Enjolras is about as far from “going Pimpernel” as one could possibly imagine. In fact, Hugo gives an explicit bit to go off when it comes to imagining him in the French Revolution proper: “On Mount Aventine, he would have been Gracchus; in the Convention, he would have been Saint-Just.” So, that gives us a definitive political alignment for Enjolras in this period—Jacobin, Robespierrist.
Saint-Just (and Robespierre, with whom I also would associate Enjolras, due to his personal self-restraint and his devotion to the idea of a virtuous republic) were both in a way and to an extent supporters of the Terror. If you’ve spent any time on bunniesandbeheadings’ blog, I’m sure you’ve been exposed to the fact that during the French Revolution, the political landscape was very dangerous, and often came down to “kill or be killed.” In order not to steal too much from Bunny’s thoughts, I would point you to this post to learn the difference between the Terror as Robespierre and his supporters (including Saint-Just) defined it, and as it was practiced by other individuals. Just as there was an ideal form of the Republic that they were seeking but did not have, there was an ideal form of the Terror that the Robespierrists sought to practice but could not always regulate—a Terror that truly would be, as Robespierre said, “only justice, prompt, swift, and inflexible.” We definitely see Enjolras executing that sort of justice, in the death of Le Cabuc for example. So, Enjolras aligning with a Robespierrist Terror (again, using the definition of “Robespierrist Terror” that Bunny lays out in the linked post above) isn’t too hard to see. Another Robespierre quote: “Woe unto him who turns the Terror, reserved for public enemies, against the people themselves!” I can definitely see Enjolras getting behind that statement.
Even though he has a keen sense of humanity, especially when Combeferre is by his side to complete and correct him, and sweeping ideals, there is also a practical side to Enjolras. He shot the artillery sergeant, after all. I think his words then are clearly applicable to his theoretical behavior during the Terror: “We must do what we must.” We must defend the Republic; we must keep her alive. And if that means shooting a gunner who could be your brother or executing the king and sending plotting aristocrats after him to the guillotine, then so be it. We must do what we must.
—Also, as is mentioned in one of Bunny’s posts here, Robespierre in particular made some significant moves towards clemency, sparing the lives of the Girondins on one occasion and of 28,000 monarchists on another, at great risk to himself. So he does demonstrate clemency even towards “public enemies,” the sort of polarization that Enjolras would pick up from Combeferre. It’s interesting to wonder, though, where the other Amis would have fallen along the political lines of the times. Would Combeferre and Jehan, with their gentle spirits and convictions about humanity, have protested for further clemency with the Dantonists? Would Bahorel, with his rash waistcoats and scarlet opinions, have associated with Hébert or Marat? Would any of them have managed to survive through Thermidor to see the utterly corrupt White Terror, and watch the Republic fall into ruin under the Directory? I don’t know. We get an indication with Enjolras (“he would have been Saint-Just”) that we don’t really have for the others.
(On the topic of Enjolras = Saint-Just, by the way, Saint-Just has some great quotes that suit Enjolras very well. Like: “Insurrection is the exclusive right of the people and of the citizen…Insurrections taking place under a despotism are always salutary.” And “Those who would do good in this world, those who would make revolutions in it, must sleep only in the tomb.” And “I believe therefore that if man be given laws which harmonize with the dictates of nature and of his heart he will cease to be unhappy and corrupt.” And “No man can reign innocently. The folly is all too evident. Every king is a rebel and a usurper.” I mean. Can’t you hear Enjolras quoting those?)
We studied the French Revolution at A level (which on the curriculum we had meant having it in your head more than once a week for two years) and I always thought that I WANT MOAR SAINT-JUST. Except for him being in power because that would be a bad thing.
Now I am thinking that Marius would be a Dantonist. Only you all have probably already got a good ideological reason why he wouldn’t be, whereas all I have to go on is that everyone in my class who was attracted to guys thought that Camille Desmoulins was hot. I can’t imagine what would have happened if anyone had known what shipping was, oh god.