Useful Notes The French Revolution Discussion

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10:32:31 PM Mar 17th 2015
I've read about Zamor. Could he fit in a Et Tu, Brute? situation (with a bit of Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves), considering his denouncement of Madame du Barry and his subsequent arrest on the Girondins' orders/requests?
05:02:02 AM Mar 18th 2015
edited by Manawyddan
Et Tu, Brute? could match, but Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves needs some precisions. Girondins were members of the Jacobins, but was Zamor close to the Girondins and influenced by them in denouncing the Du Barry ? It's not stated. His later ties with the Committee of Public Safety seem to hint that, to the contrary, he was close to the Montagnards, in which case the trope doesn't applies, as the traitor has to be betrayed by the very same faction/person he betrayed his previous friends/masters for. Enfant Terrible seems to be another appropriated trope for Zamor, as he's said to have been a mischievious child.

Besides, there's a chronological order/identification mistake in the Wikipedia article. Zamor couldn't have used his ties with the Committee to have the Du Barry arrested, as in 1792 it simply didn't exist yet. The Du Barry page says that she was put under suspicion in 1792 and arrested in late 1793, which seems more logical. Besides, Zamor wasn't alone, George Greive also played a key role and was the one who made the denunncation fatal to the Du Barry. The French Wikipedia page says that Greive was later identified as an English agant/spy.
08:45:41 AM Mar 18th 2015
I see. I'll write something under the Et Tu, Brute? bullet in this page, while also acknowledging the key role played by George Greive. Thank you for helping me clarify this.
04:36:56 PM Feb 3rd 2015
Do we have a trope which could characterize the drownings (Noyades) of Nantes?
05:51:09 PM Feb 3rd 2015
03:59:16 PM Feb 2nd 2015
Okay, so I'll explain my lenghty edits here.

First of all, I'd like to point that there are too many refereence about Napoleon on this page, which is not about him. Besides, the more widely recognized duration of the Revolution is 1789-1799, so events which came after should be carefully chosen. The Concordat was in 1801 and comments about if should be on Bonaparte's page, for exemple.

  • Vindicated by History: Zig Zagged. The French Revolution is seen as an important event in World history but modern insist upon its violence and tend to minoring it, with center-right historians like Furet and alikes going as far are labelizing it as avoidable, unnecessary and sometimes even counterproductive. Yet it's hard to believe that the world would have been the same or better without it (outside of reactionaries).
    I reckon this entry is not necessarily well written, but there's definitely elements of this trope in the contemporary view of the Revolution. I'd be glad to have outside input.

    • The storming of the Bastille and the battle of Valmy were much smaller-scale and less heroic affairs than they are generally portrayed in the popular image.
      Simply shortening the entry

  • The Remnant: The Royalists of Vendée and the Chouans saw themselves as this, along with La Résistance, in their uprising from 1793-1799. Even to this day, many of their descendants don't take to the Republic well.
    Deleting one of the numerous unnecessary mentions of Napoleon

    • However, the purges resumed full time during the Bourbon Restoration where regicides people who "voted" for the King's death were persecuted along with Napoleon loyalists. The worst massacres were in the South of France were 200-300 to killed (including Marshall Brune) and in the bloodiest incident, the depot of the Mameluk squadron of volunteers from Egypt was massacred by xenophobic royalists.
      The people who killed the Mameluk were Royalists, not simply "anti-bonapartists". They wore the green cockade, emblem of Artois, brother of Louis XVI and head of the ultraroyalists. Besides, there were religious elements in the white terror, as ultras were firmly catholics. One of the reason the Marseille Mameluks were killed was because they was Muslims, and there were also persecutions against the protestants.

    • Thought the purges would end then? Nope. Once back in power, the moderates purged the leftists who had helped them in throwing away Robespierre (1795). Tallien, Collot d'Herbois and Billaud-Varenne were lucky enough to not go to the guillotine but to French Guiana... though at the time it was virtually the same thing. Billaud-Varenne had a great blessing though, he fell in love with a former slave in Guiana and moved to Haiti, where as part of the Committee that instituted emancipation, he was welcomed as a hero.
      Tallien wasn't purged at all, to the contrary, he played a major role in the thermidorian Convention. He stayed in France and became a deputy in the National Assembly of the Directory, even if everyone despised him. He went to Egypt with Bonaparte, was shortly a diplomat in Spain and got a pension thanks to Fouché. He wasn't even exiled a regicide "thanks" to his bad health. He nonetheless died alone and very poor.

    • News, rumours and paranoia as well as poor leadership led to many inhabitants to storm the Bastille after hearing that the King had amassed troops to surround Paris. They invaded the Prison and grabbed weapons and formed a kind of voluntary army, lynching some aristocrats and walking with their head on pikes. The victims were the governor of the Bastille de Launay, and in the following days, Foullon de Doué, hated replacement for Necker (rumors spread that he had said "If those rascals have no bread, let them eat hay!"); his son-in-law Berthier, former hated administrator of Paris; Jacques de Flesselles, mayor of Paris shot dead for treason. Initially several liberals like Camille Desmoulins, saw this as a long delayed Kick the Son of a Bitch and few people sympathized with the victims.
      The original entry gave the impression that the militia was created in order to kill the aristocrats and would kill any poor nobleman they would meet, much like the Saint-Barthélémy. That's grossly incorrect. I put the name of the victims and explained why they were killed. They were hated, even if some assume it was all the fault of rumors spread by the Duke of Orléans. It was not rioting, it was upprising. The Réveillon riots were riots.
Peasant evoked people from rural areas. The people who stormed the Bastille weren't countrymen, they were urban people.

  • The turning point came with the September Massacres, where people found mob insurrections distinctly lacking in romanticism. When France's war effort was turning sour, and with the King and Queen imprisoned, Parisian mobs feared that political prisoners (for counter-revolution) will collaborate with invading traitors and end the revolution. So over a three day period, they started killing en-masse prisoners, political and otherwise in various prisons - including several priests, prostitutes, common criminals. Over a 1000 people were killed as a result of this, including the famous death of the Queen's close friend, Princesse de Lamballe and many others. The Reign of Terror was initially justified by Danton (who serving as Minister of Justice at the time, probably had advance knowledge of and enabled it to some extent) as the state taking away the apparatus of violence from the people, "Let us be terrible so that the people don't have to be!"
    The Princess of Lamballe WAS NOT Louis XVI's sister, but a close friend of Marie-Antoinette, in fact, her closest friend before Yolande de Polignac took her place. Marie-Thérèse de Savoie-Carignan took back her place at Marie-Antoinette's side after Polignace emigrated.

  • Ironically, the angry mob has become such a defining stereotype that observers and casual historians tend to over-exaggerate their volatility. This is not fair. David A. Bell pointed out that almost all Parisian men were literate during the French Revolution. They were also politized and highly informed, distributed, wrote and diffused newspapers and pamphlets. While capable of swift and efficient organization, they were also highly shrewd and scathing about politicians vacillating on promises and likewise attended the galleries of major debates on National Convention. Ironically, the politicians who finally succeeded in defusing the powder keg crowd was also the most populist ones, Robespierre and Danton, who ensured that the Committee allowed the sections only so far as they could appoint their leaders. After the death of Marat, and the execution of Hebert, the sans-culottes and sections were pretty disillusioned and went back to their private lives, either looking for careers in army, starting their own business or going to other areas. Populist agitations died down slowly after the Thermidor, even if the succeeding government was highly unpopular and faced constant problems.
    Simply shortening the entry

  • Other methods also were extensively used, for instance hanging from lanterns (early in the revolution) and execution by firing squad. In Nantes, between 1800 and 4000 people were drowned in the "noyades" organized by representative Carrier.
    There are no consensual numbers for the noyades of Nantes. 4000 is the highest estimation but they vary widely and 4000 is to be taken cautiously, as it's the number chosen by the advocates of a Vendeean "genocide". The number "between 1800 and 4000" comes from Jean-Clément Martin, the most academically respected specialist of the Vendeean war. In no way 4000 can be "at least", it's in fact "at most".

  • The Mole: Unbuilt Trope. Despite being called "the mole of the revolution" by Robespierre, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyèsnote , was note some undercover agent for a foreign country. Robespierre simply meant that Siéyès spent a large part of the Revolution kind of retired, even if he was a deputy. He was a mole who never got outside of his hole. Funnily enough, Siéyès became one of the five Directors 1799 and played a key role in the the coup d'état that brought Bonaparte to power.
    I'm not even sure this entry should exist, as I explain, Sièyès doesn't really fit the mold, and Robespierre didn't used the word in that sense, as this acception didn't exist by then.

