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Quotes of the day: Maximilien Robespierre

Published Tuesday, May 05, 2015 @ 4:34 PM EDT
May 05 2015

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (May 6, 1758 - July 28 1794) was a French lawyer and politician, and one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. As a member of the Estates-General, the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club, he opposed the death penalty and advocated the abolition of slavery, while supporting equality of rights, universal male suffrage and the establishment of a republic. He opposed dechristianisation of France, war with Austria and the possibility of a coup by the Marquis de Lafayette. As a member of the Committee of Public Safety, he was an important figure during the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended a few months after his arrest and execution in July 1794 following the Thermidorian reaction. The Thermidorians accused him of being the "soul" of the Terror, although his guilt in the brutal excesses of the Terror has not been proven. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


Any institution which does not suppose the people good, and the magistrate corruptible, is evil.

Any law which violates the inalienable rights of man is essentially unjust and tyrannical; it is not a law at all.

Chance and intrigue have produced more heroes than genius and virtue.

Death is the beginning of immortality.

Omelettes are not made without breaking eggs.

Peoples do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts.

Pity is treason.

Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs.

The aim of constitutional government is to preserve the Republic; that of revolutionary government is to lay its foundation.

The general will rules in society as the private will governs each separate individual.

The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.

The most extravagant idea that can be born in the head of a political thinker is to believe that it suffices for people to enter, weapons in hand, among a foreign people and expect to have its laws and constitution embraced. No one loves armed missionaries; the first lesson of nature and prudence is to repulse them as enemies.

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.

To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty.

We must smother the internal and external enemies of the Republic or perish with it; now in this situation, the first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people's enemies by terror.

When a Banker jumps out of a window, jump after him- that's where the money is.

When work is a pleasure, life is a joy! When work is a duty, life is slavery.


(May 6 is also the birthday of Orson Welles, Sigmund Freud, and Theodore H. White.)

Categories: Maximilien Robespierre, Question of the day


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