February 5, 1794 (17 Pluviôse, An II): Robespierre’s Report on the Principles of Political Morality
This selection is one of Robespierre’s major speeches. On November 18, 1793, he had delivered a long statement on foreign policy. Now he turned to a formal summation on domestic affairs which was nothing less than a doctrine of what the revolution was about and what its objectives should be, a statement in which he attempted to define as clearly as possible both constitutional government and revolutionary government, and in so doing revealed his convictions about the nature of man and of the good society. Although Robespierre obviously meant this speech to be a serene and permanent codification of revolutionary purposes, its later passages give way to more immediate concerns and indicate what pressures he and the Committee of Public Safety were under; the speech changes its character and becomes a political offensive that is as revealing in its way as the earlier passages are in theirs. In the following, translated from Rapport sur les principes de morale politique qui doivent guider la Convention nationale dans l’administration intérieure de la République, fait au nom du Comité de salut public, le 18 [sic] pluviôse, l’an 2ede la République par Maximilien Robespierre. Imprimé par ordre de la Convention nationale (Paris, Imprimerie nationale [s.d.], 31 pp. in 8°), the entire statement of principles, amounting to the first half of the pamphlet, has been retained, and also its seven concluding paragraphs. Between these two major parts of the speech, a few scattered passages and one block of seven pages of denunciation of the tactics of enemies of the revolution have been omitted; they add little to the charges that have not been omitted, but their existence testifies to Robespierre’s growing concern with varieties of opposition.
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