  • The Man Behind the Man: Paul Barras is possibly quite close to this as de facto head of the five-man Directorate. (...) He plotted Robespierre's downfall with Fouché and Tallien. During the revolution, he established contacts with many aristocrats and even counted Therese Cabarras and the young Marie-Rose Joseph de Beauharnais among his mistresses. When Napoleon Bonaparte renamed Marie-Rose as Josephine, Paul Barras sponsored the wedding and gave him command of the Army of Italy. In 1799 he was deposed by his erstwhile ally, but he somehow managed to get a cozy exile during the Bourbon restoration despite having voted for the death of the King.
    Theresa Cabarrus, not Therese Cabarras ; Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, not Marie-Rose. Before Bonaparte renamed her, Joséphine went by Rose, not Marie-Rose. Here name wasn't hyphenated.

    • The notorious Marquis de Sade was writing the 120 Days of Sodom in the Bastille before being released two weeks before 14 July, 1789.(...) After Thermidor, he was virtually penniless, being forced to sell his remaining estate and barely subsisting until Napoleon ordered his imprisonment to Charenton after reading ''Juliette''.
      This happened in 1801. Bonaparte didn't sent Sade at the asylum out of pettyness, but because he regarded Sade works as highly immoral and "the most abominable book born from the most depraved imagination". It is very similar to the Augustean tightening of the mores.

    • The legendary Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Palettiere was the son of a French nobleman and a Haitian African slave. ...
      That's Thomas Alexandre Davy de La Pailleterie and not hyphenated.

  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The salon culture of Paris that served as the intellectual birthplace of many Revolutionary ideas grew as the result of the active patronage of the Duke of Orleans, Louis XVI's cousin, who was hoping to use the popular discontent against the King to usurp the throne himself. He also had ideological reasons for supporting the revolution. During the 3 or so years of de facto constitutional monarchy, Philippe of Orléans became a deputy in the National Assembly under the name Philippe-Egalité. He was among the deputies who voted for the execution of Louis XVI. Generally speaking, he took it Up to Eleven during the revolutionary period, which didn't prevent him from eventually getting guillotined on suspicion of counter-revolutionary sympathies.
    I wanted to shorten this entry since a long time. Too long, with minor information, repetitions, and useless information about Philippe Egalité's son. Besides, Louis-Philippe didn't voluntarily deserted, but simply because his superior, Dumouriez, did.

    • The monarchs and nations fighting against France during the Wars of the French Revolution (often after France declared war on them) also often are portrayed as utter reactionaries hell-bent on undoing every single political and social advance created by the Revolution, in effect ascribing the ideology of the most extreme royalist "ultras" to all of them. That many European monarchs were in fact in favour of reforms in the spirit of "enlightened absolutism" (and that e. g. Denmark managed its modernization without a revolution of its own and without being put under revolutionary French tutelage) tends to be ignored. Some nationalistic historians also like to portray the war as if the very existence of France was at stake, while the monarchic governments were in fact widely divided, which explains why the 1st Coalition collapsed in 1795 ( Prussia and Spain drop out of the coalition as for the sake of the balance of power they wanted to preserve France in its established position as a major European power). The villain upgrade is also specifically applied to "perfidious Albion" (the expression was not invented during the French Revolution, but became a popular and standard propaganda trope then), which despite numerous proposals of peace from the Republic and later Napoleon, would never ever respond positively as it was a war for world domination.
    • France as a whole in the English caricatures of the time, especially James Gillray's, to the point it borders to Demonization, with for exemple the Tree of Liberty bearing rotten fruits, like atheism, murder, treason, conspiracy, [Values Dissonances reform, democracy, age of reason, rights of man]].
"existenc" is not a word if I recall correctly. ;-) A really interesting addition that I tried to make more concise by shortening the sentenced. It's important to cite Gillray as his work was very influential and built many of the anti-French stereotypes held in Great-Britain. Besides, English pride themselves as being the only ones who constantly fought the Revolution and Napoleon and were the political tool behind each coalition (for the money thing, I don't know). Even contemporary French historians recognize that England was fiercely against the Revolution because it felt it threatened its power.

  • On the other side, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette got this during the Revolution. Marie Antoinette did not actually say the infamous line, "Let them eat cake", and Louis XVI was not tyrannical, just incompetent. And even his incompetence has been exaggerated while his beneficial reforms (he e. g. gave more rights to the Jews of Alsace before the Revolution, instituted army reforms that helped the revolutionary armies win the war and also happened to be the last French head of state to win a war against Britain).
    Louis XVI was not incompetent, he was indecisive and faced something no one had ever faced. I propose to change the entry as follows:
On the other side, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette got this during the Revolution. Marie Antoinette did not actually say the infamous line, "Let them eat cake", and Louis XVI was not tyrannical, just indecisive. His beneficial reforms before 1789 (partial abolition of torture, more rights to the Jews of Alsace, military reforms that helped the revolutionary armies win the war) are generally glossed over. He also happens to be the last French head of state to win a war against Great-Britain.

Ancien Régime has to be written in with two capital letters, in English as well as in French.

  • The revolutionary army got one right from the start, with people generally focusing on the Volunteers of 1792, while ignoring that France already had one of the biggest professional armies in Europe. After the start of the levée en masse, it was largely made up of conscripts who had to serve whether they wanted to or not. The fact that deserters from the army numbered in hundreds of thousands often was swept under the rug, as were the instances of incompetents with political connections to were put in positions of command, especially early in the war. Thanks to conscription the French forces soon seriously outnumbered those of their opponents is also not mentioned very often. As time wore on popular historians also tended to present an idealized picture of the "army of the people" invariably defeating the "hired merceneries" of the armies of the European monarchies.
    Shortening the entry to male it more concise. Cutting unnecesary praise of the Prussians. Though the fact that the revolutionaries wars played yo-yo should be mentioned, but I dunno if that kind of trope exists.

  • The Revolt in the Vendée is often portrayed in a more romantic light by historians and novelists. They cite the large scale killings (130,000 but often inflated to 200,000) committed by the Republican side as an example of Revolutionary violence. In truth, the Republican response was driven by a massacre of Republican Vendeeans committed by Royalist Vendeeans when they killed 200 of them in Machecoul in March 1793. The Vendean response by the Committee of Public Safety had considerable local support among Republican Vendeeans and peasants who were quite keen on the fact that the government was cutting down on the feudal privileges that the Royalists wanted to reinstate - namely giving out Church property to peasant landholders. One of France's greatest Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau came from the Vendée and was descended from Republicans who had fought on the side of the Revolution. Undoubtedly there were atrocities committed by the Revolutionary side, but the Vendeeans own atrocities and sparking the response is under-reported by comparison.
    The phrase "(but then that happened after the September massacres)" gives the feeling that the massacre of Machecoul was somehow in retaliation of the September massacres while it happened 6 months after it, so I put a datation.

  • Marie Antoinette likewise became a major figure in sentimental royalist propaganda and by feminist historians who see her as Not Evil, Just Misunderstood. In truth, the smear campaign which she suffered, at the hands of Jacques Hébert, while exceptionally vicious by any standards (going as far as false accusations of incest during her trial) as well as libel in the case of the "Affair of the Necklace" was part of a political strategy to criticize the Royalist government since the 1791 Constitution refused to allow criticism of the King but left his family members an open target. But ultimately this played no part in her unpopularity. What really made the people turn against "L'Autrichienne" was the Fight to Varennes. They disliked her lavish lifestyle, her peasant fantasies at Petit Trianon but the Mob were not so uninformed as to hold that on a lower scale than conspiring with the Austrian army to attack France and re-install the Ancien Regime, by turning an invading army against her own subjects. The comparison is particularly cruel with Anne of Austria, Louis XIV's mother, who was also a Habsbourg princess but fought her native country (Spain) nonetheless.
    It's the Flight to Varennes, not the Fight.

  • Ancient Rome, especially the Republic, Sparta and Greece were as obsessed over during the Revolution as it was during the Renaissance. Brutus, both the founder of the republic and his notorious descendant, were regarded as heroes and during Dechristianization, men were given names like Grachhus or Spartacus. (...)
    It's Gracchus, not Grachhus.

