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.”
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 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.
Direction of the current. — The people led
by lawyers. — Theories and piques the sole
surviving forces. — Suicide of the Ancient
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. Another one,
who suggests and directs, envelopes all this in the
language of the Rights of Man and that of the circular