Maximilien Robespierre biography
Maximilien Robespierre (Maximilien François Marie
Isidore de Robespierre) was born on May 6th, 1758, in Arras where
his father was based as an advocate. Robespierre and his three
younger siblings were brought up by diverse relatives after their
father dramatically lost his way in life after the death of his
wife in childbirth in 1767. Robespierre was educated for a short
time at a College in Arras and then in Paris initially at the
very prestigious College of Louis-le-Grand and later at the
College of Law.
Robespierre qualified as an advocate in 1781 and sought to
establish a legal practice at his home town of Arras. He became
known both as a successful advocate and as a participant in local
literary and philosophic circles. He was elected as a "Third
Estate" (i.e. a Commoner rather than an Aristocratic or Clerical)
deputy of Artois to the Estates-General that convened at the
Palace of Versailles, on May 5th 1789, on the eve of the French
Revolution, and subsequently served in the National Constituent
Assembly, where his earnest and skillful oratory soon commanded
As he had grown into manhood Robespierre had become a
fanatical devotee of the social theories of the French
philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. He and some thirty other
like-minded deputies became associated in a "Society of the
Friends of the Constitution" later known as the Jacobin Club. In
April 1790 he was elected president of the Jacobin Club and
became increasingly popular as an enemy of the monarchy and as an
advocate of democratic reforms. When the Constituent Assembly was
dissolved on September 30th 1791 Robespierre and another
prominent Jacobin Petion de Villeneuve were the only outgoing
deputies recognised as "incorruptible patriots" by the more
radically inclined amongst the people of Paris. Robespierre "The
Incorruptible" subsequently opposed the more moderate Girondists,
the dominant faction in the newly formed Legislative Assembly,
particularly over their support for war with Austria.
In June 1791 King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette
attempted to flee from France in order to seek refuge with powers
opposed to the revolution - they were however recognised and
detained at Varennes. Robespierre had hitherto been content with
the sort of constitutional monarchy that had been in operation in
France. The King's attempted defection altered the way he was
perceived by Robespierre and others.
In late August 1792 France was threatened with invasion by a
mixed Austrian, Prussian, and French émigré
force. The leader of this force, the Duke of Brunswick, issued
the so-called " Brunswick Manifesto " which threatened all
Frenchmen with dire punishment if they defended themselves
against the advance of Brunswick's forces and threatened to lay
waste to Paris if the French royal family were harmed. Given that
King Louis XVI was suspect since his abortive " flight to
Varennes " there was a move led by Danton and others for the
overthrow of the French monarchy. The palace of Versailles was
stormed and the royal family were arrested after seeking refuge
with the assembly.
On September 21st a recently elected new assembly that called
itself the Convention declared that the French monarchy was
abolished and France was a Republic. On September 25th the
Convention proclaimed that the "French Republic is one and
Robespierre spoke at King Louis XVI's trial as follows:-
"You have not to pass sentence for or
against a single man, but you have to take a resolution on a
question of the public safety, and to decide a question of
national foresight. It is with regret that I pronounce a fatal
truth: Louis ought to perish rather than a hundred thousand
virtuous citizens; Louis must die that the country may
Citizen Louis Capet (formerly known as King Louis XVI) was
subsequently sent to the guillotine on 21st January 1793.
Girondin led France had little success in conflicts with
foreign adversaries. There was an open "royalist" revolt against
the central authority in the Vendée and there were demands
for greater 'federalist' autonomy expressed by interests in
southern regions of France.
Over the last days of May and first days of June 1793,
Robespierre, supported by the Commune of Paris, forced the
expulsion of the Girondists from the National Convention. On July
27th he was elected a member of the chief executive body, the
Committee of Public Safety. Although Robespierre was from one
point of view only one of twelve members of the committee he was
the only one who, through the full support he enjoyed from the
Jacobin Clubs and the Commune of Paris, represented a close link
to the more radical supporters of the Revolution.
France was in turmoil, and with the aim of restoring order and
reducing the danger of invasion from abroad, Robespierre, backed
by the committee, proceeded to ruthlessly eliminate all whom he
considered to be enemies of the Revolution, both extremists and
moderates. This policy led to the so-called Reign of Terror and
to the execution of the revolutionary leaders Jacques René
Hébert (March 24th 1794) and Georges Jacques Danton (April
6th 1794). Both Hébert and Danton were politicians whose
preferred policies were inconsistent with the pure Rousseauism
that was Robespierre's guiding principle. The Hébertists
had been suspected of preparing for a coup d'état and this
may have contributed to the harshness with which they were
treated. Danton was one of several prominent persons who were
suspected of financial corruption thus polluting the virtue of
the Revolution. Whilst the aims of the Terror were perhaps
laudable from Robespierre's revolutionary perspective the means
adopted towards those ends were terrible indeed.