  • There also was a Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizeness in 1791, but it was completely ignored and not very publicized by then. The author, Olympe de Gouges was sent to the guillotine in 1793 because she was close to the Girondins.
    The former version was way to much sarcastic and partisan. The Declaration of the right of women was ignored by then, but Olympe managed to get known through other papers. She wasn't executed because of it, but because she fiercely denounced the proscription of the Girondins, though misogyny did play a part in her downfall.

  • Cordeliers, Jacobins and Sans-culottes had their main strength in Paris and used this to coerce the Convention nationale to throw out the Girondins. This enabled them control the central government, but also led to a wave of pro-Girondist (called Federalist) upprisings across France in addition to the royalist ones. Consequently, many histories of the French Revolution describe it as a struggle between Paris and the rest of France, often forgetting that there were local supporters of the Revolution even in the rebellious regions and that the Jacobins was a country-wide organization.
  • The Directory would generally use the army to purge the legislative assemblies of oppositional deputies to ensure them a majority when the electorate had the bad manners to elect too many royalist or Neo-Jacobin representatives. The fact that the assemblies were partially elected every year didn't help.
  • At the time, "democracy" specifically meant the Athenian democracy, i.e. direct democracy. The The Enlightenment had a debate if such a regime an govern a large area of land, since historically only an Empire or Kingdom had managed until then. Jean-Jacques Rousseau had expressed skepticism about this question but his valorization of direct democracy was cited by revolutionaries, notably the Sans-culottes as an inspiration. Democracy was seen as impractical though, notably by liberal theorist Benjamin Constant after the Terror, and this is why the deputies called their new regime a Republic, explicitely referencing the Roman Republic, which did manage to control a vast amount of land and was (although biased) a representative government. Conservatives and Bonapartists cited the Terror as grounds to dismiss democracy as impractical altogether for a large nation state. This debate finally resolved itself in the Third French Republic.

    The Cordeliers and Sans-culottes sections were the main force behind the expulsion of the Girondins. Robespierre, for example, had no role in it. The Girondins did ally with the Royalists as they have little support from other Republicans. But Royalists quickly took care of the things and relegated Girondins to minor roles. That's particularly visible in Lyon and Toulon.
    Democracy and Republic were not synonyms by then. Republic evoked Rome, Democracy Athens. As revolutionaries advocated for a representative system, they called their regime a Republic.

  • To replace the Catholic cult of saints, the revolutionary government also instituted a quasi-religious cult of the "martyrs" of the revolution, such as Louis-Michel Le Peletier, a deputy who had voted for the death of Louis XVI and was then assassinated by a former royal guard, Jean-Paul Marat and the young volunteer soldiers Joseph Bara and Joseph Agricol Viala. For them and for the spiritual fathers of the Revolution (Voltaire, Rousseau and Mirabeau) the church of Saint-Geneviève in Paris was transformed into the Panthéon. The discovery of Mirabeau's secret correspondence with the King got his body kicked out soon after, and the same happened to those of Le Peletier and Marat after the fall of Robespierre. The bodies of Bara and Viala never were transferred to the Panthéon because Robespierre and his colleagues were brought down before the intended ceremony.
    Adding some precision about Mirabeau and removing unnecessary brackets.

  • The Cult of Reason, supported by atheists, revived goddesses such as Liberty (an actual Roman goddess), statues of which were placed in the Cathedral of Notre Dame(statutes of kings and saints were removed or destroyed).
    Correcting "statutes" to "statues"

  • Create Your Own Villain: Conscription and revolutionary measures against the Catholic church were unpopular in some regions of France and led to the open revolt of the Vendée (strictly speaking, its rural centre), where the sale of former church property had mostly only benefitted bourgeois outsiders, not the native peasants. Around the same time, the repression of the Girondins in Paris led to pro-Girondin ("Federalist") revolts in other parts of France.
    It's wrong to say that the sale of former churches only benefitted bourgeois outsider (that is, people from cities outside of Vendée). There were wealthy countrymen, they were called "laboureurs" and largely benefitted from the sales, which explain why there were a notable chunk of the Vendeans who fought for the Republic (and there were peasants among them, anyway).
    As stated above, Girondins insurrection quickly morphed into Royalist ones, as Girondins were simply too few comparatively to their royalist allies.

  • Broken Base: The French Revolution led to a split in French society into a secular Republican and Catholic conservative camp that lasted at least until World War 1
    World War One is written with Roman numbers and usually abreviated WWI.

    • Averted first with Marie-Antoinette, but played straight in the long run too. Of course it helps that it turned out that most of the things of which she was accused both before the revolution and in particular at her trial were, to not put too fine a point on it, lies.
      It's important to notice that the treason has been proved to be true by historians. which is why she got judged in the first place. Her role was indeed very similar to the one played by the wife of Charles I in England.

    La Liberté ou la Mort ! (Liberty or Death!), Vivre libre ou mourir !, (To Live Free or To Die!) The Vendéans rebels also used this one, though the official motto of their Royal and Catholic Army was Pour Dieu et pour le Roi (For God and for the King).
    Goethe to the defeated German soldiers after the Battle of Valmynote 
    Reducing the lentgh of the note.
Calling Valmy insgnificant is really pusshing the bill. Maybe for the Germans, but it was VERY important for the revolutionaries. It's like saying Marathon was insignificant because it was too little of a battle for the Persians (which it was).

09:12:47 PM Feb 2nd 2015
Good points in all, I'll respond briefly:

1) The Reference to Bismarck is important because it places the French Revolution in a wider context because it's important that this immense event should be understood in light of subsequent events, the Franco-Prussian War was part of the narrative of Revolution anyway, since Bismarck wanted to revolutionize and centralize from the Top to prevent a bottom-up revolution (see his Eisen und Blut speech), and then there was the Paris Commune of 1871(which I will make a page for soon enough). And again Bismarck had similar justifications as Brissot, use a war to cleanse internal tensions. Only where Brissot was, frankly speaking, a moron, Bismarck was a genius, an Evil Genius but at least someone who had some idea what he was doing.

2) Napoleon was a key figure in the post-Thermidor Revolutionary Era, he's very much a protagonist of 1789-1799, especially since his career began in 1795. The incident there refers to him shooting down the Chouannerie Rebellion in the streets of Paris (the first time the French Government called the army to do its dirty work for it). It made him famous across France and he was called General Vendemiaire. So I think references to Napoleon's rise is important to place in the page, so that people get a sense of the military slowly taking over the government, and that Napoleon could have been prevented from acquiring the power he did had there been a stronger electorate and proper engine instead of the reactionary approach after Thermidor, where the Convention/Directory.

Furthermore, the point about De Sade stands. I don't care if Napoleon said it was immoral, it was still incredibly petty and jerkish to pick on a poor writer who wasn't even criticizing him politically, was unaffiliated with any radical politics and then dooming him to confinement just because he read an old book that he had published before the Revolution (and for which Sade already did time in Bastille). Napoleon is a figure who had good and bad parts, a greatness and pettiness at the same time. I don't think that's arguable at all. He did do some good things but he also built it on the field of battle and conquest.

3) I agree about the Goethe-Valmy thing. I mean yeah, mention that Goethe probably didn't say it at the time and spoke later with the benefit of hindsight, and put a sidenote about Valmy's importance in the bullet points. It doesn't change that Goethe did say it at some point, and it doesn't take away from the truth of his words anyway. In these kind of cases, I believe "Print-The-Legend" (but add a Footnote).

4) Vindicated by History, first of all, applies to Works of Art, not to sociopolitical events. The term for the latter is History Marches On or Society Marches On, there's already an entry there showing how the radical ideas of the Revolution argued by extremists have subsequently been internalized by mainstream liberalism. I'll fill out that trope there myself.

5) The Vendee Rebellion is a contentious issue anycase, since a lot of outsiders like to romanticize them in a way that the Southern Confederacy of the American Civil War is not romanticized, mostly because it was Republican France that finally declared war of expansion and conquest on neighboring nations. As long as accurate figures and sources are cited then it's okay. I agree that their creed For King and God should be put under Badass Creed. I do agree that Conscription can backfire badly, as it did during the American Civil War in the case of the Draft Riots (cf, Gangs of New York) where attempts to introduce conscription led to a race riot in New York that was suppressed by force of arms by government soldiers.

