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 Maximilien Robespierre 
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Louis XVI abolished that thankfully.

But Damien's death under Louis XV was quite appalling I agree.

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:59 am
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
baron de batz wrote:
Louis XVI abolished that thankfully.

But Damien's death under Louis XV was quite appalling I agree.


Louis XVI I think abolished pre-trial torture, I believe, he did not modify the way the capital punishment was carried out, and it was differents if you were a noble or not.

I am talking about the way the executions were carried out on non-nobles convicts, which amounted to torture, in my book.

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:26 am
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
baron de batz wrote:
Well to start with the Queen's last letter!

I must read that biography.

Robespierre was against the death penalty in principle, except for the "tyrant" Louis XVI, but then what happened to that conviction during the Terror? And he did appartently watch the victims go to their death from his flat, looking out onto the Rue St Honoré! Curiously he was a lodger...imagine having Robespierre as a tenant! :lol:


Yes, to start with the queen's last letter. But I didn't ask what he was accused of having - I asked if there is any actual proof that he had the items. I'm looking for some contemporary source that references this incident, otherwise it could be a made up rumor - because there are a lot about him, such as that he liked to cut off the heads of doves when he was a boy with a toy guillotine. Quite the opposite, most people who actually knew him as a child said that he loved his pet doves and there was a family schism when one of his sisters accidentally killed one. It was a childhood incident, obviously, so they reconciled, but Robespierre did not favor harming animals like some serial killers. The story was made up by his enemies who never even knew him when he was a kid. Propaganda cuts both ways, Monsieur Robespierre.

Another piece of propaganda is his "looking out from his flat to watch the tumbles of the executions go by." Quite the opposite, it is well-known that he had his landlords shut their doors and gate when the king and Danton went by - and these are two well-known executions, victories for him, yet he turns away. When his maybe-fiance Eleanore Duplay asked him what was going on outside during the king's death, he told her there was something unfit for her to see and to come away from the window or some such.

Indeed, he his often derided for not watching the outcome of his "work." (They liked to insinuate that he was womanish, and refusing to watch executions was something feminine that the patriarchs of the day took great relish in lampooning) There is no evidence that he watched the carts, and a lot of evidence that he did not - the man was very squeamish, and there is one story that he actually hopped up and vomited when someone played a prank on him by beheading a chicken in front of him. Yet he is supposed to wave at people as they rumble to the guillotine? Also, think of the logistics of him looking from his flat. He had very little free time, and we can actually look at his schedule during his life during the terror. A lot of it is spent at the Committee of Public Safety, then the Jacobin Club, and he liked spending his free time reading with the Duplay Family and occassionally going to the theater (according to John Laurence Curr's biography). His time is generally accounted for. He wouldn't have much time to curl his legs under him and just watch lines of executions. Except during his illnesses, I suppose, but I still find that very unlikely.

I know I repeat this mantra a lot about Robespierre, but there is a lot of things we can demonize the man for. We don't need to make up that he was a sociopath delighting in watching his victims make way to the guillotine, or that he was a pedophile lusting after Marie Therese, or that he howled for the death of Louis XVI's sister. If we want to demonize him, we can just talk about things he actually did, like that whole Reign of Terror gambit. Reigns of Terror are pretty sucky moves if you ask me.

I mentioned that he did disregard his old principles. He actually cited his reasons for his switch in convictions - of course insisting all the while that he wasn't really changing at all, as he never did admit to any alteration in opinion. It was the circumstances that changed, he insisted. His perspective was that the Revolution would fizzle and die without the Terror. There is every reason to believe that he honestly, disturbingly believed this to the very core of his being, instead of just a "hey, I like beheading people because it gets me off. Terror, anyone?".

Incidentally, he got very sick when he was a younger man appointed as a judge and required to sign death warrants. Unlike the common story batted around, he didn't resign his position, but he probably had some reluctance. He suffered from psycho-somatic illnesses throughout his life (some people said he faked his illnesses, but they flashed up at inconvenient times very often so if he was faking he didn't exactly know the art of timing) and he has a lot of them during his Terror. Interesting, he gives on speech decrying the idea that any innocent person could possibly have been killed during the terror because the Tribunals are unquestionable.

Then he gets ill. Psycho-somatic Robespierre, this often means that he has realized that something stressed him out. When he returns, he gives another speech, essentially saying, "Alright...Well, some innocent people have been killed, but---well, the ends justify the means, so..." People listening to him noticed that he had a different style while giving this one, like Citizen Robespierre was a different person. Considering what I know about Robespierre, I wouldn't be surprised if sometime before the illness he was confronted with irrefutable proof that innocent lives were being taken, collapsed in shock (he did this sometimes, so it isn't as novel as it seems) and then blindly searched for away to justify the means.

