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James T. Farrell

Historical Image of Napoleon

The Emperor as Prince of Glory

(May 1945)

From The New International, Vol. XI No. 4, May 1945, pp. 115–119.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

(The following is the first of two articles by James T. Farrell, one of America’s leading novelists and literary critics, on the historical significance of Napoleon, as a product of the French Revolution during its Thermidorean reaction. The articles are really one essay which will appear in a book now in progress evaluating Tolstoy’s epic work, War and Peace. [Copyright, 1945 – James T. Farrell] – Ed.)

Napoleon has frequently been characterized as “the child of the revolution.” And in War and Peace, Tolstoy remarks: “The sum of men’s individual wills produced both the revolution and Napoleon; and only the sum of these wills endured them and then destroyed them.” This sentence embodies one of the major ideas of Tolstoy’s theory of history. On the basis of it, an analysis could be expanded in order to demonstrate how Tolstoy posed the problem of history in his time, and how he failed clearly to meet the conditions which would have permitted an answer more satisfactory than the one he did provide. However, we have dealt with this in another part of this book. Because of the relationship of Tolstoy’s ideas of history to the ideas of the great French Revolution, and more directly, because of the role which Napoleon plays in this novel, it is appropriate here to focus some attention on the revolution, and on Napoleon as its “child.”

“The Revolution had been accomplished in the minds of men long before it was translated into fact,” wrote Mathiez in The French Revolution. This is correct. However, it does not follow from this that first men willed the Revolution and that then, by a combination or addition of their wills, they caused it to happen precisely as they had willed it. Behind the triumph of the ideas of the Revolution – i.e., those of individualism – there were historical needs. The ideas of the Revolution, the actions of unknown sans-culottes on the streets of Paris and of angry and rebellious peasants of the countryside who seized land, burned houses and murdered nobles – all these were in response to human historical needs. Feudal absolutism had become a shell, an empty shell. Intellectually and economically, the French middle class was ready to become master of France. As a class, it was confident, intelligent, determined. The triumph of the ideas of the Revolution prior to the effective change of property relationships carried out in the Revolution signified the ideological defeat of the ideas of feudalism and medievalism. These new ideas had been spreading and gaining in the world for centuries, most emphatically since the Renaissance. Long before 1789 the English had accomplished their bourgeois democratic revolution. The Americans, influenced by the French and the English, had achieved their colonial revolution prior to 1789: they had written their constitution, begun their career of nationhood, and their example was, in turn, a powerful influence in France. The intellectual and historical preparation of the Great French Revolution was thorough, complete.

Ideologically, then, the triumph of the ideas of the Revolution signified the rout of medieval ideology. The medieval idea of the world was that it was the stage on which was played out the drama of the eternal salvation or damnation of the souls of all men and women: this emphasizes an other-wordly ideal. To it, bourgeois ideology opposed an idea of the world as the arena in which man, armed with reason, creates his own free society: its ideal was this-wordly. The medieval idea of society was that of a static, “functional” organism established in the terms of set conceptions of duties, status, prerogatives, and rights, all of which were assumable derivations from God’s natural law. As such, it was a society conceived in terms of the fatherhood of God. The Church was the supervening authority between God and man: Church and State were associated in authority and privilege. And derivable from this conception was that of the divine right of kings. Bourgeois ideology opposed all of these conceptions. To the medieval idea of natural law, it opposed its own idea of natural law based on the nature of man. To the divine right of kings, it counterposed the natural rights of man. To, the idea of a society based on the fatherhood of God, it countered with that of a society established by a social contract. To the Divine Will, it affirmed the Will of Man. The static idea of medieval society was ideologically battered with the idea of progress. Instead of man saving his soul in the next world, bourgeois ideology offered to man the prospect of making his own history in this one. Instead of the authority and will of God then, it emphasized human reason, that “telescope of the intellect” which Pierre Bezuhov, at one point in his career, tried to use as the means of discovering the good life. The triumph of the ideas of the Revolution in the minds of men meant the acceptance of these new ideas.