6) Robespierre did play a role in the ousting of the Girondins, namely for sparing 75 of them from the Guillotine. Francois Hanriot who brought the canons to the Convention was one of his close associates and had Undying Loyalty to him (he was the one who freed him and Saint-Just on the night of Thermidor and took him to the Paris Commune). The event took place because of an alliance between the Sansculotte and the Jacobin faction, and Robespierre as per Morris Slavin, delayed the insurrection so as to get internal support from the National Convention, later stating in a Jacobin club meeting, "The Convention is in a state of insurrection". In any case the section states Jacobins and Sansculottes, at that time, Desmoulins and Danton were not very active at Club des Cordeliers (they became delegates after the National Convention and didn't have much time there) and it was a refuge for the Hebertists, who made the Cordeliers a sans-culotte front any way(that's why Desmoulins later returned calling his newspaper "The Old Cordelier" and helped the Committe to purge the Hebertists).

7) As far as Olympe de Gouges is concerned, I don't mind the sarcastic tone because the French Revolution's blindness to women's rights should definitely be addressed, and in any case I don't mind sarcasm and funny quips because this is a general information site on a fanpage anyway. It's meant to be entertaining and snarky. And as you say, "misogyny did play a role". Just add Girondin Olympe de Gouges and its fine.

8) I agree with the mistakes about spellings, dates and general contextual changes (via Machecoul).

08:52:58 AM Feb 3rd 2015
Hello, Manawyddan and Julian Lapostat! Due to the lack of time, I'll just make a few short comments:

  • Definitely too much Napoleon, especially when any excuse is used to bring in something Napoleon had to say about, often years later (even e. g. on the Louis XIV page). For Pete's sake, Napoleon already has a page of his own and a page for the Napoleonic Wars! Events during his rule can be relevant, however (e. g. the Concordat as the endpoint of the state-church crisis that arose in the revolution).
  • Orthography is a thorny problem. For instance, I use "Sieyès" because that is how he is spelled in the French wikipédia. I also tend to hyphenate given names for French people as that is a French convention. It is quite useful to set apart given names from multi-part surnames.
  • Re. the Gillray cartoon I am not sure if with "Age of Reason" and "Rights of Man" he is not referring to two famous books by Thomas Paine rather than the concepts themselves. In any case, it is hard to justify contemporary caricatures (which could be pretty harsh on all sides) for "Historic Villain Upgrade" (which I see as applying to looking at events and people in retrospective).
  • Re. the Revolutionary Wars: In the popular image there definitely is a tendency to confine most French defeats (including some quite crushing ones) to the memory hole and to portray the wars as the invincible superiority of the more modern French state and society over the armies of the old monarchies, and this leads to false imagery (for instance in a recent Franco-German TV documentary their visualization of Valmy showed the Prussians running away in disorder with the French in hot pursuit). I wanted to inject some realism, and as the much-exaggerated example of Valmy was already mentioned as a Crowning Moment of Awesome, I felt it justified to mention that this was in no way representative of what happened when French and Prussian armies fought each other in 1792-1795. Speaking of Valmy, I would say it is important in its consequences, but it wasn't much of a battle - the two things are not mutually exclusive, in world history there are even some very important military confrontations that passed entirely without bloodshed, e. g. the Fashoda crisis of 1898 and of course the Cuban Missiles Crisis. Like I put in, Valmy was a case of We Win Because You Didn't, even if at the time the Prussian soldiers did not feel defeated. (BTW, Goethe was there as a minister and personal friend to the duke of Saxe-Weimar, not as the army's official poet).
  • I got a large part of my info on the Vendée from Jean-Clément Martin: Blancs et Bleus dans la Vendée dechiréel (Gallimard 1987). Here he said that at close to ("Près de") 4000 persons were drowned in the noyades and that in total 10,000 "disappeared" ("10 000 sans doute en totale disparaissent pendant les quelques mois que Carrier passe à Nantes"). So I thought it fair to put in "at least 4000". From other authors I've certainly heard that what set the Vendée apart from other regions of France was that here the local peasants did not profit as much from the sale of church property and that the people who did benefit were seen as outsiders. One should perhaps point out that the Vendée as such did not exist before the revolution (the Department is what was in 1789 the western part of the Poitou), and when people talk about the rising of the Vendée they usually mean the "white" central part of the Department, not the edges, which were mostly "blue" (republican).
  • Speaking of a fight between Paris and the provinces is an old tradition (Victor Hugo invokes it in the passage from Quatre-Vingt Treize in the quotes section), and some people have seen the suppression of the Paris Commune as a kind of belated "revenge" of the provinces. That unsurprisingly there also were Jacobins and other republicans in the provinces is no more suprising than that there were royalists and Girondins still living in Paris, but does not change the general picture.
  • Many of the things of which Marie-Antoinette was accused of were simply put false (she was falsely blamed for the Collier Affair, she was falsely accused of having a huge political influence on her husband - hence her nickname "Madame Veto" -, she was falsely accused of incestual relations with her son. Her trial was a shambles and a travesty of justice, and AFAIK (I only checked French wiki though) did not actually produce proper proof of her collaboration with the enemy - that only came to light later). So as in the case of the trial of Charles I (which did a lot to make him appear almost as a saint in the popular imagination) it was not surprising that the trial reflected badly on the judges and made Marie-Antoinette look good.
  • Don't know if Bismarck has to be brought up in the context, especially as apart from adding Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg and southern Hesse to the North German Federation he had already achieved all of his aims, including the clearing of inner tensions, by 1868. Here the wars of 1864 and 1866 were much more crucial than the Franco-German War.
  • Napoleon was not a protagonist to begin with, indeed at first he still had ambitions of playing the leading part in an independent Corsica. As you say, he only achieved national notoriety in late 1795 basically because he happened to be in the right place at the right time. Even in 1799 he was not the only general considered for dictatorship by Sieyès and co.
  • Goethe's quote about Valmy may be a candidate for "Beam me up, Scotty!"
09:12:25 AM Feb 3rd 2015
PS: Re. Bismarck again: Why single out Bismarck? It is not as if Brissot was the only or even the last French politician to use wars that way. Not counting the leaders of the First Republic and Empire, the Bourbons arguably tried to use the invasion of Algeria in the same way (still were deposed by the revolution of 1830), in ca. 1840 Adolphe Thiers almost started a war to regain the Rhine frontier, and Napoleon III apparently hoped to stabilize the Second Empire by starting wars on several continents (Crimean War, War in Italy, war in China, intervention in Mexico) even before declaring war on Prussia in 1870.
09:22:01 AM Feb 3rd 2015
edited by JulianLapostat
That seems fair to me. I made some corrections recently, that incorporated some changes (I did not delete anything, rest assured) and concised it. I added a footnote next to the opening quote and clarified Valmy's myth (with a Clemenceau quote acknowledging it).

1) As for too-much Napoleon. One the quotes are themselves interesting. I mean on the Louis XVI page, the quote clarifies the major misconception about him, that he couldn't possibly have been much of a tyrant, since History rarely allows justice to the Henry VII Is or the Ivan the Terribles, its the weak-willed Nice ones that get the axe. Two, Napoleon, like it or not, is definitely a Great Man of History, or as Hegel called him, "The world spirit on Horseback". He's definitely a Son of the Revolution (albeit the Black Sheep) and his Italian campaigns and his imperial adventure in Egypt are key events in the Enlightenment and the Revolution. So to say, he's not a protagonist is stretching it, especially since the Revolution had a huge cast of colourful larger-than-life figures. He was still a Republican General when he undertook those expeditions. He abandoned his soldiers in Egypt after getting word that the Directory might be ripe for a coup (and that Josephine was cheating on him) and then Abbe Sieyes foolishly handed the government to him on a silver platter. Not mentioning Napoleon in relation to the revolution would give readers the impression that he arrived fully formed of the brow of Zeus. In other cases, some prominent figures like De Sade or Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (who's unlikely to get his own page) got screwed over by him as well. And then we mention some of Napoleon's future partners - Sieyes, Barras, Fouche and Talleyrand who were key figures in their own right in this time. Napoleon is the sequel to the Revolution as he was conscious of, as he said "The Revolution is over, I am the Revolution."

