Robespierre’s brother was much younger than himself; but there was no one whom he more thoroughly trusted with State secrets, and State services of importance; and no one who regarded him with so entire a devotion. Robespierre the elder believed only in himself; Robespierre the younger believed in his brother, and his belief was fervid and assured, as is always that of an enthusiast. To him, Maximilian appeared to be the personification of every virtue necessary to mankind. Could he have been made to understand the opinion which the world would form of his brother’s character, he would have thought that it was about to be smitten with a curse of general insanity. Robespierre’s vanity was flattered by the adoration of his brother, and he loved his worshipper sincerely. The young man was now at Lyons, propagating the doctrines of his party; and in his letters to him, Robespierre mingled the confidential greetings of an affectionate brother with those furious demands for republican energy, which flooded the streets of the towns of France with blood, and choked the rivers of France with the bodies of the French.
“I still hope,” he wrote, slowly considering the words as they fell from his pen, “for the day when this work will have been done—for the happy day when we shall feel that we have prevailed not only against our enemies, but over our own vices; but my heart nearly fails me, when I think how little we have yet effected. I feel that among the friends whom we most trust, those who are actuated by patriotism alone are lukewarm. Lust, avarice, plunder, and personal revenge, are the motives of those who are really energetic . . . It is very difficult for me to know my friends; this also preys heavily on my spirits. The gold of the royalists is as plentiful as when the wretched woman, who is now about to die, was revelling in her voluptuous pride at Versailles. I know that the hands of many, who call themselves patriots, are even now grasping at the wages for which they are to betray the people. A day of reckoning shall come for all of them, though the list of their names is a long one. Were I to write the names of those whom I know to be true, I should be unable to insert in it above five or six. . . . I look for your return to Paris with more than my usual impatience. Eleanor’s quiet zeal, and propriety of demeanour, is a great comfort to me; but even with her, I feel that I have some reserve. I blame myself that it is so, for she is most trustworthy; but, as yet, I cannot throw it off. With you alone I have none. Do not, however, leave the work undone; remember that those who will not toil for us, will assuredly toil against us. There can be none neutral in the battle we are now waging. A man can have committed no greater crime against the Republic than having done nothing to add to its strength. I know your tender heart grieves at the death of every traitor, though your patriotism owns the necessity of his fall. Remember that the prosperity of every aristocrat has been purchased by the infamy of above a hundred slaves! How much better is it that one man should die, than that a hundred men should suffer worse than death!”