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Why on Earth Did French Revolutionaries Persecute and Murder Enclosed Nuns?
The Catholic Herald ^ | 10/7/11 | Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith

Posted on 10/07/2011 7:13:12 AM PDT by marshmallow

The fine parish church of St Jacques in Compiègne has a side chapel dedicated to 16 Carmelites martyred in the Revolution

I mentioned earlier this week a second French holy place that might interest readers: Compiègne. The town is only 40 minutes by fast and frequent train from Paris, and what drew me there was the famous chateau, a place beloved of Louis XV, who hunted in the nearby forest, as well as Marie Antoinette; and also a favourite place of resort for members of the Fourth Dynasty to rule France. Napoleon was fond of Compiègne and spent time there, and so did the Empress Marie Louise, some of whose furniture is still in situ. Compiègne was also the scene of the house and shooting parties of Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie, where the great and good of the Second Empire gathered.

The chateau is beautiful and more restrained than Versailles and the park, laid out in the English style, extremely attractive; it was a pity that the museum of the Second Empire was shut, as were the apartments of the Prince Imperial and those of the King of Rome – all because of lack of staff, I was told.

By chance I had time to spend in the pleasant town itself, and was pleased to discover a very fine parish church, St Jacques. The church contains several interesting features: a memorial to Joan of Arc, who was arrested in Compiègne; and altar rails that once surrounded the royal bed in the chateau – the gift of Louis XVIII: having once guarded the bed of Louis XVI, they are relics of a martyr. And at the back of the church there was a side chapel dedicated to the Blessed Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne.

The 16 Blessed martyrs were victims of the French Revolution, and the first such victims to be beatified. That the revolutionary government of France took such trouble over them is quite incredible. Remember, these were enclosed nuns, so they could have been safely ignored, as they were pretty much unseen. But no, the revolutionaries simply could not leave them alone. First they harassed them, and declared that their vows were not binding (though why secularists should have an opinion, yet alone legislate, on the validity of religious vows is beyond me). Then, when the nuns refused to disperse voluntarily, they confiscated their priory and turned them out on to the street. The nuns went into lodgings, and adopted lay dress, as the law dictated, but continued to live a life of prayer, and continued to worship in the parish church. Finally, they were arrested, imprisoned, taken to Paris, condemned by the revolutionary tribunal, and guillotined. They wore religious dress for their execution. They were among the last victims of the Terror: within a few weeks Robespierre himself had been overthrown and guillotined.

But why on earth did the Revolution consider them worth persecuting? Their martyrdom exposes the supposed secularism of the French Revolution as a mere mask for rabid anti-clericalism. Anti-clericalism has a long track record of hatred for nuns, particularly enclosed nuns. Many were the convents attacked and destroyed in Spain at the start of the Civil War. There too Carmelites were martyred. I wonder why this should be?

The Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne are very well known in France, and are even the subject of an opera by Poulenc, the last scene of which admirably conveys the glory of martyrdom. These Blessed Sisters went to their deaths praying for peace in the Church and peace in the state. Let us hope we will continue have both, and much less of the ugly anti-clericalism that killed them.


TOPICS: Catholic; History; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: catholic; frenchrevolution; nuns; romancatholic

1 posted on 10/07/2011 7:13:14 AM PDT by marshmallow
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To: marshmallow

Compiegne was also the site of the signing of the armistice that ended the fighting in World War I, and the site of the French surrender to the Germans in World War II.

I’ve never really understood why the French revolutionaries were so violently anti-Catholic (and, really, anti-Christian in general). Some were atheist and wanted to start the “Cult of Reason,” others (like Robespierre I believe) were into the “Cult of the Supreme Being.”

}:-)4


2 posted on 10/07/2011 7:24:45 AM PDT by Moose4 ("Oderint dum metuant" -- "Let them hate, as long as they fear." (Lucius Accius, c. 130 BC))
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To: marshmallow

I am not a student of the French Revolution but have always been struck by how well organized they were. I wonder if there was an element of what we now call Communists involved.


3 posted on 10/07/2011 7:25:33 AM PDT by yarddog
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To: yarddog

They weren’t organized. They didn’t even have their own language. Just a ridiculous accent and they all walked around talking like Maurice Chevalier. “Au au au!”


4 posted on 10/07/2011 7:30:04 AM PDT by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
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To: Moose4

They were radical atheists. They hated all religions.


