Wednesday 17 April 2024

The Robespierre-Danton duel reconsidered

How do modern historians view relationship between Danton and Robespierre?  

Here is a translation/ summary of Hervé Leuwers's article, "Danton et Robespierre: le duel réinventé", published in Biard & Leuwers (ed): Danton: le mythe et l'Histoire (2016).  A close reading of the evidence suggests that there was no profound conflict between the two men and that Robespierre moved against Danton only reluctantly, when he felt that the  elimination of factions was "necessary to the Revolution."

Hervé Leuwers - like Colin Jones in his recent The Fall of Robespierre (2021) - moves away from the idea of Robespierre as the victim of personal neurosis or emotional pressure.  Instead  we see the dedicated Revolutionary who was both an idealist and a skilful and calculating political player.  This Robespierre is more human, but perhaps all the more formidible. 

Saturday 13 April 2024

"Even unto death" - Robespierre's letter to Danton

In March of last year an iconic piece of Revolutionary history went under the hammer when the Versailles auction house Osenat offered for sale the original manuscript of Robespierre's famous letter of 5th February 1793 to Danton.  Heavy with the resonances of betrayal to come, Robespierre offers his condolences for the death of Danton's wife and expresses his friendship and love "even unto death".

5 February 1793. If, in the troubles that can shake a soul like yours, the certainty of having a tender and devoted friend can offer you some consolation, I offer you this. I love you more than ever and unto death. In this moment, I am yourself. Do not close your heart to the accents of friendship that feel all your pain. Let us cry over our friends together, and let us soon show the effects of our deep sorrow to the tyrants who are the originators of our public misfortunes and our private misfortunes. My friend, I have sent you this letter from my heart to Belgium; I would have come to see you, if I had not respected the first moments of your just affliction. Embrace your friend.  Robespierre
ROBESPIERRE (Maximilien de). Autograph letter... - Lot 18 - Osenat

Oeuvres de Maximilien Robespierre, vol.III-1, p.160.

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