The revolution of 89 will shine in the future, like a vast epic of the human spirit. It was the dismal cry [Pg 2]of a corrupt world succumbing to the blows of a new generation, which seized life with merciless fury; it was the spontaneous and magnificent acclamation of an unhappy people, who escaped from the bastilles of feudalism; it was the horrible immolation of a social caste which had absorbed in itself the power and the wealth of the nation; finally, there was the appearance of the principle of equality, deposited by Jesus in the consciousness of the human race, which, piercing the envelope of faith, constituted a truth of intelligence.
In the small number of fundamental laws of the human mind, there is one which dominates them all: it is the dogmatism of the will. The will of man is a primitive power, which submits only to a higher principle; she never grants a simple will like her the right to order it, if the latter does not draw this right from an impersonal source. Two individual wills are two units of the same nature, which cannot make numbers, because one cannot be subordinated to the other. If in [Pg 3]the blows with which he is overwhelmed, the Austrian soldier thought he saw the effect of the will of the corporal who administered them, he would kill his throat at the very moment; but knowing that the corporal is only a miserable instrument, he goes up the river of the social hierarchy, and goes to seek the cause of his torture until on the throne of the empire, where his reason stumbles and is annihilated: l history of humanity confirms this principle.
However, would society be possible with this whirlwind of individual wills, if a link did not unite them to form a harmonious whole? obviously not. What then will be this mysterious verb which will establish order in chaos? Here philosophers are shared, and systems multiply.
For a will to arise from the bosom of its equals and come to impose its law on them, it must of all necessity be supported by one of the two powers which alone, in this world, dominate the individual wills: of God or of humanity. God and humanity, sacred sources from which spread the principles of societies; immense rivers [Pg 4]in which must flow the will which claims to rule the nations. When this will comes from God, it is a vigilant guardian who delivers freedom to people only as they progress in progress; but if it escapes the acclamation of the masses, then it is the intelligent wish of emancipated men. In the first case, it is called royalty, in the second, national sovereignty.
It is of the essence of any true principle to be impersonal, and to belong to the general laws of reason; and as such, he always finds respectful obedience. But as soon as this principle leaves the high regions where it was conceived, and it falls into the personality, losing its original purity, it also loses its social force; it is incarnated then, it is individualized, it is defaced under the petty will of a man or a caste, and it perishes as an isolated fact. Now, the individual will which has received the baptism of God or of humanity, strips of its human character, it leaves the earth and rises, like the [Pg 5]Christ, in the abode of principles; it is for this reason that it is possible for him to govern men. That if, by the succession of times, it failed in its high destiny, then it will have to expect the resistance of the other wills, which will see in it only an individual force, without mission and without right.
Here we must provide a question that we will not fail to ask us. How does God show approval? How does he transmit his power to the particular will? Would you accept revelation? We will respond to these objections by setting out our ideas on royalty.
Going back as far as possible the course of human affections, we find at the bottom of his intimate nature a primitive feeling so vivid, that he survives all the catastrophes of the soul, and that no political form can to annihilate it: it is the paternal feeling. The paternal feeling is a delicious love of oneself, overturned on the image which must transmit us to the future, and which circulates in our [Pg 6]veins with life. Nothing is prior to it except the supreme cause to which we owe everything. Indeed, the family is a social monad, placed on the earth as a point in space, a fundamental note of the harmony of the world. Monarchy, republic, tyranny, everything passes and passes again above this indestructible unity, which survives the storms of humanity as the last word of a mysterious Providence. It was there, it was within the family that the paternal magistracy, the first germ of moral authority, was born and developed. I say the first germ of moral authority, for it is neither to force, nor to wealth, nor to the assent of his equals that the father owes his power in the family; it owes it to a feeling which it did not create, to a cause which is superior to it. But who is the strong being who gave man this sweet affection for his offspring, the primary origin of all authority? Nature, says the philosopher; God, replied the Christian: what does it matter! you agree at least that man has drawn moral authority beyond his will, I ask no more.
The paternal magistracy was necessary. Young, weak and inexperienced children needed a strong and benevolent authority, who guided them through the phenomena of the world, and initiated them with prudence into the mysteries of life. As long as the father used his power in the interests of his children and for the happiness of the community, he was just, since he was indispensable; therefore his will was religiously executed, for it had the sanctity of a principle. But when forgetting his tutelary mission, the father wanted to stifle independence under his tyrannical personality; of his children, the eldest son, emancipated by age and reason, stood opposite his father and said to him: “Your absolute authority expires before my freedom; and I am free since I am self-sufficient. I obeyed you as a father, as a magistrate charged with supporting my weakness; but man and your equal, I resist you. ” And sitting around the father’s hearth, the son took part in the family council. This is the origin of the aristocracy, which was the first accent of freedom.