5 posted on 10/07/2011 7:31:20 AM PDT by DManA
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To: marshmallow
Their martyrdom exposes the supposed secularism of the French Revolution as a mere mask for rabid anti-clericalism.

Everything old is new again.

6 posted on 10/07/2011 7:32:36 AM PDT by Opinionated Blowhard ("When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.")
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To: marshmallow

The Revolutionaries killed the nuns because their master wanted them destroyed.

God’s faithful are always among the chief targets of the devil.


7 posted on 10/07/2011 7:33:34 AM PDT by agere_contra ("Debt is the foundation of destruction" : Sarah Palin.)
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To: marshmallow

Some people think Rousseau did more damage to Western Civilization than any other person in history.


8 posted on 10/07/2011 7:33:57 AM PDT by DManA
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To: yarddog

Whether they meant it or not there definitely was an element of Communism and I have always thought of the French Revolution as the beginning of modern Communism.


9 posted on 10/07/2011 7:34:43 AM PDT by tiki
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To: massgopguy

“They weren’t organized. They didn’t even have their own language. Just a ridiculous accent and they all walked around talking like Maurice Chevalier. “Au au au!””

You must have seen the same Mell Brooks movie that I did.


10 posted on 10/07/2011 7:38:57 AM PDT by Daveinyork
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To: massgopguy

“They weren’t organized. They didn’t even have their own language. Just a ridiculous accent and they all walked around talking like Maurice Chevalier. “Au au au!””

You must have seen the same Mel Brooks movie that I did.


11 posted on 10/07/2011 7:39:23 AM PDT by Daveinyork
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To: massgopguy

“They weren’t organized. They didn’t even have their own language. Just a ridiculous accent and they all walked around talking like Maurice Chevalier. “Au au au!””

You must have seen the same Mel Brooks movie that I did.


12 posted on 10/07/2011 7:39:26 AM PDT by Daveinyork
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To: agere_contra

“The devil made me do it” has become a joke answer for bad behaviour, but it’s no joke in many instances.


13 posted on 10/07/2011 7:48:23 AM PDT by Stevenc131
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To: marshmallow
" Why on Earth Did French Revolutionaries Persecute and Murder Enclosed Nuns?

Just a WAG... Because they were revolutionary murdering @$$hole$?

14 posted on 10/07/2011 7:55:42 AM PDT by OKSooner ("Get a brain, morans!!")
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To: yarddog
Very much like the communists - lots of blood lust and 'feelings'.

Not much logic or thought.

It's also why Stalin killed millions and George Washington didn't.

The American Revolution was based on logic and principles. The French Revolution was based on mindless anger, feelings, and rage - the rage of the stupid and ignorant.The mob that killed the nuns did it without logic - without principle, without even knowing why they were whipped up into such a frenzy. The rage of the mob overtook what little sense they had.

To understand that type of rage - and lack of rational thinking - listen to the interviews with random liberals at Occupy Wall Street. They know they're angry. They 'feel'. They want revenge. They're trying to pick a fight with the police... violence turns them on... it's why Ayers is involved. It's a large group tantrum. Same mindlessness as all totalitarians.

15 posted on 10/07/2011 7:57:46 AM PDT by GOPJ (Four boxes for the defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, ammo. Use in that order.)
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To: marshmallow

There are many details about the French Revolution that are still horrifying even by todays standards..Like people being executed for being heterosexual or Robespierre sending an athiest army in the Vendee to smash a Catholic counter revolt.By some accounts they murdered 500,000 people


16 posted on 10/07/2011 8:14:46 AM PDT by Paddyboy
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To: GOPJ

The French were very poor, very mistreated, and very oppressed. Americans had disagreements with King George, but they were often men of property. When America had its revolution, it was led on marvelous principles. Victory could be met with magnanimity. There were a lot of Tories who left America (including, not often mentioned, Ben Franklin’s loyalist son), but no guillotines.

The French, however, had greater anger and arguably greater reason to be angry. They weren’t just paying high tea taxes, they were living under soul-destroying poverty. And every step of the way, the church was telling them it was their duty to be poor, and support the life styles of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who built a minature rural village and played at being poor people for fun.

Imagine being tortured for years, and finally getting the upper hand on your torturer. Odds are you might chop off a few heads, too. Think 9/11 and the anger you felt. Imagine that every year for your whole life, and you finally got the guys who did it in your sights.