All revolutions in history are explosive efforts to achieve economic emancipation. These are, to repeat, preconditioned on material and human needs. The great human tides in history which move toward economic emancipation by revolutionary means are tides made up of real human beings, not of abstracted economic men. These movements are dramatic moments in the long and bloody effort of mankind to achieve real individuality. In all real, i.e., progressive, revolutions, man takes a step forwards toward the end of becoming the human individual. The ideas in the heads of men express these hopes, these aims. But these ideas at the same time seem to exist as if in their own right. So it was in the case of the triumph of the ideas of the French Revolution prior to 1789. Further, it is to be remembered that in the realm of ideology, revolutions begin on the theological, the moral, the political plane. Ideologically, the bourgeois democratic revolutions began theologically and morally. From theology, the emphasis shifted to the moral, and then to the political plane. The authority generally appealed to in the English Revolution was theological: formally, the source of this authority was The Bible. In the American Colonial Revolution, and in the French Revolution, the appeal was to reason and human self-interest. The process of the triumph of the ideas of the Revolution in the minds of men was one which involved the secularization of ideas. And this demanded a complete revaluation of human values. These new ideas became weapons of the mind, used as later the guns and the pikes were used in Paris. It was an intellectually well armed French middle class which was prepared to take power in the year 1789. Kautsky, in Ethics and the Materialist Conception of History, wrote:

“The fight of the democratic and rising class against the governing power, independent of the bourgeoisie and subject to the feudal aristocracy with their court nobility and their state church, commenced in England more than a century before France, at a time when only a few had got over the Christian thought. If in France the fight against the state church became a fight between Christianity and atheistic materialism, in England it became only a struggle between special democratic sects and the state-church organized sect.”

The French middle class, ready for the Revolution, was materialistic. The writings of its ideologues had grown into a mounting and pitiless series of attacks which increasingly emphasized this materialism. [1]

“Thus,” as Mathiez wrote, “criticism was working under-ground which long preceded and prepared for the explosion. The opportunity had only to arise, and all this accumulated and stifled rage would lend force to the attacks ... stirred up and directed by a host of malcontents.”

The last days of the Bourbon regime were ones marked by a financial and economic impasse. Feudal absolutism served as an excuse for every form of abuse. A doomed class, with its apparatus, sought to hold onto every privilege which it could no longer really exercise or defend. And at the same time France was a land of flourishing prosperity. The Revolution was preceded by successive crises. Also, waves of popular emotions, peasant rebellions, sacking of factories, cries for bread, shouts of “Vive la liberté” troop mutinies, all this and more dramatically announced the coming Revolution. Arthur Young and other foreigners in France had predicted it. In France there was the most intense ferment. Lawyers, priests, publicists of every kind wrote pamphlets attacking the social system. The idea of a new freedom in the minds of men was alive, active, dynamic. Thus we see that this sum of individual wills, of which Tolstoy spoke, was being not only added up, but added up on a new sheet of paper. In other words, new wills were being forged.

The ideological preparation of the Revolution planted newer, fresher, fuller ideals of freedom in hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of human wills. In his formal theory of history, Tolstoy placed the consciousness of free will in the minds of men. In France, prior to 1789, there grew in that consciousness – the will to be free. Formally, this was expressed in the idea of the nation, the idea of the will of the nation. But all of these ideas were differently interpreted by different individuals and, more importantly, by different social classes! The bourgeoisie and its idealogues controlled the pen. There was no proletariat in the modern sense: there were craftsmen, artisans, the lower middle class and what most historians call the urban “rabble”; and there was the peasantry. But at the head of this movement was the French bourgeoisie. Mathiez, in The French Revolution, also comments:

“The class which was about to take the lead in the Revolution was fully conscious of its strength and its rights. It is not true that it allowed itself to be led astray by an empty ideology: it had a thorough knowledge of realities and possessed the means of adapting its interests to their exigencies.”

The King, the Bourgeoisie and the People

Thomas Jefferson was in France during the first days of the French Revolution. On July 19, 1789, he wrote to John Jay, giving an account of some of the first revolutionary events. Prior to July 14th, the excitement in Paris had been intense, feverish: the tense atmosphere which immediately precedes the first elemental eruption of social revolution. The States General was meeting at Versailles. The Parisians, armed with stones, had frightened one hundred German cavalry and two hundred Swiss. The cavalry had retired in fear to Versailles, lest they be massacred. The people armed themselves with what weapons they could get, and they were roaming the streets. And “... the States pressed on the King to send away the troops, to permit the bourgeoisie of Paris to arm for the preservation of order in the city.” A committee of magistrates and electors of the city was formed to take the function of government. The King refused these propositions. The “mob,” joined by soldiers, broke into the St. Lazare prison, released prisoners, got some arms, took a great quantity of corn. “The committee determined to raise forty-eight thousand bourgeois, or rather to restrain their numbers to forty-eight thousand.” The governor of the Invalides told the representatives of this committee that he could not give out arms without orders from above. But the people took arms.

