THE ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY FRANCE, VOLUME 3
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, VOLUME 2
by Hippolyte A. Taine
Transcriber's Note: The numbering of Volumes, Books, Chapters and Sections are as in the French not the American edition. Annotations by the transcriber are initialled SR.
Svend Rom, April 2000.
THE REVOLUTION. Volume II. THE JACOBIN CONQUEST.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION VOLUME II.
BOOK FIRST. THE JACOBINS. CHAPTER I. The Establishment of the new political organ. 6 I. The Revolutionary Party. II. The Jacobins. III. Jacobin Mentality. IV. What the Theory Promises.
CHAPTER II. The Party. I. Formation of the Party II. Jacobin and other Associations III. The Press. IV. The Clubs. V. Jacobin Power.
BOOK SECOND. THE FIRST STAGE OF THE CONQUEST. CHAPTER I. The Jacobins in Power. I. Manipulating the Vote. II. Danger of holding Public Office. III. Pursuit of the Opponents. IV. Turmoil. V. Tactics of Intimidation.
CHAPTER II. The Legislative Assembly. I. New Incompetent Assembly. II. Jacobin Intelligence and Culture. III. Their Sessions. IV. The political Parties. V. Means and Ways. VI. Political Tactics. CHAPTER III. Policy of the Assembly. I. Lawlessness. II. Revolutionary Laws. III. War. IV. Dictatorship of the Proletariat. V. Citoyens! Aux Armes!! CHAPTER IV. The Departments. I. Provence in 1792. II. The expedition to Aix. III. Marseilles against Arles. IV. The Jacobins of Avignon. V. The Class Struggle. CHAPTER V. PARIS. I. Weakening of the King. II. The Armed Revolutionaries. III. Jacobin Rabble-rousers. IV. The King in front of the people. CHAPTER VI. The Birth of the Terrible Paris Commune. I. The Plan of the Girondists. II. Girondists Foiled. III. Preparations for the Coup. IV. The Commune in Action. V. Purging the Assembly. VI. Take-over. VII. The King's Submission. VIII. Paris and its Jacobin leaders.
BOOK THIRD. THE SECOND STAGE OF THE CONQUEST. CHAPTER I. Mob rule in times of anarchy. I. Brigands. II. Homicidal Part of Revolutionary Creed. III. Terror is their Salvation. IV. Carnage. V. Abasement and Stupor. VI. Jacobin Massacre. CHAPTER II. THE DEPARTMENTS. I. The Sovereignty of the People.. II. Robbers and Victims. III. Local Dictature. IV. Jacobin Violence, Rape and Pillage. V. The Roving Gangs. VI. The Programme of the Party. CHAPTER III. The New Sovereigns.. I. Sharing the Spoils. II. Doctoring the Elections III Electoral Control.. IV: The New Republican Assembly. V. The Jacobins forming alone the Sovereign People. VI. Composition of the Jacobin Party. VII. The Jacobin Chieftains. CHAPTER IV. TAKEN HOSTAGE. I. Jacobin tactics and power. II. Jacobin characters and minds. III. Physical fear and moral cowardice. IV. Jacobin victory over Girondist majority. V. Jacobin violence against the people. VI. Jacobin tactics. VII. The central Jacobin committee in power. VIII. Right or Wrong, my Country.
In this volume, as in those preceding it and in those to come, there will be found only the history of Public Authorities. Others will write that of diplomacy, of war, of the finances, of the Church; my subject is a limited one. To my great regret, however, this new part fills an entire volume; and the last part, on the revolutionary government, will be as long.
I have again to regret the dissatisfaction I foresee this work will cause to many of my countrymen. My excuse is, that almost all of them, more fortunate than myself, have political principles which serve them in forming their judgments of the past. I had none; if indeed, I had any motive in undertaking this work, it was to seek for political principles. Thus far I have attained to scarcely more than one; and this is so simple that will seem puerile, and that I hardly dare express it. Nevertheless I have adhered to it, and in what the reader is about to peruse my judgments are all derived from that; its truth is the measure of theirs. It consists wholly in this observation: that
HUMAN SOCIETY, ESPECIALLY A MODERN SOCIETY, IS A VAST AND COMPLICATED THING.
Hence the difficulty in knowing and comprehending it. For the same reason it is not easy to handle the subject well. It follows that a cultivated mind is much better able to do this than an uncultivated mind, and a man specially qualified than one who is not. From these two last truths flow many other consequences, which, if the reader deigns to reflect on them, he will have no trouble in defining.
H. A. Taine, Paris 1881.
BOOK FIRST. THE JACOBINS.
CHAPTER I. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NEW POLITICAL ORGAN.
In this disorganized society, in which the passions of the people are the sole real force, authority belongs to the party that understands how to flatter and take advantage of these. As the legal government can neither repress nor gratify them, an illegal government arises which sanctions, excites, and directs these passions. While the former totters and falls to pieces, the latter grows stronger and improves its organization, until, becoming legal in its turn, it takes the other's place.
I.—Principle of the revolutionary party.
As a justification of these popular outbreaks and assaults, we discover at the outset a theory, which is neither improvised, added to, nor superficial, but now firmly fixed in the public mind. It has for a long time been nourished by philosophical discussions. It is a sort of enduring, long-lived root out of which the new constitutional tree has arisen. It is the dogma of popular sovereignty.—Literally interpreted, it means that the government is merely an inferior clerk or servant. We, the people, have established the government; and ever since, as well as before its organization, we are its masters. Between it and us no infinite or long lasting "contract". "None which cannot be done away with by mutual consent or through the unfaithfulness of one of the two parties." Whatever it may be, or provide for, we are nowise bound by it; it depends wholly on us. We remain free to "modify, restrict, and resume as we please the power of which we have made it the depository." Through a primordial and inalienable title deed the commonwealth belongs to us and to us only. If we put this into the hands of the government it is as when kings delegate authority for the time being to a minister He is always tempted to abuse; it is our business to watch him, warn him, check him, curb him, and, if necessary, displace him. We must especially guard ourselves against the craft and maneuvers by which, under the pretext of preserving law and order, he would tie our hands. A law, superior to any he can make, forbids him to interfere with our sovereignty; and he does interfere with it when he undertakes to forestall, obstruct, or impede its exercise. The Assembly, even the Constituent, usurps when it treats the people like a lazybones (roi faineant), when it subjects them to laws, which they have not ratified, and when it deprives them of action except through their representatives. The people themselves must act directly, must assemble together and deliberate on public affairs. They must control and censure the acts of those they elect; they must influence these with their resolutions, correct their mistakes with their good sense, atone for their weakness by their energy, stand at the helm alongside of them, and even employ force and throw them overboard, so that the ship may be saved, which, in their hands, is drifting on a rock. Such, in fact, is the doctrine of the popular party. This doctrine is carried into effect July 14 and October 5 and 6, 1789. Loustalot, Camille Desmoulins, Freron, Danton, Marat, Petion, Robespierre proclaim it untiringly in the political clubs, in the newspapers, and in the assembly. The government, according to them, whether local or central, trespasses everywhere. Why, after having overthrown one despotism, should we install another? We are freed from the yoke of a privileged aristocracy, but we still suffer from "the aristocracy of our representatives." Already at Paris, "the population is nothing, while the municipality is everything". It encroaches on our imprescriptible rights in refusing to let a district revoke at will the five members elected to represent it at the Hotel-de-Ville, in passing ordinances without obtaining the approval of voters, in preventing citizens from assembling where they please, in interrupting the out-door meetings of the clubs in the Palais Royal where "Patriots are driven away be the patrol." Mayor Bailly, "who keeps liveried servants, who gives himself a salary of 110,000 livres," who distributes captains' commissions, who forces peddlers to wear metallic badges, and who compels newspapers to have signatures to their articles is not only a tyrant, but a crook, thief and "guilty of lese-nation."—Worse are the abuses of the National Assembly. To swear fidelity to the constitution, as this body has just done, to impose its work on us, forcing us to take a similar oath, disregarding our superior rights to veto or ratify their decisions, is to "slight and scorn our sovereignty". By substituting the will of 1200 individuals for that of the people, "our representatives have failed to treat us with respect." This is not the first time, and it is not to be the last. Often do they exceed their mandate, they disarm, mutilate, and gag their legitimate sovereign and they pass decrees against the people in the people's name. Such is their martial law, specially devised for "suppressing the uprising of citizens", that is to say, the only means left to us against conspirators, monopolists, and traitors. Such a decree against publishing any kind of joint placard or petition, is a decree "null and void," and "constitutes a most flagrant attack on the nation's rights." Especially is the electoral law one of these, a law which, requiring a small qualification tax for electors and a larger one for those who are eligible, "consecrates the aristocracy of wealth." The poor, who are excluded by the decree, must regard it as invalid; register themselves as they please and vote without scruple, because natural law has precedence over written law. It would simply be "fair reprisal" if, at the end of the session, the millions of citizens lately deprived of their vote unjustly, should seize the usurping majority by the threat and tell them:
"You cut us off from society in your chamber, because you are the strongest there; we, in our turn, cut you off from the living society, because we are strongest in the street. You have killed us civilly—we kill you physically."