2) I agree about the Gillray caricatures. I mean we already covered how the Anglophone keeps portraying the Revolution in a constant bad light, vis-a-vis Dickens, and likewise Edmund Burke is mentioned (with the anti-semitic undertone of his critique presented there). There's no need to include every single point there.

I have no issues with the other points at all.

One thing I do have to ask, a while ago I made a Chronic Backstabbing Disorder tab for Joseph Fouche (compared to him, Talleyrand is Undying Loyalty), who from what I gather is something of a scumbag (as per Stefan Zweig and many others). I think some other editor removed it by mistake. Any reason why I shouldn't mention his bloody backstabbing rise to power or the fact that he got away with it scott-free? Because there's no other way to mention him.
09:22:51 AM Feb 3rd 2015
Okay then Bismarck is out.
11:27:17 AM Feb 3rd 2015
Thanks! Re. Napoleon: The quote about Louis XVI is interesting and of course not inappropriate as Napoleon is also a son of Louis XVI (he got his military education thanks to special grants given to Corsican nobles to integrate them into the French nobility and he was commissioned as an officer during Louis' reign. But I was referring to the quote on the Louis XIV (the Sun King) page which said (I quote from memory) that Louis was great because Napoleon said he was the only king of France worthy of the name. Which IMO is a pretty dumb quote which really does not show any great insight on Napoleon's part and which I consider untrue (hey, what about Henry IV or even Charles V or Philip II?). As for him being a protagonist, I'd say: Not really before 1796 (I took issue with the 1789-1799 part), before that he really was more of a bystander or follower of orders. The revolution reached its peak before that (in 1793/94, when all he did was play an, admittedly spectacular, part in the Siege of Toulon, which however is disproportionately remembered because NAPOLEON took part in it), the republic was not saved by him, he played no part in the framing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and what have you. So Napoleon really belongs more to the era of the political decline of the republic (when the men who might have stopped him had already killed each other) than to the "great years" 1789-1794. Also think one could say more about some other people who played important roles later, e. g. about the Marquis de Lafayette, who spanned three revolutions (American and the French ones of 1789 and 1830). Also I am a bit unhappy how the post-1799 roles of some people generally being defined in terms of their loyalty to Napoleon as opposed to the services they did for France (in particular Talleyrand and Fouché). But IIRC I did not delete the chronic backstabbing disorder post. It is a bit problematic that people with regards to 1789-1815 still often equate loyalty to the nation with loyalty to Napoleon, especially as Napoleon's policies in 1813-1815 clearly made things worse and led to peace treaties less favourable to France. Of course as a German with WW2 very much in mind I have reasons to think that interventions to bring an end to a hopeless war (never mind to topple a dictator) may actually be considered a good thing.
03:34:06 PM Feb 3rd 2015
edited by Manawyddan
Thanks to you two ! Here are some answers and hinsights:

  • Furthermore, the point about De Sade stands. I don't care if Napoleon said it was immoral, it was still incredibly petty and jerkish to pick on a poor writer who wasn't even criticizing him politically, was unaffiliated with any radical politics and then dooming him to confinement just because he read an old book that he had published before the Revolution (and for which Sade already did time in Bastille).
    • I wasn't saying that Bonaparte wasn't a Jerkass. It's perfectly possible to be a Moral Guardian and a Jerkass, it's even a prerequisite I'd say. Simply, Jerkass is too vague and gives the impression that it was some personal whim from Napoleon while it was part of his whole project to have a more socially conservative society. It goes in the same move that the removal of the no-fault divorce and the Concordat. Furthermore, Sade was taken to the asylum because "Juliette, or the prosperity of vice" was published in 1801. His problems are of the same nature than the ones Flaubert had with Moral Guardians because of Madame Bovary. Moral Guardian applied here is simply more precise and less of an ad hominem'' argument.
    • Napoleon appears much more as a Jerkass in his attitude with Thomas Alexandre Dumas, towards whom he pettily acted out of personal jealousy and conflict.
    • Of course, Sade's arrestation and internment were arbitrary and autocratical and must be mentioned.

  • Robespierre did play a role in the ousting of the Girondins,
    • That's right. I made a confusion with his attitude at the 10th August 1792. Sorrry for that.

  • I got a large part of my info on the Vendée from Jean-Clément Martin: Blancs et Bleus dans la Vendée dechiréel (Gallimard 1987). Here he said that at close to ("Près de") 4000 persons were drowned in the noyades and that in total 10,000 "disappeared" ("10 000 sans doute en totale disparaissent pendant les quelques mois que Carrier passe à Nantes"). So I thought it fair to put in "at least 4000".
    • In fact, "Près de 4000" rather means "almost 4000". Guess it's a translation problem.

  • One should perhaps point out that the Vendée as such did not exist before the revolution (the Department is what was in 1789 the western part of the Poitou), and when people talk about the rising of the Vendée they usually mean the "white" central part of the Department, not the edges, which were mostly "blue" (republican).
    • I agree, these are elements which should be implemented. Geographical elements always help. If I recall correctly, the dividing line between white and blue Vendee was also drawn along the way the peasants communities were organized (dispersed or concentrated communities). But it's a bit old in my mind, I admit. Besides, Vendee is catch-all term as the troubles affected Vendée, Maine-et-Loire, Loire-Atlantique and Deux-Sèvres

  • Goethe's quote about Valmy may be a candidate for "Beam me up, Scotty!"
    • agreed

  • One thing I do have to ask, a while ago I made a Chronic Backstabbing Disorder tab for Joseph Fouche (compared to him, Talleyrand is Undying Loyalty), who from what I gather is something of a scumbag (as per Stefan Zweig and many others). I think some other editor removed it by mistake. Any reason why I shouldn't mention his bloody backstabbing rise to power or the fact that he got away with it scott-free? Because there's no other way to mention him.
    • I am currently reading the most recent biography of Fouché by Emmanuel de Waresquiel who while he dislikes Fouché, debunks some of his black legend. I'd say Backstabbing Disorder is true but doesn't reflect the totality of the character. Some say he backstabbed the Church, but he wasn't a priest to begin with. He was a war criminal at Lyon for sure. He backstabbed Robespierre (even if he had asked to marry his sister Charlotte before the Revolution) and Barras, that's true. After that, he had conflictual relationships with Napoleon and was much less skillful than Talleyrand in keeping his ministry no matter what. He disagreed with Napoleon about the Saint-Nicaise affair. Napoleon wanted it to be Jacobins and banned the few remaining ones; Fouché let it happened although he immediately saw it was a royalist plot and successfully arrested the true culprits. Napoleon sacked him because he dared to disagree with him, and be right, to boot ! Fouché went back-and-forth between his police ministry and lucrative offices, and tried to backstab Napoleon (sometimes with the help of Talleyrand) several times.
    • In the end, he didn't got away scott-free. He was a minister for Louis XVIII for only 3 months before he was sent as ambassador in Saxe, which was a disguised exile, because the ultras hated him for being a former terrorist (i.e implementer of the Reign of Terror) and regicide. Once there, the law against regicides was voted and he lost all of his offices and functions. He spent the rest of his life in exile in Austria, monitored by Metternich and died in 1820, eighteen years before Talleyrand. All in all, he was less lucky than Talleyrand.
    • On the other hand, Fouché kept his attachment to republicanism and jacobinism, and made sure that former members of the Convention got state pensions to help them make a living and always tried to soften the measures taken against the leftist opposition. He also stayed loyal to most of the friends he made before the Revolution and his fellow teachers from the Oratoire (the ones he personaly knew).
    • The most surprising thing about the character may be his relationship of mutual respect with Wellington.

08:45:23 PM Feb 3rd 2015
I think we should put Fouché in the Napoleonic Wars page, since his role in the Revolutionary Era was minor and he's mentioned enough.
01:02:44 AM Feb 4th 2015
01:39:59 PM Feb 4th 2015
Hello again, glad this seems to be going pretty well now that we have "sat down" to discuss the entries. A few more comments:

Leaving out the backstabbing entry for Fouché is probably for the best. Chronic Backstabbing Disorder probably is applicable to too many people during the Revolution and Empire anyway, especially with the ever-shifting alliances and power-struggles of the years 1789 to 1799 I'm not sure there were all that many to whom it wouldn't apply to some degree (except if their active political life was extremely short). Even Robespierre possibly is not exempt what with his treatment of erstwhile allies Hébert, Danton and the sans-culottes...

