The radical leader of the Committee of Public Safety, Robespierre had fanatic and opinionated ideas and beliefs that made him a passionate leader. He believes that to safely go through the stormy revolution, the people’s behavior should be regulated by stormy circumstances, and their plans should be based on the combination of the spirit of revolutionary government and democracy. Virtue, the “fundamental principle of the democratic government,” was a strong factor of his viewpoint. He thinks that if there is no virtue in the government, then the people’s virtue can be a source, but when the people are corrupted too, there is no chance of winning liberty. These ideas did no harm; they were beneficial and very true.
However, he also had radical ideas that were appalling and that weren’t necessarily correct. In his opinion, the people should be lead by reason and the people’s enemies by terror. Robespierre also mentions that a popular government in revolution evolves from virtue and terror. This is his outlook on virtue and terror: “virtue, without terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless.” He says, “the characteristic of popular government is confidence in the people and severity towards itself.” In other words, the popular government has to have confidence in the people and be strict and severe with itself. According to him, terror is the principle of despotic government and he thinks that because of this, the despot may govern by terror his brutalized subjects and subdue by terror the enemies of liberty.
Even though these are only his opinions, his perspectives on the use of terror and ruthlessness led him to cause the Reign of Terror and ultimately led him to his execution on July 28, 1794. A revolution doesn’t necessarily have to include terror and the popular government does not have to be ruthless to its people, because then the revolutionaries may lose their supporters (or they may even revolt) and the radicals might have to face more enemies. This was true, because Robespierre’s former followers had him arrested and executed, and the day after the execution, everyone felt relieved. The famous radical leader’s attributes and beliefs led the country into terror and himself to his end.
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