Robespierre: Defense of Terrorism | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Robespierre: Defense of Terrorism

April 19, 2010

Robespierre: Defense of Terrorism

“If virtue be the spring of a popular government in times of peace, the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: terror, without which virtue is destructive; virtue, without which terror is impotent.

Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country. The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.”

From an Address to the Convention, 5 February 1794


  1. Totaly off topic, but this guy had the weirdest shaped head! LOL.

  2. Born and raised in dictatorial former East Germany such statements just give me the creeps. There's really no notion of an improved humanity or other higher reason or whatsoever, that justifies terror, propaganda trials, executions etc. There just isn't. But back then, there were probably pretty naive about this.

  3. This is the origin of the word terrorism-- Le Terreur. And it started out being viewed as a good thing...

    Because of this historical precedent, terrorism used by the government has traditionally been called terror, and the word terrorism reserved for acts committed by transnational groups. Hence some of the debate over the "war on terror" being an inaccurate description.

  4. You should check out Saint-Just. I'm quite sure he will have a lot of success, though an anti-monarchist.

  5. By the way, terreur is a feminin word, so it would be La terreur.