These contrast the Terror in 18th century France with the early years of what would become the War on Ter One of the first things to notice about ‘In Defence of the Terror’ is that the provocative title is exclusive to the English edition.
These contrast the Terror in 18th century France with the early years of what would become the War on Terror in 21st century America.
Such was the utter condemnation of the Terror from essentially the moment Robespierre was dead onward through the centuries that explaining why it happened often seems to be equated with justifying it. This leads to an intellectually unsatisfactory tendency I call ‘Robespierre stole my parking space’.
In such cases, histories of the French revolution appear to place sole blame (and the tone is unequivocally blame) on Robespierre for masterminding the Terror, as if no such thing would have happened had he been elsewhere at the time.
The acts of those defeated by history became infamous for those of their heirs who might be of a mind to repeat them.
Even if they were understood - and Hugo’s ‘1793’ bears witness to this - no situation could lead to their repetition.
For two hundred years after the French Revolution, the Republican tradition celebrated the execution of princes and aristocrats, defending the Terror that the Revolution inflicted upon on its enemies.
But recent decades have brought a marked change in sensibility.
[St Just, 26th February 1794]The deputies of the primary assemblies have come to exercise among us the initiative of terror against domestic enemies. Do you not also have brothers, children, and wives to avenge?
The family of French legislators is the patrie; it is the entire human race apart from tyrants and their accomplices.