The French Revolution, Volume 2 The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 3
Hippolyte A. Taine
Part 1 out of 10
This Etext prepared by Svend Rom
Note that I have followed the numbering of Volumes, Books, Chapters
and Sections in the French not the American edition. The remarks made
me are initialled SR.
Svend Rom, April 2000.
The French Revolution, Volume 2
The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 3^M
by Hippolyte A. Taine^M
THE REVOLUTION. Volume II. THE JACOBIN CONQUEST.
THE FRENCH 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.
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.
II. Revolutionary Laws.
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.
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.
II. Homicidal Part of Revolutionary Creed.
III. Terror is their Salvation.
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
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
Principle of the revolutionary party. - Its applications.
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
fainéant), 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, Fréron, Danton, Marat, Pétion, 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 Hôtel-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
lése-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.
II. The Jacobins. -
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
* that they should have more fondly clung to it as it became more
* 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
* 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
* 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
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
Héloise,' 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 Condé 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
Château 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, curés for bishops, vicars for curés, 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 curé 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
"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.
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, curés 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
Consider, indeed, the authentic monuments of Jacobin thought, the
"Journal des Amis de la Constitution," the gazettes of Loustalot,
Desmoulins, Brissot, Condorcet, Fréron 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 hôtel-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.
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
'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
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 lèse-majesty; now
there are crimes of popular lèse-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, curé,
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, Fréron, 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." Pétion'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, Pétion, 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
 Cf. "The Ancient Régime," 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.
 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).
 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).
 Buchez and Roux, III, 324. . (An article by Loustalot, Sept. 8,
1789). Ibid. 331 Motion of the District of Cordéliers, 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
 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.
 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.
 Ernest Hamel, "Histoire de Robespierre", passim, (I.436).
Robespierre proposed to confer political rights on the blacks. -
Buchez et Roux, IX. 264 (March, 1791).
 Buchez et Roux, V. 146 (March, 1790) ; VI. 436 (July 26, 1790) ;
VIII. 247 (Dec 1790) ; X. 224 (June, 1791).
 Gustave Flaubert. "Tout notaire a rêvé des sultanes." (All
barristers have dreams of being sultans!) (Madame Bovary"). --
"Frédéric trouvait que le bonheur mérité par 1'excellence de son âme
tardait à venir." (Frédéric found that the happiness he deserved due
to his brilliancy was a long time coming.) ("L'Education
 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).
 Mallet du Pan, "Correspondance politique." 1796.
 "Entretiens du Père Gérard," by Collot d'Herbois. -- "Les
Etrennes au Peuple," by Barrère.-"La Constitution française pour les
habitants des campagnes," etc. - Later "L'Alphabet des Sans-Culottes,
le Nouveau Catéchisme républicain, les Commandements de la Patrie et
de la République (in verse), etc.
 Mercure de France, an article by Mallet du Pan, April 7, 1792.
(Summing up of the year 1791.)
 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
 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
 Just like the strong influence which the current fashionable
principles and buzz-words introduced by the media have over today's
 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).
 Tableaux de la Révolution Française," by Schmidt (especially the
reports by Dutard), 3 vols.
 "Correspondence of Gouverneur Morris," -- "Memoirs of Mallet du
Pan," John Moore'
 See, in "Progrès 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
 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 dévoilé," by Camille Desmoulins, January,
1792) -- Bouchez et Roux, XIII, 207.)
 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 Rétif 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!'"
 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
Montléon, 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?"
 Moniteur, V. 136. (Celebration of the Federation, July 14, 1790.)
 Albert Babeau, "Histoire de Troyes pendant la Révolution," I. 436
(April 10, 1790).
 Mortimer-Ternaux, "Histoire de la Terreur," I. 353. (Pétion'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.
 The "Mémoires 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.
 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, "Mémoires," 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."
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 Châteauneuf-
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 Bâle; Hérault de
Séchellles, a protégé 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 Barrère, 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
Fouché, capuchins like Chabot, more or less secularized priests like
Lebon, Chasles, Lakanal, and Grégoire, students scarcely out of school
like St. Just, Monet of Strasbourg, Rousseline of St. Albin, and
Julien of the Drôme -- 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 Châlier 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 Hébert 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 Théroigne, 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.
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
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
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 Besançon, 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 Côte 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, Nîmes 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
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 'Pêre 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," "Pêre Duchesne," the
"Révolutions 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 élite 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
"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
"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.
