The Theory of Social Revolutions eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 131 pages of information about The Theory of Social Revolutions.

CHAPTER V

POLITICAL COURTS

In the eye of philosophy, perhaps the most alluring and yet illusive of all the phenomena presented by civilization is that which we have been considering.  Why should a type of mind which has developed the highest prescience when advancing along the curve which has led it to ascendancy, be stricken with fatuity when the summit of the curve is passed, and when a miscalculation touching the velocity of the descent must be destruction?

Although this phenomenon has appeared pretty regularly, at certain intervals, in the development of every modern nation, I conceive its most illuminating example to be that intellectual limitation of caste which, during the French Revolution, led to the creation of those political criminal tribunals which reached perfection with Robespierre.

When coolly examined, at the distance of a century, the Royalist combination for the suppression of equality before the law, as finally evolved in 1792, did not so much lack military intelligence, as it lacked any approximate comprehension of the modern mind.  The Royalists proposed to reestablish privilege, and to do this they were ready to immolate, if necessary, their King and Queen, and all of their own order who stayed at home to defend them.  Indeed, speaking generally, they valued Louis XVI, living, cheaply enough, counting him a more considerable asset if dead.  “What a noise it would make throughout Europe,” they whispered among themselves, “if the rabble should kill the King.”

Nor did Marie Antoinette delude herself on this score.  At Pilnitz, in 1791, the German potentates issued a declaration touching France which was too moderate to suit the emigrants, who published upon it a commentary of their own.  This commentary was so revolting that when the Queen read her brother-in-law’s signature appended to it, she exclaimed—­“Cain.”

The Royalist plan of campaign was this:  They reckoned the energy of the Revolution so low that they counted pretty confidently, in the summer of 1792, on the ability of their party to defend the Tuileries against any force which could be brought against it; but assuming that the Tuileries could not be defended, and that the King and Queen should be massacred, they believed that their own position would be improved.  Their monarchical allies would be thereby violently stimulated.  It was determined, therefore, that, regardless of consequences to their friends, the invading army should cross the border into Lorraine and, marching by way of Sierk and Rodemach, occupy Chalons.  Their entry into Chalons, which they were confident could not be held against them, because of the feeling throughout the country, was to be the signal for the rising in Vendee and Brittany which should sweep down upon Paris from the rear and make the capital untenable.  At Chalons the allies would be but ninety miles from Paris, and then nothing would remain but vengeance, and vengeance the more complete the greater the crime had been.

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The Theory of Social Revolutions from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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