Home  »  Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men  »  Maximilien Robespierre

S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Maximilien Robespierre

  • [Born at Arras, May 6, 1758; educated at Paris; member of the States-General and of the Convention; became chief of the Jacobins and of the “Mountain;” obtained the destruction of the king, of the Girondists, and of the Dantonists; president of the Committee of Public Safety in the Reign of Terror; denounced finally, and guillotined, July 28, 1794.]
  • Louis must die that the country may live (Louis doit mourir, parce qu’il faut que la patrie vive).

  • The truth which Robespierre said he pronounced with regret, Dec. 2, 1792,—a sentence as inexorable as the signal to an executioner. Neither regrets nor friendships could save the victims of the “sea-green Incorruptible,” as Carlyle calls him; the closest relations had bound him to Danton, but he declared, “If my friend is culpable, I will sacrifice him to the Republic.” Danton followed Louis. Nevertheless, Robespierre endeavored to remove an impression of cruelty. On the morning of the terrible massacre of September, 1792, he said, “I have had the weakness not to close my eyes; but Danton—he has slept.” Government was not for him. “I was not made to rule,” he said: “I was made to combat the enemies of the people.” Remorse is not supposed to have pursued him, yet such words as these are attributed to him: “What a memory I shall leave behind me if this lasts!”
  • The moderate men of the dominant faction, Barras, Tallien, etc., finally determined to stop the carnage of the Terror. When threatened in the Convention, and told that he had declared all his enemies guilty, Robespierre denied it; “And the proof is that you live,” he added, with a consciousness of the power he had wielded. Even in their death the Revolutionists compared themselves to the Greek and Roman patriots. “I am ready,” exclaimed Robespierre, “if necessary, to drink the cup of Socrates.” His words found an echo in his friend David, the ferocious painter of the Revolution: “I will drink the hemlock with thee!” (Je boirai la cigue avec toi!) When Garnier de l’Aube reproached the wounded Robespierre, who could only speak with a stifled voice, with being choked with the blood of Danton, he whispered, “Is it, then, Danton you regret? Cowards! why did you not defend him?” These were his last words in public.
  • That Robespierre attempted suicide is considered by Fournier as definitely settled in the negative, notwithstanding the sanction given to the opposite theory by Thiers’ “History of the French Revolution.” The report of the surgeons who dressed the wound showed that the ball which fractured the lower jaw took a course from left to right, and from above downwards. The pistol must, therefore, have been discharged by another person; and its testimony supports quoad hoc the assertion of the gendarme Méda, that he wounded the dictator.—L’Esprit, 402, note.
  • Among Robespierre’s notes was found this question: “When will the interests of governments be amalgamated with those of the people? Never!”