Little Bits of History

A New Cult

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 8, 2014
Cult of the Supreme Being

Cult of the Supreme Being

June 8, 1794: The national celebration of the Supreme Being begins. The Cult of the Supreme Being was a form of deism established by Maximilien Robespierre during the French Revolution. The hope was that this new cult would be the state religion for the new French Republic. The Revolution brought many radical changes to France. One of the more important ones included the change to religion. Prior to the revolts, France was mostly a Catholic state. Afterwards, an official rejection of religion was the norm. First came the Cult of Reason which melded many atheistic views into an anthropocentric philosophy. No gods were worshiped, the guiding principle was Reason.

Robespierre was appalled by the dismissal of God or Divinity. He was incensed by the “scandalous scenes” and “wild masquerades” associated with the Cult of Reason. Late in 1793, he denounced the Cult and all those who practiced it. Instead, he came up with his own version of a proper Revolutionary religion. This religion was mostly his own design and he called it the Cult of the Supreme Being or Le culte de l’Être suprême. It was formally announced before the French National Convention on May 7, 1794.

According to Robespierre, reason is only a means to an end and the singular end is simply virtue. He wanted to move the French people beyond deism and gave them a more rational devotion to the Godhead. The main creed of the Cult consisted in the existence of a god and the immortality of the human soul. This was practiced by carrying out a more Greek or Roman type of civic minded duty. The type of virtue envisioned by Robespierre could only be attained through active fidelity to liberty and democracy. He used his religious principles to denounce many radicals who disagreed with him which led many to the guillotine.

To inaugurate the new religion, Robespierre stated that 10 Prairial Year II (this date) would be the first day of a national celebration and future republican holidays were to be held every tenth day of the new French Republican Calendar. Every locality was required to hold a commemorative event, but the one in Paris was of massive scale. It was there that Robespierre took control of the event and declared the truth and “social utility” of this new religion. Apparently, the French citizens were not as taken with his theological efficacy and the entire Cult event helped to bring about his fall from grace and led to his own execution on July 28, 1794.

Citizens, did you want a revolution without revolution?

Any institution which does not suppose the people good, and the magistrate corruptible, is evil.

The aim of constitutional government is to preserve the Republic; that of revolutionary government is to lay its foundation.

By sealing our work with our blood, we may see at least the bright dawn of universal happiness. – all from Maximilien Robespierre

Also on this day: We All Scream for Ice Cream – In 1786, the first advertisement for commercially made ice cream is published.
Uncle Miltie – In 1948, Texaco Star Theater debuted.
Newspeak – In 1949, George Orwell’s 1984 was published.
They did what? – In 1959, mail was delivered by missile.

Reign of Terror

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 27, 2013
Maximilien Robespierre

Maximilien Robespierre

July 27, 1794: Maximilien Robespierre is arrested. The French Revolution (1789-1799) took France from an absolute monarchy to a form of government based on citizen rights. The Revolution led to the Reign of Terror and later brought about changes throughout Europe. France went from monarchy, to republic, to a return to a constitutional monarchy, and two empires. Finally she emerged as modern day France – a republic headed by a President who appoints a Prime Minister. There is also a bicameral National Assembly.

On September 5, 1793 the period known as the Reign of Terror began. Fifteen months after the Revolution started, disagreements over leadership arose. Both the Girondins and the Jacobins wished to control France. Girondins were a political faction with shared ideals rather than a true political party. Jacobins were also united by principles, only more “left wing” since they sat on the left side of the Parliament Hall. They slowly amassed power and the initial support of the citizens of France.

Robespierre was born in 1758 to a dysfunctional family. He was a gifted student and studied law. He was granted a judgeship in 1782 when he was just 23 years old. He renounced his role as judge after refusing to pronounce the death penalty. He returned to the practice of law representing the poor. He believed in representative government and was sent to Paris. There he joined the Jacobin Club. He vehemently opposed the Austrian War. King Louis XVI was executed and Robespierre rose in power in the National Convention.

With the king’s death, the country was thrown into chaos. Robespierre attempted to root out the enemy within Paris. There is no accurate count of the number of enemies Robespierre found. Guillotine executions were in the thousands with numbers from 17,000 to 40,000 cited. Even within the Jacobins, there were disagreements and as power shifted once again, Robespierre was arrested. During the struggle to detain him, he was shot in the jaw (it may have been a suicide attempt). He did not have long to suffer. He, himself, was under the guillotine blade the following day. He was 36.

“To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty.”

“This is no trial; Louis is not a prisoner at the bar; you are not judges; you are – you cannot but be – statesmen, and the representatives of the nation. You have not to pass sentence for or against a single man, but you have to take a resolution on a question of the public safety, and to decide a question of national foresight. It is with regret that I pronounce, the fatal truth: Louis ought to perish rather than a hundred thousand virtuous citizens; Louis must die, so that the country may live.”

“Terror is only justice: prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country.”

“Crime butchers innocence to secure a throne, and innocence struggles with all its might against the attempts of crime.” – all from Maximilien Robespierre

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: On October 10, 1789 Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin offered the following six articles for consideration at the National Assembly. 1. All offenses of the same kind would receive the same punishment regardless of the rank or status of the offender. 2. All death penalty sentences would be carried out by decapitation. 3. The guilty party’s family should not be discriminated against or tainted by guilt. 4. Only judges could publicly reprimand. 5. The condemned person’s property should not be confiscated. 6. The body of the condemned should be given to the family (upon request) to be buried and no reference to the nature of death should be registered. The guillotine was not the doctor’s invention, rather it was created by a committee headed by Antoine Louis. Death was supposed to be quick and relatively painless. Guillotin was embarrassed by his name being associated with the device and tried to get the device called something else.

Also on this day: What’s up Doc? – In 1940, Bugs Bunny made it to the silver screen.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – In 1586, Sir Walter Raleigh brings tobacco to England.
Olympic Bomb – In 1996, a bomb goes off at the Atlanta Summer Olympics.