BTW, speaking of Fouché, it is funny how he and a few others ended up being exiled in Austria and Prussia (that's where fellow régicide Carnot ended up) of all places. Is there a trope for that?

Will we be wanting to do a "Karma Houdini" entry? General Louis Marie Turreau would be a prime candidate for that (commander of the "colonnes infernales", imprisoned, acquitted by a military tribunal for "only following orders", then ambassador to the US, baron of the Empire, dying just before being awarded a Croix de Saint-Louis in the second Restauration, and now still has his name inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe).

I'm also not sure if "the British" really hate it when the similarities between the English and French Revolution are pointed out, after all not every Briton today is an 18th century Tory. Some, I think, are actually quite proud that "they did it first". Also, it is my theory that this is actually was what Carlyle may have been driving at in his famous label for Robespierre, "the sea-green incorruptible" - sea-green was the colour of English radicals in the 17th century. (I don't recall ever seeing a picture of Robespierre wearing sea-green).

I think two of the "Historic Hero Upgrade" need to be reworked:

1) The one about Marie-Antoinette is somewhat misleadingly phrased anyway, the way it is at the moment it says that her lavish lifestyle and the Hameau at the Petit Trianon were more serious matters than her contacts to the Austrians. I'm also not sure if people who portry her in a positive light are actually saying she wasn't evil, just misunderstood. The problem with her is that she and her judges proceeded from incompatible philosophies of state - the revolutionaries had this new concept of the nation (this reminds me of the nice little scene in Renoir's "La Marseillaise" where an elderly aristocrat and a patriotic young officer discuss what "the nation" is) which led them to the deduction that the king (and queen) must serve the nation and could betray it and could be tried and executed for treason. From Marie-Antoinette's POV loyalty to the nation was identical with loyalty to the king (first her husband Louis XVI, after his death her son Louis XVII) and so "obviously" the revolutionaries were the traitors. And she must have looked at what she did as very similar to what Anne of Austria did - Anne fled from Paris with her family (taking Louis XIV and his brother to St. Germain-en-Laye) during the uprising in support of the Fronde, and thus was able to hand over the reins of government to Louis in a way that enabled him to put the "absolute" in "absolute monarchy" (Anne too was loyal to the king, not an abstract "nation", to claim otherwise is a-historic). So from her POV calling in the army was not disloyal to her king and country, but instead a way of restoring "God's Anointed" to his rightful place. Whether calling in foreign aid is treasonable depends a lot on circumstances anyway. Etienne Marcel, who at least since the 3rd Republic is regarded as a national hero, conspired with the English during the Hundred Years War. General De Gaulle was definitely seen as a traitor and collaborator with the British by the Petainists. (BTW, there was a quite recent precedent in Marie-Antoinette's day, to wit the Prussian intervention against the "Patriotten" in the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands in 1787, which brought the Stadhouder back to his "legitimate" power in a campaign in which very little blood was spilt). Since I'm speaking of the Trial of Marie-Antoinette, I wonder if that is going to be described as okay or "right for the wrong reasons", is it really justified to criticize the Trial of Marshal Ney on the "Napoleonic Wars" page? Is there really a question that Ney betrayed Louis XVIII, breaking his oath to him (no conflict of loyalties, Napoleon's 1814 abdication relieved his former subjects of any obligation to him) and that his treason had catastrophic consequences for France? (And I say this as someone who regards Ney as a tragic hero and can empathize with him and thinks he understands why he felt compelled to take his disastrous course).

2) Re. the war in the Vendée: I think the way it is phrased at the moment is rather problematic. It sounds as if the 200 victims of the Machecoul massacre are supposed to prove that a) all Vendéans were evil, and b) 130,000 dead Vendéans is not terribly disproportionate retribution. With the note of "they started" it, it does rather sound like the kind of rationalizations used for e. g. bloody colonial wars, the near-extermination of American Indians, and of course some very great excesses in the 20th century (to avoid Godwin's Law I'll just refer to the war crimes committed by the German army in Belgium during World War I under the pretext of fighting against "franctireurs"). Don't know if we should put this in, but to me it seems that the reason for looking at Vendéans sympathetically is that they primarily fought for intangibles (the Bourbon monarchy and the Catholic church), which makes it easier to romanticise them than those republicans who were fighting (among other things) for very realy material aims (lands that originally belonged to the church). It probably also helps that the Vendéan royalists stayed true to their cause and themselves (some of the survivors resuming the fight in 1815 and 1830) while many of their enemies changed their beliefs and loyalties from the republic and constitution of 1793 to the Thermidorian republic to the Empire and sometimes even to the restored Bourbon monarchy and the "enrichessez-vous" Orléans monarchy. Again, much easier to romanticise.

Take care!
07:26:36 PM Feb 4th 2015
edited by JulianLapostat
To me the Vendee is closer to the American Civil War, in that the Vendeeans are fighting for an obsolete way of life. I certainly don't think its a genocide (comparing them to Native Americans are a huge stretch) since there were atrocities by the Vendeeans (they boiled republican soldiers alive in oil) and the Army had the support of Republican Vendeeans. During the American Civil War, the Northern army committed atrocities against the South too, burned whole villages and the resentment felt by the South about the North taking property away from them is a thorny issue there. I mean the French Revolution is a bit like fighting the American Revolution and the American Civil War at the same time. The Founding Fathers deliberately set aside "the social question" and focused on liberal aims because they felt that slavery couldn't be finished without going to war for it and they weren't ready for it at the time (or so they told themselves). What the Committee of Public Safety did is not different from Lincoln during the Civil War, he abolished the writ of habeas corpus, centralized authority from the top, unleashed a massive surveillance campaign using press and was often described as a dictator (in the pre-Julius Roman Sense) by his opponents. And of course he abolished slavery initially as a war time aim and generally justified the war as a "defence of the Union", same as the French calling for "Republic, One and Indivisible".

To be honest, I haven't read too much about the Vendee because it's a really political issue and the French Right wing keep wailing about the martyrs of Vendee and inflate numbers of people killed. It should definitely be covered though. The fact that a third of Vendee's pre-Revolution population died is pretty disturbing.

As for Marie Antoinette, I generally find it hard to relate to anyone, for whatever sympathetic reasons, subscribes to total preservation of absolute monarchy at the expense of her subjects' desire (however much she may have been personally kind). Yeah, I get the romantic appeal of her, I even sympathize with her upto a certain point at her trial and the way they treated her children but I don't see why people have to demonize the Revolution just because one person got a raw deal. She actively derailed any real truce or compromise by Mirabeau and Lafayette who really believed in the Constitutional Monarchy and was the King (and his family's) best hope to survive. She even got Barnave killed since she used him as a pawn for one of her petty schemes for which he was later tried and executed. You know, one thing that can be addressed is the fact that she finally was betrayed by her own Austrian relations. The fact is Danton and Robespierre tried to ransom her to the Austrian government as a peace offering but they turned them down especially since it came after the King's death and she and her daughter were not useful as hostages. Robespierre kept delaying her trial but in the end washed his hands off the whole affair.

09:00:36 PM Feb 4th 2015
edited by JulianLapostat
Regarding the other points,

1) Well the fact is that English popular culture (and the American pop culture which aborbs its assumptions with even less ambiguity) has generally glorified Waterloo and the defeat of Napoleon (which meant the end of the Continental System that did damage their economy and the rise of the Empire as an unchallenged global monopoly, being from India, I cannot find any reason to celebrate that) and they uncritically accept Edmund Burke's critique as if it is some gospel or final truth about the Revolution when as Alfred Cobban points out, it was based on fears of further English revolutions and the actual pamphlet is filled with anti-semitic insults. It's a fact that during WW1, Germans had more voting rights under the Kaiser than England did under the Parliament and England's strong conservative tradition has generally absorbed changes very late and always at their terms.

So while the English may accept Cromwell (or rather they accept the Glorious Revolution, which would not have been possible without Cromwell) to some extent, the popular narrative is generally critical of "People's Revolution" and they use it to smear revolutions in other nations (a tactic the Americans with their more canny embrace of cinema took to greater heart). In Indian history, the Colonial education were fairly circumspect about teaching the French Revolution in India since they were aware it gave people "bad ideas". I mean its a fact that an equal number of people were killed by the English in the Repression of the 1798 Irish Rebellion than were guillotined during the Terror but you hardly find ackowledgment or discussion of that (Actually the 1798 Irish Rebellion is really fascinating incident and it would make an amazing movie, the fact that the Enlightenment inspired Protestants were put down by the Catholic Church which was backed by the English), or for that matter that they invented concentration camps in the Boer Wars (which Life and Death of Colonel Blimp addresses but few other movies do) or that they stabbed Greek anti-Nazi Resistance in the back by putting Nazi collaborators back in power.