Accordingly, from this point of view, all riots are legitimate. Robespierre from the rostrum excuses jacqueries, refuses to call castle-burners brigands, and justifies the insurgents of Soissons, Nancy, Avignon, and the colonies. Desmoulins, alluding to two men hung at Douai, states that it was done by the people and soldiers combined, and declares that: "Henceforth,—I have no hesitation in saying it—they have legitimated the insurrection;" they were guilty, and it was well to hang them. Not only do the party leaders excuse assassinations, but they provoke them. Desmoulins, "attorney-general of the Lantern, insists on each of the 83 departments being threatened with at least one lamppost hanging." (This sobriquet is bestowed on Desmoulins on account of his advocacy of street executions, the victims of revolutionary passions being often hung at the nearest lanterne, or street lamp, at that time in Paris suspended across the street by ropes or chains.—(Tr.)) Meanwhile Marat, in the name of principle, constantly sounds the alarm in his journal:
"When public safety is in peril, the people must take power out of the hands of those whom it is entrusted... Put that Austrian woman and her brother-in-law in prison... Seize the ministers and their clerks and put them in irons... Make sure of the mayor and his lieutenants; keep the general in sight, and arrests his staff... The heir to the throne has no rights to a dinner while you want bread. Organize bodies of armed men. March to the National Assembly and demand food at once, supplied to you out of the national stocks... Demand that the nation's poor have a future secured to them out of the national contribution. If you are refused join the army, take the land, as well as gold which the rascals who want to force you to come to terms by hunger have buried and share it amongst you. Off with the heads of the ministers and their underlings, for now is the time; that of Lafayette and of every rascal on his staff, and of every unpatriotic battalion officer, including Bailly and those municipal reactionaries—all the traitors in the National Assembly!"
Marat, indeed, still passes for a furious ranter among people of some intelligence. But for all that, this is the sum and substance of his theory: It installs in the political establishment, over the heads of delegated, regular, and legal powers an anonymous, imbecile, and terrific power whose decisions are absolute, whose projects are constantly adopted, and whose intervention is sanguinary. This power is that of the crowd, of a ferocious, suspicious sultan, who, appointing his viziers, keeps his hands free to direct them and his scimitar ready sharpened to cut of their heads.
Formation of the Jacobins.—The common human elements of his character.—Conceit and dogmatism are sensitive and rebellious in every community.—How kept down in all well-founded societies.—Their development in the new order of things.—Effect of milieu on imagination and ambitions.—The stimulants of Utopianism, abuses of speech, and derangement of ideas.—Changes in office; interests playing upon and perverted feeling.
That a speculator in his closet should have concocted such a theory is comprehensible; paper will take all that is put upon it, while abstract beings, the hollow simulacra and philosophic puppets he concocts, are adapted to every sort of combination.—That a lunatic in his cell should adopt and preach this theory is also comprehensible; he is beset with phantoms and lives outside the actual world, and, moreover in this ever-agitated democracy he is the eternal informer and instigator of every riot and murder that takes place; he it is who under the name of "the people's friend" becomes the arbiter of lives and the veritable sovereign.—That a people borne down with taxes, wretched and starving, indoctrinated by public speakers and sophists, should have welcomed this theory and acted under it is again comprehensible; necessity knows no law, and where the is oppression, that doctrine is true which serves to throw oppression off.
But that public men, legislators and statesmen, with, at last, ministers and heads of the government, should have made this theory their own;
* that they should have more fondly clung to it as it became more destructive;
* that, daily for three years they should have seen social order crumbling away piecemeal under its blows and not have recognized it as the instrument of such vast ruin;
* that, in the light of the most disastrous experience, instead of regarding it as a curse they should have glorified it as a boon;
* that many of them—an entire party; almost all of the Assembly—should have venerated it as a religious dogma and carried it to extremes with enthusiasm and rigor of faith;
* that, driven by it into a narrow strait, ever getting narrower and narrower, they should have continued to crush each other at every step;
* that, finally, on reaching the visionary temple of their so-called liberty, they should have found themselves in a slaughter-house, and, within its precincts, should have become in turn butcher and brute;
* that, through their maxims of a universal and perfect liberty they should have inaugurated a despotism worthy of Dahomey, a tribunal like that of the Inquisition, and raised human hecatombs like those of ancient Mexico;
* that amidst their prisons and scaffolds they should persist in believing in the righteousness of their cause, in their own humanity, in their virtue, and, on their fall, have regarded themselves as martyrs—
is certainly strange. Such intellectual aberration, such excessive conceit are rarely encountered, and a concurrence of circumstances, the like of which has never been seen in the world but once, was necessary to produce it.
Extravagant conceit and dogmatism, however, are not rare in the human species. These two roots of the Jacobin intellect exist in all countries, underground and indestructible. Everywhere they are kept from sprouting by the established order of things; everywhere are they striving to overturn old historic foundations, which press them down. Now, as in the past, students live in garrets, bohemians in lodgings, physicians without patients and lawyers without clients in lonely offices, so many Brissots, Dantons, Marats, Robespierres, and St. Justs in embryo; only, for lack of air and sunshine, they never come to maturity. At twenty, on entering society, a young man's judgment and pride are extremely sensitive.—Firstly, let his society be what it will, it is for him a scandal to pure reason: for it was not organized by a legislative philosopher in accordance with a sound principle, but is the work of one generation after another, according to manifold and changing necessities. It is not a product of logic, but of history, and the new-fledged thinker shrugs his shoulders as he looks up and sees what the ancient tenement is, the foundations of which are arbitrary, its architecture confused, and its many repairs plainly visible.—In the second place, whatever degree of perfection preceding institutions, laws, and customs have reached, these have not received his approval; others, his predecessors, have chosen for him, he is being subjected beforehand to moral, political, and social forms which pleased them. Whether they please him or not is of no consequence. Like a horse trotting along between the poles of a wagon in the harness that happens to have been put on his back, he has to make best of it.—Besides, whatever its organization, as it is essentially a hierarchy, he is nearly always subaltern in it, and must ever remain so, either soldier, corporal or sergeant. Even under the most liberal system, that in which the highest grades are accessible to all, for every five or six men who take the lead or command others, one hundred thousand must follow or be commanded. This makes it vain to tell every conscript that he carriers a marshal's baton in his sack, when, nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand, he discovers too late, on rummaging his sack, that the baton is not there.—It is not surprising that he is tempted to kick against social barriers within which, willing or not, he is enrolled, and which predestine him to subordination. It is not surprising that on emerging from traditional influences he should accept a theory, which subjects these arrangements to his judgment and gives him authority over his superiors. And all the more because there is no doctrine more simple and better adapted to his inexperience, it is the only one he can comprehend and manage off-hand. Hence it is that young men on leaving college, especially those who have their way to make in the world, are more or less Jacobin,—it is a disorder of growing up.—In well organized communities this ailment is beneficial, and soon cured. The public establishment being substantial and carefully guarded, malcontents soon discover that they have not enough strength to pull it down, and that on contending with its guardians they gain nothing but blows. After some grumbling, they too enter at one or the other of its doors, find a place for themselves, and enjoy its advantages or become reconciled to their lot. Finally, either through imitation, or habit, or calculation, they willingly form part of that garrison which, in protecting public interests, protects their own private interests as well. Generally, after ten years have gone by, the young man has obtained his rank in the file, where he advances step by step in his own compartment, which he no longer thinks of tearing to pieces, and under the eye of a policeman who he no longer thinks of condemning. He even sometimes thinks that policeman and compartment are useful to him. Should he consider the millions of individuals who are trying to mount the social ladder, each striving to get ahead of the other, it may dawn upon him that the worst of calamities would be a lack of barriers and of guardians.
Here the worm-eaten barriers have cracked all at once, their easy-going, timid, incapable guardians having allowed things to take their course. Society, accordingly, disintegrated and a pell-mell, is turned into a turbulent, shouting crowd, each pushing and being pushed, all alike over-excited and congratulating each other on having finally obtained elbow-room, and all demanding the new barriers shall be as fragile and the new guardians as feeble, as defenseless, and as inert as possible. This is what has been done. As a natural consequence, those who were foremost in the rank have been relegated to the last; many have been struck down in the fray, while in this permanent state of disorder, which goes under the name of lasting order, elegant footwear continue to be stamped upon by hobnailed boots and wooden shoes.—The fanatic and the intemperate egoists can now let themselves go. They are no longer subject to any ancient institutions, nor any armed might which can restrain them. On the contrary, the new constitution, through its theoretical declarations and the practical application of these, invites them to let themselves go.—For, on the one hand, legally, it declares to be based upon pure reason, beginning with a long string of abstract dogmas from which its positive prescriptions are assumed to be rigorously deduced. As a consequence all laws are submitted to the shallow comments of reasoners and quibblers who will both interpret and break them according to the principles.—On the other hand, as a matter of fact, it hands over all government powers to the elections and confers on the clubs the control of the authorities: which is to offer a premium to the presumption of the ambitious who put themselves forward because they think themselves capable, and who defame their rulers purposely to displace them.—Every government department, organization or administrative system is like a hothouse which serves to favor some species of the human plant and wither others. This one is the best one for the propagation and rapid increase of the coffee-house politician, club haranguer, the stump-speaker, the street-rioter, the committee dictator—in short, the revolutionary and the tyrant. In this political hothouse wild dreams and conceit will assume monstrous proportions, and, in a few months, brains that are now only ardent become hotheads.
Let us trace the effect of this excessive, unhealthy temperature on imaginations and ambitions. The old tenement is down; the foundations of the new one are not yet laid; society has to be made over again from top to bottom. All willing men are asked to come and help, and, as one plain principle suffices in drawing a plan, the first comer may succeed. Henceforth political fancies swarm in the district meetings, in the clubs, in the newspapers, in pamphlets, and in every head-long, venturesome brain.
"There is not a merchant's clerk educated by reading the 'Nouvelle Heloise,' not a school teacher that has translated ten pages of Livy, not an artist that has leafed through Rollin, not an aesthete converted into journalists by committing to memory the riddles of the 'Contrat Social,' who does not draft a constitution... As nothing is easier than to perfect a daydream, all perturbed minds gather, and become excited, in this ideal realm. They start out with curiosity and end up with enthusiasm. The man in the street rushes to the enterprise in the same manner as a miser to a conjurer promising treasures, and, thus childishly attracted, each hopes to find at once, what has never been seen under even the most liberal governments: perpetual perfection, universal brotherhood, the power of acquiring what one lacks, and a life composed wholly of enjoyment."
