Quote of the day—Bertrand Barère

The tree of liberty grows only when watered by the blood of tyrants.

Bertrand Barère
Last sentence of a speech given at the trial of Louis XVI given in December 1792.
[I’m reminded of this because of the events in Egypt.

While this is more than a little truth in this statement the events of the French Revolution and others show that things can get more than a little carried away in the passion of the moment. It would seem to me the moral obligation to only use deadly force when there is imminent danger of death or permanent injury to innocent life or after careful deliberation at a trial when emotions have cooled some should still apply.—Joe]


7 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Bertrand Barère

  1. Problem is, it takes BOTH sides to put down their weapons and be willing to talk, and if BOTH sides were willing to talk, then there probably wouldn’t be a Revolution in the first place. Despite the examples of Ghandi and MLK, most Revolutions usually end up with the winning side hanging the losers from the lampposts. I fear Egypt will be more of the same.

  2. … more than a little carried away …

    Boy, howdy. All revolutions eat their own young. See Trotsky, Leon. About the only one I can think where this did not apply was the English Revolution of 1688, and that may be because I just don’t know enough details about it. Certainly the American Revolution caused all sorts of dislocation, not least of which were the ~ 100,000 loyalists expelled by terror and/or government confiscation of property.

    I think this was your point, but thought I’d highlight it.

  3. Hm. I confess to being intrigued by the exclusive nature of his statement… Has there been any society that has moved from less freedom to more freedom without bloodshed? Of any type? There have certainly been less bloody revolutions, but…?

  4. Borepatch,

    Yes. That was my point. I sometimes deliberately severely understate things to make it more interesting and/or intriguing.


    The fall of the Soviet Empire and/or the Berlin Wall might come close to qualifying. The absolute “…without bloodshed? Of any type?” precludes an what would otherwise be an acceptably close approximation.

  5. Joe,

    Your comment that deadly force only be used in the threat of injury or death surprises me. Then you don’t believe deadly force is justified to defend property?



  6. Well, if the delimeter is not absolute, it still falls under Barere’s comment – I was looking for an exception to his, which would preclude any involuntarily lost bodily fluids :). Both examples you mention definitely are close, but it is quite arguable that some tyrants lost some blood those days… I wonder if that is simply unavoidable.

  7. Ron,

    There certainly exist instances where defense of property can justify deadly force. But usually those instances involve the threat of violence against the property owner.

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