To listen to this post, click here –
On this day in 1794 Maximilien Robespierre and twenty-two other revolutionary leaders were guillotined in Paris.
The reign of terror was the bloodiest period of the French Revolution during which tens of thousands were executed. On 5th February 1794, Robespierre stated succinctly, that, “Terror is nothing else than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible.”
Less than six months later, he experienced it himself. Today’s quote is an account of that very moment, in the inimitable writing of Thomas Carlyle whose History of the French Revolution is still a definitive work: “All eyes are on Robespierre’s Tumbril, where he, his jaw bound in dirty linen, with his half-dead brother and half-dead Henriot, lie shattered, their “seventeen hours” of agony about to end.
The Gendarmes point their swords at him, to show the people which is he. A woman springs on the Tumbril; clutching the side of it with one hand, waving the other Sibyl-like; and exclaims: “The death of thee gladdens my very heart, je m’enivre de joi”; Robespierre opened his eyes; “Scélérat, go down to Hell, with the curses of all wives and mothers!” — At the foot of the scaffold, they stretched him on the ground till his turn came. Lifted aloft, his eyes again opened; caught the bloody axe. Sanson (the executioner) wrenched the coat off him; wrenched the dirty linen from his jaw: the jaw fell powerless, there burst from him a cry; hideous to hear and see. Sanson, thou canst not be too quick!”
It minds one of the ditty:
The bells of Hell go
Ting a ling a ling
For you but not for me.
O Death where is thy
Sting a ling a ling
O Grave thy mystery? (Anon)
Today I ask that I will live my life with kindness and respect and without earning the hatred of others.