Skip to comments.Why Robespierre Chose Terror - The lessons of the first totalitarian revolution
Posted on 04/17/2006 5:51:06 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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Wrong in one respect Robespierre was not the first mass murderer in the name of ideology, not by a long shot. However, before him, most of these types graduated towards religious ideology: Oliver Cromwell, Torquemada, and, of course, Mohammed. Robespierre was probably the first to secularize the genre.
It's hard to dislike Napoleon all that much since so many of the ideals he wanted Europe to adapt were and remain worthwhile.
Swim across the channel for a look backwards at anarchy as a bloody tool.
" Negotiation with such people can succeed only if we have overwhelming force on our side and have shown ourselves unsqueamish about using it."
semi-secularize. Robespierre seemed to think he himself was a god. And the Cult of the Supreme Being was a sort of deism. The Incorruptible indeed.
If you believe that Napoleon actually adhered to them and didn't merely use the ideals to cloak his megalomania and desire to turn Europe into his personal fiefdom.
The American attitude toward the French Revolution has been generally favorablenaturally enough for a nation itself born in revolution.
My undergraduate degree was in history - and I know of NO reputable historian or author who puts this idea forward. Those who don't read history get their ideas about it from The Scarlet Pimpernel and A Tale of Two Cities. The American attitude towards the French Revolution is essentially English (not surprising given our heritage) -- d$#n Frogs can't do anything right.
In fact socialism, the beginnings of which are in part found in the French Revolution, does tend to lead to murder and sometimes mass murder. It does this for the simple reason that socialism requires that all citizens must work toward a common goal. Apparently it's not much of a leap to just get rid of the ones who aren't working toward that common goal.
His Egomania cannot be doubted. Neither can his forward thinking ideas. He certainly doesn't deserve to be bunched with the Stalins and Maos of the world. Or the Robspierres for that matter. Then again this writer doesn't really do that.
Hey, I'm a fan of would-be world conquerors (really), and Napoleon is one of the best. Unquestionably brilliant. He may even have wanted the best for those he triumphed over. And he was a pragmatist rather than an ideologue. He did a lot for the people of Europe but also took much. I think a lot of his progressive ideas were just lip service, a tactic often employed (we don't want to conquer you for ourselves, but to spread liberty, equality, and fraternity).
Anyway, another reason to dislike Robespierre is that he was a lawyer.
Napolean was a peasant but a brilliant field commander. Too bad he thought he was more than that.
Robespierre could be called the first modern ideological extremist. Napoleon could be called the first modern dictator. One produced the other, setting a model that influenced others from Marx to Mao.
First modern dictator? There have been dictatorial regimes throughout history many much worse then Napoleon who really wasn't all that much more authoritarian then the canonized Queen Elizabeth who had Catholics put to death along with various other dissenters. Napoleon advocated religious liberty.
It must be remembered, however, that Napoleon's foremost ideal was the advancement of his own personal interests.
When Napoleon put his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne, Joseph Bonaparte, a rather idealistic fellow, took his job seriously and considered it his duty to do what was best for his Spanish subjects.
In turn, Napoleon sent Joseph a curt letter reminding him that, although he was indeed the King of Spain, his loyalties were first to Napoleon himself, then to France and then lastly to Spain and the Spanish people.
Queen Elizabeth certainly had her faults but it should be remembered that she was reacting to very real plots against her and the Northern Rebellion-before that she did have a policy of religious tolerance. She is still one of England's greatest monarchs and could have whipped Napoleon in a fair fight : )
[W]e must exterminate all our enemies with the law in our handsCan't you just hear Howard Dean saying these things?
the Declaration of Rights offers no safeguard to conspirators
the suspicions of enlightened patriotism might offer a better guide than formal rules of evidence.
Even if he had been innocent he had to be condemned if his death could be useful.
People are always telling judges to take care to save the innocent; I tell them . . . to beware of saving the guilty.
Any divergence between individual and general interest indicates the individuals immorality and irrationality. If any individual fails to see that his true interests are the same as the general interest, he must be forced to act as if he did see it, for his own good.
The rub: people work out what their axiomatic ideals are; those who diverge from those ideals are enemies thereof, and must be converted (in truth or in act) or eliminated. By denying any time to rationally discuss differences, and deeming accused divergence from ideals enough to warrant death, tyrants can rapidly mobilize the rabble against the opposition. The rabble, not understanding why but being satisfied by noble-sounding incomprehensible explainations, and being fearful of being the next accused and next beheaded, race each other in a stampede to support the tyrant and destroy the opposition. Note that a disarmed opposition, of course, cannot survive being on the wrong end of this stampede.
Today we see Islamofacists, radical Leftists, and Mexifornia secessionists trying to whip up their stampedes. Beware the day a real leader emerges among them, and begins their reign of terror. Remember that all such revolutions, once ignited, moved fast. BLOAT.
I have read somewhere that the political designations left and right originated in French Revolution times. The left being the "progressives" advancing their form of proto-socialism, the right being the conservatives. And has been the same ever since. Both sides physically sitting on the left or right in their parlimentary sessions.
Hence, the prototype. It has been the same ever since. My take on this: the Democrats follow the ideals of the French Revolution, anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-religion, hedonistic, mob/union goonism, anarchy, long haired hippyism, government tyranny, collectivism. The Republicans, the ideals of the American Revolution.
The Democrats have very little in common with the American ideal. They have the donkey for their symbol. In their donkey I see all the things I listed above.