But in any case, while people were mad at the church, the Republic continued to pay church salaries. Right up until the early 1900s, all Catholic clergy were paid by tax dollars in France, so the hatred of religion was not universal. In the early 1900s, they voted into being a separation of church and state based in large part on public anger over the Dreyfus affair.


17 posted on 10/07/2011 8:14:47 AM PDT by TruConservative
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To: TruConservative
Think 9/11 and the anger you felt. Imagine that every year for your whole life, and you finally got the guys who did it in your sights.

I think you've got your analogy backwards.

To extrapolate what you've written about the French Revolution, the poor and the oppressed in the case of 9/11 would be the stateless Palestinians and the evil overlord would be America which has been oppressing them for years through it's surrogate Israel. Finally, they get the chance to strike back on 9/11 and do so.

You good with that slant on things?

No?

It makes as much sense as your spin on the French Revolution.

18 posted on 10/07/2011 8:24:43 AM PDT by marshmallow (.)
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To: yarddog

“I wonder if there was an element of what we now call Communists involved.”

Yes, although it wasn’t in the radical mainstream. Cf. Babeuf:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois-No%C3%ABl_Babeuf


19 posted on 10/07/2011 8:25:50 AM PDT by Tublecane
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To: Moose4

“I’ve never really understood why the French revolutionaries were so violently anti-Catholic”

Firstly, “écrasez l’infâme!” (The infamy being the church) Also, because church and state were, though seperate estates, married. It would be more like the Occupy Wall Street hordes smashing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York than burning down the local presbyterian place of worship.


20 posted on 10/07/2011 8:32:19 AM PDT by Tublecane
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To: TruConservative

“The French, however, had greater anger and arguably greater reason to be angry”

Not very arguable. We revolted largely over taxes, ostensibly raised to fund a war that benefitted mostly us, and we still had the lowest tax burden in the entire civilized world (that is, not counting serfs and slaves). Unless you think principles are a more legitimate cause for anger than substantive policy. But in that case, the principles are the same no matter where you live or what you’re rebelling against, and the French could have fought for them if they were smarter, and did in part.


21 posted on 10/07/2011 8:38:49 AM PDT by Tublecane
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To: TruConservative
Your excusing of the murderous, atheistic French revolutionaries fails to explain why they should go to great lengths to "eliminate" closeted sisters who led a peaceful life of prayer and devotion. If your thesis is correct, the rage of the revolutionaries would have been directed at, and limited to, the powerful clerics. Instead, all people of faith (i.e. Christians, especially Catholics) were targeted. Volumes have been written on this; the following brief Wikopedia quotation will suffice:

"The Dechristianisation of France during the French Revolution is a conventional description of the results of a number of separate policies, conducted by various governments of France between the start of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Concordat of 1801, forming the basis of the later and less radical Laïcité movement. The goal of the campaign was the destruction of Catholic religious practice and of the religion itself."

22 posted on 10/07/2011 8:41:42 AM PDT by tjd1454
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To: DManA

You wrote:

“They were radical atheists.”

False. Most believed in a god of some sort.

” They hated all religions.”

False. They favored Protestants and Jews over Catholics. Protestant churches were rarely if ever closed. Their clergy were rarely if ever persecuted. The rights of Jews were dramatically increased - which was only reasonable - while Catholics saw all of their religious rights disappear.


23 posted on 10/07/2011 8:55:34 AM PDT by vladimir998
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To: marshmallow
If you read the thoughts of our founding fathers on the established clergy and their support for Monarchy/tyranny the reactions of the French Revolution - where such things that our founder hated in principle were very much in practice- and you can see where the fervor of the mob might get a littler murderous towards the clergy.
24 posted on 10/07/2011 8:56:03 AM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send the GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism.)
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To: TruConservative
I don't agree with much of what you've written... The reason we didn't have guillotines was because ignorant mobs filled with blood lust didn't run our revolution. And yeah, we had those types here at the time - they just weren't in charge.

That's the key.

All cultures have all the types - bad ones have their 'Thomas Jefferson's' in jails as political prisoners - and their 'Hitler's' running the place. Mediocre cultures have shoe salesmen running the country... We have similar distributions of good and evil - what matters is where those groups end up in the culture. Our 'evil' has traditionally been stuck near the bottom - that's changing...

The French chose the leaders of their revolution - well, 'leaders' because they killed off all of them over the course of their revolt. We chose our leaders too - and they lived to ripe old ages...