One of these pleasures, and a keen one, is to daydream. One soars in space. By means of eight or ten ready-made sentences, found in the six-penny catechisms circulated by thousands in the country and in the suburbs of the towns and cities, a village attorney, a customs clerk, a theater attendant, a sergeant of a soldier's mess, becomes a legislator and philosopher. He criticizes Malouet, Mirabeau, the Ministry, the King, the Assembly, the Church, foreign Cabinets, France, and all Europe. Consequently, on these important subjects, which always seemed forever forbidden to him, he offers resolutions, reads addresses, makes harangues, obtains applause, and congratulates himself on having argued so well and with such big words. To hold fort on questions that are not understood is now an occupation, a matter of pride and profit.
"More is uttered in one day," says an eye-witness, "in one section of Paris than in one year in all the Swiss political assemblies put together. An Englishman would give six weeks of study to what we dispose of in a quarter of an hour."
Everywhere, in the town halls, in popular meetings, in the sectional assemblies, in the wine shops, on the public promenades, on street corners vanity erects a tribune of verbosity.
"Contemplate the incalculable activity of such a machine in a loquacious nation where the passion for being something dominates all other affections, where vanity has more phases than there are starts in the firmament, where reputations already cost no more than the trouble of insisting on their being deserved, where society is divided between mediocrities and their trumpeters who laud them as divinities; where so few people are content with their lot, where the corner grocer is prouder of his epaulette than the Grand Conde of his Marshal's baton, where agitation without object or resources is perpetual, where, from the floor-scrubber to the dramatist, from the academician to the simpleton who gets muddled over the evening newspaper, from the witty courtier down to his philosophic lackey, each one revises Montesquieu with the self-sufficiency of a child which, because it is learning to read, deems itself wise; where self-esteem, in disputation, caviling and sophistication, destroys all sensible conversation; where no one utters a word, but to teach, never imagining that to learn one must keep quiet; where the triumphs of a few lunatics entice every crackbrain from his den; where, with two nonsensical ideas put together out of a book that is not understood, a man assumes to have principles; where swindlers talk about morality, women of easy virtue about civism, and the most infamous of beings about the dignity of the species; where the discharged valet of a grand seignior calls himself Brutus!" —In reality, he is Brutus in his own eyes. Let the time come and he will be so in earnest, especially against his late master; all he has to do is to give him a thrust with his pike. Until he acts out the part he spouts it, and grows excited over his own tirades; his common sense gives way to the bombastic jargon of the revolution and to declamation, which completes the Utopian performance and eases his brain of its last modicum of ballast.
It is not merely ideas which the new regime has disturbed, but it has also disordered sentiments. "Authority is transferred from the Chateau of Versailles and the courtier's antechamber, with no intermediary or counterpoise, to the proletariat and its flatterers." The whole of the staff of the old government is brusquely set aside, while a general election has brusquely installed another in is place, offices not being given to capacity, seniority, and experience, but to self-sufficiency, intrigue, and exaggeration. Not only are legal rights reduced to a common level, but natural grades are transposed; the social ladder, overthrown, is set up again bottom upwards; the first effect of the promised regeneration is "to substitute in the administration of public affairs pettifoggers for magistrates, ordinary citizens for cabinet ministers, ex-commoners for ex-nobles, rustics for soldiers, soldiers for captains, captains for generals, cures for bishops, vicars for cures, monks for vicars, brokers for financiers, empiricists for administrators, journalists for political economists, stump-orators for legislators, and the poor for the rich."—Every species of covetousness is stimulated by this spectacle. The profusion of offices and the anticipation of vacancies "has excited the thirst for command, stimulated self-esteem, and inflamed the hopes of the most inept. A rude and grim presumption renders the fool and the ignoramus unconscious of their insignificance. They have deemed themselves capable of anything, because the law granted public functions merely to capacity. There has appeared in front of one and all an ambitious perspective; the soldier thinks only of displacing his captain, the captain of becoming general, the clerk of supplanting the chief of his department, the new-fledged attorney of being admitted to the high court, the cure of being ordained a bishop, the shallow scribbler of seating himself on the legislative bench. Offices and professions vacated by the appointment of so many upstarts afford in their turn a vast field for the ambition of the lower classes."—Thus, step by step, owing to the reversal of social positions, is brought about a general intellectual fever.
"France is transformed into a gaming-table, where, alongside of the discontented citizen offering his stakes, sits, bold, blustering, and with fermenting brain, the pretentious subaltern rattling his dice-box... At the sight of a public official rising from nowhere, even the soul of a bootblack will bound with emulation."—He has merely to push himself ahead and elbow his way to secure a ticket "in this immense lottery of popular luck, of preferment without merit, of success without talent, of apotheoses without virtues, of an infinity of places distributed by the people wholesale, and enjoyed by the people in detail."—Political charlatans flock thither from every quarters, those taking the lead who, being most in earnest, believe in the virtue of their nostrum, and need power to impose its recipe on the community; all being saviors, all places belong to them, and especially the highest. They lay siege to these conscientiously and philanthropically; if necessary, they will take them by assault, hold them through force, and, forcibly or otherwise, administer their cure-all to the human species.
III.—Psychology of the Jacobin.
His intellectual method.—Tyranny of formulae and suppression of facts.—Mental balance disturbed.—Signs of this in the revolutionary language.—Scope and expression of the Jacobin intellect.—In what respect his method is mischievous.—How it is successful.—Illusions produced by it.
Such are our Jacobins, born out of social decomposition like mushrooms out of compost. Let us consider their inner organization, for they have one as formerly the Puritans; we have only to follow their dogma down to its depths, as with a sounding-line, to reach the psychological stratum in which the normal balance of faculty and sentiment is overthrown.
When a statesman, who is not wholly unworthy of that great name, finds an abstract principle in his way, as, for instance, that of popular sovereignty, he accepts it, if he accepts it at all, according to his conception of its practical bearings. He begins, accordingly, by imagining it applied and in operation. From personal recollections and such information as he can obtain, he forms an idea of some village or town, some community of moderate size in the north, in the south, or in the center of the country, for which he has to make laws. He then imagines its inhabitants acting according to his principle, that is to say, voting, mounting guard, levying taxes, and administering their own affairs. Familiar with ten or a dozen groups of this sort, which he regards as examples, he concludes by analogy as to others and the rest on the territory. Evidently it is a difficult and uncertain process; to be exact, or nearly so, requires rare powers of observation and, at each step, a great deal of tact, for a nice calculation has to be made on given quantities imperfectly ascertained and imperfectly noted! Any political leader who does this successfully, does it through the ripest experience associated with genius. And even then he keeps his hand on the check-rein in pushing his innovation or reform; he is almost always tentative; he applies his law only in part, gradually and provisionally; he wishes to ascertain its effect; he is always ready to stay its operation, amend it, or modify it, according to the good or ill results of experiment; the state of the human material he has to deal with is never clear to his mind, even when superior, until after many and repeated gropings.—Now the Jacobin pursues just the opposite course. His principle is an axiom of political geometry, which always carries its own proof along with it; for, like the axioms of common geometry, it is formed out of the combination of a few simple ideas, and its evidence imposes itself at once on all minds capable of embracing in one conception the two terms of which it is the aggregate expression. Man in general, the rights of Man, the social contract, liberty, equality, reason, nature, the people, tyrants, are examples of these basic concepts: whether precise or not, they fill the brain of the new sectarian. Often these terms are merely vague and grandiose words, but that makes no difference; as soon as they meet in his brain an axiom springs out of them that can be instantly and absolutely applied on every occasion and to excess. Mankind as it is does not concern him. He does not observe them; he does not require to observe them; with closed eyes he imposes a pattern of his own on the human substance manipulated by him; the idea never enters his head of forming any previous conception of this complex, multiform, swaying material—contemporary peasants, artisans, townspeople, cures and nobles, behind their plows, in their homes, in their shops, in their parsonages, in their mansions, with their inveterate beliefs, persistent inclinations, and powerful wills. Nothing of this enters into or lodges in his mind; all its avenues are stopped by the abstract principle which flourishes there and fills it completely. Should actual experience through the eye or ear plant some unwelcome truth forcibly in his mind, it cannot subsist there; however noisy and relentless it may be, the abstract principle drives it out; if need be it will distort and strangle it, considering it a slanderer since it refutes a principle which is true and undeniable in itself. Obviously, a mind of this kind is not sound; of the two faculties which should pull together harmoniously, one is degenerated and the other overgrown; facts cannot turn the scale against the theory. Charged on one side and empty on the other, the Jacobin mind turns violently over on that side to which it leans, and such is its incurable infirmity.
