[The following passage comes from the author's Life of Maximilien Robespierre (1849) in the Hathi Digital Library Trust web edition. Emphasis has been added in the passage below. — George P. Landow]

Decorative Initial R obespierre continued to develope every evening, in the Jacobins, his social philosophy. The Jacobin Club thus became, through him, a powerful engine to coerce the Convention. The declaration of rights, says Lamartine, in enlarging itself in the hands of Robespierre, became the basis of a new constitution. It was the popular decalogue, which contained every social axiom, the application of which was the creation of institutions. Not only did Robespierre endeavour to frame democracy into a government, but with respect to popular education, he demanded that it should be obligatory on all families; thus forming in the same mould an entire generation, he established a community of children, and a community of ideas. Labour should form part of education; the schools should be workshops. The cultivation of the soil was to be the first of those labours. Herein he followed the example of ancient legislators, considering agriculture as the most moral and social of all employments, because it most directly nourishes the labourer, excites the least cupidity, and creates less vices and miseries than the labour of the manufacturer. The child was to learn reading, writing, arithmetic, and principles of universal morality. He was to learn the laws of his country, and to develope his mind by the recitation of the most striking passages which poetry, eloquence, and philosophy had bequeathed to mankind. He was to choose his own religion when education had sufficiently matured his reason, so that the religion of the man should not be the thoughtlessness of infancy, but the deliberate choice of an intelligent being.

Robespierre, moreover, proposed a tax to defray the expenses of these establishments, which he called the Children's Tax. He also demanded a tax for the poor, the aged, and the infirm. Thus the rich gradually stripped of their superfluous wealth, the poor gratuitously educated, everything in this scheme tended to community of property and equality of condition!

On the 26th of April he delivered a remarkable speech, in which he showed that, however anxious he might be to relieve the poor, he was not, like his modern imitators, the advocate of spoliation. "I propose," he said, "certain articles necessary to complete your theory of property. . . . There was no need of a revolution to teach the Universe that the extreme disproportion of fortune is the source of many evils and of many crimes; but we are also not the less convinced that community of goods is a chimera. [291-92]


Lewes, George Henry. The Life of Maximilien Robespierre; with extracts from his unpublished correspondence. London, Chapman and Hall, 1849. Hathi Digital Library Trust online version of a copy in the Harvard University Library. Web. 25 April 2017.

Last modified 28 April 2017