Georges Jacques Danton


The execution of Danton from the 1983 biopic.  French with English subtitles

Today is the birthday of Danton, French revolutionary leader of the Jacobins (1759-1794).  As with many in the revolutionary leadership, it did not end well: Danton went the guillotine in 1794, saying to his executioner, “Don’t forget to show my head to the people. It’s well worth seeing.”

Frye citing Edmund Burke on the Jacobins and the Terror in A Study of English Romanticism:

Coleridge was more belligerently Christian in insisting that the primary imagination was an existence repeating the infinite “I am” of God, and in feeling that every argument he advanced on the point was one in the eye for atheism, scepticism, and “psilanthropism.”  In Burke we see, much more clearly than in Coleridge, that this new sense of [romantic] identity does have a real enemy.  Burke identifies the enemy with the Jacobinism of the French Revolution.  Burke’s view of the French Revolution itself, however, is not very rewarding: what is important is his prophetic vision of the kind of society where the sense of the continuity of tradition is annihilated, and where the general will of society is unconditioned by any reference to a goal beyond the immediate objects of those in power.  (CW 17, 203-4)

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