Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885, October 01, 1890, Page 3, Image 3

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

    THE HESPERIAN.
JJ
the fraternitses tell why it is that they are never
represented in the oratorical contests? But perhaps
oratorical prizes are loo small game for those whose
highest ambition it seems is to hold offices in the var
ious classes. Moreover there is never danger of de
feat for those who do not enter the contest. Perhaps
he fraternities may not receive such extended notice
in our columns as they did last year. But they should
not feel discouraged on thisaccount. They shall re
cieve as much nol'ce as they desire.
LITERARY.
The Berliner Pfiifoligische Wochemchrift May 3, 1890,
contains the following interesting item: "At RIoomington,
Missouri, there exists a Plato club whose members (the sam e
in number as the muses) arc women alone. Representatives
of the bearded sex arc allowed to appear only as guests. An
nually on the 7th of "Thargelion" (the 7th of November),
they celebrate the "coming of Plato to the earth" by a "synr
posion." The last banquet speech was delivered by a Dr'
Hiram Jones, in which he explained that each person in
Plato's symposion represented a principle: Socrates repre
sents wisdom; Pausanius, temperance; Phaidros, the bcauti.
ful; Aristophanes, good appearance. The lecture moved the
Platonic dames to tears."
To few men has a more unenviable place been assigned in
history than to Robespierre; no man, perhaps, deserves more
unqualified condemnation than lie. Abhorred by all but a
few of his contempoiaries, condemned by the unanimou'
voice of subsequent generations, his apologists arc to be
found nowhere. But in the excess of justifiable hatred for
the man it is possible to overlook the fact that even from his
life there are lessons to b: learned which have an interest, not
alone for those who wish to know the past, but also for those
who would understand in all their phases questions that are
still of vital interest to the state.
It is first of all essential to observe that the enormities of
his last days were the outcome ol a logical development, and
were not instituted , as would appear at first glance, by mis
anthropy or by merely personal ambition. It would be par
adoxical to assert that it was merely his love for mankind
that prompted his judicial massacre of his countrymen; but,
extraordinary as it may seem, it was his devotion to the wel
fare of men, or ol that ideal race which supplanted in his
dazed vision the real men around him, that gained him the
power he wielded with such malignant energy.
It is seldom that unswerving devotion to an ideal has
raised mediocrity to such an eminence. Robespierre's chief
aim was to apply to (he government ol his native land those
precepts which his teacher, Rosscau, had said should be ob
served in the government of a community. Robespierre
believed in the natural good ol the peasant when not op
pressed by tyrants, in the possibility of a people being gov
' erned under a constitution superimposed, as it were, upon
them by some irresponsible person; and he had faith in the
notion that a form of government that had succeeded in so
small a community as Sparta or Attica could be endured by a
nation so vast as Frande. The few curt maxims of Rosscau
found ready credence in the mind of Robespierre, trained in
the method then used by the majority of French thinkers,
consisting in the analysis of terms rather than the investiga
tion of actual facts. In his youngar days Robespierre re
signed a lucrative position to avoid responsibility for the ex
ecution of a criminal; unswerving devotion to the realization
of Rosscau's prophecies of future bliss for mankind led
Robespierre before his death to the pitiless immolation of
his fellows. He was a fanatic, and his fanaticism made him
what he became, the arbiter of the destinies of France. Un
attractive in appearance, having none of the qualities that
make the orator or the statesman, his repealed assertions oi
confidence in "the people" and his indefatigable labor for
what he bclicvcjl, sincerely, no doubt, to be for the welfare
ol the masses, deluded them ami him also into bclievtng
that he, of all men, was to be the saviour of France. But
his mission was far otherwise. His life is a glaring proof of
the fact that the millcnium is not to be reached in a moment,
but by slow, long continued advance.
The woes he inflicted on France are liot due ultimately to
his personal ambition, or to an inherent callousness to human
suffering, but arc traceable to the substitution in his thought
of terms for ideas; of an ideal race for the one living about
him. True he had ambition; but his talents were so medi
ocre that it is doubtful whether he could ever have become
dictator of France without the aid of fanaticism, his own and
his followers'. That fanaticism led him to sacrifice the lives
of his contemporaries in order that mankind might the sooner
attain the ideal he held constantly in view; it led him to
slaughter by the wholesale the enemies of the cause he advo
cated, whereas, as before shown, he dreaded responsibility
for the death of a single man, guilty of any other crime than
betrayal of "the people."
It is sad to consider that a man entering public life, pro
fessing to be guidad by principles, that, although not appli
cable to his age, exhibit a certain desire for the welfare of
humanity, should so deviate from the course he claimed to
follow as to become a human monster. But if his life re
sulted in any good to humanity it was in proving conclusively
a fact, seemingly not recognized by all his contemporaries,
their political life having been crushed out by cemurics of
oppression, namely, that eloquence and flattsry of the masses
are not the safest instruments in the hands of one who would
rule.
His life, furthermore, furnishes an additional proof, if any
be needed, of the utility of of the critical method of histori
cal study so much decried by those that can see little benefit
derivable from an accurate knowledge of past events. It is
well known that the theory of philosophers whom Robes
pierre took as his guide, is based on the assumption of the
existence somewhere in the past of a golden age, wherein the
vices and injustice so rife in civilized communities were un
known. Nothing was offered to justify this assumption: it
was taken as a matter of course. Rosscau urged an immedi
ate return to that age, no matter what should be the result to
existing institutions. The Romans had the same belief in a
former happy age, but so conservative were they that this
theory produced with them beneficial results, while in France
anarchy resulted. Thus it is seen that Robespierre was chas
ing after a phantom, was willing to sacrifice a whole
nation to regain that happy state, of which, as he might have
learned by perusing the records of the past, authentic history
makes no mention.
One is surprised in reading the speeches of the legislators
of France during the revolution, to find so many and so pe
dantic references to ancient history. It is amusing to note
the complaint of one of the deputies that none of the libraries
of Paris contained a copy of the laws of Minos. These men