But speaking of Robespierre's development, there is one other thing that I find peculiar. We today tend to think that Robespierre was beheaded because people were a little sick of his beheading-happy habits. Very possible. However, several contemporaries, after his death, essentially said that they didn't like him because he was being too moderate. Other people, and I'm going to note Napoleon Bonaparte in particular because he has a name that most of us recognize, even went so far as to cite a speech he had given shortly before his death saying that the Terror should end. Aside from references to this speech, it has been lost - most of Robespierre's articles were burned after his death, allowing the government to present a skewed view of him for us to scrutinize. Obviously, Napoleon and friends could have been mistaken and gotten Robespierre confused with someone else. But the lost-speech is a mystery that intrigues me. Was Robespierre beginning to back out of the Terror? Obviously it died with him (unless we want to count the White Terror, which you can make a good argument that we should) but the Committee pretty much just scattered, blamed him for everything, and saved their own skins. My point is that they wouldn't want to give Robespierre any credit for ending the terror, whether he tried to or not.

Very strange indeed.

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:52 am
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Thanks A LOT for this enthralling post.

Indeed, Robespierre spent sleepless nights any time he had to make a crucial decision, and he was in principle at odds with the death penalty.

As a lawyer, he always chose the cases that touched him personnally and not the most profitable ones, and considering his brilliant academic background, he did live quite poorly.


I can only say that I feel personnally very close to Robespierre, for a lot of personal reasons, and his personality moves me a lot.

As to the Terror, I personnally think that he was not totally wrong when he said that circumstances had changed. Because in a country facing with interior and exterior threats, such periods do happen -it was basically the same in Russia during the Civil war. But this is only my point of view.

I also read that before being executed, he advocated the end of the Terror.

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:55 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Ludy wrote:
I can only say that I feel personnally very close to Robespierre, for a lot of personal reasons, and his personality moves me a lot.


I think you and I are in the same boat. Frighteningly as you may find it, I actually find myself identifying with him more than any other figure during the French Revolution. I disagree on a lot of his politics, but just looking at his pure personality I'm sure we would get along if he was able to get over my distaste for the terror. Which he wouldn't, just as Camille Desmoulins, but if he could...

Ludy wrote:
As a lawyer, he always chose the cases that touched him personnally and not the most profitable ones, and considering his brilliant academic background, he did live quite poorly.

Yes, the poor but brilliant lawyer aspect reminds me of Phoenix Wright, a video game character. That lawyer can never get his clients to pay him. Robespierre, since he generally represented the poorer class and apparently had inhibitions about hounding for payment from a near-starving peasant, also had difficulty receiving payment. He certainly wasn't starving, though, and I think he and his sister lived in relative comfort. Thanks for pointing that out, Ludy! However, he didn't always just choose low-key cases. His most famous one is when he fought for a man's right to have a lightning conductor. He took on cases for the poor, but he did have some ambition - o maybe he realized that he needed to earn more money. Not that I hold that against him.

Ludy wrote:
As to the Terror, I personnally think that he was not totally wrong when he said that circumstances had changed. Because in a country facing with interior and exterior threats, such periods do happen -it was basically the same in Russia during the Civil war. But this is only my point of view.

And true, I'll give you props for pointing out that the situation had changed. I think Robespierre's logic was that a crime against one person could be forgiven, a la murder, but a crime against the country as a whole could not. I think that's how he would rationalize his u-turn in opinion if we were able to bluntly ask him. And alright, I can see that perspective. I just have to take a u-turn from Robespierre myself when it comes to the Terror. I think saying that it went too far would be a bit of an understatement. I understand why they did what they did, but I don't approve of it. I'm aware that people often compare the French Revolution and the Russian one, but I don't know too much about the latter... From what I do know, it seems like your diagnosis is correct. Very similar. But I don't condone that one either, so at least I'm consistent.

What I'm basically saying is I find his story a tragic one. If it had ended differently, today he would be the Thomas Jefferson of France instead of the, well, Maximilien Robespierre of France. Heralded instead of demonized. He got ahead by sheer determination and hard work, was mocked and defeated yet kept striding forward, etc, etc - it has all the ingredients for a feel-good story about the triumph of the human spirit, but then it takes a sharp turn and becomes something of a Greek tragedy, with Robespierre becoming so consumed with the ideals that he can't reconcile with reality, and the subsequent result is a bloodbath.

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I also read that before being executed, he advocated the end of the Terror.

Ludy, I hate to be "that person who always demands a source" but I would love to know where you read that. I am sort of leisurely trying to at least satisfy my curiosity about the speech-mystery I mentioned above, so if you happened to have any thing on his desire to curb the terror I would be very greatful

Sorry for my tl;dr posts. One day I'll hire an editor. >.>

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:24 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Oh, I am sorry, I meant the other way round, I read that he was still defending the Terror when the attack against him was carried out.