Such is part of the story of the prelude to Bastille Day, as Jefferson described it. And then, in the same letter, Jefferson penned an illuminating account of the return of Louis XVI from Versailles to Paris after the storming of the Bastille. His picture can be divided into two parts.

Here is Part One:

“... the procession ... the King’s carriage was in the centre, on each side of it the States General, in two ranks afoot, and at their head the Marquis de La Fayette, as Commander in Chief, on horseback, and Bourgeois guards before and behind.”

The Bourgeois Revolution marched in procession with pomp, the King in a gilded carriage, but controlled and protected by the representatives of the leading class of the Revolution. The parliamentarians trampled on foot on either side of the King; they were legislators, the representatives of the people, but not men of formal pomp and power. And this procession was protected by the Praetorian Guard (Kropotkin and other historians have quite properly described the Bourgeois National Guard as such) which marched arms in hand. And lest we forget, there was a commander in chief on horse: in fact, we can say that the Marquis de La Fayette here revealed himself in his true historic role, that of the transitional man on horseback of the Bourgeois Revolution.

And now, let us look at Part Two of this picture:

“About sixty thousand citizens of all forms and colors, armed with the muskets of the Bastile and Invalides, as far as they would go, the rest with pistols, swords, pikes, pruning hooks, scythes, etc., lined all the streets through which the procession passed, and, with the crowds of people in the streets, doors and windows, saluted them everywhere with cries of ‘vive la nation’; but not a single ‘vive le roy’ was heard.”

Remembering what Tolstoy said of wills in history, we can here observe that the separate wills had not been properly combined: the process of historical addition had not as yet been made thoroughly. For the two parts of our pictures show us two separate combinations of wills. The picture is uncomposed.

“When a revolution,” Kropotkin said in The Great French Revolution, “has once begun, each event in it not merely sums up the events hitherto accomplished; it also contains the chief elements of what is to come; so that the contemporaries of the French Revolution, if only they could have freed themselves from momentary impressions, and separated the essential from the accidental, might have been able, on the morrow of July 14, to foresee whither events as a whole were thenceforth trending.”

Kropotkin’s observation was made in reference to the consequence of July 14 at Versailles: it relates directly to the scene we have just described.

Let us return to this picture and some salient points of is background. Here is what Kropotkin wrote in his history:

“On the 14th, in proportion as royalty lost its menacing character, it was the people who in a corresponding degree, inspired terror in the ... Third Estate ... The King had only to present himself before the Assembly, recognize the authority of the delegates, and promise them inviolability, for the whole of the representatives to burst into applause and transports of joy. They even ran out to form a guard of honor round him in the streets, and made the streets of Versailles resound with cries of ‘Vive le roi.’ And this at the very moment when the people were being massacred in Paris in the name of the same King ... The middle class revolutionaries, of whom very many belonged to the Freemasons, made an ‘arch of steel’ with their swords for the King on his arrival at the Hotel de Ville.”

Let us now note what Jefferson wrote of the King’s arrival at the Hotel de Ville.

“The King stopped at the Hotel de Ville. There Monsieur Bailly presented and put into his hat the popular cockade, and addressed him. The King being unprepared and unable to answer, Bailly went to him, gathered from him some scraps of sentences, and made out an answer, which he delivered to the audience as from the King.”

Superficial observation would have suggested that at this moment the French Revolution had been achieved. Jefferson, who was very close to La Fayette, thought so. It was his interpretation that with this scene, the Revolution had been tranquilized and that the future would then be a mere matter of the countryside catching up with Paris in order that there be orderly progress and freedom in France. And the bourgeois hoped that tranquility had been gained. But these wills had not really been composed. This picture has not, as yet, been really put together. There were still those thousands in the streets, the armed masses which composed the most revolutionary class of the eighteenth century and who had entered the arena of politics. And there were thousands and thousands more of them in town and country. Concerning them, Mathiez commented:

“The workmen and peasants were capable of a brief movement of revolt when the yoke became too heavy, but could not see their way toward changing the social order. They were only just beginning to learn to read.”

They were – the masses of town and country – the beasts of burden of this society. But thousands of them, these beasts of burden from the villages, from the hovels, from such sections as the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, had gotten weapons and had glimpsed something of the light which is cast by the ideas of human freedom.

