Infamous Speeches: From Robespierre to Osama bin Laden

Infamous Speeches: From Robespierre to Osama bin Laden

by Bob Blaisdell (Editor)

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Overview

Infamous Speeches: From Robespierre to Osama bin Laden by Bob Blaisdell

This anthology comprises some of history's most hateful public addresses, consisting of speeches invoking racism, genocide, anti-Semitism, terrorism, and other extreme views. Selections range from an oration by Robespierre during the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution to Osama bin Laden's threats related to the terrorist actions of 9/11.
Additional speeches include Andrew Jackson's Seventh Annual Message to Congress in 1835, promoting the Indian Removal Act; Jefferson Davis' 1861 announcement of Southern secession; and Joseph R. McCarthy's "Wheeling" speech of 1950, in which the senator claimed knowledge of Communist loyalists within the U. S. government. Other speakers include Hitler, Mussolini, Mao Tse-Tung, and Stalin. Each speech features a brief introduction that places it in historical context.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486478494
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 01/11/2011
Series: Dover Thrift Editions
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 428,192
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Bob Blaisdell is professor of English at the City University of New York's Kingsborough Community College and the editor of twenty-two Dover literature and poetry collections.

Read an Excerpt

Infamous Speeches

From Robespierre to Osama bin Laden


By Bob Blaisdell

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11245-9



CHAPTER 1

MAXIMILIEN MARIE ISIDORE ROBESPIERRE


"The Principles of Political Morality"

Address to the National Convention

("Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible ... an emanation of virtue; ... a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country")

Paris, France

February 5, 1794


Maximilien Marie Isidore Robespierre (1758–1794) was among the French Revolution's most important leaders and most spellbinding of orators. As a member of the deadly Committee of Public Safety, he continues his advocacy for the "Reign of Terror" against those fighting or challenging the social and legal upheavals the Revolution has wrought. Robespierre saw enemies everywhere and desired the power of terror to obliterate them. Five and a half months later, after his foes gained power, he was executed.


Citizens/Representatives of the People:

We laid before you some time ago the principles of our exterior political system; we come today to develop the principles of our interior political morality.

After having long pursued the path which chance pointed out, carried away in a manner by the efforts of contending factions, the Representatives of the French people have shown a character and a government. A sudden change in the success of the nation announced to Europe the regeneration which was operated in the national representation. But to this point of time, even now that I address you, it must be allowed that we have been impelled through the tempest of a revolution, rather by a love of goodness and a feeling of the wants of our country, than by an exact theory, and precise rules of conduct, which we had not even leisure to sketch.

It is time to designate clearly the purposes of the revolution and the point which we wish to attain. It is time we should examine ourselves the obstacles which yet are between us and our wishes, and the means most proper to realize them, a simple and important idea that appears not yet to have been contemplated. Eh! How could a base and corrupt government have dared to realize it? A king, a proud senate, a Caesar, a Cromwell; of these the first care was to cover their dark designs under the cloak of religion, to covenant with every vice, caress every party, destroy men of integrity, oppress and deceive the people in order to attain the end of their treacherous ambition. If we had not had a task of the first magnitude to accomplish; if all our concern had been to raise a party or create a new aristocracy, we might have believed, as certain writers more ignorant than wicked asserted, that the plan of the French Revolution was to be found written in the works of Tacitus and of Machiavelli; we might have sought the duties of the representatives of the people in the history of Augustus, of Tiberius, or of Vespasian, or even in that of certain French legislators; for tyrants are substantially alike and only differ by trifling shades of treachery and cruelty.

For our part we now come to make the whole world partake in your political secrets, in order that all friends of their country may rally at the voice of reason and public interest, and that the French nation and her representatives be respected in all countries which may attain a knowledge of their true principles; and that intriguers who always seek to supplant other intriguers may be judged by public opinion upon settled and plain principles.

It is necessary to take every precaution to place the interests of freedom in the hands of truth, which is eternal, rather than in those of men, who come and go; so that if the government forgets the interests of the people or falls into the hands of men corrupted, according to the natural course of things, the light of acknowledged principles should unmask their treasons, and that every new faction may read its death in the very thought of a crime.