Ancient royalty, in its venerable majesty, [Pg 8]has all the characteristics of the paternal magistracy; it is undoubtedly its regular and natural development. You see her with her pastoral scepter, her forehead surrounded by a mystical crown, covered with a sacred cloak, withdrawing into a tabernacle, like a divine word. She is simple and absolute, and she never worries about the assent of the people, whom she directs with her powerful hand. She governs them without control, because she suffers and plans for them; it is the expression of the naive customs of this remote age; it is the science of the old days, it is time and its experience guiding the uncertain steps of the nations. Besides, royalty was the only social form which the intelligence of the people could conceive at that time; it was the outward realization of a need of the mind,
Unity is the eternal goal to which the human spirit tends. He wants it in all things and at all times of life; only in simple man it is only an idea, in the philosopher it forms a system. [Pg 9]The progress of peoples as well as that of the individual can be measured by the greatness of the unity they have achieved. In ancient times man saw the limits of the world where the horizon stopped; and God circumscribed the human personality, like the vine embraces with its flexible branches the elm of our countryside. Later, by breaking the selfishness of his intelligence, he allowed unknown phenomena to penetrate it; with the knowledge of man, the idea of nature and its author also grows; and God, worshiped until then in the form of a nymph or a reed, was replaced by progress on the throne of the universe. First, he merges everything into a large unit; then he splits it into a thousand others by the abuse of analysis; and finally he reconstructs everything by the power of his reason. Unaware, he is superstitious; analysis makes him an atheist; through science, he becomes religious like Newton. Thus under the golden symbols of nature hide the mysteries of human destiny; mysteries which are only revealed to humanity as it advances in the future.
If art, if religion, if all spontaneous or reflected creations of the human spirit testify to this need for unity, this testimony is even more evident in political organization. Primitive society, as we see it flourishing in the East, is an extension of the family and nothing more; and royalty is the daughter of paternal authority. The subtle combinations are unworthy of the common sense of history.
The social revolutions which, within the family, had stopped the selfish encroachment of the paternal authority, were renewed later on around royalty, when the latter forgot its providential mission. Heir to the power of the father, royalty was the result of the growth of humanity, and the transformation of the family into the tribe. As long as she remained within the limits of her legitimate authority, and that she presided with love over the emancipation of peoples, her will never encountered an obstacle; but when she wanted to resist progress, and refuse freedom to those who claimed it and who deserved it, [Pg 11]these kept to him the same language as the son had held to his father, and opposed the extension of his authority. Royalty then did what the father of the family had done, which all powers do when they see the day of domination expire: it used force. Force was opposed to force; and, vanquished in this conflict of individual wills, royalty was obliged to admit to the sharing of sovereignty the very people it had just fought. This second aristocracy was a new advance in freedom.
It is an indisputable fact: the aristocracy was the mother of social freedom. The rights which the aristocracy demanded from royal power were those which the peoples later claimed from the aristocracy itself; wherever the aristocracy could not hatch and restrict the selfish will of royalty, there reigns a deep despotism. See the Orient.
But this new aristocracy, which currently shares with royalty the rights of political sovereignty, how will it behave [Pg 12]in turn with those who will later also knock on the door of the state, and demand their emancipation? Will it be fair enough to extend a fraternal hand to them, and to introduce them without resistance into the law? No; it will also want to perpetuate itself in power, and it will not renounce the enjoyment of its privileges only after having been defeated by the majority. It is by a series of similar revolutions, it is by successively widening the circle of progress, it is by passing from pure royalty to a small aristocracy, from this to a larger one, that humanity progresses in history, until the resistance of those who dominate becomes too strong, there comes one of these great social catastrophes, which upset and renew everything.
