“Let the blood of traitors flow. That is the only way to save the country.” Those words were spoken by Jean Paul Marat during the September Massacres of the French Revolution. What’s most interesting about his statement is the fever pitch that the revolution was at when he said it.
For those unaware, Jean Paul Marat was a rather incendiary writer who reveled in the destruction of the French Revolution, even encouraging the bloody fervor as it reached a fever pitch. There were the famous beheadings, most of which were not the class of people one would think; they were not the nobility but rather those of the peasant class, and many of the working classes. The nobility had some victims, but most left France as the Revolution expanded and became more violent, seeking refuge among other nobles throughout Europe. It was those left behind that suffered the most during the extreme period known as The Terror.
Those like Marat and the greatest of them all, Maximilian Robespierre were more than happy to see the Revolution expand and envelope any and all who were traitors. If the revolution was going to be a success, then anyone who would even hint at being against it must be disposed of. Dissension was not tolerated but dissection of those who were seen to oppose the revolution on any level was encouraged. So, the guillotine came down on neck after neck, and head after head fell into the bucket. Glory to the Revolution and Viva La France.
Even some of the Founding Fathers of the United States justified the actions of the Revolution. While Washington and Hamilton bemoaned the activities in France, Jefferson lauded them, his pro-French bias and anti-monarchy bent clouding his vision of what actually was occurring. It should be noted that Jefferson was quite at odds with Washington and Hamilton at that time, accusing Hamilton of being not only pro-monarchy but actually setting the stage to reintroduce the monarchy itself. Jeffersonians bristled at the suggestion the Revolution and its atrocities were actually happening, going so far as to call those reports little more than rank propaganda. Some even sympathized to the point of referring to each other as “citizen” or “Jacobin” in solidarity with the revolutionaries.
When news reached the United States that the Revolution had declared a Republic in September of 1792, the Americans celebrated with a fanfare as though they themselves were part of the victory; a salute complete with cannon fire and general celebration. Jefferson himself said when confronted by the loss of life in the process, “The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest…rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated.” To Jefferson, the outcome, the declaration of the Republic, was much more important than the lives lost—his comment justifying in his own mind the bloodshed in pursuit of the ultimate goal.
Ironically, even the death of so many French officers who’d helped the United States win its independence was unmoving for those of Jefferson and even Madison’s view, that being the French Revolution was necessary and justified.
Extremism is like a drug for many, and an excuse for some to exercise their own dreams of grandeur, taking advantage of a situation in order to further their goals while playing on the emotions of those they wish to rule. This formula is older than human society itself, yet we still seem to fall victim to its charms. Should extreme actions be in favor of those that rule the day, those same people will defend those actions as necessary and needed even in the short term in order to further their own agenda. There is no sense of fairness to those in the extreme, only the attainment of their goal, whatever that goal may be.
They will couch their words, hide their intentions, and use everything in their means to justify their actions. They will employ the newspapers, and mass media in general to assuage the doubts of those who question their actions and mobilize those that favor their purpose. Those of a revolutionary bent promise the masses protection, even solutions to their problems, only to lead the unsuspecting lamb to its own demise. Danger is all around the animal, but its focus on its own safety blinds it to the overall danger present right in front of its eyes. Willful blindness will kill even the strongest among us.
By extension, government is the same. It seeks to expand its power each time a tragedy or emergency occurs. It simply cannot help itself, just as an addict cannot, without proper treatment and diligence, avoid going back to their drug of choice. Whether a republic or an autocratic entity, they function the same; power is the ultimate goal and while one may take longer to get there, make no mistake, under the guise of “doing what’s best for you”, it will envelop you and all you hold dear.
This explains Jefferson’s continued defense of the extremism of the French Revolution as it continued; a defense prejudiced by his love of all things French and his refusal to admit the revolution had gone too far. Hear Jefferson’s words regarding the violence in France in which many thousands perished: “A struggle for liberty is in itself respectable and glorious. When conducted with magnanimity, justice and humanity, it ought to command the admiration of every friend to human nature.”
If you’ve read this far, the message is clear. Beware those who seek to divide as well as those who seek to justify the extreme actions of government. They will tell you they have your best interests at heart but they do not. Destruction does not matter to them, it fuels them as they truly believe the only way to change is through complete and total control. Tailored information that appeals to the emotions is truly the opiate of the masses and the door to control. Be vigilant, beware, and above all, remember history.