To repeat, they were grabbing muskets, pistols, knives, pruning hooks, scythes, everything they could and, arms in hands, they were combining their wills as they “... saw in the growing anarchy a chance to revenge themselves upon the social order ...” Mathiez here further added that: “The rising was directed not only against the feudal system, but against monopolies of commodities, taxes, bad judges, all those who exploited the people and lived upon its work.” Mirabeau had thundered at Versailles that the States General represented the people. But this body was no sooner starting to assert authority than the people also took into their own hands the task of representing themselves. Scarcely having learned to read, they had clearly grasped the meaning of some of the ideas in the air. When the procession had passed them from Versailles, they cried out: “Vive la nation!” They had become part of the nation in fact; they had entered history. But they were not, as yet, properly composed into that picture which Jefferson painted for us.

The Bourgeoisie Coaches the Monarchy

To continue, it is significant to note that at the Hotel de Ville, Louis XVI did not know what to say. A not unsympathetic biographer of Louis XVI, Saul K. Padover (The Life and Death of Louis XVI), says of him: “In a crisis he showed himself as helpless as a paralytic.” [2] Padover remarks on how a streamer inside the throne room at the Hotel de Ville expressed the new situation. It was worded: “Louis XVI, Father of the French and King of a Free People.” Louis XVI was without assurance. When the fires of revolution were lit in France, he could only stutter and mumble: he was unable to perceive, in fact, the difference between a street riot and a revolution. Just prior to this scene, when Bailly had met the procession at the gates of Paris, Bailly had told him: “The people ... have reconquered their King.” Further, contrast Louis XVI and Bailly. He had just previously sworn that “nothing in the world would induce him to deliver his welcoming speech [to Louis XVI] in any position other than an upright one” (Padover). Bailly, the bourgeois mayor, hero of the hour along with La Fayette, revealed his full presence of mind. He told the King what to say and, then, he said it for the King to the people. Clearly, we can here see a summing up of the Revolution in the sense in which Kropotkin spoke.

Here, likewise, is the implied prediction of events to come. Bailly’s actions, words, gestures reveal a consciousness of power. Surrounding the Hotel de Ville is the instrument of that power, the Bourgeois Guard, composed of Paris bankers and others. And checked by the “arch of steel” is the people. Also present is that popular man on horseback, the Marquis de La Fayette. He understood what was happening, Bailly under-stood. The people understood less, but they knew what they no longer wanted, and they stood watching, armed. But Louis XVI knew nothing. The significance of these events was not clear in his head. He woke up one morning in the year 1789, an absolutist monarch; he went to bed that same evening, a bourgeois king. [3]

History as the Greatest of Artists

The bourgeois program seemed, at this moment, to have been attained. Bailly, telling the King what to say, symbolized that program: the bourgeois wanted the reins of power in its hands: It seems that this had been gained. For Jefferson writes further of this scene: “On their return, the popular cries were ‘vive le roy et la nation.’ He [Louis] was conducted by a Garde Bourgeoise to his palace at Versailles, and thus concluded such an amende honorable as no sovereign ever made, and no people ever received. Letters written with his own hand to the Marquis de La Fayette removed the scruples of his position. Tranquility is now restored to the capital.”

Studying this picture, it seems as if history were the greatest of all artists. Here, in this scene, there is revealed an art as seemingly miraculous as that of Tolstoy in War and Peace, But it is a real historical scene. And in it, the gestures, the words, the roles are so correct, so proper. There is perfection of characterization. History comes before our eyes, yes, with pregnant artistry. Let us further note this “artistry,” The red cockade is put onto the hat of the King in the name of the nation. The man who does this is the leader of the bourgeoisie. Consider the symbol. There is no crown. And its color is the red of revolution. The class leading the revolution asserts itself: it bestows the revolutionary symbol on the monarch. The symbol attracts the people. And what of Louis XVI? There he stands, merely a bewildered spectator. How perfect his role, how proper that he has nothing to say, how artistically adequate that his best is a stutter! And, to the contrary, how quick, how ready is Bailly to speak in his name. And yet all of this would not have been possible, would not have been necessary but for those armed thousands out there in the street, standing determined and ready behind that bourgeois “arch of steel,” From that day forth the masses of humanity became revealed as a force that always must be reckoned with.