2) Karma Houdini is generally too much a trope of fiction and applying to real life is problematic. We can put the Revolutionary war crimes of Turreau and Westermann under General Ripper, and include Fouche in Lyon, Carrier in Nantes as well. I think you are right about the Chronic Backstabbing Disorder in terms of the changing alliances of the time was very common. But you know Fouche's rise to power is a really perfect example, he went from Girondin to Jacobin, from Jacobin to Thermidorian, avoided proscription despite being way more guilty than some of the others exiled, and helped set up and operate Napoleon's police state and then stabbed Napoleon in the back, before being sold out by Talleyrand (who was actually fairly loyal to France and not really a backstabber, and he only really betrayed Napoleon). The fact is that this trope was quite an inspiration for French authors, like Balzac based some of his social climbers on Fouche and others from the revolutionary era, Vautrin was partly Fouche and partly Vidocq.

3) The exile to Austria and Europe is interesting, because it shows how generous the Coalition and the Bourbons were compared to the Thermidorians who exiled everyone to French-Guyana, being full of diseases and flies (cf, Carpentier's EXPLOSION IN A CATHEDRAL). Exile to Austria and Prussia and Belgium. Tallien (probably even more of a slimeball than Fouche since he funded anti-Jacobin street gangs, which Fouche at least didn't do) ended up dying in poverty only to be living on subsidies from the Restoration.
05:03:11 AM Feb 5th 2015
Ta for the quick reply. Now in the following please take into account that wanting to see more than one side of an issue, I can verge into becoming a bit of a contrarian.

Re. the Vendée: I was not saying that the war there was a genocide, but that the argument used to rationalize the way the war was waged in the piece in question is disturbingly like arguments used in inhuman colonial wars, Stalin's war against the kulaks etc. where the enemies were also portrayed as fighting for an "outmoded" or "barbaric way of life". It does also seem to me a bit of a double standards - atrocities committed by the Vendéans are "bad atrocities" because they were on "the wrong side of history" (who gets to decide that?) while atrocities committed by the Blues are justified or glossed over because they were on "the right side of history". But were the Vendéans completely on the "wrong side of history"? As tends to be ignored, they were also fighting for their Catholic faith, and in this they proved ultimately successful. They resisted the (totalitarian) attempt of the revolutionary government to turn religion and the Catholic church into tools for the government to control the hearts and minds of the people, in the end Napoleon had to come to an arrangement with the church and the church continued to say things that were not to the liking of the secular government. Meanwhile the Cult of Reason, the Cult of the Supreme Being, and maybe even Deism were dead within a matter of years.

What Lincoln did was very different from the Terror. He did not abolish habeas corpus or declare that it was only meant for Republicans and War Democrats (the way some shouted that the Declaration of the Rights of Man only applied to sans-culottes). He generally tried to circumvent it or (temporarily) suspended it (in certain areas). He did not eliminate oppositional representatives from Congress (and certainly did not have them executed, the worst he did to an oppositional politician was have him deported to the Confederacy, after which he still was able to re-enter the North via Canada). He never attempted to completely silence dissenting views the way Robespierre did and came close to losing power in the 1864 elections. The fact that the American Civil War started out as a war to save the union was because unlike Robespierre Lincoln had to take parliamentary majorities (and public opinion) into account in a way. But let's not forget - the abolition of slavery under Robespierre, praiseworthy though it was, reflected only a minority position in France, which is why it was never fully implemented (since nobody apart from Robespierre was prepared to risk losing colonies for the sake of a principle) even before Napoleon nullified it.

Whether you are able or not to empathize/sympathize with Marie-Antoinette is one thing, but whether or not this gives you the right to forbid others from doing so is another. Also, the way you describe it I am not sure if it is a hero upgrade. Demonizing her enemies however is not a hero upgrade for her but just part of the general villain upgrade of many revolutionaries.

Re. British and other Anglophone attitudes: There is quite a bit of pro-revolution and pro-Bonaparte writing in existence, as exemplified by some of the quotes used on the page (notably the ones by Mark Twain who once again proves not to trust any statistics but the ones you faked yourself). What's so bad about celebrating the victory of Waterloo? It brought an end to two decades of nearly uninterrupted war in Europe. That you like Napoleon as the enemy of your enemy I can understand on a gut level, but that does not change that he was a racist and it was not necessarily a bad thing that his imperialist schemes were frustrated by the Brits; after all, he was responsible for another war about which the word "genocidal" is bandied about quite a bit of late, only by left-wingers, namely the war to bring slavery back to Haiti? So with regards to France's colonial history I am not sure if they can really be said to occupy the moral high ground because the invoked principles that we accept today but then unhesitatingly threw them overboard when these principles clashed with their economic self-interest. And Burke these days is one of those authors you read about, but don't actually read, let alone accept his word as gospel. BTW, the Anglophone world also includes the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking of which: The 1798 rebellion was treated in the novel "The Year of the French" which was adapted into an Irish-British-French TV series in 1982. I'll add that to the Napoleonic Wars page later because that's where the 1798 rebellion is mentioned. Comparing the number of dead in '98 to the number of people guillotined during the Terror is dodgy statistics anyhow as it does not compare like with like. Either you compare the number of people killed by any mode of execution (including not just the guillotine but also noyades and firing squad for France and hanging for the British Isles) after a form of trial that you can that observes the niceties of law as Revolutionary tribunal or more, or you count the total number of people killed in a "dirty war", and there you must compare '98 to the Vendée or Haiti. Both rather appropriate, as the majority of the actual fighters in '98 were also Catholic peasants (who committed anti-Protestant atrocities) and as pre-Independence Ireland is often seen as a British colony. And as with the Vendée historians have come to the conclusion that the number of victims were exaggerated (on both sides).

Good point about Karma Houdini - one should not expect people to receive poetic justice in real life. I wonder if Fouché's career is in part due to pragmatism on the part of his masters. He did in general prove very useful to whoever was in power, so maybe the case is not dissimilar to the way the former allies used Nazi scientists, officers and even war criminals during the Cold War? What's the relevant trope for that? Is there something like sliding scale of idealism and pragmatism?

Funny thing about the Boer War. At the time it happened it was when e. g. Americans and Germans started castigating British imperialism. Because they fought against the white Boers, a deeply racist and "outmoded" society. So that too could be compared to the Vendée...
06:41:59 AM Feb 5th 2015
@Menshevik: I added the Mark Twain quote because I found it interesting. Like Burke, his comment is not very reliable, but it provides another interesting point of view worth thinking about.
06:49:08 AM Feb 5th 2015
Nicely reasoned on the whole and you make fairly valid points. I will say that I apologize if I give the view that I am hostile to alternate points of view, if that is how I come across, I accept the criticism and will improve. I'll keep my responses brief:

1) The Vendee — As I said, I don't know much about the Vendee, and as such I am okay (and I am not a moderator or anything, so I don't really have any authority) with any edits placed here as long as accurate sources are mentioned, placed in context and provides a gray perspective of the conflict. I like the edit of the Hopeless War for instance about how the Vendeeans felt about it. I started reading about the Revolution since last year, since before I had a fairly simple understanding of the event and the Terror and I helped put more balance on the page(and also other pages) from what had been a fairly one-sided (ergo "Those Poor Aristocrats!") view before, so I have been more pro-Jacobin its mostly because I have been more familiar with the Anti-Jacobin perspective so I feel like I am making up. For someone who comes in another context, I totally understand the need to counter it.

