The bloody men in Paris get all the press: Robespierre the butcher tormented his countrymen from his inner torment. That is a horrible thing to do, yet leads to excellent stories if you are safely away from his era. If a tyrant kills for a noble idea, then Hollywood will forgive him much, since he is so internally complex.
The man who lops off the heads of the innocent out of a profound sense of conflict leaves his victims no less dead, the streets no less stained with gore, but he is complicated and so romantic.
In more stable times, that is a mistake, but tolerable. Bloody men, especially tormented intellectuals, who work out their ideologies with a guillotine make good stories and better movies. Good men are less interesting, heading to heaven with a steady step.
Try to live in times governed by men who make bad movies. If you find yourself in such a time, then look for the people that do not dislike the baker, because he goes on baking like always, who does not despise the provincials and their lives.
Revolutionary France gave us a hero, Cathelineau, immortalized by Anthony Trollope in the too-little-read thriller La Vendee
In Revolutionary times, Cathelineau had the liability of actually being working class. Revolutionaries claim to love the peasant, the worker, but generally come from the intellectual class. This group will write the history, so even if the revolutionary fails, he can count on better than he deserves. A Castro may be a murderous monster, but he knows who to frame his murderous monstrosities in manners that mitigate his guilt to the writers.Poor Cathelineau had only courage and the conviction that barbarous murders were wrong. He made the even greater error of not moving on with the spirit of the age, loving his murdered monarchs more than the whore that the revolutionaries placed on an altar as the goddess Reason. Cathelineau was not educated enough to realize that killing the economy, declaring endless war on France’s neighbors, and butchering the priest who taught him, was for his good. Instead, he believed that he should love his neighbor as himself, be a man of his word, and not ask anyone to do what he would not himself.
He raised Normandy against the monsters and against great odds had success until he was killed leading his men into battle. Courage was not enough against cupidity and he is now mostly forgotten, except by those who love French people more than ideology, France more than some Utopian fantasy about what France could be.
He was a working man, in fact, and so had no delusions about his own class. He had worked for the nobility, so no illusions there either. Instead, he loved the good he knew more than the good that ignoble men promised would come if he was content with their murders.
He failed and is mostly a footnote to present history, but history is not yet finally written. God does that at Judgement Day. We can be sure that on that day nobody will be perfect, but that courageous Cathelineau will fare better than Robespierre. God does not judge according to angst or fascination, but goodness, truth, and beauty.
Cathelineau will have justice, Robespierre can continue in the torment he chose.
God send us a Cathelineau.