Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution is a book by Ruth Scurr. Scurr describes the life of Maximilien Robespierre. It describes how Maximilien Robespierre moved from being a lawyer to the politician. It explains his role in the Reign of terror. Maximilien Robespierre is the most known of all the members of the community that executed this reign.
In this question, there are three issues for analysis. First, is what the author means by the word ‘terror?’ Second, is how terror could save the revolution and finally is what the revolution needed saving from
When Scurr says, “Robespierre ... had long believed that terror was the only instrument capable of saving the Revolution." (Scurr 2012), terror meant several things. First, we have to understand the French Revolution. The French revolution was a period in French where there was political turmoil in the country. There were drastic changes that were taking place in the political and social scene. The revolution was against the monarchy of France amongst other things. The people were moving from the era where the oppression of the weak and the poor.
Robespierre was a firm believer of the revolution. He believed that they had to defeat those against the revolution. The revolution was a face to improve the conditions of the country. The author in the text above mentions terror in reference to the terror law and the terror reign.
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Terror was an aspect engraved in the law that was set to counter those who were against the revolution. The terror was to give strength to the revolutionists against the people who were resisting it. Robespierre did not believe in competition from the counter-revolutionists.
Terror use was because according to Scurr (2012), there was no parliament and the majority vote rule and democracy was not familiar to them. People with different opinions were rivals and conspirators. One has to understand that at that time, French was under monarchy, and the change in government was a quick shift. They were not ready for the modern democracy, and probably that was the only way they knew how to counter was by the severe consequences. Third, there was war with foreign. There was so much suspension and the country could not afford traitors. Terror was a straightening tool to ensure that there were no interferences. The main aim of terror was to horrify the enemies. It was a way to keep the revolution at the top of its game.
Robespierre believed that it was not right to delay justice, and delaying justice was equal to no justice at all.
Robespierre personally campaigned for terror and said it was necessary for smooth revolution to take place. Terror to him was more of a necessary evil because it was to be used for the benefit of all. Terror was to maintain the republic. The ends, therefore, would justify the means.
Terror could save the revolution by killing the competition. Most of the people found guilty, faced execution by death or imprisonment.
Dictatorship has all the time been able to achieve the goals of the government, whether the aims are selfish or not. Terror was like dictatorship. It was a law set yet the committee of public safety was harsh on the execution. Sometimes the judgment was unfair.
To answer the question from what, exactly, did the revolution need saving, there is a need for understanding the French Revolution.
Just as described by the author, the French wanted to redeem themselves from the current political and social status. There were people in support of the French Revolution and others opposing it. The revolutionist had taken over the governance, and they wanted their ideologies to happen. They could not afford to have the counter-revolutionists win the quest. The country needed transformation so that the lives of people would be better.
Max Robespierre was the head of a committee for public safety formed. This committee had the power to control the terror governance.
Robespierre used this position to eliminate the counter-revolutionist. According to the book, the revolution needed saving from those who were opposing the revolution. These included Aristocrats, uncooperative priests, monarchist politicians, unsuccessful generals, anyone too moderate or not extreme enough had their necks shaved by the guillotine. (Scurr 2012)
For Robespierre, the only way to achieve full revolution was only possible through eliminating those with opposing ideologies. He did that through execution of those who opposed the Revolution and even those who were suspects. According to him, the saving of the Revolution was greater and more influential than the life of a few people. Letting a suspect free was not an option even if not proven guilty. Many counter revolutionists died in prison due to the horrible conditions or through the ultimate execution.
Therefore, the terror reign was a good thing for Robespierre because he was eliminating evil for the good of the people. In other opinions, however, Robespierre over played his part and was a bloodthirsty leader who did not care fro lives. In his defense, that was a time of war. During a war, it was only reasonable to use war to counter. Horrifying the people into submission was his only way to win.
