Catalog Archive
Auction 176, Lot 724

First American Printing of Robespierre’s Defense of the Reign of Terror

"[French Revolution] National Convention. Report Upon the Principles of Political Morality Which Are to Form the Basis of the Administration of the Interior Concerns of the Republic...",

Subject: Document - French Revolution

Period: 1794 (published)


Color: Black & White

4.9 x 7.8 inches
12.4 x 19.8 cm
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Maximilien Robespierre was a leading figure during the French Revolution and especially its immediate aftermath, the Reign of Terror. In this pamphlet, Robespierre insists that terror is a necessary tool to achieve the overall goals of democracy. He stated that “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” (page 10). Less than six months after giving this speech he was arrested and executed, one of the last of the more than 2000 victims in Paris alone of the Reign of Terror he directed.

Published by Benjamin Franklin Bache at No. 112, Market-Street, Philadelphia and "Translated from a copy printed by order of the Convention." Bache was the grandson of Benjamin Franklin who inherited his grandfather’s printing presses and business at the Market Street address. A staunch egalitarian and supporter of Robespierre, he was critical of what he saw as a monarchical and aristocratic approach to governance by Washington and Adams. His strident criticisms contributed to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act under which he promptly was charged. Before he could be tried, he died of yellow fever at the age of 29. Octavo, disbound, 26 pages.

Please see lot X for more background on the Alien & Sedition Act.


Condition: B

Disbound with light toning and scattered foxing. There is a small perforating stamp on the top right corner of pp. 17-18.

Estimate: $200 - $250

Sold for: $450

Closed on 2/12/2020