constitution on hold during the Terror was perhaps a reversion towards the worser times, and quite distinctly shows his thinking - brutal, violent force is the key to gaining and maintaining a successful revolution.

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Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:41 am
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Well, we have to agree to disagree. I would be curious however to hear an example of a country that, while fighting on interior and exterior fronts, managed to maintain democracy and to spare the lives or the innocent ones, without having ever been democratic, or even parliamentary before... the only similar situation is Russia, and it can hardly been said that it was any better.

Besides, most of the revolutionaries and the people did not want democracy. That is our modern perception. Most of the philosophers deemed democracy inadequate for a country like France, they merely wanted to set a very limited parliamentary regime. Robespierre was in favour of a democratic reigme in the modern sense of the term. The revolution was mainly a social one.

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Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:21 pm
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