The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 548 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
one imagining peasants as sentimental swains, the other convinced that the nobles are horrible tyrants. — Through this mutual misconception and this secular isolation, the French lose the habit, the art and the faculty for acting in an entire body.  They are no longer capable of spontaneous agreement and collective action.  No one, in the moment of danger, dares rely on his neighbors or on his equals.  No one knows where to turn to obtain a guide.  “A man willing to be responsible for the smallest district cannot be found; and, more than this, one man able to answer for another man[16].”  Utter and irremediable disorder is at hand.  The Utopia of the theorists has been accomplished, the savage condition has recommenced.  Individuals now stand in by themselves; everyone reverting back to his original feebleness, while his possessions and his life are at the mercy of the first band that comes along.  He has nothing within him to control him but the sheep-like habit of being led, of awaiting an impulsion, of turning towards the accustomed center, towards Paris, from which his orders have always arrived.  Arthur Young[17] is struck with this mechanical movement.  Political ignorance and docility are everywhere complete.  He, a foreigner, conveys the news of Alsace into Burgundy:  the insurrection there had been terrible, the populace having sacked the city-hall at Strasbourg, of which not a word was known at Dijon; “yet it is nine days since it happened; had it been nineteen I question if they would more than have received the intelligence.”  There are no newspapers in the cafés; no local centers of information, of resolution, of action.  The province submits to events at the capital; “people dare not move; they dare not even form an opinion before Paris speaks.” — This is what Monarchical centralization leads to.  It has deprived the groups of their cohesion and the individual of his motivational drive.  Only human dust remains, and this, whirling about and gathered together in massive force, is blindly driven along by the wind.[18]

III.

Direction of the current. — The people led by lawyers. — Theories and piques the sole surviving forces. — Suicide of the Ancient regime.

We are all well aware from which side the gale comes, and, to assure ourselves, we have merely to see how the reports of the Third-Estate are made up.  The peasant is led by the man of the law, the petty attorney of the rural districts, the envious advocate and theorist.  This one insists, in the report, on a statement being made in writing and at length of his local and personal grievances, his protest against taxes and deductions, his request to have his dog free of the clog, and his desire to own a gun to use against the wolves[19].  Another one, who suggests and directs, envelopes all this in the language of the Rights of Man and that of the circular of Sieyès.

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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