Comité de salut public: “Monsieur, it’s time to go!”

Portrait of Marat

While reading the remarkable book by R.R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled, the Year of Terror in the French Revolution, I began to wonder what sort of monstrous evils can be unleashed in the name of “protecting the people,” or in the French example, both liberating them from a corrupt aristocracy while at the same time plunging them into other forms of tyranny.   One can only wonder:  whose security is being protected, the security of the people?  Dont la sécurité et qui est sans danger? The security of the committee itself?  And who will make sure that these precious tribunals will not turn into paranoid and despotic cages of lunatics?  En effet, personne ne regarde, car personne ne se soucie…

And then, of course we have our own contemporary examples, with a war on terror, and with invasive full-body scanners stripping the populace to their short hairs.  No, you will not find any of the people whose security is really being protected going through those scanners, but they will beat down the rest of us with the idea that we must submit to all of their demands, to keep us on the defensive, because naturally all of us, even the most patriotic citizens who believe in freedom, equality, and justice are suspect!   If we are not sniveling with our heads bowed, obviously we must be under suspicion.   Is there no end to the preposterous bullshit that the ruling class will come up with to keep us in line?  hmmph, as Proudhon said, “The great are only great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!“   And so we might pause to consider these portraits of the twelve who ruled that committee for public safety, along with some other grands hommes et femmes from the French Revolution.  Remember, they did not achieve their goal of establishing a fair government and democracy…since chopping off heads – apparently – is not enough to eradicate the predatory ruling class.   Should we, yes mere mortals here, seek to remove the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” (to borrow the apt metaphor from Matt Taibbi), we must follow the money and deprive them of their access to it.  It’s blood simple.   Get the bastards away from the money.

Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac

Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne

Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot

Jean-Marie Collot d’Herbois


Georges Couthon

Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles

Jean-Baptiste Robert Lindet

Maximilien de Robespierre

Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just

André Jeanbon Saint André

Joseph-Ignace Guillotin

Louis XVI

Marie Antoinette

Antoine Joseph Santerre

Georges Jacques Danton

See more amazing portraits in the online scanned edition of the Album du centenaire. Grands hommes et grands faits de la Révolution française (1789-1804) edited by Challomel and Lacroix.

PS.  If anyone has links to scans from the 1902 edition, please let me know!