Quotations – growing radicalism


This selection of French Revolution quotations contains remarks about growing radicalism, from significant leaders, political figures, philosophes and observers. It has been selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. New quotations are regularly added. If you would like to submit a relevant and interesting quotation, please contact Alpha History.

“It is the height of stupidity to claim that men who for a thousand years have had the power to berate us, to fleece us and to oppress us with impunity, will now agree, with good grace, to be our equals.”
Jean-Paul Marat

“Citizens, did you want a revolution without revolution?”
Maximilien Robespierre, 1792

“What is this much repeated phrase ‘active citizen’ supposed to mean? The active citizens are the ones who took the Bastille.”
Camille Desmoulins


“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”
Maximilien Robespierre

“The aim of constitutional government is to preserve the Republic. The aim of revolutionary government is to lay its foundation.”
Maximilien Robespierre, 1793

“Tell me, fellow Frenchmen, is it possible? If the man you call the Holy Father takes it into his head to oppose your laws, do you dare? Or are you stupid enough to give them up? What do you expect from a Pope? Screw the Pope. Believe me, it is your turn, because for ten centuries he has been screwing you.”
Jacques Hébert in Pere Duchesne

“Jacobins, I have a truth to tell you. You do not know your most deadly enemies; they are the constitutional priests. It is they who protest most in the provinces against anarchists, disorganisers, Dantonism, Robespierrism, Jacobinism… Do not cherish any longer the popular errors; cut at the roots of superstition! Declare openly that the priests are your enemies.”
Jean-Paul Marat

“[We need] someone bold, to put himself at the head of the disaffected and rally them against the oppressor. Some great character who could captivate the people… someone wise who could direct the actions of an unbridled and floating multitude.”
Jean-Paul Marat

“Here, the revolution was prepared. Here it was achieved. Here all the great events were fostered.”
Georges Couthon on the Jacobin Club

“We must institute a coup d’etat, a third revolution, which must beat down anarchy. Dissolve the Paris Commune and destroy its sections! Dissolve the clubs, which preach disorder and equality! Close the Jacobin Club and seal up its papers! … The triumvirate of Robespierre, Danton and Marat, all the ‘levellers’, all the anarchists. Then a new Convention will be elected.”
Jacques Brissot

“When a people, having become free, establish wise laws, their revolution is complete… Peace and prosperity, public virtue, victory, everything is in the vigor of the laws. Outside of the laws, everything is sterile and dead.”
Louis Saint-Just, 1792


“Books of all sorts are printed without any approbation or privilege. Many are exposed on the stalls, which are very improper for the public eye. One of these was called the Private Life of the Queen, in two volumes, with obscene prints… Of books of this sort I saw more than 30, with plates [pictures]. Another was on a subject not fit even to be mentioned.”
Richard Twiss, a visitor to Paris in 1792

“It [August 10th 1792] was the bloodiest day of the Revolution so far, but also one of the most decisive.”
William Doyle, historian

“I don’t give a f–k for the prisoners, let them fend for themselves.”
Attributed to Georges Danton in September 1792

“The disorganisers are those who want to level everything: property, comforts, the price of commodities, the various services rendered to the State… who want the workmen in the camp to receive the salary of the legislator… who want to level even talents, knowledge, the virtues, because they themselves have none of these things.”
Jacques Brissot, October 1792

“One must never compromise with tyrants. One can only strike at kings through the head. Nothing can be expected from European kings except by force of arms. I vote for the death of the tyrant.”
Georges Danton

“The only member of the [National Convention] I saw whose brutality revolted me was Danton. There was something inexpressibly savage in his looks and in his stentorian voice. His course shaggy hair gave him the appearance of a wild beast. To add to the fierceness of his repulsive countenance, he was deeply marked with the smallpox, and his eyes were unusually small and sparkling in surrounding darkness.”
J. G. Millingen, English visitor to Paris, 1793

“Monarchy is an outrage which even the blind of an entire people cannot justify… all men hold from nature the secret mission to destroy wherever it my be found. No man can reign innocently. The folly is too evident. Every king is a rebel and a usurper. Do kings themselves treat otherwise those who seek to usurp their authority?”
Louis Saint-Just, 1792

“It is with regret that I say the fatal truth, Louis should perish rather than a hundred thousand virtuous citizens. Louis must die so that the country may live.”
Maximilien Robespierre

“[The king] mounted the scaffold and wanted to rush towards the front as though wanting to speak. He then let himself be led to the place where he was tied up, and where he exclaimed very loudly, ‘People, I die innocent’. Then, turning towards us, he told us ‘Gentlemen, I am innocent of everything of which I am accused. I wish that my blood may be able to cement the happiness of the French’.”
Charles Henri Sanson, executioner of Louis XVI

“Tell your f–king president that he can f–k himself and the entire f–king Convention. If the 22 [Girondins] are not here within the hour, we will blow the building to the ground.”
Francois Hanriot, National Guard officer, June 2nd 1793

“For the last four years the rich alone have profited from the advantages of the Revolution… One hundred times this hall has rung with the crimes of egoists and knaves. You have always promised to strike the bloodsuckers of the people… We say to you that you haven’t done everything for the happiness of the people.”
Jacques Hébert to the National Convention, June 1793

“If the man you call the Holy Father takes it into his head to oppose your laws, do you dare? Or are you stupid enough to give them up? What do you expect from a Pope? Screw the Pope. Believe me, it is your turn, because for ten centuries he has been screwing you.”
Jacques Hébert, 1793

“Courage? I have shown it for years. Do you think you I shall lose it at the moment when my sufferings are to end?”
Attributed to Marie Antoinette at her execution, October 1793

“I do not know anyone more unbearable, more arrogant, more taciturn or more boring.”
Charles-Engelbert Oelsner on Robespierre, circa 1793

“[Robespierre] was vain and jealous but just and virtuous. His greatest detractors could never once accuse him of the slightest deviation… If the Assembly had been made up of Robespierre alone, France today would perhaps be but a heap of rubble.”
Edmond Dubois-Crancé, Jacobin politician, 1793


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