Consider, indeed, the authentic monuments of Jacobin thought, the "Journal des Amis de la Constitution," the gazettes of Loustalot, Desmoulins, Brissot, Condorcet, Freron and Marat, Robespierre's, and St. Just's pamphlets and speeches, the debates in the Legislative Assembly and in the Convention, the harangues, addresses and reports of the Girondins and Montagnards, in brief, the forty volumes of extracts compiled by Buchez and Roux. Never has so much been said to so little purpose; all the truth that is uttered is drowned in the monotony and inflation of empty verbiage and vociferous bombast. One experience in this direction is sufficient. The historian who resorts this mass of rubbish for accurate information finds none of any account; in vain will he read kilometers of it: hardly will he there meet one fact, one instructive detail, one document which brings before his eyes a distinct personality, which shows him the real sentiments of a villager or of a gentleman, which vividly portrays the interior of a hotel-de-ville, of a soldier's barracks, of a municipal chamber, or the character of an insurrection. To define fifteen or twenty types and situations which sum up the history of the period, we have been and shall be obliged to seek them elsewhere—in the correspondence of local administrators, in affidavits on criminal records, in confidential reports of the police, and in the narratives of foreigners, who, prepared for it by a different education, look behind words for things, and see France beyond the "Contrat Social." This teeming France, this grand tragedy which twenty-six millions of players are performing on a stage of 26 000 square leagues, is lost to the Jacobin. His literature, as well as his brain, contain only insubstantial generalizations like those above cited, rolling out in a mere play of ideas, sometimes in concise terms when the writer happens to be a professional reasoner like Condorcet, but most frequently in a tangled, knotty style full of loose and disconnected meshes when the spokesman happens to be an improvised politician or a philosophic tyro like the ordinary deputies of the Assembly and the speakers of the clubs. It is a pedantic scholasticism set forth with fanatical rant. Its entire vocabulary consists of about a hundred words, while all ideas are reduced to one, that of man in himself: human units, all alike equal and independent, contracting together for the first time. This is their concept of society. None could be briefer, for, to arrive at it, man had to be reduced to a minimum. Never were political brains so willfully dried up. For it is the attempt to systematize and to simplify which causes their impoverishment. In that respect they go by the methods of their time and in the track of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: their outlook on life is the classic view, which, already narrow in the late philosophers, has now become even more narrow and hardened. The best representatives of the type are Condorcet, among the Girondins, and Robespierre, among the Montagnards, both mere dogmatists and pure logicians, the latter the most remarkable and with a perfection of intellectual sterility never surpassed.—Unquestionably, as far as the formulation of durable laws is concerned, i.e. adapting the social machinery to personalities, conditions, and circumstances; their mentality is certainly the most impotent and harmful. It is organically short-sighted, and by interposing their principles between it and reality, they shut off the horizon. Beyond their crowd and the club it distinguishes nothing, while in the vagueness and confusion of the distance it erects the hollow idols of its own Utopia.—But when power is to be seized by assault, and a dictatorship arbitrarily exercised, the mechanical inflexibility of such a mind is useful rather than detrimental. It is not embarrassed or slowed down, like that of a statesman, by the obligation to make inquiries, to respect precedents, of looking into statistics, of calculating and tracing beforehand in different directions the near and remote consequences of its work as this affects the interests, habits, and passions of diverse classes. All this is now obsolete and superfluous: the Jacobin knows on the spot the correct form of government and the good laws. For both construction as well as for destruction, his rectilinear method is the quickest and most vigorous. For, if calm reflection is required to get at what suits twenty-six millions of living Frenchmen, a mere glance suffices to understand the desires of the abstract men of their theory. Indeed, according to the theory, men are all shaped to one pattern, nothing being left to them but an elementary will; thus defined, the philosophic robot demands liberty, equality and popular sovereignty, the maintenance of the rights of man and adhesion to the "Contrat Social." That is enough: from now on the will of the people is known, and known beforehand; a consultation among citizens previous to action is not essential; there is no obligation to await their votes. In any events, a ratification by the people is sure; and should this not be forthcoming it is owing to their ignorance, disdain or malice, in which case their response deserves to be considered as null. The best thing to do, consequently, through precaution and to protect the people from what is bad for them, is to dictate to them what is good for them.—Here, the Jacobin might be sincere; for the men in whose behalf he claims rights are not flesh-and-blood Frenchmen, as we see them in the streets and in the fields, but men in general, as they ought to be on leaving the hands of Nature, or after the teachings of Reason. As to the former, there is no need of being scrupulous because they are infatuated with prejudices and their opinions are mere drivel; as for the latter, it is just the opposite: full of respect for the vainglorious images of his own theory, of ghosts produced by his own intellectual device, the Jacobin will always bow down to responses that he himself has provided, for, the beings that he has created are more real in his eyes than living ones and it is their suffrage on which he counts. Accordingly, viewing things in the worst lights, he has nothing against him but the momentary antipathy of a purblind generation. To offset this, he enjoys the approval of humanity, self-obtained; that of a posterity which his acts have regenerated; that of men who, thanks to him, who are again become what they should never have ceased to be. Hence, far from looking upon himself as an usurper or a tyrant, he considers himself the natural mandatory of a veritable people, the authorized executor of the common will. Marching along in the procession formed for him by this imaginary crowd, sustained by millions of metaphysical wills created by himself in his own image, he has their unanimous assent, and, like a chorus of triumphant shouts, he will fill the outward world with the inward echo of his own voice.
IV.—What the theory promises.
How it flatters wounded self-esteem.—The ruling passion of the Jacobin.—Apparent both in style and conduct.—He alone is virtuous in his own estimation, while his adversaries are vile.—They must accordingly be put out of the way.— Perfection of this character.—Common sense and moral sense both perverted.
When an ideology attracts people, it is less due to its sophistication than to the promises it holds out. It appeals more to their desires than to their intelligence; for, if the heart sometimes may be the dupe of the head, the latter is much more frequently the dupe of the former. We do not accept a system because we deem it a true one, but because the truth we find in it suits us. Political or religious fanaticism, any theological or philosophical channel in which truth flows, always has its source in some ardent longing, some secret passion, some accumulation of intense, painful desire to which a theory affords and outlet. In the Jacobin, as well as in the Puritan, there is a fountain-head of this description. What feeds this source with the Puritan is the anxieties of a disturbed conscience which, forming for itself some idea of perfect justice, becomes rigid and multiplies the commandments it believes that God has promulgated; on being constrained to disobey these it rebels, and, to impose them on others, it becomes tyrannical even to despotism. The first effort of the Puritan, however, wholly internal, is self-control; before becoming political he becomes moral. With the Jacobin, on the contrary, the first precept is not moral, political; it is not his duties which he exaggerates but his rights, while his doctrine, instead of being a prick to his conscience, flatters his pride. However vast and insatiate human pride may be, now it is satisfied, for never before has it had so much to feed upon.—In the program of the sect, do not look for the restricted prerogatives growing out of self-respect which the proud-spirited man claims for himself, such as civil rights accompanied by those liberties that serve as sentinels and guardians of these rights—security for life and property, the stability of the law, the integrity of courts, equality of citizens before the law and under taxation, the abolition of privileges and arbitrary proceedings, the election of representatives and the administration of public funds. Summing it up, the precious guarantees which render each citizen an inviolable sovereign on his limited domain, which protect his person and property against all species of public or private oppression and exaction, which maintain him calm and erect before competitors as well as adversaries, upright and respectful in the presence of magistrates and in the presence of the government.
A Malouet, a Mounier, a Mallet du Pan, partisans of the English Constitution and Parliament, may be content with such trifling gifts, but the Jacobin theory holds them all cheap, and, if need be, will trample them in the dust. Independence and security for the private citizen is not what it promises, not the right to vote every two years, not a moderate exercise of influence, not an indirect, limited and intermittent control of the commonwealth, but political dominion in the full and complete possession of France and the French people. There is no doubt on this point. In Rousseau's own words, the "Contrat Social" prescribes "the complete alienation to the community of each associate and all his rights," every individual surrendering himself wholly, "just as he may actually be, he himself and all his powers of which his possessions form a part," so that the state not only the recognized owner of property, but of minds and bodies as well, may forcibly and legitimately impose on every member of it such education, form of worship, religious faith, opinions and sympathies as it deems best. Now each man, solely because he is a man, is by right a member of this despotic sovereignty. Whatever, accordingly, my condition may be, my incompetence, my ignorance, my insignificance in the career in which I have plodded along, I have full control over the fortunes, lives, and consciences of twenty-six million French people, being accordingly Czar and Pope, according to my share of authority.——But if I adhere strictly to this doctrine, I am yet more so than my quota warrants. This royal prerogative with which I am endowed is only conferred on those who, like myself, sign the Social Contract in full; others, merely because they reject some clause of it, incur a forfeiture; no one must enjoy the advantages of a pact of which some of the conditions are repudiated.—Even better, as this pact is based on natural right and is obligatory, he who rejects it or withdraws from it, becomes by that act a miscreant, a public wrong-doer and an enemy of the people. There were once crimes of royal lese-majesty; now there are crimes of popular lese-majesty. Such crimes are committed when by deed, word, or thought, any portion whatever of the more than royal authority belonging to the people is denied or contested. The dogma through which popular sovereignty is proclaimed thus actually ends in a dictatorship of the few, and a proscription of the many. Outside of the sect you are outside of the laws. We, the five or six thousand Jacobins of Paris, are the legitimate monarch, the infallible Pontiff, and woe betide the refractory and the lukewarm, all government agents, all private persons, the clergy, the nobles, the rich, merchants, traders, the indifferent among all classes, who, steadily opposing or yielding uncertain adhesion, dare to throw doubt on our unquestionable right.
One by one these consequences are to come into light, and it is evident that, let the logical machinery by which they unfold themselves be what it may, no ordinary person, unless of consummate vanity, will fully adopt them. He must have an exalted opinion of himself to consider himself sovereign otherwise than by his vote, to conduct public business with no more misgivings than his private business, to directly and forcibly interfere with this, to set himself up, he and his clique, as guides, censors and rulers of his government, to persuade himself that, with his mediocre education and average intellect, with his few scraps of Latin and such information as is obtained in reading-rooms, coffee-houses, and newspapers, with no other experience than that of a club, or a municipal council, he could discourse wisely and well on the vast, complex questions which superior men, specially devoted to them, hesitate to take up. At first this presumption existed in him only in germ, and, in ordinary times, it would have remained, for lack of nourishment, as dry-rot or creeping mold, But the heart knows not what strange seeds it contains! Any of these, feeble and seemingly inoffensive, needs only air and sunshine to become a noxious excrescence and a colossal plant. Whether third or fourth rate attorney, counselor, surgeon, journalist, cure, artist, or author, the Jacobin is like the shepherd that has just found, in one corner of his hut, a lot of old parchments which entitle him to the throne. What a contrasts between the meanness of his calling and the importance with which the theory invests him! With what rapture he accepts a dogma that raises him so high in his own estimation! Diligently conning the Declaration of Rights, the Constitution, all the official documents that confer on him such glorious prerogatives, charging his imagination with them, he immediately assumes a tone befitting his new position.—Nothing surpasses the haughtiness and arrogance of this tone. It declares itself at the outset in the harangues of the clubs and in the petitions to the Constituent Assembly. Loustalot, Freron, Danton, Marat, Robespierre, St. Just, always employ dictatorial language, that of the sect, and which finally becomes the jargon of their meanest valets. Courtesy or toleration, anything that denotes regard or respect for others, find no place in their utterances nor in their acts; a swaggering, tyrannical conceit creates for itself a language in its own image, and we see not only the foremost actors, but their minor associates, enthroned on their grandiloquent platform. Each in his own eyes is Roman, savior, hero, and great man.
