1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Robespierre, Maximilien François Marie Isidore de

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 23
Robespierre, Maximilien François Marie Isidore de
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[ 416 ]

ROBESPIERRE, MAXIMILIEN FRANÇOIS MARIE ISIDORE DE (1758-1794), French revolutionist, was born at Arras on the 6th of May 1758. His family, according to tradition, was of Irish descent, having emigrated from Ireland at the time of the Reformation on account of religion, and his direct ancestors in the male line had been notaries at the little village of Carvin near Arras from the beginning of the 17th century. His grandfather, being more ambitious, established himself at Arras as an advocate; and his father followed the same profession, marrying Jacqueline Marguerite Carraut, daughter of a brewer in the same city, in 1757. Of this marriage four children were born, two sons, and two daughters, of whom Maximilien was the eldest; but in 1767 Madame Derobespierre, as the name was then spelt, died, and the disconsolate widower at once left Arras and wandered about Europe until his death at Munich in 1769. The children were taken charge of by their maternal grandfather and aunts, and Maximilien was sent to the college of Arras, whence he was nominated in 1770 through the bishop of his native town to a bursarship at the college of Louis-le-Grand at Paris. Here he had for fellow-pupils Camille Desmoulins and Stanislas Fréron.

Completing his law studies with distinction, and having been admitted an advocate in 1781, Robespierre returned to his native city to seek for practice, and to struggle against poverty. His reputation had already preceded him, and the bishop of Arras, M. de Conzié, appointed him criminal judge in the diocese of Arras in March 1782. This appointment, which he soon resigned, to avoid pronouncing a sentence of death, did not prevent his practising at the bar, and he speedily became a successful advocate. He now turned to literature and society, and came to be esteemed as one of the best writers and most popular dandies of Arras. In December 1783 he was elected a member of the academy of Arras, the meetings of which he attended regularly; and, like all other young Frenchmen with literary proclivities, he began to compete for the prizes offered by various provincial academies. In 1784 he obtained a medal from the academy of Metz for his essay on the question whether the relatives of a condemned criminal should share his disgrace, the prize being divided between him and Pierre Louis Lacretelle, an advocate and journalist in Paris. An éloge on J. B. L. Gresset (1709-1777), the author of Vert-Vert and Le Méchant, written for the academy of Amiens in 1785, was not more successful; but Robespierre was compensated for these failures by his great popularity in the little literary and musical society at Arras known as the “Rosati,” of which Carnot was also a member. There the sympathetic quality of Robespierre's voice, which afterwards did him such good service in the Jacobin Club, always caused his indifferent verses to be loudly applauded by his friends.

In 1788 he took part in the discussion as to the way in which the states-general should be elected, showing clearly and forcibly in his Adresse à la nation artésienne that, if the former mode of election by the members of the provincial estates were again adopted, the new states-general would not represent the people of France. Necker also perceived this, and therefore determined to make the old royal bailliages and sénéchaussées the units of election, which thus took place on the basis of almost universal suffrage. Under this plan the city of Arras was to return twenty-four members to the assembly of the bailliage of Artois, which was to elect the deputies. The corporation claimed the right to a preponderating influence in these city elections, and Robespierre headed the opposition, making himself very conspicuous and drawing up the cahier, or table of complaints and grievances, for the gild of the cobblers. Although the leading members of the corporation were elected, their chief opponent succeeded in getting elected with them. In the assembly of the bailliage rivalry ran still higher, but Robespierre had already made his mark in politics; by the Avis aux habitants de Campagne (Arras, 1789), which is almost certainly by him, he secured the support of the country electors, and, though but thirty years of age, poor and without influence, he was elected fifth deputy of the tiers état of Artois to the states-general.