In the book, Fatal purity, the writer has tried all along to give a remarkably objective view of Robespierre’s life and the part he played in history. In her writing, the author attempts to determine the actual motives behind the reign of terror, which is almost synonymous to Maximilien Robespierre. Unlike many writers who have always condemned the leader as an overstepping one, this author has tried to analyze the humanitarian side of Robespierre.
The issues under analysis in this question include discussion of Maximilien Robespierre principles in trying to answer the question if he had any enduring principles. There is also the establishment as to whether he was a mere opportunist or even if he was a madman.
From Scurr's account, Maximilien Robespierre did have some enduring principles. The reign of terror existed because majorly because of his enduring principles. Robespierre valued strongly held to the idea of revolution to his death. The revolutionaries had ideologies that guided their actions. Robespierre was famous for speaking for the poor and fighting for equality. He persistently defended their rights. He defended the rights of blacks, slaves and Jews. He opposed the religious discrimination and the unfair royalty rule. . This is what led to him from practicing law into the world of politics. He stood up for issues like Christianity and strongly fought for its establishment. Robespierre dedicated his whole effort to stand for his principles.
Ironically, Robespierre was complex and time after time changed his decisions and explanations for his actions. There are incidences that made him look an undecided man who was not constant in his decisions. For instance in the issue of Christianity, at one time he was in support of it with all totality.
A few months later, he would dismiss the Religion and undermine its principles and importance.
Some people may interpret the actions of Robespierre as a leader who would expect the ethics bend to suit his situation. He advocated for the rights of all in equality, but at the same time, he did not give a fair trial to the same people. At times, he even executed them without trial.
Robespierre was a complex man who would be defined as both as an oppressor and one who fought for the right. He was a savior in some contexts and in other contexts a devil. It would be unfair to judge him on one scale and paint him as a man without enduring principals. On the other hand, it would not be entirely correct to say that he had enduring the principle. He was not the epitome revolutionist to say.
The account also shows that he was an opportunist. It is not justifiable to say that every leader takes the opportunity as it comes to suit their needs, but it is common. Ione may feel that Robespierre did all the things that he did as a leader to suit his own suit himself rather than to benefit the public. One may analyze his actions as a political strategy.
Robespierre used the terror terrain to eliminate his enemies (Scurr 2012). As much as his enemies were to the counter revolutionists, sometimes he eliminated his competitors for personal gains.
One may, conclude that this opportunistic aspect was for the general public interest.
From Scurr’s account of the life of even the author actually concludes that he a mad man. (Scurr 2012.) Robespierre identified too much with the French Revolution. He put all his effort and time to make it work. He was a psychopath. This is written clearly historically, when people hear of Terror reign, they directly associate it with him.
In the end of it all, his quest and the same devices that he used to execute the counter- revolutionist was the same that used to end his life. Robespierre died at a mere thirty six years (Scurr 2012)
This question analyzes Robespierre's nickname is "the incorruptible." For us to analyze if he was, in fact, incorruptible we have to understand, the context that had him given the name. Incorruptible as an English word means incapable of corruption: asnot subject to decay incapable of being bribed or morally corrupted [sic] (Merrium Webster Dictionary)
In other contexts, a person who kills is generally morally corrupted. In other definitions, a person who is committed to do something and is not subject to dissolution may be incorruptible. Robespierre got the name because he was determined and highly committed to the quest that he was on, the French revolution.
According to the reading of the book, and analysis of the text there would be two ways to answer that question. The first would be the amount of dedication to the quest that he was following. This would place him in the position of a surely incorruptible person.
Robespierre since the start of the revolution dedicated so much to it. For starters, he was the voice of the oppressed. He campaigned for the rights of blacks and slaves. Later, he quit the career to join the political sphere and to participate fully in redeeming France. Finally, he got so engrossed in the revolution that eventually it lead to his death through the device he created to kill the counter-revolutionist (Scurr 2012)
On the other hand, his morals were not very straight. This makes him corruptible. He was not hesitant to bend the rules to suit his own lines of thought. He comfortable was a dictator which was ironic considering his quest to end monarchy.