"I stood in the tribune of the palace," writes Anarcharsis Clootz, "at the head of the foreigners, acting as ambassador of the human species, while the ministers of the tyrants regarded me with a jealous and disconcerted air."
A schoolmaster at Troyes, on the opening of the club in that town, advises the women "to teach their children, as soon as they can utter a word, that they are free and have equal rights with the mightiest potentates of the universe." Petion's account of the journey in the king's carriage, on the return from Varennes, must be read to see how far self-importance of a pedant and the self-conceit of a lout can be carried. In their memoirs and even down to their epitaphs, Barbaroux, Buzot, Petion, Roland, and Madame Roland give themselves certificates of virtue and, if we could take their word for it, they would pass for Plutarch's model characters.—This infatuation, from the Girondins to the Montagnards, continues to grow. St. Just, at the age of twenty-four, and merely a private individual, is already consumed with suppressed ambition. Marat says:
"I believe that I have exhausted every combination of the human intellect in relation to morality, philosophy and political science."
Robespierre, from the beginning to the end of the Revolution, is always, in his own eyes, Robespierre the unique, the one pure man, the infallible and the impeccable; no man ever burnt to himself the incense of his own praise so constantly and so directly.—At this level, conceit may drink the theory to the bottom, however revolting the dregs and however fatal its poison even to those defy its nausea for the sake of swallowing it. And, since it is virtue, no one may refuse it without committing a crime. Thus construed, the theory divides Frenchmen into two groups: one consisting of aristocrats, fanatics, egoists, the corrupt, bad citizens in short, and the other patriots, philosophers, and the virtuous, that is to say, those belonging to the sect. Thanks to this reduction, the vast moral and social world with which they deal finds its definition, expression, and representation in a ready-made antithesis. The aim of the government is now clear: the wicked must submit to the good, or, which is briefer, the wicked must be suppressed. To this end let us employ confiscation, imprisonment, exile, drowning and the guillotine and a large scale. All means are justifiable and meritorious against these traitors; now that the Jacobin has canonized his slaughter, he slays through philanthropy.—Thus is the forming of his personality completed like that of a theologian who becomes inquisitor. Extraordinary contrasts are gathered to construct it:—a lunatic that is logical, and a monster that pretends to have a conscience. Under the pressure of his faith and egotism, he has developed two deformities, one of the head and the other of the heart; his common sense is gone, and his moral sense is utterly perverted. In fixing his mind on abstract formulas, he is no longer able to see men as they are. His self-admiration makes him consider his adversaries, and even his rivals, as miscreants deserving of death. On this downhill road nothing stops him, for, in qualifying things inversely to their true meaning, he has violated within himself the precious concepts which brings us back to truth and justice. No light reaches eyes which regard blindness as clear-sightedness; no remorse affects a soul which erects barbarism into patriotism, and which sanctions murder with duty.
[Footnote 1101: Cf. "The Ancient Regime," p. 242. Citations from the "Contrat Social."—Buchez et Roux, "Histoire Parlementaire," XXVI. 96. Declaration of rights read by Robespierre in the Jacobin club, April 21, 1793, and adopted by the club as its own. "The people is sovereign, the government is its work and its property, and public functionaries are its clerks. The people can displace its mandatories and change its government when it pleases."]
[Footnote 1102: Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and other dictators that like that also organized elections and saw themselves as being the people, speaking and acting on their behalf and therefore entitled to do anything they pleased.(SR).]
[Footnote 1103: Rightly so, might Lenin have thought when he first read this text. Later, under his and Stalin's leadership the Party, guided by the first secretary of its central committee, aided by the secret police, should penetrate all affairs slowly extending their power or influence to the entire world through their secret party members, mutually ensuring their promotion into the highest posts, the party will eventually come to govern the world. (SR).]
[Footnote 1104: Buchez and Roux, III, 324.. (An article by Loustalot, Sept. 8, 1789). Ibid. 331 Motion of the District of Cordeliers, presided over by Danton.—Ibid 239.. Denunciation of the municipality by Marat.—V., 128, Vi. 24-41 (March, 1790). The majority of the districts demand the permanent authority of the districts, that is to say, of the sovereign political assemblies]
[Footnote 1105: Buchez et Roux. IV. 458. Meeting of Feb. 24, 1790, an article by Loustalot.—III 202. Speech by Robespierre, meeting of Oct. 21, 1789. Ibid. 219. Resolution of the district of St. Martin declaring that martial law shall not be enforced. Ibid. 222. Article by Loustalot.]
[Footnote 1106: Buchez et Roux, X. 124, an article by Marat.—X. 1-22, speech by Robespierre at the meeting of May 9, 1791.-III. an article by Loustalot. III. 217, speech by Robespierre, meeting of Oct.22, 1789. Ibid. 431, article by Loustalot and Desmoulins, Nov., 1789.—VI. 336, articles by Loustalot and Marat, July, 1790.]
[Footnote 1107: Ernest Hamel, "Histoire de Robespierre", passim, (I.436). Robespierre proposed to confer political rights on the blacks.—Buchez et Roux, IX. 264 (March, 1791).]
[Footnote 1108: Buchez et Roux, V. 146 (March, 1790); VI. 436 (July 26, 1790); VIII. 247 (Dec 1790); X. 224 (June, 1791).]
[Footnote 1109: Gustave Flaubert. "Tout notaire a reve des sultanes." (All barristers have dreams of being sultans!) (Madame Bovary").—"Frederic trouvait que le bonheur merite par l'excellence de son ame tardait a venir." (Frederic found that the happiness he deserved due to his brilliancy was a long time coming.) ("L'Education sentimentale.)]
[Footnote 1110: Such has also been the effect of similar declarations set forth in the Constitutions of the United Nations, the European Community, as well as many individual nations. All that was required for the international Communist movement was then to await the slow promotion of the secret party members directed to seek a career inside the various legal administrations for, one day, to see all superior courts staffed by their men. (SR).]
[Footnote 1111: Mallet du Pan, "Correspondance politique." 1796.]
[Footnote 1112: "Entretiens du Pere Gerard," by Collot d'Herbois.—"Les Etrennes au Peuple," by Barrere.-"La Constitution francaise pour les habitants des campagnes," etc.—Later "L'Alphabet des Sans-Culottes, le Nouveau Catechisme republicain, les Commandements de la Patrie et de la Republique (in verse), etc."]
[Footnote 1113: Mercure de France, an article by Mallet du Pan, April 7, 1792. (Summing up of the year 1791.)]
[Footnote 1114: Mercure de France, see the numbers of Dec. 30, 1791, and April 7, 1792. (Note the phrase, it is close to Marx statement in 1850 'that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat.' SR.)]
[Footnote 1115: Fox, before deciding on any measure, consulted a Mr. H.—, one of the most uninfluential, and even narrow-minded members of the House of Commons. Some astonishment being expressed at this, he replied that he regarded Mr. H.—-as a perfect type of the faculties and prejudices of a country gentleman, and he used him as a thermometer. Napoleon likewise stated that before framing an important law, he imagined to himself the impression it would make on the mind of a burly peasant.]
[Footnote 1116: Just like the strong influence which the current fashionable principles and buzz-words introduced by the media have over today's audiences. (SR).]
[Footnote 1117: Alas! This phenomenon should be repeated with the interminable speeches held by Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, Mao and all the other inheritors of the Jacobin creed. (SR).]
[Footnote 1118: "Tableaux de la Revolution Francaise," by Schmidt (especially the reports by Dutard), 3 vols.]
[Footnote 1119: "Correspondence of Gouverneur Morris,"—"Memoirs of Mallet du Pan," John Moore']
[Footnote 1120: See, in "Progres de l'esprit humaine," the superiority awarded to the republican constitution of 1793. (Book IX.) "The principles from which the constitution and laws of France have been combined are purer, more exact, and deeper than those which governed the Americans: they have more completely escaped the influence of every sort of prejudice, etc."]
[Footnote 1121: Camille Desmoulins, the enfant terrible of the Revolution, confesses this, as well as other truths. After citing the Revolutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, "which derived their virtue from and had their roots in conscience, which were sustained by fanaticism and the hopes of another world," he thus concludes: "Our Revolution, purely political, is wholly rooted in egotism, in everybody's amour propre, in the combinations of which is found the common interest." ("Brissot devoile," by Camille Desmoulins, January, 1792)—Bouchez et Roux, XIII, 207.)]
[Footnote 1122: Rousseau's idea of the omnipotence of the State is also that of Louis XIV and Napoleon... It is curious to see the development of the same idea in the mind of a contemporary bourgeois, like Retif de la Bretonne, half literary and half one of the people ("Nuits de Paris," XVe nuit, 377, on the September Massacres) "No, I do not pity those fanatical priests; they have done the country too much mischief. Whatever a society, or a majority of it, desires, that is right. He who opposes this, who calls down war and vengeance on the Nation, is a monster. Order is always found in the agreement of the majority. The minority is always guilty, I repeat it, even if it is morally right. Nothing but common sense is needed to see that truth."—Ibid. (On the execution of Louis XVI.), p. 447. "Had the nation the right to condemn and execute him? No thinking person can ask such a question. The nation is everything in itself; its power is that which the whole human kind would have if but one nation, one single government governed the globe. Who would dare then dispute the power of humanity? It is this indisputable power that a nation has, to hang even an innocent man, felt by the ancient Greeks, which led them to exile Aristoteles and put Phocion to death. 'Oh truth, unrecognized by our contemporaries, what evil has arisen through forgetting it!'"]
