Skip to content

Egalitarian Justice provides safe-spaces where “the end justifies the means” …


On the 5th of September 1793, the Reign of Terror began and The Revolutionary Tribunal had ordered the execution of 2,400 people in Paris by July 1794.  Across France 30,000 people had lost their lives.

The Terror was designed to fight the enemies of the revolution, to prevent counter-revolution from gaining ground. Most of the people rounded up were not aristocrats, but ordinary people. For example, a man (and his family) might go to the guillotine  for saying something politically incorrect or critical of the revolutionary government.

Watch Committees “to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set” and as a type of ‘”civilian national security force’” were established around the nation and encouraged to arrest “suspected persons, … those who, either by their conduct or their relationships, by their remarks or by their writing, are shown to be partisans of tyranny and federalism and enemies of liberty” (Law of Suspects, 1793).

Civil liberties were suspended. The promises of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen) of 1789 were forgotten. Terror was the order of the day.

Maximilien Robespierre was the mastermind behind this Reign of Terror. He was the bureaucratic leader of the Committee of Public Safety, the executive committee of the National Convention, and the most powerful man in France. However, when he called for a new purge in 1794, he was arrested by the Jacobins and promptly sent to the guillotine the next day. Whether it was divine irony, karma, or poetic justice, it was Robespierre himself that became last victim of the Reign of Terror.

If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible…It has been said that terror is the principle of despotic government. Does your government therefore resemble despotism? Yes, as the sword that gleams in the hands of the heroes of liberty resembles that with which the henchmen of tyranny are armed.

~ Maximilien Robespierre, Speech on the Justification of the Use of Terror

The maxim “the end justifies the means” clearly describes how Robespierre’s policy eventually played itself out.

Even now, in the 21st Century, we should recognize that ‘revolutions’ giving individuals or ochlocracies absolute power and control inevitably end up as brutal totalitarian dictatorships.  In this sense, George Santayana’s insight that ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’ has a ring of truth to it.  At least for the individual able to recognize it for what it is.

Also true to form; Time doesn’t necessarily change things, except may be the methods by which they are done.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s