Georges Danton - Wikipedia
Georges Jacques Danton was a leading figure in the early stages of the French Revolution, .. Danton's and Robespierre's relations were also the subject of an opera by American composer John Eaton, Danton and Robespierre (). Georges Danton, portrait by Constance-Marie Charpentier; in the Musée . They were challenging not only the system of the terror of Robespierre but the whole. No relationship in the French Revolution offers more eloquent testimony to the power of The political confrontations between Danton and Robespierre had a.
Robespierre is a Rousseauvian par excellence: I want to follow your venerable path, though I may leave nothing but a name of which centuries to come shall be wholly incurious. The revolution could have stopped at the first stage with France becoming a constitutional monarchy. Montesquieu was a pragmatist who was primarily interested in balancing competing interests of various social groups.
He believed that such a balance could be achieved by the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers. Rousseau had a completely different perspective on society. He advocated the total sovereignty of the state whose apparatus was the emanation of the will of the people. The general will was one and indivisible. Once properly recognised, there was no need for checks and balances in the political system because the realisation of the general will would lead to universal happiness of the people living in a harmonious society.
Everything should be so organised as to enhance the effectiveness of the moral will of the community as a whole …. Is it still the Enlightenment or the beginning of Romanticism in politics? Robespierre was a political maximalist, driven by the desire to shape the society according to Rousseauvian principles.
The Reign of Terror | HowStuffWorks
The goal was the Republic of Virtue and there was no sacrifice big enough to divert Robespierre from this path. For him, ideas preceded reality which was moulded by visionary men of great will. Robespierre was a visionary politician — Manichaean and millenarist. Those who did not share his views were the enemies of the republic and had to be physically eliminated.
During the revolution, the guillotine became a tool of political pedagogy. Robespierre was a gardener. His garden was the French society, his ideas were seeds which had to be fertilised by blood, and dead branches had be cut off lest they poison the body politic.
Only then the Republic of Virtue would blossom. Revolutionary violence was methodical, purposeful and impersonal. The fate of individuals mattered only as much as they acted according to the Zeitgeist. The bigger the goal of the revolution, the greater the acceptance of the means leading to it. Hence the ferocity and radicalism of the revolution.
Murder was a political necessity. King Louis XVI had to die because he was not only the monarch but the monarchy itself. For the institution to die, he had to die as a an individual. An then his wife, Marie Antoinette, had to die too.
- How the French Revolution Worked
- Georges Danton
- Augustin Robespierre
Their year old son, Louis Charles, died in prison, officially from tuberculosis. The murder was necessary for subjects to be turned into citizens. This was the case of solidarity of murderers. Regicide also created a point of no return. The dead king could not be liberated by royalists and restored to power. The murder of the divinely anointed monarch marked the beginning of a new world. Monarchy was first desacralised and then eliminated so the Republic could be sacralised.
A new calendar was introduced. The year ofwhen the Republic was proclaimed, was the first year of the new world not only for France but also for all humanity. There was no longer divine sanction for politics which was replaced by metaphysical sanction coming from the will of the people. Robespierre was surprisingly open about the use of terror to institute the Republic of Virtue. If the strength of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the strength of popular government in revolution is both virtue and terror; terror without virtue is disastrous, virtue without terror is powerless.
Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue. He was not an atheist — his vision was to seek secularised eschatology but he found little understanding for his attempt to elevate Reason to the sphere of metaphysics. Reason was celebrated in mass gatherings but without enthusiasm among the populace.
The revolution was a case of self-radicalisation at an ever increasing pace. They will end up by drowning the Revolution. During the Convention, Danton had even spoken in favor of eventually ending the Terror. Twice he had approached Robespierre, but no agreement could be made. Robespierre denied that any innocent people had perished and insisted that Danton's concern for suspects was proof of his own lax principles. The Revolution, according to Robespierre, is the war of liberty against its enemies, and the constitution is the regime of victorIous and peace-loving liberty.
Robespierre strongly believed that the Terror should be increased in intensity, rather then diminished, in order to assure the establishment of a permanent constitutional government. Since Robespierre's conception of the Terror was its infallibility in all matters of justice, Danton was seriously questioning a fundamental tenet of Robespierre's nationalist philosophy that the "nation could do no wrong.
Danton seemed to prefer toleration and a return to pre-Revolutionary France. Their decision that the Terror should be maintained was simply a time judgement because both intended to end the Terror after Revolutionary justice had been applied to ease the wounds of the nation.
Although the two politicians had a sense of immortality and constant approval, Englishmen such as W. Miles believed that Robespierre and Danton were just leaders as long as they remained loyal to liberty, but they would be overthrown if they betrayed the cause of liberty. He did not agree that individuals should be denounced at random without any kind of proof.
According to Paine, the Terror undermined and destroyed all trust, not to mention all confidence and authority that had already been created. While the Dantonists wanted the French royalty to return, Robespierre declared that all kings and aristocrats were slaves rebelling against the people. Robespierre went further to add that all enemies of liberty should be annihilated to uphold the rights of man.