I got confused, sorry. The source is a comprehensive book called the great tragedies of the French history. Everything is there ! :lol:

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Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:38 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Ludy wrote:
Oh, I am sorry, I meant the other way round, I read that he was still defending the Terror when the attack against him was carried out.


I got confused, sorry. The source is a comprehensive book called the great tragedies of the French history. Everything is there ! :lol:


There are contradictory reports. That he condoned and ushered the terror onward is perfectly in character for him, and fits with the fact that the Terror more or less ended after his death (unless we're going to count the White Terror) But Dr. Laurence Carr also reference a mysterious speech i his Robespierre: The Force of Circumstance, as does Paul Bernstein and Robert Green's History of Civilization volume II. And I found one of the quotes that imply that Robespierre was beginning to grow too prudish for his contemporaries. It's actually by that sly fox Barras - a survivor and profiteer of Robespierre's fall, so he is hardly a man who would defend his enemy's reputation:

"He [Robespierre] opposed the arrest of several members of parliament, of a great many reputable citizens...he spoke of clemency, he perished like Camille Desmoulins and many others for having returned to the principles of justice."

So, long-shot, but I am probably going to be curious about the lost speech for a great deal of time. So many people reference it, many people after his death criticize him for growing too moderate, yet it's gone and I sort of wonder what it said. Perhaps people threw its moderation out of proportion - it is hard to see the same man who declared that terror is just swift justice suddenly about-face and decide that they were done with that "terror" thing now. But Robespierre was full of contradictions, so I'm just sort of curious about the contents.

Unrelated note about my peculiar speech interest but in relation to Robespierre, I just got a new book in the mail called Robespierre and the Women he Loved. It intrigued me because I was never convinced that he was in love with a single woman, let alone a plural, but I'll give it a whirl. Has anyone else read it, maybe forewarn me of any pitfalls the work may have lurking in it?

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Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:20 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
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.

So for the moment this fairly unbridled support for him, expressed by two members, leaves me somewhat shocked, but I will reserve judgement and revert once I have read up on him.

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Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:49 am
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Indeed. And what to say about the White Terror, which is so often glossed over ? Or the "épuration" ?

I disagree with your general idea. It is always better to read a biography of course, but I believe you may as well express an opinion without having done so, providing you have a good knowledge of the Revolution. It is not as if Robespierre lived on the planet Mars, he lived in a given social context.

One can't possibly read everything, do everything and know everything. Culture to me is the capacity to have a general insight on events, and not to know everything backwards and in every detail. Culture is always to be found in the general, never in the particular, in my book. So you should be albe and are more than invited to express your opinion.

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Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:08 am
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
I couldn't disagree with you more!

I abhor uninformed opinions which just feed the general ambient ignorance and are the breeding ground of calumny.

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Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:37 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Ludy wrote:

Indeed. And what to say about the White Terror, which is so often glossed over ? Or the "épuration" ?


I dislike all terror...without exception, and its' authors.

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Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:39 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
8)

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Last edited by Ludy on Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:08 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
8)

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Last edited by Ludy on Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.



Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:25 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
Ludy wrote:

you'd better not look at examples indeed. You won't find any to justify your point I am afraid. In such circumstances, there are always colateral victims, and no matter how cruel that might sound, it is nontheless true. Besides, given the living conditions back then, poeple were less sensitive to violence than we are now.

People were less sensitive to violence than we are now....yes that's it. You were there I forget. People didn't mind at all seeing their offspring precede them onto the scaffold, like Malesherbes, because they were more used to violence.

Ludy wrote:

I can only say that I feel personnally very close to Robespierre, for a lot of personal reasons, and his personality moves me a lot.

As to the Terror, I personnally think that he was not totally wrong when he said that circumstances had changed. Because in a country facing with interior and exterior threats, such periods do happen -it was basically the same in Russia during the Civil war. But this is only my point of view.

What does it mean to feel close to Robespierre?!

You also speak of "collateral damage" in reference to the killings. What is your idea of collateral damage? People are expendable?


It is absolutely pointless to make personal attacks such as this:

Ludy wrote:

Dear Baron, your disagreement may stem the fact that you often skim through my posts rather than read them

Or

and above all, the high intellectual level of our debates.



about my skip reading your posts or my inferior intellectual level, because they only just make you look ridiculous. People here are quite well aware of who and what I am and of my capabilities.

These attacks are repeated and don't deny them because I will simply quote unquote them. Don't worry though, they really are water off a duck's back! :lol:

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Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:18 pm
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Post Re: Maximilien Robespierre
And I do not agree with you that on complex subjects such as the personality of Robespierre one can make a truly useful contribution without having read at least one book on him! That is not being intolerant of others' opinions, it is simply my opinion and I am entitled to express it!

Just as you can speak a given language without any knowledge of its' conjugation or grammar and it sounds excrutiating and basically plebeian!

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Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:33 pm
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