They divided the world between pro- and anti-Revolutionaries - the defenders of liberty versus its enemies. The French Revolution, as they understood it, was the great event that would determine whether liberty was to prevail on the planet or whether the world would fall back into tyranny and despotism.
The stakes could not be higher, and on these matters there could be no nuance or hesitation. One was either for the Revolution or for tyranny.
By 1792, France was confronting the hostility of neighboring countries, debating how to react. The Jacobins were divided. On one side stood the journalist and political leader Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville, who argued for war.
Brissot understood the war as preventive - "une guerre offensive," he called it - to defeat the despotic powers of Europe before they could organize their counter-Revolutionary strike. It would not be a war of conquest, as Brissot saw it, but a war "between liberty and tyranny."
Pro-war Jacobins believed theirs was a mission not for a single nation or even for a single continent. It was, in Brissot's words, "a crusade for universal liberty."
Brissot's opponents were skeptical. "No one likes armed missionaries," declared Robespierre, with words as apt then as they remain today...
Confronted by a monarchical Europe united in opposition to revolutionary France - old Europe, they might have called it - the Jacobins rooted out domestic political dissent. It was the beginning of the period that would become infamous as the Terror.
Among the Jacobins' greatest triumphs was their ability to appropriate the rhetoric of patriotism - Le Patriote Français was the title of Brissot's newspaper - and to promote their political program through a tightly coordinated network of newspapers, political hacks, pamphleteers and political clubs...
Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term "terrorist" has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hated freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to "Islamofascism."
A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.
Francois Furstenberg provides a little history lesson for the Howardistas:
at 4:08:00 pm