Robespierre

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Maximilien de Robespierre was born into a family within France during high political tension. When he was six, Robespierre's mother died during the birth of her fifth child. His father was devastated. Though a successful lawyer in his town of Arras, France, Robespierre's father was so upset about the death of his wife that his law practice started to fail, and in 1766, he left his four children with relatives. Robespierre was raised by two aunts. In 1769, he won for himself a scholarship to Louis-le-Grand. There he excelled as a student, especially in the area of classical languages. But his real calling was political philosophy. He read the essays of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other philosophes. Throughout his life, much of Robespierre's political thinking can be brought back to Rousseau's ideology.

From early in his life, Robespierre apposed violence. While he worked as a judge in rural France, Robespierre was upset when his job made him sentence a convicted killer to death. He quit his position as judge because of this. Even in the early stages of the revolution Robespierre was pleased that the revolt in which he participated had been able to be successful without the evil of bloodshed. One can only conjecture what caused him to change from the peace loving rational of the early phases of the revolution into the bloodthirsty tyrant who history remembers. Many see his transformation stemming from his further inquiry into Rousseau's politics. The usually nonviolent Rousseau does advocate execution of any who claim to believe in the "Supreme Being" but act as an unbeliever. This stance of Rousseau explains Robespierre's increased vigilence of executing his enemies after his May 7, 1794 proposal that the government recognize the existence of a Supreme Being and that the state adopt an official religion called the Cult of the Supreme Being. But what first compelled this usually calm nonviolent man to begin the practice of taking lives in the name of the state?...
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