With Danton's plan to recall the noblemen, Robespierre scoffed at him and said, "Show consideration for the Royalists. You should have compassion with the innocent and the weak. Given their numerous differences in personality and ideology, Robespierre and Danton were destined to confront one another.
Robespierre definitely considered the Dantonists to be enemies of the Revolution because they proposed a form of government not based upon virtue.
Robespierre connected the government with the welfare of France and considered any assauit upon the government as an attack upon the nation. As Robespierre listened, he was convinced that Danton was pushing for leadership in a post-Terror government.
If Robespierre did not counter-attack quickly, the Dantonists could seize control of the National Convention and bring an end to his Republic of Virtue. He planned to convict Danton and his followers on false charges of treason and other unpatriotic acts.
During the week preceding Danton's arrest, Robespierre cautiously moved his agents into vacancies in the government created by previously eliminated factions. All sides of the trap were carefully tested so that Danton could not escape.
In the solitude of his room, Robespierre began to construct the charges that would secure Danton's head. He wrote phrases and ideas, rather than clear sentences, in order to protect himself from possible incrimination. All but two signed the warrant for arrest of Danton, and the order was carried out the same night. Danton, and his associates, shall be apprehended, taken up and arrested wherever they may be found. Their names will be entered in the jail-book of the register of the Luxembourg house of detention, where they shall remain in prison until arraignment upon the decree of accusations.
He was soon joined by his followers and kept under close confinement until their trial began. The Dantonists, in Robespierre's eyes, had become false patriots who had preferred personal and foreign interests to the welfare of the nation.
The trial was as great a farce as the charges. Robespierre took every precaution to assure Danton's condemnation. There were no witnesses, because the "proof" rested largely in Robespierre's accusations.
However, the charges were scarcely credible. Robespierre's belief that Danton was involved in plots against France was impossible to prove and hardly believable.
The charges became even more ridiculous when Robespierre accused Danton of being an enemy of virtue and not being patriotic enough. Once again Robespierre demonstrated his belief that anything contrary to the Republic of Virtue was a crime against France.
Robespierre's picture of Danton was a travesty of logic and justice. One by one, Danton began to answer to Saint-Just's charges, reducing them to a concoction of lies and gossip. He spoke for over an hour and, before he was through, it became apparent to the whole court, audience and participants alike, that the charges could not possibly be sustained.
The President was so afraid that the crowd might take the prisoner's side that he adjourned the session, with the excuse that Danton must be tired.
After adjournment, a report was spread through Paris that Danton was to be acquitted, and, on the following day, the rest of the Dantonists would be allowed to defend their actions. Thus, the Dantonists were not allowed to further defend themselves, and the trial became dominated by Robespierre. Danton expressed his indignation at the injustice and the tyranny of their trial. Danton cried out, "We are to be condemned without a hearing! There is no need for the jury to deliberate.
We have lived long enough to be content to slumber in the bosom of glory. Take us to the scaffold! In the verdict, five days later, these charges were condensed into two. Six of the prisoners were found guilty of a conspiracy aiming at the re-establishment of the monarchy and the destruction of the national representation and republican government.
One was acquitted, while the other nine were guilty of a conspiracy aiming at discrediting and debasing the national representation and destroying by corruption the Republican government.
Your house shall be beaten down and sowed with salt. Time will never erase it from my memory. I perfectly comprehend the feeling which inspired Danton to utter his last words, those terrible words, that I could not hear, but which were repeated to me in trembling horror and admiration.
For five years Danton had been the champion of the Revolution, but the forces of Robespierre had given Danton the image of a traitor. Since Danton's head had fallen, Robespierre was making no mistake in believing that his life was now, more than ever, in danger.
First, the Girondins had fallen, then the Hebertists, and, after Danton, Robespierre and all his followers were executed. The Revolution had eaten its children and destroyed the Republic of Virtue. Robespierre's most serious rival was Danton. During the Revolution Danton was seen by many as an alternative to Robespierre. Danton had been in power two times during the Revolution. First, he was made Minister of Justice in the interim government that succeeded the destruction of the monarchy, and secondly, as one of the original members of the first Committee of Public Safety.
He had extensive friendships, a considerable personal following and unimpeachable Revolutionary credentials. The fact that such a man as Danton could be overthrown by the ruses and guile of Robespierre filled the National Convention with terror. No one could perceive himself free from accusation. Robespierre was a man full of pride and cunning, and an envious and vindictive being who surmounted obstacles and circumstances most appalling. His steadiness and control helped him ascend to the Committee of Public Safety, where he openly aspired to tyranny and dictatorship.
Robespierre, with the ability or luck to preserve his own popularity, seized the moment to destroy Danton, but in reality he destroyed himself. Robespierre wanted a Republic of Virtue based on his idealistic philosophy, while Danton wanted a Republic slightly different from pre-Revolutionary France.
The conflict brought these two powerful leaders together and caused their downfall. Robespierre was a man of philosophy, while Danton was a man of practicality. The deaths of Danton, and many other patriots, were inevitable because of the complex political struggles of late and early Perhaps had these two leaders merged their views, Danton and Robespierre might not have met their untimely demises and further bloodshed may have been avoided.
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Hilaire Belloc, Robespierre New York: Putnam's Sons, ,