[Footnote 1123: Moniteur, XI. 46. Speech by Isnard in the Assembly, Jan. 5, 1792. "The people are now conscious of their dignity. They know, according to the constitution, that every Frenchman's motto is: 'Live free, the equal of all, and one of the common sovereignty.'"—Guillon de Montleon, I. 445. Speech by Chalier, in the Lyons Central Club, March 21, 1793. "Know that you are kings, and more than kings. Do you not feel sovereignty circulating in your veins?"]
[Footnote 1124: Moniteur, V. 136. (Celebration of the Federation, July 14, 1790.)]
[Footnote 1125: Albert Babeau, "Histoire de Troyes pendant la Revolution," I. 436 (April 10, 1790).]
[Footnote 1126: Mortimer-Ternaux, "Histoire de la Terreur," I. 353. (Petion's own narrative of this journey.) This pert blockhead cannot even spell: he writes aselle for aisselle, etc. He is convinced that Madame Elizabeth, the king's sister, wants to seduce him, and that she makes advances to him: "If we had been alone, I believe that she would have fallen into my arms, and let the impulses of nature have their way." He makes a display of virtue however, and becomes only the more supercilious as he talks with the king, the young dauphin, and the ladies he is fetching back.]
[Footnote 1127: The "Memoires de Madame Roland" is a masterpiece of that conceit supposed to be so careflilly concealed as not to be visible and never off its stilts. "I am beautiful, I am affectionate, I am sensitive, I inspire love, I reciprocate, I remain virtuous, my mind is superior, and my courage indomitable. I am philosopher, statesman, and writer, worthy of the highest success," is constantly in her mind, and always perceptible in her phraseology. Real modesty never shows itself. On the contrary, many indecorous things are said and done by her from bravado, and to set herself above her sex. Cf. the "Memoirs of Mirs. Hutchinson," which present a great contrast. Madame Roland wrote: "I see no part in society which suits me but that of Providence."—The same presumption shines out in others, with less refined pretensions. The deputy Rouyer addresses the following letter, found among the papers of the iron wardrobe, to the king, "I have compared, examined, and foreseen everything. All I ask to carry out my noble purposes, is that direction of forces, which the law confers on you. I am aware of and brave the danger; weakness defers to this, while genius overcomes it I have turned my attention to all the courts of Europe, and am sure that I can force peace on them."—Robert, an obscure pamphleteer, asks Dumouriez to make him ambassador to Constantinople, while Louvet, the author of "Faublas," declares in his memoirs that liberty perished in 1792, because he was not appointed Minister of Justice.]
[Footnote 1128: Moniteur, p. 189. Speech by Collot d'Herbois, on the mitraillades at Lyons. "We too, possess sensibility! The Jacobins have every virtue; they are compassionate, humane, and generous. These virtues, however, are reserved for patriots, who are their brethren, but never for aristocrats."—Meillan, "Memoires," p. 4. "Robespierre was one day eulogizing a man named Desfieux, well known for his lack of integrity, and whom he finally sacrificed. 'But, I said to him, your man Desfieux is known to be a rascal.'—'No matter,' he replied, 'he is a good patriot.'—'But he is a fraudulent bankrupt.'-'He is a good patriot.'—'But he is a thief.'—'He is a good patriot.' I could not get more than these three words out of him."]
I.—Formation of the party.
Its recruits—These are rare in the upper class and amongst the masses.—They are numerous in the low bourgeois class and in the upper stratum of the people.—The position and education which enroll a man in the party.
Personalities like these are found in all classes of society; no situation or position in life protects one from wild Utopia or frantic ambition. We find among the Jacobins a Barras and a Chateauneuf-Randon, two nobles of the oldest families; Condorcet, a marquis, mathematician, philosopher and member of two renowned academies; Gobel, bishop of Lydda and suffragan to the bishop of Bale; Herault de Sechellles, a protege of the Queen's and attorney-general to the Paris parliament; Lepelletier de St. Fargeau, chief-justice and one of the richest land-owners in France; Charles de Hesse, major-general, born in the royal family; and, last of all, a prince of the blood and fourth personage in the realm, the Duke of Orleans.—But, with the exception of these rare deserters, neither the hereditary aristocracy nor the upper magistracy, nor the highest of the middle class, none of the land-owners who live on their estates, or the leaders of industrial and commercial enterprises, no one belonging to the administration, none of those, in general, who are or deserve to be considered social authorities, furnish the party with recruits. All have too much at stake in the political establishment, shattered as it is, to wish its entire demolition. Their political experience, brief as it is, enables them to see at once that a habitable house is not built by merely tracing a plan of it on paper according the theorems of school geometry.—On the other hand, among the ordinary rural population the ideology finds, unless it can be changed into a legend, no listeners. Share croppers, small holders and farmers looking after their own plots of ground, peasants and craftsmen who work too hard to think and whose minds never range beyond a village horizon, busy only with that which brings in their daily bread, find abstract doctrines unintelligible; should the dogmas of the new catechism arrest their attention the same thing happens as with the old one, they do not understand them; that mental faculty by which an abstraction is reached is not yet formed in them. On being taken to a political club they fall asleep; they open their eyes only when some one announces that tithes and feudal privileges are to be restored; they can be depended on for nothing more than a brawl and a jacquerie; later on, when their grain comes to be taxed or is taken, they prove as unruly under the republic as under the monarchy.
The believers in this theory come from other quarters, from the two extremes of the lower stratum of the middle class and the upper stratum of the low class. Again, in these two contiguous groups, which merge into each other, those must be left out who, absorbed in their daily occupations or professions, have no time or thought to give to public matters, who have reached a fair position in the social hierarchy and are not disposed to run risks, almost all of them well-established, steady-going, mature, married folks who have sown their wild oats and whom experience in life has rendered distrustful of themselves and of theories. Overweening conceit is, most of the time, only average in the average human being, so speculative ideas will with most people only obtain a loose, transient and feeble hold. Moreover, in this society which, for many centuries consists of people accustomed to being ruled, the hereditary spirit is bourgeois that is to say, used to discipline, fond of order, peaceable and even timid.—There remains a minority, a very small one, innovating and restless. This consisted, on the one hand, of people who were discontented with their calling or profession, because they were of secondary or subaltern rank in it. Some were debutantes not fully employed and others aspirants for careers not yet entered upon. Then, on the other hand, there were the men of unstable character and all those who were uprooted by the immense upheaval of things: in the Church, through the suppression of convents and through schism; in the judiciary, in the administration, in the financial departments, in the army, and in various private and public careers, through the reorganization of institutions, through the novelty of fresh resources and occupations, and through the disturbance caused by the changed relationships of patrons and clients. Many who, in ordinary times, would otherwise remain quiet, become in this way nomadic and extravagant in politics. Among the foremost of these are found those who, through a classical education, can take in an abstract proposition and deduce its consequences, but who, for lack of special preparation for it, and confined to the narrow circle of local affairs, are incapable of forming accurate conceptions of a vast, complex social organization, and of the conditions which enable it to subsist. Their talent lies in making a speech, in dashing off an editorial, in composing a pamphlet, and in drawing up reports in more or less pompous and dogmatic style; the genre admitted, a few of them who are gifted become eloquent, but that is all. Among those are the lawyers, notaries, bailiffs and former petty provincial judges and attorneys who furnish the leading actors and two-thirds of the members of the Legislative Assembly and of the Convention: There are surgeons and doctors in small towns, like Bo, Levasseur, and Baudot, second and third-rate literary characters, like Barrere, Louvet, Garat, Manuel, and Ronsin, college professors like Louchet and Romme, schoolmasters like Leonard Bourdon, journalists like Brissot, Desmoulins and Freron, actors like Collot d'Herbois, artists like Sergent, Oratoriens like Fouche, capuchins like Chabot, more or less secularized priests like Lebon, Chasles, Lakanal, and Gregoire, students scarcely out of school like St. Just, Monet of Strasbourg, Rousseline of St. Albin, and Julien of the Drome—in short, the poorly sown and badly cultivated minds, and on which the theory had only to fall to smother the good grain and thrive like a nettle. Add to these charlatans and others who live by their wits, the visionary and morbid of all sorts, from Fanchet and Klootz to Chalier or Marat, the whole of that needy, chattering, irresponsible crowd, ever swarming about large cities ventilating its shallow conceits and abortive pretensions. Farther in the background appear those whose scanty education qualifies them to half understand an abstract principle and imperfectly deduce its consequences, but whose roughly-polished instinct atones for the feebleness of a coarse argumentation. Through cupidity, envy and rancor, they divine a rich pasture-ground behind the theory, and Jacobin dogmas become dearer to them, because the imagination sees untold treasures beyond the mists in which they are shrouded. They can listen to a club harangue without falling asleep, applaud its tirades in the rights place, offer a resolution in a public garden, shout in the tribunes, pen affidavits for arrests, compose orders-of-the-day for the national guard, and lend their lungs, arms, and sabers to whoever bids for them. But here their capacity ends. In this group merchants' and notaries' clerks abound, like Hebert and Henriot, Vincent and Chaumette, butchers like Legendre, postmasters like Drouet, boss-joiners like Duplay, school-teachers like that Buchot who becomes a minister, and many others of the same sort, accustomed to jotting down ideas, with vague notions of orthography and who are apt in speech-making, foremen, sub-officers, former begging friars, peddlers, tavern-keepers, retailers, market-porters, and city-journeymen from Gouchon, the orator of the faubourg St. Antoine, down to Simon, the cobbler of the Temple, from Trinchard, the juryman of the Revolutionary Tribunal, down to grocers, tailors, shoemakers, tapster, waiters, barbers, and other shopkeepers or artisans who do their work at home, and who are yet to do the work of the September massacres. Add to these the foul remnants of every popular insurrection and dictatorship, beasts of prey like Jourdain of Avignon, and Fournier the American, women like Theroigne, Rose Lacombe, and the tricoteuses of the Convention who have unsexed themselves, the amnestied bandits and other gallows birds who, for lack of a police, have a wide range, street-rollers and vagabonds, rebels against labor and discipline, the whole of that class in the center of civilization which preserves the instincts of savages, and asserts the sovereignty of the people to glut a natural appetite for license, laziness, and ferocity.—Thus is the party recruited through an enlisting process that gleans its subjects from every station in life, but which reaps them down in great swaths, and gathers them together in the two groups to which dogmatism and presumption naturally belong. Here, education has brought man to the threshold, even to the heart of general ideas; consequently, he feels hampered within the narrow bounds of his profession or occupation, and aspires to something beyond. But as his education has remained superficial or rudimentary, consequently, outside of his narrow circle he feels out of his place. He has a perception or obtains a glimpse of political ideas and, therefore, assumes that he has capacity. But his perception is confided to a formula, and he sees them dimly through a cloud; hence his incapacity, and the reason why his mental lacunae as well as his attainments both contribute to make him a Jacobin.
