Biography Of Maximilien Robespierre

Robespierre Biography - French Revolution


Maximilien Robespierre is most famous, and most reviled of all of the Jacobin leaders of the French Revolution, Robespierre was a provincial lawyer from Arras, where he was known as an advocate for the poor. In April, 1789, he was elected deputy to the Estates General for the Third Estate. Upon arriving in Paris, he promptly joined the Breton Club, which later became known as the Jacobin Club. Robespierre first came to prominence with a speech attacking the luxurious lifestyles of the Bishops and their lack of charity toward the poor. Subsequently, he became one of the leading spokesmen of the Left in the Constituent Assembly over the next two years, during which, as a democrat and a liberal, he supported right for everyone to vote and opposed the death penalty.
Robespierre Biography - French Revolution
Barred from seeking election in 1791 to the new Legislative Assembly by the self-denying ordinance, which he supported, he concentrated his political activities in the Jacobin Club. From there, he opposed France’s popular move to war on the grounds that war would undermine the work of consolidating the revolution at home and that French troops would be greeted with hostility by the peoples they claimed to liberate. He also led the Jacobin campaign for the removal of the King and the election of a National Convention on the basis of adult male right to vote. In September of 1792, he was elected to the newly-formed National Convention, where he called for the speedy execution of the King on the grounds that he had already been judged by the nation. Joined by influential members of the Convention like Danton, Georges, Marat, Jean-Paul and Desmoulins, Camille in his condemnation of Louis XVI, Robespierre averted the Girondins’attempt to save the French monarch. With the deterioration of France’s military fortunes, Robespierre played an important role in the fall of the Girondins (the more moderate revolutionaries led by Brissot). He was appointed to the Committee of Public Safety in July, 1793 and became its dominant figure until his fall a year later.
Confronted by external invasion and internal rebellion, Robespierre abandoned his liberal support for freedom of speech and the press. Instead, he maintained that the Revolution should be guided by a single will. His fear of aristocratic plots led him to support the repressive measures that came to be known as “The Terror” and led to the suppression by guillotine (device designed for carrying out executions) of his opponents on both his right and his left. He viewed many of his former allies as rivals and on 30 March 1794, he had Danton and Desmoulins detained and guillotined on 5 April. It is estimated that about 40,000 people died during this 15 months period.
While best known for the Terror, the Committee of Public Safety under Robespierre’s leadership drafted laws involving peasant landholdings, industry, education, and public assistance. Though generally supportive of economic liberalism, it imposed price controls in the form of the general maximum of prices and wages. By the end of his tenure, the Committee had defeated the Revolution’s internal and external opponents and was once again poised to resume the offensive.
Robespierre was heavily influenced by Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and throughout his political activities he was guided by the ideal of a republic of virtue composed of medium and small property-holders, uncorrupted by wealth or poverty. Robespierre’s own reputation for personal probity was such that he became known as “the Incorruptible.” The capstone of this activity was his failed attempt in May-June 1794 to replace Catholicism and combat atheism with a deistic civil religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being, dedicated to the immortality of the soul and inculcation of the social virtues among the citizenry.
As a result of divisions within the Committee of Public Safety and between the Committee and the Convention, Robespierre and several of his colleagues were overthrown in the coup d’etat of 9 Thermidor. In a conspiracy mainly led by Tallien and Barras, the Convention unanimously voted the arrest of the triumvirate, Robespierre, Couthon and Saint-Just, Louis-Antoine de. They were guillotined the following day on July 28, 1794.

Robespierre Interesting Facts


He was in admiration before the big ideas of freedom and equality brought by the "Lumieres" or enlightment, a movement of French philosophers (Voltaire, Rousseau, etc) who wanted to change the world. His virtues made him earn the nickname of the incorruptible, as he never gave up against the huge task of reforming France's policy.

He chose to be part of the Jacobins group, one of the more radical movements of the new assembly, and beame rapidly one of their most respected members. 

In 1791, he participated in the writing of the Declaration of the rights of man and citizen, of the most important civil text ever wrote in France, a foundation of the French constitution. He was opposed to the death penalty and to slavery, which he considered barbaric. Pretty amazing knowing that death penalty was abolished only in 1981.

Robespierre Quotes


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

"To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty."

"The king must die so that the country can live."

"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."

"Citizens, did you want a revolution without revolution?"


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