This scene embodies and predicts the course of the Revolution. But here there is not space for any detailed account of that course. In addition, I believe that I can assume a sufficient familiarity with it on the part of my readers. Suffice it to say that the French bourgeoisie triumphed in the Revolution; it gained its economic emancipation, became the master of France and, in fact, almost became the master of Europe. The American Colonial Revolution made possible the conditions which permitted the capitalist exploitation of a whole continent under one unified government: the French Revolution created the conditions which almost made possible, with Napoleon, the same accomplishment. Of this, we will comment later. Here, let it be stressed that in this scene we can see the program of the Revolution. That of the people was to create the nation, that is, to create themselves as rulers and free men. But they were not then capable of performing this task. The program of the bourgeoisie was to create a constitutional monarchy based on the English model, and to rule through this form. The program is here presented to us in picture, spectacle, in word, gesture, movement. But it has not been, at this date, really composed. The scene is only temporarily tranquilized. Before the tranquility is attained, before this picture is really composed, there will be war, terror, misery. Before the bourgeoisie can really attain its revolutionary aims it must first be pushed by these masses, and then it must tranquilize them.

With this in mind, let us skip from July 1789 to December 2nd, 1804. Many of the actors of that pregnantly predictive scene of 1789 are no more. Many of those armed thousands of that year have died as heroes and revolutionaries, martyrs on the streets of Paris and on the field at Valmy, or else they have died on foreign battle fields. Most of the leaders, too, whom these armed thousands erected on their shoulders, are gone. Some are temporarily forgotten. The very memory of some is still hated, and excoriated. Some of the living who were active spirits of that day are hunted by police, controlled by the ex-Jacobin and regicide, Fouché. The Marquis de La Fayette, that transitional man on horseback, sulks in exile: his fate was to be born too soon and too well. With new actors, that picture is composed. The pieces are fitted together. The wills are “combined.” The proper composition, in formal fact, occurs on the afternoon and evening of December 2nd, 1804. France was tremendously prosperous. Her armies, forged from the Revolution, had inspired fear in all the feudal courts of Europe. The party of Order had triumphed and it had found the man who sealed this triumph, Napoleon Bonaparte. It had even partially restored the land of the aristocrats; and it had reactivated the church, using it as an agency or instrument of government. The French bourgeoisie was, in passing, more lavish with its distribution of the immaterial goods of life than it was with the material goods. It reserved most of the latter for itself. It, however, was generous in its distribution of these immaterial goods, and wished to reserve merely the privileges of atheism for itself. It had gained control of all of the instruments which affected and influenced the will of the nation: thus, it had managed to equate that will with its own interests and aims. In 1789 and again in periods until Thermidor, the men and women of Paris had expressed the will of the nation, not only in words, but in the streets with arms in hand: that will had been listened to, heeded. Now, even private correspondence was opened. The police agents of Fouché were ubiquitous. Celebrations of Bastille Day, great national festivals in honor of the nation, these were no longer wanted. No more was the red cockade worn. The Party of Order was now ready to permit the final act in the achievement of its political forms.

Napoleon, Self-Crowned Emperor

Napoleon Bonaparte called the Pope of Rome to Paris so that His Holiness might place on Napoleon’s head the crown of Charlemagne. He waited for the arrival of the Pope with impatience. On the 25th of November, 1804, he wrote to Cardinal Fesch:

“It is absolutely necessary for the Pope to accelerate his journey ... the 2nd of December is my last possible date. If the Pope is not here by then, the coronation will take place, and the consecration will be deferred.”

The Pope came. Napoleon rode out to Fontainebleau to meet him, dressed in a hunting costume, surrounded by dogs and huntsmen. The Pope got out of his carriage, crossed the road and entered the carriage of Napoleon. Once installed in Paris, the Pope sometimes appeared alone on the balcony of the Tuileries, sometimes with Napoleon. When the latter was present, applause was always loudest. Meneval, the young man who succeeded Bourrienne as Bonaparte’s secretary, tells us of those days in his Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte. When the Pope dined with Bonaparte, “Napoleon kept constantly giving him his hand.” On December 2nd, the Pope went first to the grand cathedral of Notre Dame. He was, says, Meneval, “accompanied by a large retinue of priests and prelates, in magnificent robes, preceded by his cross-bearer, who was mounted on a richly caparisoned donkey. This monk, who wore on his head a broad-brimmed hat of a rounded form, carried a large gilt cross in his hands.” Yes, how different this was from the spectacles of the early Revolution, for instance, from the festival in honor of the Supreme Being. And let us note:

“It was three hours later that the Emperor followed the Pope ... driving in a stage carriage glittering with plate glass and gilding, and laden with pages, who hung on the door, and before and behind. The pomp of the procession was in harmony with the grandeur of the occasion.”