If Europe has serious financial problems they might default to the 'french' tradition. It appears the Greeks are going down that path. We, in spite of all the liberal wet dreams about insurrection and violence, will deal with our great depression the same way we dealt with the last one.

I'm casually stunned you would defend how the French acted during their 'revolution'. I'm going to assume you don't have an excuse for Stalin...

25 posted on 10/07/2011 9:57:28 AM PDT by GOPJ (Where is the headline that says: Obama Murder Hundreds of Mexicans! - freeper xzins)
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To: GOPJ

“The reason we didn’t have guillotines was because ignorant mobs filled with blood lust didn’t run our revolution.”

But that is exactly what I am saying! Our revolution was run by landed, well-read, smart men. The French revolution was run by starving, ignorant, peasants. You and I agree on the reasons that our revolution was better both in the final government that resulted and in the lack of retribution.

But please don’t let you hatred of the French peasantry excuse the French aristocracy. We are all aware of how violent the revolution was, but perhaps you are not aware of hot violent the French aristocracy was prior to the revolution. They killed tens of thousands of peasants before the peasants killed tens of thousands of the aristocracy. (There were other peasant revolts leading up to 1790, and those were put down with as much brutality as the peasants later demonstrated.)


26 posted on 10/07/2011 11:27:36 AM PDT by TruConservative
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To: marshmallow
The Martyrs of September 1792
27 posted on 10/07/2011 12:56:33 PM PDT by Deo volente (God willing, America will survive this Obamination.)
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To: marshmallow
In 1959 the French composer Francis Poulenc wrote an opera, "Dialogues of the Carmelites", dramatizing this event. It's one of the few modern operas to earn a permanent place in the repertoire.

The last scene is amazing. The nuns come out on stage and sing a setting of the "Salve Regina". Offstage there is the sound of a guillotine, and one nun drops to the ground. Each time the guillotine is heard, another nun drops. The chorus is reduced to a quintet, then a quartet, then a trio. Finally only the novice and the mother superior are left standing, with the novice, a high soprano, singing on the far reaches of the treble clef. The guillotine is heard again, and the mother superior drops to the ground. Only the novice remains, and then she drops to the ground.

There is a two bar rest, and the winds finish with 8 quiet bars in G minor before the opera ends on a bass and cello pizzicato. Audiences are too drained to react at the end, and there is generally a long silence before the applause.

28 posted on 10/07/2011 1:16:15 PM PDT by Publius
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29 posted on 10/07/2011 1:29:15 PM PDT by TheOldLady (FReepmail me to get ON or OFF the ZOT LIGHTNING ping list)
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To: TruConservative
We are all aware of how violent the revolution was, but perhaps you are not aware of hot violent the French aristocracy was prior to the revolution. They killed tens of thousands of peasants before the peasants killed tens of thousands of the aristocracy. (There were other peasant revolts leading up to 1790, and those were put down with as much brutality as the peasants later demonstrated.)

Most of the people that were killed by the French Revolutionaries were peasants not aristocrats. (The king did not kill those peasants, the revolutionaries killed them.) Proportionally, the clerics of the Catholic Church suffered the most, but the total number of the clergy in France were relatively small (about 10,000 or so) compared to the slaughter inflicted upon the peasants by the revolutionaries. Heck, that doesn't even get to the purges, when the French Revolutionary leaders started executing, their fellow revolutionary leaders to get rid of their revolutionary rivals.

If the aristocracy was so bad, and the French revolutionaries were so good then why did the French Revolutionaries have to kill hundreds of thousands of French in the Vendée? The truth is that most of the French still respected the king before and during the revolution. That is why he was not killed in 1789. Instead of getting rid of the king in 1789, the French created a constitutional monarchy until 1793. It is not until Louis tried to flee from France that the more radical forces in the National Assembly finally had an excuse to justify killing the king to the people. (There is ample evidence that the king's execution was not for criminal reasons but because of political concerns.) Almost half of the National Assembly wanted Louis to live which doesn't make him sound like too much of tyrant.)

So to recap the French Revolutionary spirit: Mass murder of peasants, purges of fellow members of the national assembly, murder of fellow revolutionaries once power was obtained, show trials with forgone verdicts, attack on the Church and a decade of dechristianization, laws against crosses in public and wearing cassocks, and more. The French Revolution has more in common with the Bolshevik Revolution than it does with the American Revolution. Even the revolutionaries themselves said that they wanted to rule by "reason" and "terror".

