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The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution
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University of Chicago Press, page(s): 325

October 2009

In The Terror of Natural Right, Dan Edelstein argues that the revolutionaries used the natural right concept of the “enemy of the human race”—an individual who has transgressed the laws of nature and must be executed without judicial formalities—to authorize three-quarters of the deaths during the Terror. But the significance of the natural right did not end with its legal application. Edelstein argues that the Jacobins shared a political philosophy that he calls “natural republicanism,” which assumed the natural state of society was a republic and that natural right provided its only acceptable laws. Ultimately, he argues that what we call the Terror was in fact only one facet of the republican theory that prevailed from Louis’s trial until the fall of Robespierre.

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