Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre, 1758 - 1794

portrait of Maximilien Robespierre
Oil on fabric by unknown artist (ca. 1790)
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Born: 6 May 1758, Arras, France
Died: 28 July 1794, Paris, France

Robespierre was a man of humble birth, born to a working-class family in Arras, France, who learned early the contempt in which the nobility held commoners. Politically, the greatest influence on his life and philosophy was Jean Jacques Rousseau, whose writings on revolutionary virtue and government by democracy also inspired America's Founding Fathers. He wrote many essays on the rights of man, helped to draft the new constitution of France, and was part of the Constituent Assembly. He became part of the Jacobin Club, and was well-known for his modest lifestyle and refusal to take bribes — a fact that lead to his being hailed as an incorruptible patriot by the people of Paris. He was named Public Prosecutor of Paris in February 1792, but resigned in April to start the journal Le Défenseur de la Constitution, in which he sought to counter the influence of the royal court in public policy and bring the economic plight of the masses to light. After France declared war on Austria, Robespierre worked for the welfare of the common soldier by speaking against the political influence of the officers and urging the creations of militias to defend France.

The unrest in France erupted once again, tearing down the monarchy and forming the National Assembly, the ruling organization of the new Republic of France. Robespierre became the most influential member. In December 1792, Robespierre successfully argued for the execution of Louis XVI as a destabilizing influence. Louis XVI was one of the first victims of the Reign of Terror, a series of violent reprisals against the "enemies of the state", a group which included not only traitors and monarchists but moderates and "false revolutionaries". He advocated swift and merciless justice, with little or no trial for the accused, a policy which led to his death. He was accused by the Convention of being a dictator and an enemy of the people; he attempted to shoot himself but only shattered his jaw, he was guillotined the next day.

Biography from Wikipedia and the BBC

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