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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 548 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.

HUMAN SOCIETY, ESPECIALLY A MODERN SOCIETY, IS A VAST AND COMPLICATED THING.

Hence the difficulty in knowing and comprehending it.  For the same reason it is not easy to handle the subject well.  It follows that a cultivated mind is much better able to do this than an uncultivated mind, and a man specially qualified than one who is not.  From these two last truths flow many other consequences, which, if the reader deigns to reflect on them, he will have no trouble in defining.

Paris 1881.

Notes: 

[1] Page XLVI of the Introduction to the Edition by Robert Lafont in 1986 by “Les Origines de la France Contemporaine”.

[2] From “Histories”, Book VI. 3. 3-4. 1 From Loeb’s classical library, Harvard university press.

THE ANCIENT REGIME

PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR: 

On political ignorance and wisdom.

In 1849, being twenty-one years of age, and an elector, I was very much puzzled, for I had to nominate fifteen or twenty deputies, and, moreover, according to French custom, I had not only to determine what candidate I would vote for, but what theory I should adopt.  I had to choose between a royalist or a republican, a democrat or a conservative, a socialist or a bonapartist; as I was neither one nor the other, nor even anything, I often envied those around me who were so fortunate as to have arrived at definite conclusions.  After listening to various doctrines, I acknowledged that there undoubtedly was something wrong with my head.  The motives that influenced others did not influence me; I could not comprehend how, in political matters, a man could be governed by preferences.  My assertive countrymen planned a constitution just like a house, according to the latest, simplest, and most attractive plan; and there were several under consideration — the mansion of a marquis, the house of a common citizen, the tenement of a laborer, the barracks of a soldier, the kibbutz of a socialist, and even the camp of savages.  Each claimed that his was “the true habitation for Man, the only one in which a sensible person could live.”  In my opinion, the argument was weak; personal taste could not be valid for everyone.  It seemed to me that a house should not be built for the architect alone, or for itself, but for the owner who was to live in it.  Referring to the owner for his advice, that is submitting to the French people the plans of its future habitation, would evidently be either for show or just to deceive them; since the question, obviously, was put in such a manner that it provided the answer in advance.  Besides, had the people been allowed to reply in all liberty, their response was in any case not of much value since France was scarcely more competent than I was; the

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