II.—Spontaneous associations after July 14, 1789.
How these dissolve.—Withdrawal of people of sense and occupation.—Number of those absent at elections.—Birth and multiplication of Jacobin societies.—Their influence over their adherents—Their maneuvers and despotism.
Men thus disposed cannot fail to draw near each other, to understand each other, and combine together; for, in the principle of popular sovereignty, they have a common dogma, and, in the conquest of political supremacy, a common aim. Through a common aim they form a faction, and through a common dogma they constitute a sect, the league between them being more easily effected because they are a faction and sect at the same time.
At first their association is not distinguishable in the multitude of other associations. Political societies spring up on all sides after the taking of the Bastille. Some kind of organization had to be substituted for the deposed or tottering government, in order to provide for urgent public needs, to secure protection against ruffians, to obtain supplies of provisions, and to guard against the probably machinations of the court. Committees installed themselves in the town halls, while volunteers formed bodies of militia: hundreds of local governments, almost independent, arose in the place of the central government, almost destroyed. For six months everybody attended to matters of common interest, each individual getting to be a public personage and bearing his quota of the government load: a heavy load at all times, but heavier in times of anarchy; this, at least, is the opinion of the majority but not of all of them. Consequently, a division arises amongst those who had assumed this load, and two groups are formed, one huge, inert and disintegrating, and the other small, compact and energetic, each taking one of two ways which diverge from each other, and which keep on diverging more and more.
On one hand are the ordinary, sensible people, those who are busy, and who are, to some extent, not over-conscientious, and not over-conceited. The power is in their hands because they find it prostrate, lying abandoned in the street; they hold it provisionally only, for they knew beforehand, or soon discover, that they are not qualified for the post, it being one of those which, to be properly filled, needs some preparation and fitness for it. A man does not become legislator or administrator in one day, any more than he suddenly becomes a physician or surgeon. If an accident obliges me to act in the latter capacity, I yield, but against my will, and I do no more than is necessary to save my patients from hurting themselves, My fear of their dying under the operation is very great, and, as soon as some other person can be found to take my place, I go home.—I should be glad, like everybody else, to have my vote in the selection of this person, and, among the candidates. I should designate, to the best of my ability, one who seemed to me the ablest and most conscientious. Once selected, however, and installed, I should not attempt to dictate to him; his cabinet is private, and I have no right to run there constantly and cross-question him, as if he were a child or under suspicion. It does not become me to tell him what to do; he probably knows more about the case than I do; in any event, to keep a steady hand, he must not be threatened, and, to keep a clear head, he must not be disturbed. Nor must I be disturbed; my office and books, my shop, my customers must be attended to as well. Everybody has to mind his own business, and whoever would attend to his own and another's too, spoils both.—This way of thinking prevails with most healthy minds towards the beginning of the year 1790, all whose heads are not turned by insane ambition and the mania for theorizing, especially after six months of practical experience and knowing the dangers, miscalculation, and vexations to which one is exposed in trying to lead an eager, over-excited population.—Just at this time, December 1789, municipal law becomes established throughout the country; all the mayors and municipal officers are elected almost immediately, and in the following months, all administrators of districts and departments. The interregnum has a length come to an end. Legal authorities now exist, with legitimate and clearly-determined functions. Reasonable, honest people gladly turn power over to those to whom it belongs, and certainly do not dream of resuming it. All associations for temporary purposes are at once disbanded for lack of an object, and if others are formed, it is for the purpose of defending established institutions. This is the object of the Federation, and, for six months, people embrace each other and exchange oaths of fidelity.—After this, July 14, 1790, they retire into private life, and I have no doubt that, from this date, the political ambition of a large plurality of the French people is satisfied, for, although Rousseau's denunciation of the social hierarchy are still cited by them, they, at bottom, desire but little more than the suppression of administrative brutality and state favoritism. All this is obtained, and plenty of other things besides; the august title of sovereign, the respect of the public authorities, honors to all who wield a pen or make a speech, and, better still, actual sovereignty in the appointment to office of all local land national administrators; not only do the people elect their deputies, but every species of functionary of every degree, those of commune, district, and department, officers in the national guard, civil and criminal magistrates, bishops and priests. Again, to ensure the responsibility of the elected to their electors, the term of office fixed by law is a short one, the electoral machine which summons the sovereign to exercise his sovereignty being set agoing about every four months.—This was a good deal, and too much, as the sovereign himself soon discovers. Voting so frequently becomes unendurable; so many prerogatives end in getting to be drudgery. Early in 1790, and after this date, the majority forego the privilege of voting and the number of absentees becomes enormous. At Chartres, in May, 1790, 1,447 out of 1,551 voters do not attend preliminary meetings. At Besancon, in January, 1790, on the election of mayor and municipal officers, 2,141 out of 3,200 registered electors are recorded as absent from the polls, and 2,900 in the following month of November. At Grenoble, in August and November of this year, out of 2,500 registered voters, more than 2,000 are noted as absent. At Limoges, out of about the same number, there are only 150 voters. At Paris, out of 81,400 electors, in August, 1790, 67,200 do not vote, and, three months later, the number of absentees is 71,408.
Thus for every elector that votes, there are four, six, eight, ten, and even sixteen that abstain from voting.—In the election of deputies, the case is the same. At the primary meetings of 1791, in Paris, out of 81,200 registered names more than 74,000 fail to respond. In the Doubs, three out of four voters stay away. In one of the cantons of the Cote d'Or, at the close of the polls, only one-eighth of the electors remain at the counting of the votes, while in the secondary meetings the desertion is not less. At Paris, out of 946 electors chosen only 200 are found to give their suffrage; at Rouen, out of 700 there are but 160, and on the last day of the ballot, only 60. In short, "in all departments," says an orator in the tribune, "scarcely one out of five electors of the second degree discharges his duty."
In this manner the majority hands in its resignation. Through inertia, want of forethought, lassitude, aversion to the electoral hubbub, lack of political preferences, or dislike of all the political candidates, it shirks the task which the constitution imposes on it. Most certainly is has no taste for the painstaking burden of being involved in a league (of human rights). Men who cannot find time once in three months to drop a ballot in the box, will not come three times a week to attend the meetings of a club. Far from meddling with the government, they abdicate, and as they refuse to elect it, they cannot undertake to control it.
It is, on the other hand, just the opposite with the upstarts and dogmatists who regard their royal privileges seriously. They not only vote at the elections, but they mean to keep the authority they delegate in their own hands. In their eyes every official is one of their creatures, and remains accountable to them, for, in point of law, the people may not part with their sovereignty, while, in fact, power has proved so sweet that they are not disposed to part with it. During six months preceding the regular elections, they have come to know, comprehend, and test each other; they have held secret meetings; a mutual understanding is arrived at, and henceforth, as other associations disappear like fleeting bloom, theirs rise vigorously on the abandoned soil. A club is established at Marseilles before the end of 1789; each large town has one within the first six months of 1790, Aix in February, Montpellier in March, Nimes in April, Lyons in May, and Bordeaux in June. But their greatest increase takes place after the Federation festival. Just when local gatherings merge into that of the whole country, the sectarian Jacobins keep aloof, and form leagues of their own. At Rouen, July 14, 1790, two surgeons, a printer, a chaplain at the prison, a widowed Jewess, and four women or children living in the house,—eight persons in all, pure and not to be confounded with the mass, bind themselves together, and form a distinct association. Their patriotism is of superior quality, and they take a special view of the social compact; in swearing fealty to the constitution they reserve to themselves the Rights of Man, and they mean to maintain not only the reforms already effected, but to complete the Revolution just begun.—During the Federation they have welcomed and indoctrinated their fellows who, on quitting the capital or large cities, become bearers of instructions to the small towns and hamlets; they are told what the object of a club is, and how to form one, and, everywhere, popular associations arise on the same plan, for the same purpose, and bearing the same name. A month later, sixty of these associations are in operation; three months later, one hundred; in March, 1791, two hundred and twenty-nine, and in August, 1791, nearly four hundred. After this date a sudden increase takes place, owing to two simultaneous impulses, which scatter their seeds over the entire territory.—On the one hand, at then end of July, 1791, all moderate men, the friends of law and order, who still hold the clubs in check, all constitutionalists, or Feuillants, withdraw from them and leave them to exaggeration or the triviality of proposing motions; the political tone immediately falls to that of the tavern and guard-house, so that wherever one or the other is found, there is a political club. On the other hand, a convocation of the electoral body is held at the same date for the election of a new National Assembly, and for the renewal of local governments; the prey being in sight, hunting-parties are everywhere formed to capture it. In two months, six hundred new clubs spring up; by the end of September they amount to one thousand, and in June, 1792, to twelve hundred—as many as there are towns and walled boroughs. On the fall of the throne, and at the panic caused by the Prussian invasion, during a period of anarchy which equaled that of July, 1789, there were, according to Roederer, almost as many clubs as there were communes, 26,000, one for every village containing five or six hot-headed, boisterous fellows, or roughs, (tape-durs), with a clerk able to pen a petition.