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 Fréron 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 Fréon:
"Master Thorillon," exclaims Fréron 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 Hôtel-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 Fréron 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 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
régime, 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
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,
"just as the nation begins to enjoy the inestimable right of free
thought and free speech, factional tyrants lose no time in depriving
citizens of these, proclaiming to all that would maintain the
integrity of their consciences: Tremble, die, or believe as we do!"
After this, to impose silence on those who express what is offensive,
the crowd, the club, the section, decree and execute, each on its own
authority, searches, arrests, assaults, and, at length,
assassinations. During the month of June, 1792, "three decrees of
arrest and fifteen denunciations, two acts of affixing seals, four
civic invasions of his premises, and the confiscation of whatever
belonged to him in France" is the experience of Mallet du Pan. He
passes four years "without knowing with any certainty on going to bed
whether he should get out of it in the morning alive and free." Later
on, if he escapes the guillotine and the lantern, it is owing to
exile. On the 10th of August, Suleau, a conservative journalist, is
massacred in the street. -- This shows how the party regards the
freedom of the press. Other liberties may be judged of by its
encroachments on this domain. Law, in its eyes, is null when it
proves an obstacle, and when it affords protection to adversaries;
consequently there is no excess which it does not sanction for itself;
and no right which it does not refuse to others.
There is no escape from the tyranny of the clubs. "That of Marseilles
has forced the city officials to resign; it has summoned the
municipal body to appear before it; it has ignored the authority of
the department, and has insulted the administrators of the law.
Members of the Orleans club have kept the national Supreme Court under
supervision, and taken part in its proceedings. Those of the Caen club
have insulted the magistrates, and seized and burnt the records of the
proceedings commenced against the destroyers of the statue of Louis
XIV. At Alby they have forcibly abstracted from the record-office the
papers relating to an assassin's trial, and burnt them." The club at
Coutance gives the deputies of its district to understand that "no
reflections must be cast on the laws of the people." That of Lyons
stops an artillery train, under the pretext that the ministry in
office does not enjoy the nation's confidence. -- Thus does the club
everywhere govern, or prepare to govern. On the one hand, at the
elections, it sets aside or supports candidates; it alone votes, or,
at least, controls the voting. In short, the club is the elective
power, and practically, if not legally, enjoys the privileges of a
political aristocracy. On the other hand, it assumes to be a
spontaneous police-board; it prepares and circulates the lists which
designate the ill-disposed, suspected, and lukewarm; it lodges
information against nobles whose sons have emigrated; against unsworn
priests who still reside in their former parishes, and against nuns,
"whose conduct is unconstitutional". It prompts, directs, and rebukes
local authorities; it is itself a supplemental, superior, and usurping
authority. -- All at once, sensible men realize its character, and
protest against it.
"A body thus organized," says a petition, "exists solely for
arming one citizen against another. . . . Discussions take place
there, and denunciations are made under the seal of inviolable
secrecy. . . . . Honest citizens, surrendered to the most atrocious
calumny, are destroyed without an opportunity of defending themselves.
It is a veritable Inquisition. It is the center of seditious
publications, a school of cabals and intrigue. If the citizens have to
blush at the selection of unworthy candidates, they are all due to
this class of associations . . . Composed of the excited and the
incendiary, of those who aim to rule the State," the club everywhere
"to a mastery of the popular opinion, to thwarting the municipalities,
to an intrusion of itself between these and the people," to an
usurpation of legal forms and to become a "colossus of despotism."
Vain complaints! The National Assembly, ever in alarm on its own
account, shields the popular club and accords it its favor or
indulgence. A journal of the party had recommended "the people to
form themselves into small platoons." These platoons, one by one, are
growing. Each borough now has a local oligarchy, an enlisted and
governing band. To create an army out of these scattered bands,
simply requires a staff and a central rallying-point. The central
point and the staff have both for a long time been ready in Paris, it
is the association of the "Friends of the Constitution."
Their rallying-points. -- Origin and composition of the Paris Jacobin
club. -- It affiliates with provincial clubs. -- Its leaders. --
The fanatics. -- The Intriguers. -- Their object. -- Their means.
