Maximilien Robespierre quotes

Maximilien Robespierre photo
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Maximilien Robespierre

Birthdate: 6. May 1758
Date of death: 28. July 1794
Other names: Robespierre, Maximilien Marie Isidore de Robespierre

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French lawyer and politician, as well as one of the best known and most influential figures associated with the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. As a member of the Estates-General, the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club, Robespierre was an outspoken advocate for the poor and for democratic institutions. He campaigned for universal male suffrage in France, price controls on basic food commodities and the abolition of slavery in the French colonies. He was an ardent opponent of the death penalty, but played an important role in arranging the execution of many political opponents, and of King Louis XVI, which led to the establishment of a French Republic.

He is perhaps best known for his role in the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. He was named as a member of the powerful Committee of Public Safety launched by his political ally Georges Danton and exerted his influence to suppress the extreme Hébertists. As part of his attempts to use extreme measures to control political activity in France, Robespierre later moved against the more moderate Danton, who was accused of corruption and executed in April 1794. The Terror ended a few months later with Robespierre's arrest and execution in July, events that initiated a period in French history known as the Thermidorian Reaction. Robespierre's personal responsibility for the excesses of the Terror remains the subject of intense debate among historians of the French Revolution.Influenced by 18th-century Enlightenment philosophes such as Rousseau and Montesquieu, Robespierre was a capable articulator of the beliefs of the left-wing bourgeoisie. His steadfast adherence and defence of the views he expressed earned him the nickname l'Incorruptible .Robespierre's reputation has gone through several cycles of re-appraisal. During the Soviet era, Robespierre was used as an example of a revolutionary figure. His reputation peaked in the 1920s with the influence of French historian Albert Mathiez. In more recent times, his reputation has suffered as historians have associated him with an attempt at a radical purification of politics through the killing of enemies.

„The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Original French: Le secret de la liberté est d'éclairer les hommes, comme celui de la tyrannie est de les retenir dans l'ignorance
Source: Oeuvres, Volume 2 http://books.google.com/books?id=iSMVAAAAQAAJ p. 253.

„It is with regret that I pronounce the fatal truth: Louis must die, so that the country may live.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Original French: Je prononce à regret cette fatale vérité... mais Louis doit mourir, parce qu'il faut que la patrie vive.
Speech to the National Convention http://www.royet.org/nea1789-1794/archives/journal_debats/an/1792/convention_1792_12_03.htm on the judgment of Louis XVI (3 December 1792)

„Any institution which does not suppose the people good, and the magistrate corruptible, is evil.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Original French: Tout institution qui ne suppose pas le peuple bon et le magistrat corruptible est vicieuse.

From article 19 of the Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen http://saintjust.free.fr/DDHC93.htm (21 April 1793)

„By sealing our work with our blood, we may see at least the bright dawn of universal happiness.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Original French: En scellant notre ouvrage de notre sang, nous puissions voir au moins briller l'aurore de la félicité universelle.
Speech to the National Convention (5 February 1794)

„The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Original French: Le gouvernement de la révolution est le despotisme de la liberté contre la tyrannie.
Speech to the National Convention http://www.royet.org/nea1789-1794/archives/discours/robespierre_principes_morale_politique_05_02_94.htm (5 February 1794)

„We must smother the internal and external enemies of the Republic or perish with it; now in this situation, the first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people's enemies by terror.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Original French: Il faut étouffer les ennemis intérieurs et extérieurs de la République, ou périr avec elle ; or, dans cette situation, la première maxime de votre politique doit être qu’on conduit le peuple par la raison, et les ennemis du peuple par la terreur.
Speech to the National Convention (5 February 1794)

„Our revolution has made me feel the full force of the axiom that history is fiction and I am convinced that chance and intrigue have produced more heroes than genius and virtue.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Original: (fr) Notre révolution m'a fait sentir tout le sens de l'axiome qui dit que l'histoire est un roman ; et je suis convaincu que la fortune et l'intrigue ont fait plus de héros, que le génie et la vertu.
Source: Lettres à ses commettants, 1ère série, n°10 http://www.royet.org/nea1789-1794/archives/journaux/lettres_commettants/robespierre_lettres_commettants_1_10.htm, (21 December 1792)

„The most extravagant idea that can be born in the head of a political thinker is to believe that it suffices for people to enter, weapons in hand, among a foreign people and expect to have its laws and constitution embraced. No one loves armed missionaries; the first lesson of nature and prudence is to repulse them as enemies.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Original French: La plus extravagante idée qui puisse naître dans la tête d'un politique est de croire qu'il suffise à un peuple d'entrer à main armée chez un peuple étranger, pour lui faire adopter ses lois et sa constitution. Personne n'aime les missionnaires armés; et le premier conseil que donnent la nature et la prudence, c'est de les repousser comme des ennemis.
Sur la guerre (1ère intervention), a speech to the Jacobin Club (2 January 1792)

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„Citizens, did you want a revolution without revolution?“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Original French: Citoyens, vouliez-vous une révolution sans révolution?
Réponse à J.- B. Louvet http://www.royet.org/nea1789-1794/archives/discours/robespierre_reponse_louvet.htm, a speech to the National Convention (5 November 1792)

„lf the attribute of popular government in peace is virtue, the attribute of popular government in revolution is at one and the same time virtue and terror, virtue without which terror is fatal, terror without which virtue is impotent. The terror is nothing but justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is thus an emanation of virtue.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

Speech to the National Convention, (5 February 1794), as quoted in The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1923, Vol. 1 (1951) by Edward Hallett Carr, p. 154
Variant translations:
The attribute of popular government in a revolution is at one and the same time virtue and terror. Terror without virtue is fatal; virtue without terror is impotent. The terror is nothing but justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is thus an emanation of virtue.
As quoted in Red Star Over Southern Africa (1988) by Morgan Norval, p. xvi
If the mainspring of popular government in peace time is virtue, its resource during a revolution is at one and the same time virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is merely terrible; terror, without which virtue is simply powerless.
As quoted in Rousseau, Robespierre and English Romanticism (1999) by Gregory Dart
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.
Original French: La terreur n'est autre chose que la justice prompte, sévère, inflexible; elle est donc une émanation de la vertu ; elle est moins un principe particulier, qu’une conséquence du principe général de la démocratie, appliqué aux plus pressants besoins de la patrie.
From Sur les principes de morale politique http://www.royet.org/nea1789-1794/archives/discours/robespierre_principes_morale_politique_05_02_94.htm

„Democracy is a state in which the sovereign people, guided by laws which are its own work, does for itself all that it can do properly, and through delegates all that it cannot do for itself.“

—  Maximilien Robespierre

"On the Principles of Political Morality that Should Guide the National Convention in the Domestic Administration of the Republic" (5 February 1784/18 Ploviôse Year 2)

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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