When the states-general met at Versailles on 5th May 1789, the young deputy of Artois already possessed the one faculty which was to lead him to supremacy: he was a fanatic. As Mirabeau is reported to have said: “That young man believes what he says: he will go far.” Without the courage and wide tolerance which make a statesman, without the greatest qualities of an orator, without the belief in himself which marks a great man, nervous, timid and suspicious, Robespierre yet believed in the doctrines of Rousseau with all his heart, and would have gone to death for them; and in the belief that they would eventually succeed and regenerate France and mankind, he was ready to work with unwearied patience. While the Constituent Assembly occupied itself in drawing up a constitution, Robespierre turned from the assembly of provincial lawyers and wealthy bourgeois to the people of Paris. However, he spoke frequently in the Constituent Assembly, and often with great success, and was eventually recognized as second only to Pétion de Villeneuve — if second to him — as a leader of the small body of the extreme left, — the thirty voices, as Mirabeau contemptuously called them. It is hardly necessary to examine minutely Robespierre's speeches and behaviour before 1791, when the death of Mirabeau left the way clear for the influence of his party; but what is noteworthy, as proving the religious cast of his mind and his belief in the necessity of a religion, is that he spoke several times in favour of the lower clergy and laboured to get their pensions increased. When he instinctively felt that his doctrines would have no success in the Assembly, he turned to the Society of the Friends of the Constitution, known [ 417 ] later as the Jacobin Club, which had consisted originally of the Breton deputies only, but which, after the Assembly moved to Paris, began to admit among its members various leaders of the Parisian bourgeoisie. As time went on, many of the more intelligent artisans and small shopkeepers became members of the club, and among such men Robespierre found the hearers he sought. They did more than listen to him: they idolized him; the fanatical leader had found followers. As the wealthier bourgeois of Paris and deputies of a more moderate type seceded to the club of '89, the influence of the old leaders of the Jacobins (Barnave, Duport, Alexandre de Lameth) diminished; and when they themselves, alarmed at the progress of the Revolution, founded the club of the Feuillants in 1791, the followers of Robespierre dominated the Jacobin Club. The death of Mirabeau strengthened Robespierre's influence in the Assembly; but on the 15th of May 1791 he proved his lack of statesmanlike insight and his jealous suspicion of his colleagues by proposing and carrying the motion that no deputies who sat in the Constituent could sit in the succeeding Assembly. The flight of the king on the 20th of June and his arrest at Varennes made Robespierre declare himself at the Jacobin Club to be ni monarchiste ni républicain. After the “massacre” of the Champ de Mars (on the 17th of July 1791) he established himself, in order to be nearer to the Assembly and the Jacobins, in the house of Duplay, a cabinetmaker in the Rue St Honoré, and an ardent admirer of his, where he lived (with but two short intervals) till his death. At last came his day of triumph, when on the 30th of September, on the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the people of Paris crowned Pétion and himself as the two incorruptible patriots.

On the dissolution of the Assembly he returned for a short visit to Arras, where he met with a triumphant reception. In November he returned to Paris, and on the 18th of December made a speech which marks a new epoch in his life. Brissot de Warville, the âme politique of the Girondin party which had been formed in the Legislative Assembly, urged vehemently that war should be declared against Austria, and the queen was equally urgent, in the hope that a victorious army might restore the old absolutism of the Bourbons. Two men opposed the projects of the queen and the Girondins — Marat and Robespierre. Robespierre feared a development of militarism, which might be turned to the advantage of the reaction. This opposition from those whom they had expected to aid them irritated the Girondins greatly, and from that moment began the struggle which ended in the coups d'état of the 31st of May and the 2nd of June 1793. Robespierre persisted in his opposition to the war; the Girondins, especially Brissot, attacked him violently; and in April 1792, he resigned the post of public prosecutor at the tribunal of Paris, which he had held since February, and started a journal, Le Défenseur de la Constitution, in his own defence. It is noteworthy that during the summer months of 1792 in which the fate of the Bourbon dynasty was being sealed, neither the Girondins in the Legislative Assembly nor Robespierre took any active part in overthrowing it. Stronger men with practical instincts of statesmanship, tike Danton and Billaud-Varenne, who dared to look facts in the face and take the responsibility of doing while others were talking, were the men who made the 10th of August and took the Tuileries. The Girondins, however, were quite ready to take advantage of the accomplished fact; and Robespierre, likewise, though shocked at the shedding of blood, was willing to take his seat on the Commune of Paris, which had overthrown Louis XVI., and might check the Girondins. The strong men of the Commune were glad to have Robespierre's assistance, not because they cared for him or believed in him, but because of the help got from his popularity, his reputation for virtue, which had won for him the surname of “The Incorruptible,” and his influence over the Jacobin Club and its branches, which spread all over France. He it was who presented the petition of the Commune of Paris on 16th August to the Legislative Assembly, demanding the establishment of a revolutionary tribunal and the summoning of a Convention. The massacres of September in the prisons, which Robespierre in vain attempted to stop, showed that the Commune had more confidence in Billaud than in him. Yet, as a proof of his personal popularity, he was a few days later elected first deputy for Paris to the National Convention.

