The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 652 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
class which the government has rendered ill-disposed by compromising its fortunes, which the privileged have offended by restricting its ambition, which is wounded by inequality through injured self-esteem, the revolutionary theory gains rapid accessions, a sudden asperity, and, in a few years, it finds itself undisputed master of public opinion. — At this moment and at its summons, another colossal monster rises up, a monster with millions of heads, a blind, startled animal, an entire people pressed down, exasperated and suddenly loosened against the government whose exactions have despoiled it, against the privileged whose rights have reduced it to starvation, without, in these rural districts abandoned by their natural protectors, encountering any surviving authority; without, in these provinces subject to the yoke of universal centralization, encountering a single independent group and without the possibility of forming, in this society broken up by despotism, any centers of enterprise and resistance; without finding, in this upper class disarmed by its very humanity, a policy devoid of illusion and capable of action.  Without which all these good intentions and fine intellects shall be unable to protect themselves against the two enemies of all liberty and of all order, against the contagion of the democratic nightmare which disturbs the ablest heads and against the irruptions of the popular brutality which perverts the best of laws.  At the moment of opening the States-General the course of ideas and events is not only fixed but, again, apparent.  Beforehand and unconsciously, each generation bears (Page 400/296)within itself its past and its future; and to this one, long before the end, one might have been able to foretell its fate, and, if both details as well as the entire action could have been foreseen, one would readily have accepted the following fiction made up by a converted Laharpe[1] when, at the end of the Directory, he arranged his souvenirs: 


“It seems to me,” he says, “as if it were but yesterday, and yet it is at the beginning of the year 1788.  We were dining with one of our fellow members of the Academy, a grand seignior and a man of intelligence.  The company was numerous and of every profession, courtiers, advocates, men of letters and academicians, all had feasted luxuriously according to custom.  At the dessert the wines of Malvoisie and of Constance contributed to the social gaiety a sort of freedom not always kept within decorous limits.  At that time society had reached the point at which everything may be expressed that excites laughter.  Champfort had read to us his impious and libertine stories, and great ladies had listened to these without recourse to their fans.  Hence a deluge of witticisms against religion, one quoting a tirade from ‘La Pucelle,’ another bringing forward certain philosophical stanzas by Diderot. . . . and with unbounded applause. . . . 

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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