The eighteenth century was a great tribune, whose magnificent words will resound far in the future; but he was too passionate to have been impartial. Seized with a deep hatred against a degraded society which he wanted to reconstitute, he studied history with a wrathful heart and a [Pg 13]mind blinded by petty concerns. For him, all that had been accomplished since the fall of paganism had been nothing but the plunder of the world civilized by barbarism; he saw in feudalism only the reign of force and the negation of human morality; so he crossed the middle ages, his soul filled with a feeling of terror and disgust, and he quickly ran to throw himself into the arms of radiant antiquity. In love with an ardent love for his turbulent democracies, he enjoyed reading their annals like those of a heroic poem. Plutarch and his great men was the cherished book of the eighteenth century. He scanned these venerable pages of beautiful humanity with indescribable pleasure; then, he recklessly drew these broad faces from the social framework which contained them and explained them, and he offered them as symbols worthy of his worship. Greece and its lively populations, Rome, its conquests and its bloody storms, seemed to it to contain the highest expression of human freedom. He did not realize, so fascinated by the beauties of ancient art, that in this Athens,[Pg 14] so glorious and beautiful, the social will came exclusively from the aristocracy of the city! he did not see, I say, that under this sovereign and absolute population, which judged in the last resort all the great questions of the fatherland, groaned a world of unfortunate slaves, delivered like vile animals to the whims of the citizen! Yes, he did not know that this superb Athenian, who was going to applaud Demosthenes in the public square, had, in his house, in his lands, like a feudal lord, a hundred unhappy men busy plowing his fields, and preparing his dinner. Finally, the eighteenth century ignored this profound truth: that ancient civilization touched only the surface of society; that man was always sacrificed there to the citizen; that he was only free there as long as he shared sovereignty,
From this false appreciation of the progress of humanity, there result two facts which characterize the eighteenth century, and which had [Pg 15]on the revolution of 89 a remarkable influence. From the moment when philosophers were convinced that liberty had reached its widest point two thousand years ago; and that progress, terrified by the fall of ancient society, had stopped on the eloquent lips of Greek and Roman art, they had to be necessarily convinced that to revive the social body, there were only two ways possible: to clear the soil of Europe of all that the whirlwind of the peoples of the North had brought to it, then to bring modern nations back to the severe forms of ancient democracy. The influence of a historical point of view on the affairs of life is so great, that by letting go the sense of the social spirit of antiquity, the eighteenth century was forced to ignore the great progressive law of the human race. The question thus posed, he had to do everything to strip our old Christian nations of their secular envelope, and believe that once exposed, it would be easy to cover them with a Greek pallion or a Roman toga. He could not doubt for a moment the maturity of the masses to receive sovereignty[Pg 16] political, since he was unfortunately convinced that Athens, Sparta and Rome had been, two thousand years ago, pure democracies. Here is the great error of the philosophy of the last century, error of which we will see the results in the continuation.
The revolution of 89, faithful in all respects to the philosophical doctrines of the eighteenth century, displaced the source of sovereignty, and made it arise from the will of the masses. Men are equal before the law of God , said Christ; men must be equal before the law of men , replies Mirabeau eighteen hundred years later; and at the noise of this ineffable word, the French aristocracy fled for ever into the bowels of the nation. This is how, through the centuries, which pass like light shadows, civilizing thoughts complement each other. Each people in turn appears on the world stage, where, through the mouths of its sages and artists, it formulates progress.
First, the constituent assembly carries its [Pg 17]vigorous hand on all the parts of the old company, and rids the ground of this crowd of feudal rights which the reprobate the reason. Then with admirable intelligence, she seized all the branches of public administration, and threw over France a network of laws which carried life and unity everywhere. This restoration of organic laws; this simplification of administrative machinery; this spirit of unity, spread over the entire surface of the country; this rehabilitation of man and his civil rights; this distributive justice, equal for all and for each: this is the immortal work of the Constituent Assembly, a work which has long been prepared by the progress of the human spirit.
We have already said it; only two principles can legitimately govern the world: the primordial principle of tutelage engraved in the heart of man, who from the father of the family passed to royalty, from that to an aristocracy, and so on, like the net of water which, from the top of the high mountains, falls from cascade to cascade and will get lost in the ocean; and that of national sovereignty. These two [Pg 18]principles are exclusive, and they come at different times.
Whatever one of these two principles constitutes society, it always consists of two parts: the moral part where government and the conscience of the political body resides, and the lower, vegetative part where individuals struggle. We can improve the second, simplify its relations with the state, bring it into harmony with the new needs without touching the moral part, without displacing sovereignty: these movements very often happen in material society, and carry in history the name of political revolution. The constituent assembly had just accomplished the greatest political revolution of modern times, and to reorganize in all its parts material society. It is was now to know whether the reason of the masses had reached this point of indispensable maturity, to preside over its own destinies; if it was time to put the manly robe back on the people? This was not in doubt for the constituent assembly, and in one voice[Pg 19] who troubled the world, she proclaimed the sovereignty of the peoples. It remained to realize this principle, to strengthen it in society. Faced with a monarchy as old as the nation, full of respect for a simple and honest man, the hand of the assembly hesitated at the completion of its work; it had the incredible simplicity of entrusting to a royalty of ten centuries the guard of the sovereignty of the people, thus bringing together two irreconcilable principles, one of which owes life only to the death of the other. Here is the fault, here is the fatal influence of the historical preoccupation of the eighteenth century. Three hundred years apart, the constituent assembly made the same error as the Council of Constance, which, after having reformed the church in its head and in its members, advise to reserve to the pope the right to convene the council! undoing with one hand what he had done with the other.