On the meeting of the Convention the Girondins immediately attacked Robespierre; they were jealous of his influence in Paris, and knew that his single-hearted fanaticism would never forgive their intrigues with the king at the end of July. As early as the 26th of September the Girondin M. D. A. Lasource accused him of aiming at the dictatorship; afterwards he was informed that Marat, Danton and himself were plotting to become triumvirs; and eventually on the 29th of October Louvet de Couvrai attacked him in a studied and declamatory harangue, abounding in ridiculous falsehoods and obviously concocted in Madame Roland's boudoir. But Robespierre had no difficulty in rebutting this attack (5th of November), while he denounced the federalist plans of the Girondins. All personal disputes, however, gave way by the month of December 1792 before the great question of the king's trial, and here Robespierre took up a position which is at least easily understood. These are his words spoken on the 3rd of December: “This is no trial; Louis is not a prisoner at the bar; you are not judges; you are — you cannot but be — statesmen, and the representatives of the nation. You have not to pass sentence for or against a single man, but you have to take a resolution on a question of the public safety, and to decide a question of national foresight. It is with regret that I pronounce the fatal truth: Louis ought to perish rather than a hundred thousand virtuous citizens; Louis must die, that the country may live.” This great question settled by the king's execution, the struggle between Robespierre and the Girondins entered upon a more acute stage, and the want of statesmanship among the latter threw upon the side of the fanatical Robespierre Danton and all those strong practical men who cared little for personal questions, and whose only desire was the victory of France in her great struggle with Europe. Had it been at all possible to act with that group of men of genius whom history calls the Girondins, Danton, Lazare Carnot, Robert Lindet, and even Billaud-Varenne, would have sooner thrown in their lot with them than with Robespierre, whom they thoroughly understood; but the Girondins, spurred on by Madame Roland, refused to have anything to do with Danton. Government became impossible; the federalist idea, which would have broken France to pieces in the very face of the enemy, grew and flourished, and the men of action had to take a decided part. In the month of May 1793 Camille Desmoulins, acting under the inspiration of Robespierre and Danton, published his Histoire des Brissotins and Brissot démasqué; Maximin Isnard declared that Paris must be destroyed if it pronounced itself against the provincial deputies; Robespierre preached insurrection at the Jacobin Club; and on the 31st of May and the 2nd of June the Commune of Paris destroyed the Girondin party. For a moment it seemed as if France would avenge them; but patriotism was stronger than federalism. The defence of Lyons exasperated the men who were working for France, and the armies who were fighting for her, and on the 27th of July 1793, when the struggle was practically decided, the Convention elected Robespierre to the new Committee of Public Safety. He had not solicited, so it seems, nor even desired this election, yet it marks an important epoch, not only in the life of Robespierre, but in the history of the Revolution. Danton and the men of action had throughout the last two years of the crisis, as Mirabeau had in the first two years, seen that the one great need of France, if she was to see the end of her troubles without the interference of foreign armies, was the existence of a strong executive government. The means for establishing the much-needed strong executive were found in the Committee of Public Safety. The success of this Committee in suppressing the Norman insurrection had confirmed the majority of the Convention in the expediency of strengthening its powers, and the Committee of General [ 418 ] Security which sat beside it was also strengthened and given the entire management of the internal police of the country. It was not until Robespierre was elected to the Committee that he became one of the actual rulers of France. Indeed, the Committee was not finally constituted until the 13th of September, when the last two of the “great” twelve who held office until July 1794 were elected. Of these twelve at least seven — Lazare Carnot, Billaud-Varenne, Collot d'Herbois, Prieur Duvernois (of the Marne), Prieur (of the Côte d'Or), Jean Bon Saint-André and Robert Lindet — were essentially men of action, and were entirely free from the influence of Robespierre. Of the other four, Hérault de Séchelles was a professed adherent of Danton, Barère de Vieuzac was an eloquent Provençal, who was ready to be the spokesman to the Convention of any view which the majority of the Committee might adopt; and only Georges Couthon and Saint-Just, devoted to Robespierre, adroitly sustained his policy. It is necessary to dwell upon the fact that Robespierre was always in a minority in the great Committee in order to absolve him from the blame of being the inventor of the Terror, as well as to deprive him of the glory of the gallant stand made against Europe in arms.