On May 7th, at Robespierre's insistence, the National
Convention proclaimed as an official religion the Cult of the
Supreme Being, which was based on Rousseau's theory of Deism.
This decree antagonized both Roman Catholics and atheists, but
Robespierre still had the powerful backing of the Commune of
Paris. A Grand Fête in honour of the Supreme Being was
celebrated on 8th June 1794 where Robespierre, who had been
elected as the President of the Convention four days previously,
played a major role.
Whatever appearance of justice the revolutionary tribunals
that had been set up to investigate people's political loyalties
may have had prior to these times a law of June 10th 1794
established a situation where witnesses could no longer be called
for the defence and where such tribunals effectively became
committees of condemnation. Between June 12th and July 28th
almost 1300 people were sent to the Guillotine (an average of 28
beheadings a day).
This intensification of the Reign of Terror, caused many
influential members of the Convention and of the Jacobin Club to
fear for their own safety. In recent months French military
fortunes had been transformed largely as a result of a mass levy
of all unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 25 that had been
authorised by the Convention on 23rd August 1793. A series of
significant French military victories that were reported from
diverse battlefields made the extreme security measures that had
been followed seem less imperative, and a conspiracy was formed
for the overthrow of Robespierre.
On July 27th 1794 Robespierre was accused of tyranny, barred
from speaking at the National Convention, and was placed under
arrest as were several key supporters. Although these captives
were promptly rescued by soldiers loyal to the Commune of Paris
and brought to the Hotêl de Ville the Convention ordered
the National Guard to move to recapture Robespierre who
subsequently received a gunshot wound to the lower jaw during his
On July 28th Robespierre together with his closest associates
Louis Saint-Just and Georges Couthon and nineteen other
supporters died on the guillotine.
Eighty more followers of Robespierre were executed the next
Thus perished a man who had been a successful, popular, and
cultured provincial lawyer but who gained power in turbulent
times and was able to pursue certain unproven social theories
with a singleness of mind that could tolerate grievious human
suffering if it was perceived as 'necessary' to the realisation
and defence of a theoretically ideal society.
With the demise of Robespierre the truly Revolutionary phase
of the Revolution in France more or less came to an end. Power
shifted away from the radicals and towards the conservatives. The
Jacobin Clubs were closed down in November and freedom of worship
was restored in February 1795.
Explore Inner Space!!!
It is widely known that Plato, pupil of and close friend to Socrates, accepted that Human
Beings have a " Tripartite Soul " where individual Human Psychology is composed of three aspects -
Wisdom-Rationality, Spirited-Will and Appetite-Desire.
Such a speculative representation of 'Tripartite?' Human Nature as this is backed by a great deal of evidence from such authorities as Plato, Shakespeare and Pythagoras.
Such major World Faiths as Christianity, Islam,
Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism see "Spirituality" as being relative to "Desire" and to "Wrath".
For Indisputable Wisdoms about Human Nature please visit our:-
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that :-
"...man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots,
whose flower and fruitage is the world..."
Should that be true it would follow that individual Human Natures could well 'metaphysically' underpin, and be generally associable with,
the 'Nature' and 'Form' of most "non-ideological" and "non-doctrinaire" Human societies!
This view presented above suggests that Societies themselves!!!
often have a Tripartite character.
Immanuel Kant, perhaps the most celebrated and influential western philospher of recent times, has something to say on this:-
"Whatever concept one may hold, from a metaphysical point of view, concerning the freedom of the will, certainly its appearances,
which are human actions, like every other natural event, are determined by universal laws. However obscure their causes, history,
which is concerned with narrating these appearances, permits us to hope that if we attend to the play of freedom of the human will
in the large, we may be able to discern a regular movement in it, and that what seems complex and chaotic in the single individual
may be seen from the standpoint of the human race as a whole to be a steady and progressive though slow evolution of its original endowment."
Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View (1784)
Or to quote Emerson, from his famous Essay ~ History
"In old Rome the public roads beginning at the Forum
proceeded north, south, east, west, to the centre of every
province of the empire, making each market-town of Persia, Spain,
and Britain pervious to the soldiers of the capital: so out of
the human heart go, as it were, highways to the heart of every
object in nature, to reduce it under the dominion of man. A man
is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and
fruitage is the world. His faculties refer to natures out of him,
and predict the world he is to inhabit, as the fins of the fish
foreshow that water exists, or the wings of an eagle in the egg
presuppose air. He cannot live without a world."