ROBESPIERRE: From a pencil sketch at the Versailles MuseumROBESPIERRE: FIRST MODERN DICTATOR BY RALPH KORNGOLD FOREWORD: Half a century ago, Hippolyte Taine wrote concerning Robespierre: After a hundred years he still makes dupes. Since then theMoreROBESPIERRE: From a pencil sketch at the Versailles MuseumROBESPIERRE: FIRST MODERN DICTATOR BY RALPH KORNGOLD FOREWORD: Half a century ago, Hippolyte Taine wrote concerning Robespierre: After a hundred years he still makes dupes. Since then the number of Robespierres partisans has greatly increased. Reims and Arras have named streets after him, and the latter city has erected a monument in his honour.
In Sicards monument to the Convention, in the Pantheon in Paris, he occupies the foremost place. Modern French historians are far less critical of him than their colleagues in the past. Some,like Mathiez, Lefebvre and Pariset, are frank admirers.The author confesses to a certain sympathy with Robespierre when he began intensive study of his subject. This sympathy, curiously enough, was first aroused by reading Thiers Histoire de la devolution française. Thiers wrote his history in the early part of the 19th century, and could hardly have foreseen that some two score years later he would have the opportunity of demonstrating those same qualities of moderation and mercy for the supposed lack of which he so severely criticized Robespierre.
Now, the author had done considerable reading about the Paris Commune, hence knew that in 1871, Thiers military tribunals had within a few weeks and with considerably less ceremony than Robespierre proposed in his famous Law of Prairial, despatched as many unfortunates as had the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris and all the bloody proconsuls combined during the entire Reign of Terror. According to General Appert, Chief of the Military Tribunal, the number of executions following the Paris Commune was 17,000.
Unofficial figures give almost double that number. ROBESPIERRE: It became clear to the author that it was all a question of whose ox was being gored. The Red Terror appears unpardonable to the Whites, and the White Terror to the Reds. Carlyle penetrates very closely to the truth when he says that the reason the Reign of Terror under the French Revolution has received so much scathing comment, is mainly because it was directed against the privileged classes and their followers and not against the voiceless millions.It has always seemed to the author somewhat presumptuous on the part of sheltered individuals to set themselves up as implacable judges over a man at grips with such cataclysmic events and forces as Robespierre had to face.
The righteous critic would do well to ask himself in all humility what under like circumstances his own conduct might have been. Had Thiers done so, his judgment would not have recoiled upon him. In truth, few of us can be really sure how we would act if great power were given into our hands under extraordinary circumstances. Some of the most atrocious and arbitrary acts of the French Revolution were perpetrated by men who gave no indication whatever of being especially bloodthirsty or arbitrary. Freron was beloved by his friends.
Fouquier Tinville was a model husband and father. Nothing in Carriers career indicated that he would turn a city into a shambles.