After this examination of Robespierre's position it is not necessary to investigate closely every act of the great Committee during the year which was pre-eminently the year of the Terror; the biographer is rather called upon to examine his personal position with regard to the establishment of the Terror and the fall of the Hébertists and Dantonists, and then to dwell upon the last three months in which he stood almost alone trying to work up an effective counterbalance to the power of the majority of the great Committee. The Terror was the embodiment of the idea of Danton, that it was necessary to have resort to extreme measures to keep France united and strong at home in order to meet successfully her enemies upon the frontier. This idea was systematized by the Committee of Public Safety. With the actual organization of the Terror Robespierre had little or nothing to do; its two great engines, the revolutionary tribunal and the almost absolute power in the provinces of the representatives on mission, were in existence before he joined the Committee of Public Safety, and the laws of the maximum and of the suspects were by no means of his creation. The reason why he is almost universally regarded as its creator and the dominant spirit in the Committee is not hard to discover. Men like Lazare Carnot and Billaud-Varenne were not conspicuous speakers in the Convention, nor were they the idols of any section of the populace; but Robespierre had a fanatical following among the Jacobins and was one of the most popular orators in the Convention, on which his carefully prepared addresses often made a deep impression. His panegyrics on the system of revolutionary government and his praise of virtue led his hearers to believe that the system of the Terror, instead of being monstrous, was absolutely laudable; his pure life and admitted incorruptibility threw a lustre on the Committee of which he was a member; and his colleagues offered no opposition to his posing as their representative and reflecting some of his personal popularity upon them so long as he did not interfere with their work. Moreover, he alone never left Paris, whilst all the others, except Barère, were constantly engaged on missions to the armies, the navy and the provinces. It has been asserted that Robespierre, Couthon and Saint-Just took upon themselves the direction of “la haute politique,” while the other members acted only in subordinate capacities; undoubtedly it would have suited Robespierre to have had this believed, but as a matter of fact he was in no way especially trusted in matters of supreme importance.

