“Justification for the Use of Terror” Web Questions

Below please find several questions on “Justification for the Use of Terror,” a speech by the Jacobin leader Maximilien Robespierre made in February 1794, as the Reign of Terror was picking up momentum. Your classmate, Samantha Bryant, wrote these questions.

1) Robespierre contends, “If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror…”  For what reasons does Robespierre link the concepts of terror and virtue?

2) What does Robespierre mean when he say, “love of country necessarily includes the love of equality”? And what is he attempting to convey when he says that “the love of country presupposes or produces all the virtues”?

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3 Comments on ““Justification for the Use of Terror” Web Questions”

  1. 1) For Robespierre, terror and virtue were inextricably linked. One was necessary to support the other, especially in a time as tumultuous as the revolution. Robespierre’s philosophy was extremely polarized: the absence of virtue could only be corruption, and those who were not for the virtues of the revolutionary government could only be its deadly enemies. If virtue should be disturbed and corruption should infiltrate the government, according to Robespierre, “this can only be the fault of those who govern it.” Therefore, he believed that it was the government’s unwavering responsibility to enforce virtue at any cost. Terror was to be equated with justice; if those who oppressed the virtuous did so through terror, it was only right to combat them in the same manner.

  2. YU,ZEXUN says:

    Question 1
    I think terror and virtue are related, to understand Robespierre’s idea, people just need to simply understand that terror uses to create a stable government and peaceful society. Moreover, virtue uses to maintain the country after successfully create an ideal government. In my opinion, I basically agree with Robespierre’s idea, but that doesn’t mean I agree with what he did during the Reign of Terror. His idea has started from a good purpose, and has ended the absolute monarchy. After reached the purpose, he has started using military power to make a stable government. But he has excessively used military power on the people, and has executed a lot of people because they seemed to be rebels. The word virtue for Robespierre is meaning people who have the same idea with him. Because he considers that a healthy government must be controlled by a ground of people who have the same purpose. If not, the government would be collapse because of corruption. He has used his power to force people for his purpose. Because of this horrific activities, people named it Reign of Terror.

  3. Lindsay Poulakos says:

    2) Robspierre means that if members of a nation truly want it to have a successful democracy (love of country), then they must automatically strive to be righteous civil servants that put the needs of the nation before their personal needs (love of equality). Through this love of country, will come ‘virtue’. Since Robspierre related this to ancient Greek and Roman democracy, his use of the term ‘virtue’ relates to the ancient ideas that a citizen of a nation must obey its laws, while assuming all laws are just, in order to obtain ‘virtue’. Therefore his reasoning suggests that if the population would behave and abide the laws, then the country would flourish and order would be restored.


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