No association in France, indeed, dates farther back, and has an equal
prestige. It was born before the Revolution, April 30, 1789. At
the assembly of the States-General in Brittany, the deputies from
Quimper, Hennebon, and Pontivy saw how important it was to vote in
concert, and they had scarcely reached Versailles when, in common with
others, they hired a hall, and, along with Mounier, secretary of the
States-General of Dauphiny, and other deputies from the provinces, at
once organized a union which was destined to last. Up to the 6th of
October, none but deputies were comprised in it; after that date, on
removing to Paris, in the library of the Jacobins, a convent in the
Rue St. Honoré, many well-known eminent men were admitted, such as
Condorcet, and then Laharpe, Chénier, Champfort, David, and Talma,
among the most prominent, with other authors and artists, the whole
amounting to about a thousand notable personages. -- No assemblage
could be more imposing -- two or three hundred deputies are on its
benches, while its rules and by-laws seem specially designed to gather
a superior body of men. Candidates for admission were proposed by ten
members and afterwards voted on by ballot. To be present at one of its
meetings required a card of admission. On one occasion, a member of
the committee of two, appointed to verify these cards, happens to be
the young Duke of Chartres. There is a committee on administration and
a president. Discussions took place with parliamentary formalities,
and, according to its status, the questions considered there were
those under debate in the National Assembly. In the lower hall,
at certain hours, workmen received instruction and the constitution
was explained to them. Seen from afar, no society seems worthier of
directing public opinion; near by, the case is different. In the
departments, however, where distance lends enchantment, and where old
customs prevail implanted by centralization, it is accepted as a guide
because its seat is at the capital. Its statutes, its regulations, its
spirit, are all imitated; it becomes the alma mater of other
associations and they its adopted daughters. It publishes,
accordingly, a list of all clubs conspicuously in its journal,
together with their denunciations; it insists on their demands;
henceforth, every Jacobin in the remotest borough feels the support
and endorsement, not only of his local, club, but again of the great
club whose numerous offshoots reached the entire territory and which
extends its all-powerful protection to the least of its adherents. In
return for this protection, each associated club obeys the word of
command given at Paris, and to and from, from the center to the
extremities, a constant correspondence maintains the established
harmony. A vast political machine is thus set agoing, a machine with
thousands of arms, all working at once under one impulsion, and the
lever which the motions is in the hands of a few master spirits in the
Rue St. Honoré.
No machine could be more effective; never was one seen so well
contrived for manufacturing artificial, violent public opinion, for
making this appear to be national, spontaneous sentiment, for
conferring the rights of the silent majority on a vociferous minority,
for forcing the surrender of the government.
"Our tactics were very simple," says Grégoire. "It was
understood that one of us should take advantage of the first favorable
opportunity to propose some measure in the National Assembly that was
sure to be applauded by a small minority and cried down by the
majority. But that made no difference. The proposer demanded, which
was granted, that the measure should be referred to a committee in
which its opponents hoped to see it buried. Then the Paris Jacobins
took hold of it. A circular was issued, after which an article on the
measure was printed in their journal and discussed in three or four
hundred clubs that were leagued together. Three weeks after this the
Assembly was flooded with petitions from every quarter, demanding a
decree of which the first proposal had been rejected, and which is now
passed by a great majority because a discussion of it had ripened
In other words, the Assembly must go ahead or it will be driven along,
in which process the worst expedients are the best. Those who conduct
the club, whether fanatics or intriguers, are fully agreed on this
At the head of the former class is Duport, once a counselor in the
parliament, who, after 1788, knew how to turn riots to account. The
first revolutionary consultations were held in his house. He wants to
plough deep, and his devices for burying the ploughshare are such that
Sieyès, a radical, if there ever was one, dubbed it a "cavernous
policy." Duport, on the 28th of July, 1789, is the organizer of
the Committee on Searches, by which all favorably disposed informers
or spies form in his hands a supervisory police, which fast becomes a
police of provocation. He finds recruits in the lower hall of the
Jacobin club, where workmen come to be catechized every morning, while
his two lieutenants, the brothers Laurette, have only to draw on the
same source for a zealous staff in a choice selection of their
instruments. "Ten reliable men receive orders there daily; each of
these in turn gives his orders to ten more, belonging to different
battalions in Paris. In this way each battalion and section receives
the same insurrectionary orders, the same denunciations of the
constituted authorities, of the mayor of Paris, of the president of
the department, and of the commander of the National Guard,"
everything taking place secretly. These are dark deeds: the leaders
themselves call it 'the Sabbath' and, along with fanatics they enlist
ruffians. "They spread the rumor that, on a certain day, there will be
