Maximilien Robespierre

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Maximilien Robespierre

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (May 6, 1758–July 28, 1794), one of the leaders of the French Revolution. Also known as "the Incorruptible". He was an influential member of the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror that ended with his arrest and execution.


  • 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.
    • Original French: La plus extravagante idée qui puisse naître dans la tête d'un politique est de croire qu'il suffise à un peuple d'entrer à main armée chez un peuple étranger, pour lui faire adopter ses lois et sa constitution. Personne n'aime les missionnaires armés; et le premier conseil que donnent la nature et la prudence, c'est de les repousser comme des ennemis.
    • From Sur la guerre (1ère intervention), speech to the Jacobin Club, January 2, 1792.
  • Citizens, did you want a revolution without revolution?
    • Original French: Citoyens, vouliez-vous une révolution sans révolution?
    • From Réponse à J.- B. Louvet, speech to the National Convention, November 5, 1792.
  • It is with regret that I pronounce the fatal truth: Louis must die that the country may live.
    • Original French: Je prononce à regret cette fatale vérité... mais Louis doit mourir, parce qu'il faut que la patrie vive.
    • From the speech to the National Convention on the judgment of Louis XVI, December 3, 1792.
  • Our revolution has made me feel the full force of the axiom that history is fiction and I am convinced that chance and intrigue have produced more heroes than genius and virtue.
    • Original French: Notre révolution m'a fait sentir tout le sens de l'axiome qui dit que l'histoire est un roman ; et je suis convaincu que la fortune et l'intrigue ont fait plus de héros, que le génie et la vertu.
    • From Lettres à ses commettants, 1ère série, n°10, December 21, 1792.
Robespierre's arrest
  • Any institution which does not suppose the people good, and the magistrate corruptible, is evil.

autre chose que la justice prompte, sévère, inflexible; elle est donc une émanation de la vertu ; elle est moins un principe particulier, qu’une conséquence du principe général de la démocratie, appliqué aux plus pressants besoins de la patrie.

  • The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.
    • Original French: Le gouvernement de la révolution est le despotisme de la liberté contre la tyrannie.
    • From a speech to the National Convention, February 5, 1794.
  • By sealing our work with our blood, we may see at least the bright dawn of universal happiness.
    • Original French: En scellant notre ouvrage de notre sang, nous puissions voir au moins briller l'aurore de la félicité universelle.
    • From a speech to the National Convention, February 5, 1794.
  • 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.
    • Original French: Il faut étouffer les ennemis intérieurs et extérieurs de la République, ou périr avec elle ; or, dans cette situation, la première maxime de votre politique doit être qu’on conduit le peuple par la raison, et les ennemis du peuple par la terreur.
    • From a speech to the National Convention, February 5, 1794.
Robespierre's execution


  • Omelettes are not made without breaking eggs.
    • Original French: On ne peut pas faire d'omelette sans casser des oeufs.
  • When work is a pleasure, life is a joy! When work is a duty, life is slavery.
  • Is it to be thought unreasonable that the people, in atonement for wrongs of a century, demand the vengeance of a single day?
  • The general will rules in society as the private will governs each separate individual.
  • A nation is truly corrupt, when, after having by degrees lost its character and liberty, it slides from democracy into aristocracy or monarchy; this is the death of the political body by decrepitude.
  • Again, it may be said, that to love justice and equality the people need no great effort of virtue; it is sufficient that they love themselves.
  • Any law which violates the inseparable rights of man is essentially unjust and tyrannical; it is not a law at all.
  • Atheism is aristocratic; the idea of a great Being that watches over oppressed innocence and punishes triumphant crime is altogether popular.
  • Crime butchers innocence to secure a throne, and innocence struggles with all its might against the attempts of crime.
Maximilien Robespierre
  • In the system of the French revolution that which is immoral is impolitic, and what tends to corrupt is counter-revolutionary. Weaknesses, vices, prejudices are the road to monarchy.
  • The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.
  • The warmth of zeal is not perhaps the most dangerous rock that we have to avoid; but rather that languour which ease produces and a distrust of our own courage.
  • To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty.
  • What is the end of our revolution? The tranquil enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reign of that eternal justice, the laws of which are graven, not on marble or stone, but in the hearts of men, even in the heart of the slave who has forgotten them, and in that of the tyrant who disowns them.
  • The attribute of popular government in a revolution is at one and the same time virtue and terror. Virtue without terror is fatal; terror without virtue is impotent....terror is nothing but justice; prompt, severe, inflexible. It is the emanation of virtue."

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