Monday, March 8, 2010
Think Your Lawyer Is Mean? Compare Him To Maximillien Robespierre! ~by Jethro
Jethro: You might want to do an article about Maximilien Robespierre in your legal publication. The author of an article in Law Hall of Fame re lawyers is not too sympathetic to the subject; but his views are typical of US leaders and lawyers. His article says at the end: "Whatever his legacy, it was quite likely the most fantastic ride for a lawyer in the history of the world; one which, though drenched in blood, showed that a monarchy could be brought down and law-making powers given to the common people's elected body, a concept since much improved-upon but still forming the basis of government in modern democracies."
The author does not mention it but Robespierre was the first world leader to free the slaves and abolish slavery on February 4, 1794. This is more than 70 years before our 'Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery. Napoleon attempted to impose slavery initially with complicity of slave owner Thomas Jefferson. That all has something to do with Haiti's problems. Don't ask me to do an article as my views are very pro Robespierre and pro-Terror--not common among US lawyers, but I wonder about barristers and solicitors in other countries like Ireland. I am sure Robespierre was popular with the independence (IRA and other ) members.
Legal Pub: Also shared the following:
ROBESPIERRE AND THE TERROR
In the midst of war abroad and severe economic crises at home, the French Revolution moved into a second phase after the King's death, which emphasized social equality and fraternity whereas the earliest years of the revolution accentuated liberty. Men and women from the working class, believing that they had received few benefits from the revolution, began to demand universal suffrage and participatory democracy. Eventually, Maximilien Robespierre, a lawyer from Arras, emerged as the head of the Jacobin Club when it gained control of the National Convention. When the National Convention conveyed power to the twelve member Committee of Public Safety, of which Robespierre was a member, he gradually assumed dictatorial control of the country... As head of the Committee of Public Safety, Robespierre attempted to rule "in the name of the people" by regulating the economy through the use of price controls and by allowing revolutionary tribunals to execute many individuals identified as traitors. His year of rule has consequently been called "the Reign of Terror," although Robespierre, himself, was personally opposed to the death penalty.
TOUSSAINT L'OUVERTURE AND THE SLAVE REVOLT
IN SAINT DOMINGUE
While many politicians and historians are now troubled about celebrating the French Revolution because of the violence of 1793 and 1794, Robespierre's Constitution of the Year III attempted to guarantee men and women the right to work, the right to eat and the right to public assistance if they could not work or eat. Robespierre's government reaffirmed the right of Protestants and Jews to citizenship in France and abolished slavery in 1794.
...The decision to abolish slavery was not uncontroversial. Many colonial interests opposed ending slavery, and Napoleon's armies lost many lives trying to reestablish it in the 1800s. Napoleon finally reestablished slavery in the French colonies in 1802, but Toussaint L'Ouverture and his slaves successfully achieved independence and formed the second republic in the Western Hemisphere in 1804 when they created modern-day Haiti and freed all slaves on the island. Several images portrayed revolutionaries extending the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen to freed slaves as one of the greatest promises of the revolution.
end of slavery (France=Robespierre)
Legal Pub: Here is some more on Maximilien Robespierre that we were able to dig up from other sources:
Maximilien Robesierre lived from May 6, 1758 to July of 1794. This lawyer is best know as the "bad @ss lawyer" who played a major role in the French Revolution, which started in 1789. Maximilien brought into vogue the liberal use of death by guillotine without any substantive trial procedure. His hatred for the aristocrat began as early as July of 1775. As a young student, he won an oral contest for which he was to speak to the King, Louis XVI. As legend goes, the King refused to leave his carriage because it was raining. Derobespierre had to exit the auditorium and kneel in the rain while the king and Marie-Antoinette remained in their carriage for his speech.
Derobespierre studied at the CollÃ¨ge Louis-le-Grand. He earned his law degree in 1780. He became licensed to practice law in 1781. By March of 1782, he was a judge of the Episcopal Court in Arras. He was perceived as being vain. For example, after winning a case, he persuaded his client to pay for the transcript so he could distributed it to many public figures including Benjamin Franklin. At some point, he changed his surname from Derobespierre to Robespierre.
(Jethro suggest that he changed his surname from Derobespierre to Robespierre most likely and because the prefix "de" was considered to primarily be used by aristocrats or those who wished they were.)
As the French revolution approached, he openly opined that the government ought to be an unalienable right of the people, and not the Royal Family. At 30, he was elected to the Estates General. They became an independent body, the National Assembly. Robespierre belonged to the National Assembly when they passed the Declaration of the Rights of Man on August 26, 1789. (It was based on the American Bill of Rights.)
In June of 1791, Louis XVI was arrested. Robespierre was named as public prosecutor of Paris. Pending war with Austria, Louis XVI was convicted of treason. Robespierre sought the death penalty: "... Louis ought to perish rather than a hundred thousand virtuous citizens; Louis must die, so that the country may live."
Robespierre allowed ruthless state violence to prevail. He supported the Committee of Public Safety and the Revolutionary Tribunal. Both were known for violence. He led the Committee and its search to punish anyone suspected of anti-revolutionary thoughts. He became known for loving swift "justice" and a sharp guillotine. Robespierre wrote: "If virtue be the spring of a popular government in times of peace, the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror..." Robespierre favored punishment: "To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty."
In criminal procedure, he abolished the need for witnesses testimony before passing judgment.
The Loi des suspects (Law of Suspects) of September 17, 1793 made all nobles or aristocrats automatically enemies of the Revolution. Serial executions known as the Reign of Terror lasted from October 1793 to Robespierre's death in July 1794. Among the executions was Queen Marie Antoinette on October 16, 1793. While he advocated democracy, the rich were executed just because of their wealth. 20,000 were guillotined in the name of the Revolution. No one was safe from summary conviction and the ensuing execution. For example, fellow lawyers Camille Desmoulins and Georges Jacques Danton were executed, foreshadowing things to come.
On July 27, 1794, Robespierre was accused of crimes against the state. His protests were shouted down. When cornered by soldiers, Robespierre allegedly pulled out a gun and tried to commit suicide. Other accounts say he was wounded by a soldier. Regardless, injured, he was thrown into a small jail cell. The next day he met his fate with the guillotine blade. Robespierre is seen by some as a father of modern government and democracy. Others contend he was a vicious sadistic terrorist. A monster or a virtuous martyr? Perhaps it mattered what side of the guillotine you were on execution day. Clearly he orchestrated the destruction of a monarchy and provided a blue print for common citizens to elect a governing body. But at what cost?
Duhaime, Lloyd, Camille Desmoulins and Family, 1792
Carr, J. L., Robespierre: The Force of Circumstance (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1972).
Furet, F., La RÃ©volution FranÃ§aise (Paris: Hachette LittÃ©ratures, 1988)
Hibbert, C., The French Revolution (London: Penguin Books, 1980).
McGowen, T., Robespierre and the French Revolution (Aldershot: Enslow Publishers, 2000).
Original of painting of Robespierre's death held at the MusÃ©e de l'histoire vivant, Montreuil, France. â–º The Law Museum â–º Duhaime's Timetable of World Legal History â–º The Law's Hall of Fame