Many re-touches had been necessary before the picture of 1789 was, hereby, properly and finally composed. Now, the populace gazes awed, bewildered, amazed, seeing a spectacle that was novel. The medievalism which it set out to destroy in 1789 was restored, but only formally. The spectacle was grand, but empty. And watching it, what different populace! No more do we see the nation with arms in hands. For now, the man on horseback and the man in the carriage had become one. His rule is secured.

And then, the solemn moment arrives inside of the Cathedral. The Pope of Rome holds the crown of Charlemagne in his hands. And the man who is to be crowned reaches out, takes the crown, places it on his own head. Bonaparte makes himself Napoleon I. “The Pope was reduced to the role of a mere spectator,” commented Meneval. Next, Josephine knelt before her husband, and he placed a smaller crown upon her head. Tarlé, the Russian historian, speaks of this scene in his excellent biography, Bonaparte:

“This gesture of placing the crown ... upon his head with his own hands had a symbolic significance. He did not desire that undue importance should be attached to the Papal ‘blessing.’ The victorious soldier, born of the French Revolution, could not bring himself to accept the crown from anyone’s hands but his own ...”

This remark far from exhausts the symbolic significance of the scene. Napoleon was a new kind of Emperor – a bourgeois Emperor. The triumphant bourgeoisie – the class which had achieved its revolution, which knew what it wanted, the new master of society – it needed no Pope to bless its own authority. It merely needed a Pope as a spectator, as an appendage: it needed a Pope to console, to impress, to awe the sons and daughters of those men and women who had lined the streets in July 1789 and who had stormed the Tuileries in August 1792.

The snatching of the crown out of the hands of the legendary successor of Saint Peter had a still further significance. The richest, the most powerful bourgeoisie of Europe, with its goods selling all over the continent, its armies knowing what it means to march in the capitals of the old world as conquerors, its art galleries and homes filled with the loot of Europe – what need had it to be given anything? It could take: it had taken. The man who represented this victory, this power, who represented a confident hope for the future – what need had he, either, to be given anything? He, too, could take.

And in Notre Dame – the very cathedral no longer belonged to the Pope and his hierarchy, but to the French state – Napoleon, self-crowned Emperor of bourgeois France, said: “I swear that I will govern with the sole purpose of securing the interests, the happiness and the glory of the French people.”

According to Tarlé, there is a legendary story which tells us that, in the midst of all this pomp and glory,

“Napoleon asked an old soldier of Republican convictions how he liked the celebration and received the startling answer: ‘Excellently, Your Majesty. But it is a pity that there are lacking today 300,000 persons willing to lay down their heads to make similar ceremonies impossible.’”

Those willing to give their heads had sacrificed them: these heads had secured the Revolution. This new combination of wills – to revert to Tolstoy’s language – could only come after these heads had fallen. The wills of the bourgeoisie of 1789 had envisaged one state of affairs: that of the masses of the people another. In essence, the wills of the bourgeoisie had been attained, practically, and then, formally. And with this composition of the picture, the new and self-crowned Prince of Glory established himself: the era of la gloire gave formal and public recognition to itself.

(To be continued)


1. “None of the great noblemen who applauded the audacity and impertinences of the philosophes took into consideration that the religious idea was the cornerstone of the existing order. Once free criticism was turned loose, how could it be expected to confine itself to mocking at superstition? ... It spread doubt and satire everywhere. Yet the privileged orders did not seem to understand.” – The French Revolution, by Albert Mathiez, New York 1928, page 13.

2. In other portions of this book, some of Tolstoy’s characterizations of aristocrats are analyzed. It is noted how Count Rostov, of War and Peace, for instance, can only mutter and mumble when faced with a personal crisis, and how his characteristic gestures in such moments is that of waving: “his arms in despair.” Similarly, it is noted how Czar Alexander I, fleeing after the rout of Austerlitz, is overwhelmed because of the difficulty of leaping, on horseback, across a ditch, and how he is impelled to tears. The incapacity of feudal princes and nobles to meet crises in the modern period is quite observable in history and in literature. Trotsky, in passing, offers some brilliant observations on this in his comparison of Louis XVI and the last Romanov in The History of the Russian Revolution.

3. Concerning this “tranquility,” Kropotkin observed: “... the mass of the people preserved an attitude of reserve and mistrust, ... King of the middle classes as much as they liked, but not a King of the people.” And Nicker, following this scene, said to the National Assembly: “Today, gentlemen, it is in your hands that the salvation of the state lies.”

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