Happy the people that attains this end; for, whatever new machinations are plotted against their liberty, what resources does not public reason present when guaranteeing freedom!

What is the end of our revolution? The tranquil enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reign of that eternal justice, the laws of which are graven, not on marble or stone, but in the hearts of men, even in the heart of the slave who has forgotten them, and in that of the tyrant who disowns them.

We wish to substitute in our country morality for egotism, integrity for "honor," principles for customs, deeds for decorum, the empire of reason over the tyranny of fashion, a contempt of vice for a contempt of misfortune, pride for insolence, magnanimity for vanity, the love of glory for the love of money, good people for good company, merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for flash, the attractions of happiness for the ennui of sensuality, the grandeur of man for the littleness of the great, a people magnanimous, powerful, happy, for a people amiable, frivolous and miserable; that is to say, all the virtues and miracles of a Republic instead of all the vices and absurdities of a monarchy.

We wish, in a word, to fulfill the intentions of nature and the destiny of man, realize the promises of philosophy, and acquit providence of a long reign of crime and tyranny. That France, once illustrious among enslaved nations, may, by eclipsing the glory of all free countries that ever existed, become a model to nations, a terror to oppressors, a consolation to the oppressed, an ornament of the universe and that, by sealing the work with our blood, we may at least witness the dawn of the bright day of universal happiness. This is our ambition; this is the end of our efforts.

What kind of government can realize these wonders? Only a democratic or republican government—these two words are synonyms, despite the abuses in common speech, because an aristocracy is no closer than a monarchy to being a republic. A democracy is not a state where the people, continually assembled, regulate all the public affairs themselves; much less is it one where a hundred thousand groups of people, segregated by measures, hasty and contradictory, decide the fate of the whole nation: such a government has never existed except to bring back the people under the yoke of despotism.

Democracy is a state in which the sovereign people, guided by laws which are of their own making, do for themselves all that they can do well, and by their delegates do all that they cannot do for themselves.

It is therefore in the principles of a democratic government that you are to seek the rules of your political conduct.

But, in order to found and consolidate among us democracy, to reach the peaceful reign of constitutional laws, we must terminate the war of liberty against tyranny, and weather successfully the tempests of the revolution. This is the end of the revolutionary government you have framed. You should therefore again regulate your conduct by the tempestuous circumstances in which the Republic exists, and the plan of your administration should be the result of the spirit of the revolutionary government combined with the general principles of democracy.

Now, what is the fundamental principle of popular or democratic government, that is to say, the essential mainspring which sustains it and gives it motion? It is virtue. I speak of the public virtue that worked so many wonders in Greece and Rome and ought to produce even more astonishing things in republican France—that virtue which is nothing else than the love of the nation and its laws.

But as the essence of the republic or of democracy is equality, it follows that love of country necessarily embraces the love of equality.

Again, it is true that this sublime passion supposes a preference for the interest of the public over all private considerations; it results from this then that the love of country supposes or produces all virtues. For what are they but a strength of mind which commands such sacrifices? And how could the slave of avarice and ambition, for example, sacrifice his idol for his country?

Not only is virtue the soul of democracy; it can exist in no other government. In a monarchy, I know only one individual who could love his country, and for that, he does not need a bit of virtue; that one is the king. The reason is that of all those who live in his dominions, the king is the only one who has a country. Is he not the sovereign, at least in fact? Is not he in the place of the people? And so what is a fatherland if not a country where the citizen is a member of the sovereignty?

By consequence of this same principle, in the aristocratic governments, the word "fatherland" signifies nothing more than the patriarchal families that have usurped sovereignty.

It is only in a democracy where the state is truly a country of all the individuals who compose it, and can count as many zealous defenders of its cause as there are citizens. Here is the source of the superiority of free people over all others. If Athens and Sparta triumphed over all the tyrants of Asia, and the Swiss over the tyrants of Spain and Austria, it is unnecessary to seek another cause.

But the French are the first people of the world who have established real democracy, by calling all men to equality and full rights of citizenship; and there, in my judgment, is the true reason why all the tyrants in league against the Republic will be vanquished.

There are important consequences to be drawn immediately from the principles we have just explained.