After this explanation it may be said at once that Robespierre was not the sole author of the overthrow of the Dantonists and the Hébertists, though he thoroughly agreed with the majority and had no desire to save them, the principles of both parties being obnoxious to him. The Hébertists were communists in the true meaning of the word. They held that each commune should be self-governing, and, while admitting the right of a central authority to levy men and money for the purposes of the state, they believed that in purely internal matters, as well as in determining the mode in which men and money were to be raised, the local government ought to be supreme. This position of the Hébertists was of course obnoxious to the Committee, who believed that success could only be won by their retention of absolute power; and in the winter of 1794-1795 it became obvious that the Hébertist party must perish, or its opposition to the Committee would grow too formidable owing to its paramount influence in the Commune of Paris. Robespierre shared his colleagues' fear of the Hébertist opinions, and he had a personal reason for disliking that party of atheists and sansculottes, since he believed in the necessity of religious faith, and detested their imitation of the grossness that belongs to the lowest class of the populace. In 1792 he had indignantly thrown from him the cap of liberty which an ardent admirer had placed upon his head; he had never pandered to the depraved tastes of the mob by using their language; and to the last day of his life he wore knee-breeches and silk stockings and wore his hair powdered. His position towards the Dantonist party was of a different character. After having seen established the strong executive he had laboured for, and having moved the resolutions which finally consolidated the power of the Committee of Public Safety in September 1793, Danton retired to his country house. But to his retreat came the news of the means the Committee used to maintain their supremacy. Danton did not believe that this continuous series of sacrifices under the guillotine was necessary, especially since the danger to the country had passed away with the victories of the revolutionary army; hence he inspired Camille Desmoulins to protest against the Terror in the Vieux Cordelier. Where is this system of terror to end? What is the good of a tyranny comparable only to that of the Roman emperors as described by Tacitus? Such were the questions which Camille Desmoulins asked under Danton's inspiration. This “moderantism,” as it was called, was as objectionable to the members of the Committee as the doctrines of the Hébertists. Both parties must be crushed. Before the blows at the leaders of those two parties were struck, Robespierre retired for a month (from 13th February to 13th March 1794) from active business in the Convention and the Committee, apparently to consider his position; but he came to the conclusion that the cessation of the Reign of Terror would mean the loss of that supremacy by which he hoped to establish the ideal of Rousseau; for Danton, he knew, was essentially a practical statesman and laughed at his ideas and especially his politico-religious projects. He must have considered too that the result of his siding with Danton would probably have been fatal to himself. The result of his deliberations was that he abandoned Danton and co-operated in the attacks of the Committee on the two parties. On the 15th of March he reappeared in the Convention; on the 19th Hébert and his friends were arrested; and on the 24th they were guillotined. On the 30th of March Danton, Camille Desmoulins and their friends were arrested, and on the 5th of April they too were guillotined.

It was not until after the execution of Danton that Robespierre began to develop a policy distinct from that of his colleagues in the Committee, an opposition which ended in his downfall. He began by using his influence over the Jacobin Club to dominate the Commune of Paris through his devoted adherents, two of whom, Fleuriot-Lescot and C. F. de Payan, were elected respectively mayor and procureur of the Commune. He also attempted to usurp the influence of the other members of the Committee over the armies by getting his young adherent, Saint-Just, sent on a mission to the frontier. In Paris Robespierre determined to increase the pressure of the Terror: no one should accuse him of moderantism; through the increased efficiency of the revolutionary tribunal Paris should tremble before him as the chief member of the Committee; and the Convention should pass whatever measures he might dictate. To secure his aims, Couthon, his other ally in the Committee, [ 419 ] proposed and carried on the 10th of June the outrageous law of 22nd Prairial, by which even the appearance of justice was taken from the tribunal, which, as no witnesses were allowed, became a simple court of condemnation. The result of this law was that between the 12th of June and the 28th of July, the day of Robespierre's death, no less than 1285 victims perished by the guillotine in Paris. It was the bloodiest and the least justifiable period of the Terror. But before this there had taken place in Robespierre's life an episode of supreme importance, as illustrating his character and his political aims: on the 7th of May he secured a decree from the Convention recognizing the existence of the Supreme Being. This worship of the Supreme Being was based upon the ideas of Rousseau in the Social Contract, and was opposed by Robespierre to Catholicism on the one hand and the Hébertist atheism on the other. In honour of the Supreme Being a great fête was held on the 8th of June; Robespierre, as president of the Convention, walked first and delivered his harangue, and as he looked around him he may well have believed that his position was secured and that he was at last within reach of a supreme power which should enable him to impose his belief on all France, and so ensure its happiness. The majority of the Committee found his popularity — or rather his ascendancy, for as that increased his personal popularity diminished — useful to them, since by increasing the stringency of the Terror he strengthened the position of the Committee, whilst attracting to himself, as occupying the most prominent position in it, any latent feeling of dissatisfaction at such stringency. Of the issue of a struggle between themselves and Robespierre they had little fear: they controlled the Committee of General Security through their alliance with its leaders, André Amar and Marc Guillaume Alexis Vadier; they were hopeful of obtaining a majority in the Convention; for they knew that the chief deputies on the left, or “the Mountain,” were Dantonists, who burned to avenge Danton's death; while they felt sure also that the mass of the deputies of the centre, or “the Marsh,” could be hounded on against Robespierre if they were to accuse him of aiming at the dictatorship and pour on him the obloquy of having increased the Terror when victory on the frontier rendered it less necessary; and they knew finally that his actual adherents, though devoted to him, were few in number. The devotion of these admirers had been further excited by the news that a half-witted girl, named Cécile Renault, had been found wandering near his house, with a knife in her possession, intending to play the part of Charlotte Corday. She was executed on the 17th of June, on the very day that Vadier raised a laugh at Robespierre's expense in the Convention by his report on the conspiracy of Catherine Théot (q.v.), a mad woman, who had asserted that Robespierre was a divinity.