The unfortunate Louis XVI, deceived by the deceitful dignity which the constitution of 91 had preserved to him, seeks on all sides the authority which is inseparable from royalty, and [Pg 20]he finds only resistance and contempt. Abandoned by all his family, seated on a lonely throne like an expiatory victim, he hears the roar of the formidable voices of the factions which impute to him the crimes which are the inevitable result of the social pact which was imposed on him, and he pays with his head the error of the constituent assembly. When he dies, confusion takes hold of things. There is a horrible mixture of all social truths. The peoples rush into a pit of mud and cut their throats on the corpse of royalty. The human mind, suddenly deprived of its ancient faith, runs like a demon unleashed to all aberrations; he overturns everything that opposes his fury, and, with the torch of fanaticism in his hand, he soiled the pages of human history with the most disgusting bacchanals.
One, composed of the noblest intelligences, children of the progress of time, nourished by the history and philosophy of the nations; strong by sound [Pg 21]an eloquent word animated by a deep love of the fatherland; mixing grace and elevation, strength and attitude, he sums up in his sacred battalion all French civilization. The Girondins, generous victors of an age-old aristocracy, pay close attention to the cries of the vanquished, and do not want us to abandon them to the rage of low democracy. They know very well that the blood shed by the factions gives birth to martyrs, and that an old society cannot be wiped out with a sponge. Naive and sincere souls, they want all the voices of the fatherland to be grouped around national sovereignty, and that the revolution be linked to the chain of the past. No ax, no proscription, peace, mercy, equality and justice for all classes, for all individuals! But,
The Mountain, a terrible expression of selfishness [Pg 22]democratic, bloody revelation of our miseries, memorable teaching which must teach us that horrors can be committed in the name of the most holy truths! heaps of ignoble schoolchildren, miserable phrasers born of the scholastic dust of the eighteenth century, they would not have known how to manage a village while respecting humanity. Without knowledge of the past, without understanding the needs of the future, they take as their symbol of a century of industry, the dirty rags of the miserable; and they would like to suffocate thirty million men under Lacedemonian formulas. Hear them, in their filthy and buffoonish language; they have only insults for their victims, and only college abstractions for those who ask them for peace and happiness! Oh! the sublime legislators! who respond with a guillotine to the slightest objection that is made to them! Yes, the Mountain will always be the execration of noble hearts and high spirits; it is to the immortal principle of national sovereignty what Saint Bartholomew’s was to Christianity, the desecration of a truth of the human spirit. Born of errors[Pg 23] of the eighteenth century on antiquity, the Mountain immolated thousands of victims with rhetorical phrases; she slaughtered liberty, and delivered it to the will of a happy soldier.
The empire does not change the question of principles. Revolutionary power and without legality, it brings together, with a vigorous and skillful hand, the fertile elements of the revolution of 89. It organizes the material society until then if ill-treated, arms the city with a force necessary to guarantee it interests individual, and he went to the battlefields to defend the new France against monarchical Europe.
In 1814, the Bourbon house returned to the throne of its ancestors, and with it the primordial principle of guardianship. It regains control of the sovereignty inherent in true royalty; and, if it judges it appropriate to grant the needs of the times some liberties, it is like a concession of its omnipotence which it will be able to absorb, when it sees fit. This absorption which she tried stifled her in 1830.
The July Revolution, by overturning the restoration, wanted to take over the principle of sovereignty from royalty and replace it in the nation. The men who for fifteen years had maneuvered in the circle of the Royal Charter of 1814, and who had made this easy, this grammatical opposition to the legitimate monarchy; these men, I say, were very frightened at the sight of the popular victory which they were far from having foreseen; and, satisfied with the proscription of the elder branch, they hastened to collect piece by piece the thousand fragments of the destroyed government, and, blowing their small lungs on this heap of broken pieces, they made themselves a just social order big enough to house them, letting the victorious people bark at the door.
This book is not a pamphlet. Philosopher, we seek in the study of history to discover these great principles which are the basis of societies. We are not unaware that between these memorable times, where man, stripped of his old beliefs, seeks to rebuild the world in his new image, there are [Pg 25]terrible moments of hesitation and suffering, of strength and weakness, during which humanity, deserting the temples with an expiring voice, slowly advances into the future; and that she often returns to lean painfully on the debris of the past which she floods with tears. Governments, which then take over material society to give time for thought to prepare its new home, are very useful; but their existence is tied to the duration of the needs which had called them. The Charter of 1830 has none of these characters of grandeur and unity which reveal a strong institution: it is a halt to material society which, in the uncertainty of the path it must follow, awaits the return of his scouts to continue his journey.
We understand the purpose of this book. It is the study of an independent man who, without any political concern, seeks to enter the intimate life of these social fractions which make up a nation, to grasp the trait that characterizes them, and to take note of the elements [ Pg 26] thatthey deposit in the morality of a people. The author wanted to trace a page from the history of his time: Critics will tell him if he succeeded in his efforts.