Robespierre’s Fundamental Ideas

Robespierre strongly believed that moral principles were the only way to end political evil.  His idea of a good government was a government based on ethics rather than how effective of useful the government’s actions are.  Therefore, whatever was immoral was also impolitic.  According to Robespierre one can find these ethical principles in the good of man.  He believed that the laws of virtue were written in the heart of men, instead of the natural goodness of an individual.  His main political argument was that the true embodiment of principles of virtue was in the “people” not men as individuals.  In order to understand Robespierre’s thinking, one must understand his definition of virtue.  In our society we think of virtue as behavior of high moral standards, but Robespierre defined virtue as a word describing those who have a love for their country.  To love one’s country really meant to love the people.  Based on this reasoning, the exchange of democracy taking a monarch’s place was a logical conclusion.  Robespierre believed that political virtue would prevail if the people had a love for their country, and that the sovereignty of the people was recognized.  Robespierre could maintain this theoretical consistency only if he defined virtue in terms of the people’s sovereignty.  These ideas were the main focus of his entire political system.

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One Response to Robespierre’s Fundamental Ideas

  1. CarriganM says:

    It’s ironic that Robespierre believed in ending “political evil” when he himself was engaged in a campaign to silence all political dissidents through the guillotine. His morals were very skewed, to say the least. He tried to love his country and his people, but the love of a leader must be called into question when he kills up to 40,000 of his own people. Even in his definition of virtue, it could be said that Robespierre is virtueless. Also ironic is his replacement of a monarch with the Committee of Public Safety, which had the power to kill at will, wage war, and was essentially a dictatorship of Robespierre himself.

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