By the way, though many of the Founding Father's of the US had been sympathetic to the French Revolution at first, once when they realized what the French revolutionaries were doing even they recoiled from it and condemned it.

30 posted on 10/07/2011 1:40:57 PM PDT by old republic
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To: Moose4

well, one of the conspiracy theories is that the French Revolution was led by the Freemasons.


31 posted on 10/07/2011 1:54:37 PM PDT by Cronos (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2787101/posts?page=58#58)
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To: TruConservative
I don't have a problem with the French peasantry - but with the violent mindless mobs that defined the French Revolution. Not all French Peasants were involved.

It's not just the French with me.

I've never found a group of mass murderers that I admired. Not Stalin, or Hitler, the French Revolutionaries, Pol Pot, Tutsi killing Hutu and vice/versa, North Korean starvation, Chinese kill-offs, Russian starvations - the whole murder of innocents doesn't work for me. Especially in a country like France - that theoretically was supposedly somewhat modern.

The principles defining our culture caused us to chose the type of men who lead our American revolution.

It was the same in France. They chose their leaders - their leaders chose the way of the mob. Ours didn't.

Liberal democrats in 'Occupy Wall Street are choosing the way of the mob - like the French peasants did. Liberal elites want to rouse the rabble - have violence in the streets - Bill Ayers type blood lust. The Tea Party would never start a fight with police hoping to cause a riot. Liberals did it this week.

The Occupy Wall Street liberals charged the police trying to get them to overreact...they WANTED a riot. Modern day liberals are the philosophical children of the French killer mobs. And yeah, they would do the same here if they could, but our traditions are strong - and we can hold the mob off... Something Europe might not be able to do - thanks to the romanticizing of the French mass murderers.

32 posted on 10/07/2011 2:04:42 PM PDT by GOPJ (Where is the headline that says: Obama Murders Hundreds of Mexicans! - freeper xzins)
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To: Moose4

“I’ve never really understood why the French revolutionaries were so violently anti-Catholic (and, really, anti-Christian in general). “

For the same reason they killed over 7,000 priests in Spain (including twelve bishops) in the Spanish
Civil War (1936-1939). They felt the Church had too much wealth & power, and was basically part of the system that repressed them. In France they won; in Spain they lost (until the generals agreed to democracy again in the 1980s - now they have gay marriage).


33 posted on 10/07/2011 3:17:00 PM PDT by kearnyirish2
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To: DManA

They hated Catholicism enough to replace the bishops on the chessboard with jesters. Now they have minarets...


34 posted on 10/07/2011 3:20:28 PM PDT by kearnyirish2
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To: Moose4

Blame Voltaire and the Philosophes was hated the Church for propogating “superstition.” The French Revolutionaries were fanatics with absolute power, driven to extremes by their ability to do what they pleased. The Cult of Reason illustrates how humans hate those who resists their wills.


35 posted on 10/08/2011 2:44:44 AM PDT by RobbyS (Pray with the suffering souls.)
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To: Tublecane

Not so simple. The bishops were almost all aristocrats, sons of noble families appointed by the king. The lower clergy were often just as poor as their parishioners. The latter, especially the liberal cures —such as Sieyes, the well-know scribler of constitutions were part of the Third State, which regarded itself as the “real France.” Under the Civil Constitution, which reformed the Church,confiscated its properties and made the clergy in effect civil employees, priests were required to

take an oath of loyalty and adjure any real loyalty to the pope. any priests refused to do this and this caused a split in the clergy. The peasantry was often on the side of the priests who resisted, since they didn’t like the reforms. That was especially true in the Vendee, which experienced a savage religious war orchestrated by the cold-blooded St.Just.After the overthrow of the monarchy and especially after the execution of the king, Catholics were thrown on the side of France’s foreign foes, England and Austria in particular.The irony is that so savage was the religious persecution in France that Protestant in England received priests and nuns as refugees in a country where Catholics had few civil rights.The revulsion against French atheism spread to America, where Francophiles

such as Jefferson and Madison had to trim their sails.


36 posted on 10/08/2011 3:18:18 AM PDT by RobbyS (Pray with the suffering souls.)
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To: old republic

Nice post. It’s more than a little odd that a tru conservative would defend the violent absurdity that was the French Revolution.


37 posted on 10/08/2011 3:34:36 AM PDT by Yardstick
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