Robespierre felt that he must strike his blow now or never. Yet he was not sufficiently audacious to strike at once, as Payan and Jean Baptiste Coffinhal, the ablest of his adherents, would have had him do, but retired from the Convention for some weeks, as he had done before the overthrow of the Hébertists and the Dantonists, to prepare his plan of action. This retirement seemed ominous to the majority of the Committee, and they too prepared for the struggle by communicating with the deputies of the Mountain, who were either friends of Danton or men of proved energy like Barras, Fréron and Tallien. These weeks, the last of his life, Robespierre passed very peacefully, according to his wont all through the Revolution. He continued to live with the Duplays, with whose daughter Éléonore he had fallen in love, and used to wander with her and his favourite dog, a great Danish hound, named Bruant, in the Champs Élysées during the long summer evenings. At last, on the 26th of July, Robespierre appeared, for the first time for more than four weeks, in the Convention and delivered a carefully studied harangue, which lasted for more than four hours, in which he declared that the Terror ought to be ended, that certain deputies who had acted unjustly and exceeded their powers ought to be punished, and that the Committees of Public Safety and General Security ought to be renewed. Great was the excitement in the Convention: all wondered who were the deputies destined to be punished; all were surprised that the Terror should be imputed as a fault to the very Committee of which Robespierre had been a member. The majority of the Committee of Public Safety determined to act promptly. The Convention, moved by Robespierre's eloquence, at first passed his motions; but he was replied to by Joseph Cambon the financier, Billaud-Varenne, Amar and Vadier, and the Convention rescinded their decrees and referred Robespierre's question to their committees. On the following day, the 27th of July, or in the revolutionary calendar the 9th Thermidor, Saint-Just began to speak on behalf of the motions of Robespierre, when violent interruptions showed the temper of the Convention. Jean Lambert, Tallien, Billaud-Varenne and Vadier again attacked Robespierre; cries of “Down with the tyrant!” were raised; and, when Robespierre hesitated in his speech in answer to these attacks, the words “C'est le sang de Danton qui t'étouffe” showed what was uppermost in the minds of the Mountain. Robespierre tried in vain to gain a hearing, the excitement increased and at five in the afternoon Robespierre, Couthon and Saint-Just, with two young deputies, Augustin Robespierre (younger brother of Maximilien) and Philippe François Joseph Lebas, the only men in all the Convention who supported them, were ordered to be arrested. Yet all hope for Robespierre was not gone; he was speedily rescued from his prison, with the other deputies, by the troops of the Commune and brought to the Hôtel de Ville. There he was surrounded by his faithful adherents, led by Payan and Coffinhal. But the day was past when the Commune could overawe the Convention; for now the men of action were hostile to the Commune, and its chief was not a master of coups d'état. On the news of the release of Robespierre, the Convention had again met, and declared the members of the Commune and the released deputies outlawed. The national guards under the command of Barras had little difficulty in making their way to the Hôtel de Ville; Robespierre was shot in the lower jaw by a young gendarme named Meda while signing an appeal to one of the sections of Paris to take up arms for him, though the wound was afterwards believed to have been inflicted by himself; and all the released deputies were again arrested. After a night of agony, Robespierre was the next day taken before the tribunal, where his identity as an outlaw was proved, and without further trial he was executed with Couthon and Saint-Just and nineteen others of his adherents on the Place de la Révolution on the 10th Thermidor (28th July) 1794.

