I read with interest the recent Telegraph op-ed, “The ‘Enlightenment’ keeps on winning, ” and frankly I was astounded at the mischaracterizations alluded to by author-journalist James A. Haught attempting to force through his thesis. Where do we begin?
In a recent op-ed entitled, “The ‘Enlightenment’ keeps on winning,” James A. Haught, an editor emeritus of a West Virginia newspaper, asserts in his latest column that since the advent of the Enlightenment, for three centuries, liberals have scored a string of historical victories over conservatives, and he “hopes the progressive pattern keeps rolling forever.”
This list is admittedly a compilation of sundry and disparate political historic characters, ranging from do-gooder reformers with possibly good intentions to militant revolutionists who desired to overthrow the existing order of government, ostensibly to create a better world.
Recently, as if on cue, I have noticed liberal jabs at religion of a peculiar nature. It is as if, from the coldness of his tomb, Karl Marx (photo, below) was inciting these little jabs by his latter day disciples to prop up yet another aspect of his failing communist (socialist) philosophy, a philosophy that refuses to die.
Maximilien Robespierre and his fellow Jacobins never came close to attaining the utopian goal of establishing a "Republic of Virtue." In fact, they did not even come close to establishing the rule of law essential to a constitutional republic. Natural rights to life, liberty and property, which are protected in our American republic, were not respected by the French revolutionists.
Praised by Napoleon as "the worthiest man I ever met," Dominique-Jean Larrey (1766-1842), his legendary surgeon, was born in Beaudean, a little village in the Pyrenees. Orphaned at age 13, he was raised by his uncle, Alexis, who was chief surgeon at Toulouse. After studying and serving as his surgical apprentice for 6 years, Larrey went to Paris. There, he studied under the great French surgeon, Desault, who was Chief of Surgery at the Hotel Dieu. Unfortunately, his studies were interrupted when war came to France.
This biography of Robespierre, The Incorruptible, reads like a spellbinding novel, only that this book recounts more than the life of Robespierre. It graphically describes the horrors of the French Revolution and gives us vivid descriptions of all of the main participants in that orgy of blood, horror and death.
This would have been one amongst the books Maximilien Robespierre would have chosen as an acceptable biography of himself, according him his rightful place in history. It is disturbing that so many readers of this book expressing their views in Amazon.com praise this idealized biography, once again reinterpreting the career of this authoritarian despot, who systematically guillotined those who did not share his sterile, cold-as-steel view of the world.
The reader could say that this compelling tome about the breathtaking events of the French Revolution during the Reign of Terror really comprises three books in one --- three human conflict stories carefully webbed into the sinister tapestry of the French Revolution, particularly during the Reign of Terror (June 1793 to July 1794).
The Days of the French Revolution by Christopher Hibbert is another excellent tome on the bloody Reign of Terror of the French Revolution.
The book is meticulously researched and, although the author describes it as a "readable introduction" to other historians' works to which he is indebted, the book contains a fountain of information and should also be helpful to students on the subject and other aficionados on the French Revolution.
This book, in compelling narrative, makes is clear that the French Revolution actually began not with the clamor of the common people but with the blue-blooded aristocracy and the high clergy of the ancien régime who had been enamored with the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the views of the enlightenment (i.e., convincingly demonstrated in the Assembly of Notables convened in February 1787).
We have seen that the French Revolution did not give the French people a true constitutional republic extending to its citizens the natural rights of man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The French Revolution wanted to go beyond that and create a utopia of happiness, misunderstanding liberty and adding fraternity and equality to the brew. Forced fraternity and equality were proven to be and remain mutually exclusive from individual liberty.
The Incorruptible, Maximilien Robespierre, the Voice of Reason, did not give the French people a Republic of Virtue but a bloody reign of terror incited by mob rule, and the descent into barbarism with the mass killings of men, women, and children by their own government, not because of their deeds or misdeeds, or any real crimes, but because of their birth, opinions, and associations -- or simply, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
July 14 is Bastille Day, a national holiday in France that commemorates 215 years from the day a Parisian mob stormed the "infamous" prison and commenced the upheaval of the French Revolution. The collapse of Soviet communism should not deter the invocation of the dreadful legacy of the French Revolution, the same revolution that a century later inspired the even bloodier Russian Revolution and its communist aftermath.
The Brave Girondins
Even though politicians and some historians in both America and Europe have likened the French and American Revolutions, these two landmark events of world history were as dissimilar as the men who forged them.