Monday, 28 July 2014

"One does not make revolutions by halves": The Execution of Saint-Just

Louis Antoine de Saint-Just (Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just; Decize, France, 25th August 1767 – Paris, France, 28th July 1794)


Louis Antoine de Saint-Just by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, 1793
Louis Antoine de Saint-Just by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, 1793

In the past we have met many famed figures of the French Revolution and witnessed many iconic victims of the National Razor, Today we return to that heady time and the death of a man whose name has become synonymous with the Terror, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just.

Saint-Just's rise to power was stratospheric and unstoppable. Fiercely intelligent, dedicated and focused on his cause, he drafted the French Constitution of 1793 and was among Robespierre's most trusted friends. Like Robespierre, when the end came for Saint-Just it was swift and merciless and he was executed alongside his friend on 28th July.

Immediately before his arrest, Saint-Just attempted to make an eloquent speech in defence of Robespierre before members of the Convention but found himself unable to finish. Disgruntled deputies countered and heckled until, eventually, Jean-Lambert Tallien interrupted and silenced him, pushing him away from the lectern. Despite this, Saint-Just would not be provoked and instead attempted to continue speaking and make his point. Calm and dignified, he refused to surrender the platform and remained in place until his arrest and removal.

Detained in the Hôtel de Ville with the other arrested men, Saint-Just remained as calm as ever as around him, his former colleagues fell into a panic. Whilst others committed suicide or attempted to do so, Saint-Just calmly accepted his fate and walked unflinchingly to the scaffold alongside Robespierre and twenty others. With no trace of fear he went to the guillotine, convinced of his righteousness to the last.

7 comments:

  1. How ironic that the architects of "The Terror" were finally its victims .

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    1. You never know how the wind will blow!

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  2. Interesting article, the other night I watched the film Danton, with Depardieu in it and the man who played St Just looked remarkably like the picture above. He really stood out in the film, but not for being calm, he came across as quite alarmed and disordered.

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    1. I agree! A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel is a wonderful book too - the revolution seen through the eyes of Danton, Robespierre and Desmoulins (if I remember correctly).

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  3. wasn't St.Just complicit in the fall and eventual guillotining of Danton and Desmoulins.... or have I got that wrong...

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