The character of Robespierre, when looked upon simply in the light of his actions and his authenticated speeches, and apart from the innumerable legends which have grown up about it, is not a difficult one to understand. A well-educated and accomplished young lawyer, he might have acquired a good provincial practice and lived a happy provincial life had it not been for the Revolution. Like thousands of other young Frenchmen, he had read the works of Rousseau and taken them as gospel. Just at the very time in life when this illusion had not been destroyed by the realities of life, and without the experience which might have taught the futility of idle dreams and theories, he was elected to the states-general. At Paris he was not understood till he met with his audience of fellow disciples of Rousseau at the Jacobin Club. His fanaticism won him supporters; his singularly sweet and sympathetic voice gained him hearers; and his upright life attracted the admiration of all. As matters approached nearer and nearer to the terrible crisis, he failed, except in the two instances of the question of war and of the king's trial, to show himself a statesman, for he had not the liberal views and practical instincts which made Mirabeau and Danton great men. His admission to the Committee of Public Safety gave him power, which he hoped to use for the establishment of his favourite theories, and for the same purpose he acquiesced in and even heightened the horrors of the Reign of Terror. It is here that the fatal mistake of allowing a theorist to have power appeared: [ 420 ] Billaud-Varenne systematized the Terror because he believed it necessary for the safety of the country; Robespierre intensified it in order to carry out his own ideas and theories. Robespierre's private life was always respectable: he was always emphatically a gentleman and man of culture, and even a little bit of a dandy, scrupulously honest, truthful and charitable. In his habits and manner of life he was simple and laborious; he was not a man gifted with flashes of genius, but one who had to think much before he could come to a decision, and he worked hard all his life.

On the family of Robespierre see A. J. Paris in the Mémoires (2nd series, vol. iii.) of the Academy of Arras; the Œuvres de Maximilien Robespierre (3 vols., 1840), published by Laponneraye with preface by Armand Carrel, contain some of his speeches and the memoirs of Charlotte Robespierre on her brothers. The standard work on Robespierre's career is Ernest Hamel, Histoire de Robespierre d'apres des papiers de famille, les sources originales et des documents entièrement inédits (3 vols., 1865-67). After the appearance of the first volume, the publisher refused to proceed for fear of prosecution until compelled to do so by the author. Another edition with a different title appeared in 1878. See also Ch. d'Hericault, La Révolution de Thermidor (and ed., 1878); Karl Brunnemann, Maximilian Robespierre (Leipzig, 1880); F. A. Aulard, Les Orateurs de l'Assemblée Constituante (1882); M. de Lescure, “Le Roman de Robespierre,” in La Société française pendant la Terreur (1882); E. Hamel, La Maison de Robespierre (1895); Hilaire Belloc, Robespierre (1901); and C. F. Warwick, Robespierre and the French Revolution (1909). Many of the books which have been written about Robespierre are most untrustworthy, and the picture of him given by Thomas Carlyle in his French Revolution is unjust.