Robespierre as a Hero?

"I believe Robespierre was a good, virtuous, honest, and principled man. The force of circumstance compelled Robespierre to orchestrate The Terror."

Maximillien Marie Isidore de Robespierre
(1758 - 1794)

Date: Fri, 7 Nov 97 06:14:02 GMT
From: DeltaNet Form Processor (
Subject: Feedback and or Questions

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Name="Paul Sperber"
comments="Dear Sir,

I've visited your "Thoughts Worth Thinking" page before. I think I was looking up something about Ben Franklin. I admire your erudition. You bring something special to this cursed world of computers.

I disagree with your views on Mon Ami Robespierre though. I believe he was a good, virtuous, honest, and principled man. The force of circumstance compelled Robespierre to orchestrate The Terror. Robespierre, Couthon, and St. Just, I believe, where the real driving force in that historical period. Lafayette wasn't a real revolutionary. Revolutionary France was not America.

I'm very passionate about all of this. I majored in history in college, and I can honestly say, Robespierre is the one historical figure I admire and identify with the most (I even live with my sister, just like Robespierre!). If you ever get a chance, try reading "Twelve Who Ruled" by R.R. Palmer. I think it potrays the Committee of Public Safety in a sympathetic light. Also, who can read Rousseau without feeling their heart pound with enthuisiasm?

I just want you to know that I'm one who completely agrees with these guys. "Terror without virtue is bloody (e.g. Oklahoma City bombing), virtue without terror is impossible." -Robespierre "

How is life treating you?="This question is too hard to answer. Besides, I don't think it matters much."
Findout="Quite by accident"

      Dear Paul,

      I beg to disagree with your comments about Robespierre and company. Especially at the end of this blood drenched century, I have trouble looking upon true believer revolutionaries who would burn everything down to redeem it as anything less than dangerous rogues and charlatans. The true descendent of Robespierre is Lenin, and the history of that is well known enough. I would argue that few are the places where terror was practiced on a wide-scale where anything much good came out it. I believe there is no real alternative to political pluralism where politics is practiced within an accepted framework of free speech and legal limits. This chopping people's heads of for freedom is ludicrous. The natural result of Robespierre was Napoleon and millions of Frenchmen dead in foreign wars and France proper occupied after long years of endemic war.

      You write: "I [Robespierre] believe he was a good, virtuous, honest, and principled man." That might be true in the abstract. But I also think he was a mediocrity who ended up hurting his country more than helping it. Let us call him a virtuous man without much understanding. Lafayette was a man more in the moderate spirit of the American Revolution; and this, in my opinion, explains why the American Revolution has had so much more success than the French one. Let us look closely at both men and see their characters, the impact they had on Western history, and the very different legacies they leave behind. The American Revolution brought with it the Constitution and over 200 years of political stability and economic prosperity. The French Revolution brought anarchy, dictatorship, monarchy again, and then various failed Republics and a general political instability.

      You write: "Who can read Rousseau without feeling their heart pound with enthusiasm?" I can read Rousseau and be very much affected. However, I can do so while still not losing my head or the ability to think coolly and rationally. Rousseau has a spirit of fanaticism in him that is best controlled by adult readers. To feel fraternal affection for one's fellow man is one thing. To get carried away in a morass of egalitarian bathos is quite another. Rousseau goes too far in calling for radical social change, and in this I think his idea of returning to a putatively innocent "state of nature" dangerous; I never will count myself among those who claim it necessary to burn everything down so as to rebuild a new improved humanity on the ashes of the old. This is sheer folly - look at the twentieth century!

      I hope this e-mail finds you well.

      Very Truly Yours,

      Richard Geib

P.S. '"...virtue without terror is impossible." -Robespierre.' In my opinion, to read any of this at (hopefully) the end of the era of totalitarian gov't and look upon it in a happy light is to strain credulity. Terror is terror after all, especially when it is intended to terrorize someone for their political beliefs.

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