[The following passage comes from the conclusion of the author's Life of Maximilien Robespierre (1849) in the Hathi Digital Library Trust web edition. — George P. Landow]
n one of the sittings of the Jacobins, he indignantly repelled the idea which had been proposed, of withdrawing the government salary from the priests. It is strange that Lamartine, who, on the whole, takes so favourable a view of Robespierre's character, should charge him with cowardice and inconsistency in standing by the priests. We have seen that he has done so throughout his career. We have seen that, in the first place, he had very strong religious convictions, though not perhaps of the most orthodox kind; and we have seen him in the Assembly always advocating the real interests of the priesthood. In one of his Lettres à ses Commettans he thus explains himself:
God created all men for equality and happiness. It is he who protects the oppressed and exterminates tyrants. My religion is that of justice and humanity. I do not particularly love the power of priests. It is another chain on humanity, but it is an invisible chain, and fetters the mind. The legislator may assist reason to free itself from this chain, but not to break it. Our situation, in this respect, appears to me favourable. The empire of superstition is almost destroyed. The priest is no longer the object of veneration, but the idea of that religion which he personifies. The torch of philosophy, penetrating even to the lowest classes, has dispelled all those ridiculous phantoms which the ambition of priests and the policy of kings bade us adore. Little now remains save those eternal dogmas which are the support of all our morality, the touching and sublime doctrines of charity and equality which the son of Mary formerly taught mankind. Soon doubtless the gospel of reason and liberty will be the gospel of the universe. Belief in the Divinity is implanted in every mind ; the people connect it with the religion they have hitherto professed; and to attack this belief would be to attack the morality of the nation. But remember that our revolution is based upon justice, and every thing which tends to weaken morality is anti-revolutionary. Remember how careful ancient lawgivers were to preserve this element of morality. Let us throw no fresh element of discord among the people by making them believe we attack religion in attacking priests. Do not say that is not a question as to whether we shall abolish this religion but only of not paying it, for those who believe in it, think that not to pay for it, or to suffer it to perish, is the same thing. Besides, do you not perceive that by leaving each man to find a religion for himself, you kindle the signal of discord in every town and every village? Some would wish for a religion, others would wish for none, and would thus become mutual objects of contempt and hatred. [269-70]
Lewes, George Henry. The Life of Maximilien Robespierre; with extracts from his unpublished correspondence. London, Chapman and Hall, 1849. Hathi Digital Library Trust online version of a copy in the Harvard University Library. Web. 25 April 2017.
Last modified 22 April 2017