The following quotations are from:
Maximilien Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, pp. 32-35, 49-56, 59-60, 66-72, 95-101. Verso, 2007.
“The favorable movement are those aimed directly against tyrants, like the Americans’ insurrection, or that of 14 July. Bur war on the outside, provoked, directed by the government in the circumstances we are in now, is a movement in the wrong direction, a crisis that could lead to the death of the body politic. Such a war can only send public opinion off on a false scent, divert the nation’s well-founded anxieties, and forestall the favourable crisis that attacks by enemies of liberty might have brought on… During a foreign war the people, as I said, distracted by military events from political deliberations affecting the essential foundations of its liberty, is less inclined to take seriously the underhand manoeuvres of plotters who are undermining it and the executive government which is knocking it about, and pay less attention to the weakness or corruption of representatives who are failing to defend it. This policy has been known since the beginning of time, and whatever M. Brissot may have said, the example I cited of the Roman aristocrats is strikingly relevant. When the people demanded its rights against the usurpations of the Senate and patricians, the Senate would declare war, and the people, forgetting its rights and resentments, would concentrate on nothing but the war, leaving the Senate its authority and preparing new triumphs for the patricians. War is good for military officers, for the ambitious, for the gamblers who speculate on these sorts of event; it is good for ministers, whose operations it covers in an impenetrable, almost sacrosanct veil; it is good for the court, it is good for the executive power whose authority, whose popularity and ascendency it augments; it is good for the coalition of nobles, plotters, moderates who govern France. This faction can place its heroes and members at the head of the army; the court can entrust the forces of the state to men who, when the time comes, can serve its interests with greater success, because a sort of reputation for patriotism will have been worked up for them; they will win over the hearts and the trust of the soldiers only to attach them more strongly to the cause of royalism and moderation… The sort of man who would look with horror on the betrayal of the homeland can still be led by adroit officers to run its best citizens through with steel.” 32-33
“What is the first object of society? It is to maintain the imprescriptible rights of man. What is the first of those rights? The right to life.
The first social law is therefore the one that guarantees all members of society the means to live; all the others are subordinate to that one; property was only instituted and guaranteed to consolidate it; it is primarily to live that people have property. It is not true that property can ever be in opposition to human subsistence.
The foods necessary to man are as sacred as life itself. Everything essential to conserve life is property common to the whole of society. Only the surplus can be individual property and left subject to the enterprise of merchants. Any mercantile speculation I make at the expense of my fellow’s life is not trade at all, it is brigandage and fratricide.”
Under this principle, what is the problem that needs to be solved on this matter of legislation on subsistence? It is this: to guarantee to all members of society the enjoyment of that portion of the fruits of the earth which is necessary for their existence, and to landowners or cultivators the price of their industry, while yielding the surplus to freedom of trade.
I defy the most scrupulous defender of property to contest these principles, short of declaring openly that he understands this word as the right to despoil and assassinate his fellows.” 51
“What limits would the pitiless vampires who speculate in human misery set to their attacks, if any kind of protest was invariably met with bayonets and the absolute command to believe in the purity and beneficience of all hoarders? Undefined liberty is none other than the escuse, the safeguard and the cause of abuse. How then could it be its cure? What is being complained of? Precisely those evils that the present system has produced, or at least evils that it has not managed to prevent. And what remedy is proposed to us? The present system. I denounce the assassins of people to you, and you reply: let them be. Under this system, everything is against society; everything favors the grain merchants.” 54
“When a nation has been forced to resort to the right of insurrection, it returns to the state of nature in relation to the tyrant. How can the tyrant invoke the social pact? He as annihilated it. The nation can still keep it, if it thinks fit, for everything concerning relations between citizens; but the effect of tyranny and insurrection is to break it entirely where the tyrant is concerned; it places them reciprocally in a state of war. Courts and legal proceedings are only for members of the same side…
Peoples do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts.” 59
“[W]e revere the shadow of a king, because we do not know how to respect the people; we are tender towards oppressors, because we are heartless towards the oppressed.” 60
“When the government violates the people’s rights, insurrection is, for the people and each portion of the people, the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties…
When the social guarantee is lacking to a citizen, he reverts to the natural right to defend all his rights for himself…
In both these cases, subjecting resistance against oppression to legal forms is the ultimate refinement of tyranny.” 71
“Revolutionary government owes good citizens full national protection; to enemies of the people it owes nothing but death.” 100