Wait, which is it?  Robespierre was a tyrant who killed women and children left and right, or Robespierre let the government fall to shambles through his inaction?  I mean, I don’t think those things both work at the same time.  In fact, the contradiction there should really make you question your sources and your theories. 

Actually, what are your sources?

How does killing children/women contribute to the government? Please never run for office if you think that constitutes as actions in the government. 

No on sources, then?  Wikipedia really doesn’t cut it.

Okay.  I mean—yeah, sadly, what you’ve given is kind of a standard of pre-university-level history education.  The actions of numerous people get simplified down and lumped together into something called “Robespierre.”  This thing, though, has little relationship to any actual human of that name…or any very clear understanding of that piece of history.  It’s a fiction.  When someone starts looking at serious analyses, this fiction—the one you’ve rehashed in your blog, the “Robespierre” who kills women and children left and right for disagreeing with him and thinks he’s god—this fiction gets really frustrating.  Partly just because of the sheer inaccuracy.

I don’t know if you’re actually interested in the history of the French Revolution.  The best sources are in French, but if you prefer English there’s at least R.R. Palmer’s Twelve Who Ruled; it’s not perfect but it’s fairly short and at least clears up this idea of some crazy monolithic Robespierre-beast who did…whatever a person’s conception of Everything-Wrong-With-The-Revolution might be.

You know, most everyone else has already executed a fairly efficient takedown of this bullshit but this harkens me back to the point I was making last week. It fits in so nicely that I’m just going to copy and paste my earlier post:

I’m starting to miss the periodic accusations of simultaneous Naziism and Stalinism I used to attract. At least when my peers and I were being derided as Satanic entities a degree of respect was shown. The logic was that we admired Robespierre, who was Literally Hitler and Stalin’s time-travelling lovechild, and so we were ourselves Nazi Stalinist hybrids. Morality was denied us but intelligence and the merits of our scholarship was not.

There’s a new fad on tumblr now. See, since Robespierre was literally Stalin and Hitler and so was patently and indisputably depraved, logic dictates that he could attract no educated admirers. Therefore, his admirers must simply be ignorant as to the intricacies of Robespierre’s career and his role in the Reign of Terror. Such a lapse is understandable, surely, as Robespierre’s role in the Terror has been greatly mitigated by a posterity too drunk with accolades for the French Revolution, particularly in the 20th century with the Advent of the Cold War [/sarcasm]. Therefore, it is merely a matter of education and the remedy to the infection of Robespierrism is to flood the tag and the bloggers’ inboxes with impeccably researched quotes lifted from a skim of wikipedia.

At least the Stalinism accusation allotted for the possibility of honestly unearthed but still divergent opinions. It allowed that two parties may have access to the same sources and agree on the same core facts but due to conflicting values or ideology nevertheless come away with different views – even if one view is dismissed as morally reprehensible. This new fashion has such an aura of arrogance, dismissing opposition by marking them as ‘vapid’ Enjolras fans or something reminiscent to the serial killer following. 

I’m not going to waste your time or mine raising an argument against these conceptions. I’ve done so countless times but this post is not meant to be a history lesson. I will say that I have researched Robespierre for a great deal of time now and after reading a myriad of sources for myself I hold him to esteem. In fact, I began my research with a penchant for the Girondins and had merely been giving cursory attention to who I viewed to be the enemy but, ah, ‘When you stare into the abyss…’

But frankly, even if the origins of my opinion were otherwise: So what? I fail to see how coming to an inordinately positive opinion of Robespierre from a read-through of Les Mis is any worse than coming to an inordinately negative opinion from sitting through one high school history class.

That said, it is one thing to come to a negative opinion on Robespierre grounded in your own diligent research. But Robespierre is a controversial figure, which means he has both been revered and reviled. And so if you are unfamiliar the anti-Thermidorian argument, if the names Albert Mathiez, Florence Gauthier, Sophie Wahnich, or Georges Lefebvre are alien —- if you are not even aware of the Robespierrist School of Historiography, then I suspect that it is you who has not done yourresearch to support your touted opinion! To counter an argument with one of your own is one thing, to remain ignorant of their very existence is a separate matter entirely.

If you opt for the latter option I beg you, for the sake of my sanity and your aura of intellect, to kindly refrain from advertising your ignorance. 

In any case, as it was alluded to: The powerpoint is inaccurate. It’s funny how they argue that Napoleon’s reputation is undeserved and has been wrongfully assaulted by his critics but refuse to apply that logic to Robespierre. I will just clarify a few things. No, Robespierre never executed children. The proconsuls, such as Jean Carrier, who did engage in such atrocities were generally Robespierre’s enemies and he did try to take punitive action against them. He failed, largely because he wasn’t dictator and couldn’t just execute everyone he disliked. 

Nor did he kill people for “Disagreeing with him.” They’re probably thinking of the Indulgent or Hebertist Purge, the former being largely orchestrated by Billaud-Varennes, but far be it from someone with such an entrenched opinion on the French Revolution to know who he is. As for the Hebertis Purge, even Robespierre’s harshest critics such as John Hardman have effectively freed him from personal responsibility and I wouldn’t even mention it but to cover my bases – but again, it’s unlikely this person even knows what a Hebertist is, let alone about the Purge.

And so on and so forth. I’d even argue with this person’s definition of Robespierre’s virtue, considering they seem to be synchronizing it with Cromwellian puritanism — in any case, outside of the tenuous legends of the Dantonist Trial, there’s no record of Robespierre ever “going after someone” because they didn’t meet his high-standards and quite a few examples of him defending the misled so it’s a silly point anyway. Moreover, their discussion of the Terror completely omits the dire economic straits, the total war, and well —- everything that spurred the Terror on, which was not architected by one madman’s innane need for perfection. I mean, what?

But back to Napoleon, I find it interesting that this person patently neglected to research him as well. After all, Napoleon was a Robespierrist Jacobin and published more than one pamphlet lauding Robespierre and the Terror. His economic policy, I’d argue, was even lifted from one touted by Saint Just. Hell, Napoleon himself defended Robespierre’s reputation from St. Helena, albeit condescendingly.


What’s that?

I’ve been studying this era for years now but this PowerPoint has enlightened me. I will be auctioning all my Robespierrist memorabilia within a week.