After November, 1790, "every street in every town and hamlet," says a Journal of large circulation, "must have a club of its own. Let some honest craftsman invite his neighbors to his house, where, with using a shared candle, he may read aloud the decrees of the National Assembly, on which he and his neighbors may comment. Before the meeting closes, in order to enliven the company, which may feel a little disturbed on account of Marat's articles, let him read the patriotic oaths in 'Pere Duchesne.'"—The advice is followed. At the meetings in the club are read aloud pamphlets, newspapers, and catechisms dispatched from Paris, the "Gazette Villageoise," the "Journal du Soir," the "Journal de la Montagne," "Pere Duchesne," the "Revolutions de Paris," and "Laclos' Gazette." Revolutionary songs are sung, and, if a good speaker happens to be present, a former monk (oratorien), lawyer, or school-master, he pours out his stock of phrases, speaking of the Greeks and Romans, proclaiming the regeneration of the human species. One of them, appealing to the women, wants to see
"the declaration of the Rights of Man suspended on the walls of their bedrooms as their principal ornament, and, should war break out, these virtuous supporters, marching at the head of our armies like new bacchantes with flowing hair, the wand of Bacchus in their hand."
Shouts of applause greet this sentiment. The minds of the listeners, swept away by this gale of declamation, become overheated and ignite through mutual contact; like half-consumed embers that would die out if let alone, they kindle into a blaze when gathered together in a heap.—Their convictions, at the same time, gain strength. There is nothing like a coterie to make these take root. In politics, as in religion, faith generating the church, the latter, in its turn, nourishes faith. In the club, as in the private religious meeting, each derives authority from the common unanimity, every word and action of the whole tending to prove each in the right. And all the more because a dogma which remains uncontested, ends in seeming incontestable; as the Jacobin lives in a narrow circle, carefully guarded, no contrary opinions find their way to him. The public, in his eyes, seems two hundred persons; their opinion weighs on him without any counterpoise, and, outside of their belief, which is his also, every other belief is absurd and even culpable. Moreover, he discovers through this constant system of preaching, which is nothing but flattery, that he is patriotic, intelligent, virtuous, of which he can have no doubt, because, before being admitted into the club, his civic virtues have been verified and he carries a printed certificate of them in his pocket.—Accordingly, he is one of an elite corps, a corps which, enjoying a monopoly of patriotism, holds itself aloof, talks loud, and is distinguished from ordinary citizens by its tone and way of conducting things. The club of Pontarlier, from the first, prohibits its members from using the common forms of politeness.
"Members are to abstain from saluting their fellow-citizens by removing the hat, and are to avoid the phrase, 'I have the honor to be,' and others of like import, in addressing persons."
A proper idea of one's importance is indispensable.
"Does not the famous tribune of the Jacobins in Paris inspire traitors and impostors with fear? And do not anti-Revolutionaries return to dust on beholding it?"
All this is true, in the provinces as well as at the capital, for, scarcely is a club organized before it sets to work on the population. In may of the large cities, in Paris, Lyons, Aix and Bordeaux, there are two clubs in partnership, one, more or less respectable and parliamentary, "composed partly of the members of the different branches of the administration and specially devoted to purposes of general utility," and the other, practical and active, made up of bar-room politicians and club-haranguers, who indoctrinate workmen, market-gardeners and the rest of the lower bourgeois class. The latter is a branch of the former, and, in urgent cases, supplies it with rioters.
"We are placed amongst the people," says one of these subaltern clubs, "we read to them the decrees, and, through lectures and counsel, we warn them against the publications and intrigues of the aristocrats. We ferret out and track plotters and their machinations. We welcome and advise all complainants; we enforce their demands, when just; finally, we, in some way, attend to all details."
Thanks to these vulgar auxiliaries, but whose lungs and arms are strong, the party soon becomes dominant; it has force and uses it, and, denying that its adversaries have any rights, it re-establishes all the privileges for its own advantage.
III.—How they view the liberty of the press.
Their political doings.
Let us consider its mode of procedure in one instance and upon a limited field, the freedom of the press. In December, 1790, M. Etienne, an engineer, whom Marat and Freron had denounced as a spy in their periodicals, brought a suit against them in the police court. The numbers containing the libel were seized, the printers summoned to appear, and M. Etienne claimed a public retraction or 25,000 francs damages with costs. At this the two journalists, considering themselves infallible as well as exempt from arrest, are indignant.
"It is of the utmost importance," writes Marat, "that the informer should not be liable to prosecution as he is accountable only to the public for what he says and does for the public good."
M. Etienne (surnamed Languedoc), therefore, is a traitor: "Monsieur Languedoc, I advise you to keep your mouth shut; if I can have you hung I will." M. Etienne, nevertheless, persists and obtains a first decision in his favor. Fire and flame are at once belched forth by Marat and Freon:
"Master Thorillon," exclaims Freron to the commissary of police, "you shall be punished and held up to the people as an example; this infamous decision must be canceled."—"Citizens," writes Marat, "go in a body to the Hotel-de-Ville and do not allow one of the guards to enter the court-room. "—On the day of the trial, and in the most condescending spirit, but two grenadiers are let in. Even these, however, are too many and shouts from the Jacobin crowd arise "Turn 'em out! We rule here," upon which the two grenadiers withdraw. On the other hand, says Freron triumphantly, that there were in the court-room "sixty of the victors at the Bastille led by the brave Santerre, who intended to interfere in the trial."—They intervene, indeed, and first against the plaintiff. M. Etienne is attacked at the entrance of the court-room and nearly knocked down He is so maltreated that he is obliged to seek shelter in the guard-room. He is spit upon, and they "move to cut off his ears." His friends receive "hundreds of kicks," while he runs away, and the case is postponed.—It is called up again several times, so no the judges have to be restrained. A certain Mandart in the audience, author of a pamphlet on "Popular Sovereignty," springs to his feet and, addressing Bailly, mayor of Paris, and president of the tribunal, challenges the court. As usual Bailly yields, attempting to cover up his weakness with an honorable pretext: "Although a judge can be challenged only by the parties to a suit, the appeal of one citizen is sufficient for me and I leave the bench." The other judges, who are likewise insulted and menaced, yield also, and, through a sophism which admirably illustrates the times, they discover in the oppression to which the plaintiff is subject a legal device by which they can give a fair color to their denial of justice. M. Etienne having signified to them that neither he nor his counsel could attend in court, because their lives were in danger, the court decides that M. Etienne, "failing to appear in person, or by counsel, is non-suited."—Victorious shouts at once proceed from the two journalists, while their articles on the case disseminated throughout France set a precedence contained in the ruling. Any Jacobin may after this with impunity denounce, insult, and calumniate whomsoever he pleases, sheltered as he is from the action of courts, and held superior to the law.
Let us see, on the other hand, what liberty they allow their adversaries. A fortnight before this, Mallet du Pan, a writer of great ability, who, in the best periodical of the day, discusses questions week after week free of all personalities, the most independent, straight-forward, and honorable of men, the most eloquent and judicious advocate of public order and true liberty, is waited upon by a deputation from the Palais-Royal, consisting of about a dozen well-dressed individuals, civil enough and not too ill-disposed, but quite satisfied that they have a right to interfere. The conversation which ensues shows to what extent the current political creed had turned peoples' heads.
"One of the party, addressing me, informed me that he and his associates were deputies of the Palais-Royal clubs, and that they had called to notify me that I would do well to change my principles and stop attacking the constitution, otherwise extreme violence would be brought to bear on me. I replied that I recognized no authority but the law and that of the courts; the law is your master and mine, and no respect is shown to the constitution by assailing the freedom of the press."
"The constitution is the common will, resumed the spokesman. The law, is the authority of the strongest. You are subject to the strongest and you ought to submit. We notify you of the will of the nation and that is the law.'"
Mallet du Pan stated to them that he was not in favor of the ancient regime, but that he did approve of royal authority.
"Oh!" exclaimed all together, "we should be sorry not to have a king. We respect the King and maintain his authority. But you are forbidden to oppose the dominant opinion and the liberty which is decreed by the National Assembly."
Mallet du Pan, apparently, knows more about this than they do, for he is a Swiss by birth, and has lived under a republic for twenty years. But this does not concern them. They persist all the same, five or six talking at once, misconstruing the sense the words they use, and each contradicting the other in point of detail, but all agreeing to impose silence on him:
"You should not run counter to the popular will, for in doing this you preach civil war, bring the assembly's decrees into contempt, and irritate the nation."
Evidently, for them, they constitute the nation, or, more or less, they represent it. Through this self-investiture they are at once magistrates, censors, and police, while the scolded journalist is only too glad, in his case, to have them stop at injunctions.—Three days before this he is advised that a body of rioters in his neighborhood "threatened to treat his house like that of M. de Castries," in which everything had been smashed and thrown out the windows. At another time, apropos of the suspensive or absolute veto; "four savage fellows came to his domicile to warn him, showing him their pistols, that if he dared write in behalf of M. Mounier he should answer for it with his life." Thus, from the outset,