Since virtue and equality are the soul of the republic, and that your aim is to found, to consolidate the republic, it follows, that the first rule of your political conduct should be, to let all your measures tend to maintain equality and encourage virtue, for the first care of the legislator should be to strengthen the principles on which the government rests. Hence all that tends to excite a love of country, to purify manners, to exalt the mind, to direct the passions of the human heart towards the public good, you should adopt and establish. All that tends to concentrate and debase them into selfish egotism, to awaken an infatuation for littlenesses, and a disregard for greatness, you should reject or repress. In the system of the French Revolution that which is immoral is impolitic, and what tends to corrupt is counter-revolutionary. Weaknesses, vices, prejudices are the road to monarchy. Carried away, too often perhaps, by the force of ancient habits, as well as by the innate imperfection of human nature, to false ideas and pusillanimous sentiments, we have more to fear from the excesses of weakness, than from excesses of energy. The warmth of zeal is not perhaps the most dangerous rock that we have to avoid; but rather that languour which ease produces and a distrust of our own courage. Therefore continually wind up the sacred spring of republican government, instead of letting it run down. I need not say that I am not here justifying any excess. The most sacred principles may be abused: the wisdom of government should guide its operations according to circumstances, it should time its measures, choose its means; for the manner of bringing about great things is an essential part of the talent of producing them, just as wisdom is an essential attribute of virtue.

We do not pretend to cast the French Republic in the model of that of Sparta; we do not want to give it either austerity or the corruption of cloisters. We come to present to you, in all its purity, the moral and political principle of popular government. You have then a compass that can guide you through the midst of storms of all the passions, and from the whirlwinds of intrigues that surround you. You have the touchstone by which you can try out all your laws and all the propositions that you make. By ceaselessly comparing them by this principle, you can from now on avoid the reef of large assemblies, the danger of surprises and precipitous measures that are incoherent and contradictory. You can give to all your measures the systematic unity, wisdom and dignity that should characterize representatives of the world's leading people.

It is not necessary to detail the natural consequences of the principle of democracy; it is the principle itself, simple yet copious, which deserves to be developed.

Republican virtue may be considered as it respects the people and as it respects the government. It is necessary in the one and in the other. When however, the government alone is deprived of it, there exists a resource in that of the people; but when the people themselves are corrupted liberty is already lost.

Happily virtue is natural in the people, despite aristocratic prejudices. A nation is truly corrupt, when, after having by degrees lost its character and liberty, it passes from democracy into aristocracy or monarchy; this is the death of the political body by decrepitude. When, after 400 years of glory, the avarice finally chased out of Sparta the customs along with the laws of Lycurgus, Agis died in vain to restore them. Demosthenes unsuccessfully thundered against Philip, and Philip found the vices of Athens degenerated its advocates more eloquently than Demosthenes. There is now, in Athens, a population as numerous as in the time of Militiades and Aristides, but there are no more "Athenians." What does it matter that Brutus killed the tyrant? Tyranny still lives in those hearts, and Rome does not exist except in Brutus.

But, when, by prodigious effects of courage and of reason, a whole people break off the chains of despotism to turn them into trophies to liberty; when, by their moral temperament, they rise in a manner from the arms of death, to resume all the strength of youth when, in turns forgiving and inexorable, intrepid and docile, they can neither be checked by impregnable ramparts, nor by innumerable armies of tyrants leagued against them, and yet of themselves stop at the voice of the law; if then they do not reach the heights of their destiny it can only be the fault of those who govern.

Again, it may be said, that, in one sense, to love justice and equality the people need no great effort of virtue; it is sufficient that they love themselves.

But the magistrate is obliged to sacrifice his own interest to the interest of the people, and the pride of power to equality. It is necessary that the law speak with all its energy, especially to its representatives. It is necessary that the government conduct itself to have all its parts in harmony with it. If there is a representative body, a primary authority, constituted by the people, it is its duty to superintend and ceaselessly repress the public functionaries. But what will repress it, except its own virtue? The more exalted this source of public order is, the more pure it ought to be. It is necessary then that the representative body begin by suppressing in its bosom all private passions and interests to the general will and good of the public. Happy are those representatives when their glory and their interest attach themselves, as much as their duties, to the cause of liberty.

We deduce from all this a great truth—that the characteristic of popular government is to be trustful towards the people and rigorous with itself.