a great commotion with assassinations and pillage, preceded by the
payment of money distributed from hand to hand by subaltern officers
among those that can be relied on, and that these bands are to
assemble, as advertised, within a radius of thirty or forty
leagues."-- -- One day, to provoke a riot, "half a dozen men, who
have arranged the thing, form a small group, in which one of them
holds forth vehemently; at once a crowd of about sixty others gathers
around them. Then the six men move on from place to place," to form
fresh groups making their apparent excitement pass for popular
irritation. -- Another day, "about forty fanatics, with powerful
lungs, and four or five hundred paid men," scatter themselves around
the Tuileries, "yelling furiously," and, gathering under the windows
of the Assembly, "move resolutions to assassinate." -- "Our ushers,"
says a deputy to the Assembly, "whom you ordered to suppress this
tumult, heard reiterated threats of bringing you the heads of those
the crowd wished to proscribe. That very evening, in the Palais-Royal,
"I heard a subordinate leader of this factious band boast of having
charged your ushers to take this answer back, adding that there was
time enough yet for all good citizens to follow his advice." --The
watchword of these agitators is, are you true and the response is, a
true man. Their pay is twelve francs a day, and when in action they
make engagements on the spot at that rate. "From several depositions
taken by officers of the National Guard and at the mayoralty," it is
ascertained that twelve francs a day were tendered to "honest people
to join in with those you may have heard shouting, and some of them
actually had the twelve francs put into their hands." -- The money
comes from the coffers of the Duke of Orleans, and they are freely
drawn upon; at his death, with a property amounting to 114,000,000
francs, his debts amount to 74,000,000. Being one of the faction,
he contributes to its expenses, and, being the richest man in the
kingdom, he contributes proportionately to his wealth. Not because he
is a party leader, for he is too effeminate, too nervous; but "his
petty council," and especially one of his private secretaries,
Laclos, cherishes great designs for him, their object being to make
him lieutenant-general of the kingdom, afterwards regent, and even
king, so that they may rule in his name and "share the profits." -
- In the mean time they turn his whims to the best account,
particularly Laclos, who is a kind of subordinate Macchiavelli,
capable of anything, profound, depraved, and long indulging his
fondness for monstrous combinations; nobody ever so coolly delighted
in indescribable compounds of human wickedness and debauchery. In
politics, as in romance, his department is "Les Liaisons Dangereuses."
Formerly he maneuvered as an amateur with prostitutes and ruffians in
the fashionable world; now he maneuvers in earnest with the
prostitutes and ruffians of the sidewalks. On the 5th of October
1789, he is seen, "dressed in a brown coat," foremost among the
women starting for Versailles, while his hand is visible "in the
Réveillon affair, also in the burning of barriers and Châteaux," and
in the widespread panic which aroused all France against imaginary
bandits. His operations, says Malouet, "were all paid for by the Duke
of Orleans"; he entered into them "for his own account, and the
Jacobins for theirs." -- At this time their alliance is plain to
everybody. On the 21st of November, 1790, Laclos becomes secretary of
the club, chief of the department of correspondence, titular editor of
its journal, and the invisible, active, and permanent director of all
its enterprises. Whether actual demagogues or prompted by ambition,
whether paid agents or earnest revolutionaries, each group works on
its own account, both in concert, both in the same direction, and both
devoted to the same undertaking, which is the conquest of power by
every possible means.
Small number of Jacobins. - Sources of their power. - They form a
league. - They have faith. - Their unscrupulousness. - The power of
the party vested in the group which best fulfills these conditions.
At first sight their success seems doubtful, for they are in a
minority, and a very small one. At Besançon, in November, 1791, the
revolutionaries of every shade of opinion and degree, whether
Girondists or Montagnards, consist of about 500 or 600 out of 3,000
electors, and, in November, 1792, of not more than the same number out
of 6,000 and 7,000. At Paris, in November, 1791, there are 6,700
out of more than 81,000 on the rolls; in October, 1792, there are less
than 14,000 out of 160,000. At Troyes, in 1792, there are found
only 400 or 500 out of 7,000 electors, and at Strasbourg the same
number out of 8,000 electors. Accordingly only about one-tenth of
the electoral population are revolutionaries, and if we leave out the
Girondists and the semi-conservatives, the number is reduced by one-
half. Towards the end of 1792, at Besançon, scarcely more than 300
pure Jacobins are found in a population of from 25,000 to 30,000,
while at Paris, out of 700,000 inhabitants only 5,000 are Jacobins.
It is certain that in the capital, where the most excitement prevails,
and where more of them are found than elsewhere, never, even in a
crisis and when vagabonds are paid and bandits recruited, are there
more than 10,000. In a large town like Toulouse a representative
of the people on missionary service wins over only about 400
persons. Counting fifty or so in each small town, twenty in each
large borough, and five or six in each village, we find, on an
average, but one Jacobin to fifteen electors and National Guards,
while, taking the whole of France, all the Jacobins put together do
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