Here the development of our theory would reach its limit, if you had only to steer the ship of the Republic through calm waters. But the tempest rages, and the state of the revolution in which you find yourselves imposes upon you another task.

This great purity of the principles of the French Revolution, the sublimity indeed of its object, are what constitute our strength and our weakness; our strength as it gives us our ascendancy which truth will command over imposture, and the rights of the public interest over private interests; our weakness, because it gives scope to the machinations of men, of all those who in their hearts meditate plunder of the people, and all those who wish their former plunder-ings should go unpunished, and those who have abhorred liberty as a personal calamity, and those who embraced the Revolution as a trade and the Republic as booty: Hence the defection of so many ambitious and avaricious men, who, after starting with us, abandoned us on the way, because they had not undertaken the journey to arrive at our goal. One might say that these two opposing peoples, who have been imagined as disputing with each other the empire of nature, are combating at this great epoch of human history to set without return the destiny of the world, and that France is the theater of this important contest. Externally, all the tyrants surround you; internally all the friends of tyranny conspire; they will conspire until hope for the crime has been taken away. It is necessary to annihilate the internal and external enemies of the Republic or perish with them. Now, in this situation, the first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people's enemies by terror.

If virtue be the basis of a popular government in times of peace, the basis of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. 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.


(Continues...)

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Table of Contents

"The Principles of Political Morality" (February 5, 1794) Maximilien Marie Isidore Robespierre 1

Address to his Troops at the Beginning of the Russian Campaign (May 1812) Napoleon Bonaparte 18

"Indian Removal" (December 7, 1835) President Andrew Jackson 19

"We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions" (February 6, 1837) John C. Calhoun 22

"On Withdrawal from the Union" (January 21, 1861) Jefferson Davis 28

Opening Address at the Geographical Conference on Africa (September 12, 1876) King Leopold II 33

"A Plea for Imperial Armament" (February 6, 1888) Otto von Bismarck 35

"The Future of British Empire" (November 6, 1895) Joseph Chamberlain 47

"If this be imperialism, its final end will be the Empire of the Son of Man" (January 9, 1900) Albert Jeremiah Beveridge 51

"The sword must decide" (August 6, 1914) Kaiser Wilhelm II 63

On the Dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (January 6, 1918) Vladimir Lenin 64

The Scopes "Monkey Trial" (July 16, 1925) William Jennings Bryan 68

"Our Hitler" (April 20, 1933) Joseph Goebbels 74

"We have been patient with Ethiopia for forty years" (October 2, 1935) Benito Mussolini 79

"Defects in Party Work and Measures for Liquidating Trotskyite and Other Double Dealers" (March 3, 1937) Josef Stalin 81

"The Munich Agreement" (October 3, 1938) Neville Chamberlain 101

"The Meaning of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact" (August 31, 1939) Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov 106

"America First" (September 11, 1941) Charles A. Lindbergh 116

"Nothing is Impossible for the German Soldier" (May 4, 1941) Adolph Hitler 122

Radio Speech #6 from Fascist Italy (January 29, 1942) Ezra Pound 134

"Enemies from Within" (February 9, 1950) Joseph R. McCarthy 139

"A Great Leap Forward" (May 17, 1958) Mao Tse-Tung 147

The Governor of Alabama's Inaugural Address (January 14, 1963) George C. Wallace 153

"Rivers of Blood" (April 20, 1968) Enoch Powell 163

First Watergate speech (April 30, 1973) Richard M. Nixon 170

United Nations Speech on Zionism as Racism (October 1, 1975) Idi Amin Dada 176

Call for Mass Suicide (November 18, 1918) James Jones 187

"Crossing the Rubicon" (August 15, 1985) P.W. Botha 193

Address to the Martial Units-Tiananmen Square (June 9, 1989) Deng Xiaoping 205

Arab Cooperation Council Speech (February 24, 1990) Saddam Hussein 209

Address to the Nation on the NATO Bombings (October 2, 2000) Slobodan Milosevic 214

"O American people, I address these words to you regarding the best way of avoiding another Manhattan" (October 29, 2004) Osama bin Laden 220

"We are Rising Up Against the Empire" (September 20, 2006) Hugo Chavez 225

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