2) The numbers killed in the Terror — Most historians, Donald Greer (The Incidence of the Terror, the key statistical study of the event), R. R. Palmer and William Doyle, regard the Vendee as separate from the Terror, while the Noyades are part of the tally. The Vendeean clampdown was a military response and as such seen as deriving from war, while the Noyades, the executions at Lyon and Toulon are part of the government repression and subject to government ideology. The Terror was largely confined in Paris and the areas affected by Civil War(either Girondin/Royalist) and most of France was unaffected by it. The 40,000 dead in the Terror includes the 17000 guillotines, the Noyades, the Canon-Blastings, Deaths in Prison and so on. My comparison of the Irish Rebellion atrocities by the English versus the Terror is not a new one, it's been made by other historians like Doyle, Peter Mc Phee and Palmer who criticize the exaggeration of the Terror in general accounts. So it's not my double standard at all. In any case, I have not actually put these (my opinions) on the similarities between the Terror and the Irish repression, or the Terror and Lincoln on the main page(well I think I did put it in the Napoleonic Wars page, if so remove it). I in fact added information about the terror, namely that the Terror didn't actually target aristocrats and that it actually included a large portion of peasants among its victims. Except during the Great Terror where they basically threw justice out the window and killed people because they were rich.

3) Regarding Lincoln Comparison and Emancipation — Actually I am currently reading on the Haitian Revolution, and I plan on putting a page for that soon, or at least a page for Toussaint Louverture, the circumstances surrounding France's emancipation is quite similar to the American one, in that it came very unexpectedly and not without contradiction and reluctance, the Jacobins were more concerned about the Union and wanted to abolish it on their terms but followed through with it when they realized how serious the slave rebellion was. I kind of simplified it in the main page but for a while the Jacobins were even supported by the slave-owner lobby who cunningly used anti-Girondin rhetoric to court their support, they actually went against their constitutency by enacting that decree and later arrested many members of the slave-owning lobby in the final month of the Terror, but sadly they survived the guillotine. Robespierre didn't actually vote or discuss the issue, he definitely supported it and he merely enacted it by sending Victor Hugues, with the Emancipation Decree to the Colonies and Hugues reclaimed Guadalope from the English and enacted the decree there and achieved it in other Antilles colonies but not in Martinique (which was under British occupation). Later of course, Napoleon sent the same Victor Hugues to bring slavery back in those same colonies(non-Haitian French colonies).

As for comparing the Civil War to the Terror, again not new opinions. Thaddeus Stevens (played by Tommy Lee Jones in the recent LINCOLN biopic) the most consistent abolitionist and Radical Republican was called the "American Robespierre" by Georges Clemenceau (who was in America at the time, covering the events as a journalist) and critics invoked Jacobinism in their critique of Lincoln's Republican Party (who wanted to redistributed slave-owner property to newly emancipated African Americans and the Southerners who were loyal to the Union). Obviously Lincoln's methods aren't comparable and its more peaceful because he didn't have to worry about the founding of the state since that was already undertaken before in the American Revolution (which he was very conscious of).

4) Marie Antoinette — What I said before was merely my opinion and obviously its not gospel. I personally don't like her much and I hold her negligence and stupidity as the main reasons for her husband's death (and I like and sympathize with Louis XVI even if I accept the Revolutionary perspective of why he had to die), but again if you feel that the pages are too biased against her, then rewrite it, and place that accordingly. I think Poor Communication Kills can be used in how she mistrusted Mirabeau, Barnave and Lafayette who all wanted to make the constitutional monarchy work.

5) As for Napoleon — Let me say that I fully agree with you regarding Haiti and his imperalist adventures. I have given the impression of being excessively pro-Napoleon and for that I apologize. I do like him more than I do the British, and I don't like the Duke of Wellington at all (he made his early career in India where he won several battles in the South and the West and preserved Company hegemony and being the total snob that he was, changed his Irish Name Wesley to the pompous Wellesley, he was also an anti-semite and as Prime Minister turned down a pro-Jewish bill in Parliament) so that is as far as I go with my regrets to his defeat in Waterloo. His treatment of Haiti was appalling and inexcusable, and his reversal of slavery is a terrible betrayal, you can accuse the Americans and the British of being hypocritical but even they never took back rights after granting them to people. I do relate to his legend, the myth of meritocracy and the fact that he brought Jews out of ghettos (which is why Heinrich Heine glorified him repeatedly and why Marx was always ashamed of his grudging respect for someone whose politics he totally abhorred; neither of them would have had careers had it not been for him) but in that he was only enacting the Revolutionary goals that were built before him and which he had to enact to hold on to his contradictory position of being a successor and inheritor of the Revolution while at the same time its gravedigger. In the Napoleonic Wars I'll put in a few entries discussing his appalling behaviour in Egypt (a total disaster which he parlayed into an Enlightenment science project, where he abandoned many of his soldiers to rise to dictatorship, I think Screw This, I'm Outta Here! might fit).
11:30:51 AM Feb 5th 2015
Just a quick reply:

1) and 2) Re. comparing the numbers of dead due to the Terreur and in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 - I think my objections still are valid and that if Doyle and co. want to equate them, it seems to me to be because of an agenda. And having just checked the English wiki page, the Irish Rebellion is also very much like the Vendée in that estimates vary wildly according to partisan POV (from "less than 10,000" to "more than 50,000" and are ultimately impossible to ascertain in the way you can ascertain the deaths of the Terreur due to the better paperwork. One may say that the Terreur is overexposed (not unnatural as it had the greater number of well-known victims), but that also applies in relation to the war in the Vendée and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in general.

3) Besides Martinique, slavery also continued to exist in France's colonies in Africa and the Indian Ocean. Here the slave-owners successfully blackmailed the French government by threatening to go over to the British.

Re. your quip about "sadly they survived the guillotine" - maybe one should put in a "Broken Aesop" about how so many people from ultra-royalists to Jacobins and their Marxist spiritual successors drew the lesson "We were too merciful, next time well know better" from the French Revolution...

I admire Thaddeus Stevens and even visited his grave in Lancaster, PA, but I think Clemenceau (a great fanboy of Robespierre) was exaggerating a bit. AFAIK Stevens himself was much happier to be called The Great Commoner - like William Pitt the Elder. And only the radical wing of the Republican Party (which definitely did not include Lincoln) wanted to distribute land during Reconstruction, for which it ultimately never got the necessary majorities. Referring to them as Jacobins anyway was just part of political rhethoric of the era and has to be taken with a grain of salt - for instance their political opponents also referred to "the Black Republicans" in the run-up to the 1860 election.

4) Poor Communication Skills probably played a part. Another thing probably was that Marie-Antoinette had not really been educated enough for someone in her position because her mother had not expected her to enter into such an important marriage.

5) Um, according to the book I have (and according to wikipedia as well) Wesley is a purely English name (meaning "western field or pasture"), not an Irish one. Hmm, good thing that Napoleone Buonaparte didn't change his name ;-).

I have to say that with the French Revolution and the First Empire one of the things that does annoy me a lot is that they promised so much and then often took it back in part or completely. The way how they set up the Declaration of the Rights of Man and then effectively discarded it a mere three to four years later is a bit scary, and we already discussed slavery. The way e. g. Napoleon is credited for freeing Jews from the ghetto also shows a few things: a) even Marx is not immune to the "great men make history" myth; his native Trier became part of France in the course of the War of the First Coalition, so the Jews there were emancipated ca. 1795/96, before Napoleon came to power, and b) a "ruse of history" at work, because afterwards many Jews became emancipated because of France's expansionist wars led by Napoleon, who really had no interest in improving the lot of Jews but who introduced French law in places he annexed or where he set up puppet kingdoms (like Westphalia), and since before he came to power Jews and Christians in France were legally equal. Napoleon himself actually was a bit of an anti-semite (or at any rate was prepared to court anti-semites) and in 1811 issued the "decrets infâmes" which curtailed the rights of French Jews to live where they wanted and to practice whatever trade they wanted. But then even Voltaire apparently was not immune from anti-semitism (which in his case may have been a subset of his antipathy towards religion in general).

01:01:59 PM Feb 5th 2015
edited by Manawyddan
Some additions to contribute to the debate.

  • I'm also not sure if "the British" really hate it when the similarities between the English and French Revolution are pointed out, after all not every Briton today is an 18th century Tory.
    • As a Frenchman, I experienced first hand how the ordinary British, even students attending French university, sees the French Revolution as the epitome of the violent and bloody revolution, and how they are left speechless when one reminds them that they judged and cut the head of their King too. The French Revolution is still kind of a "repoussoir", especially in Great-Britain. To the ordinary British, French Revolution = Guillotine and that's pretty much it. This is a bit less true in the USA it seems if I believee some crash course videos I've seen.

  • They resisted the (totalitarian) attempt of the revolutionary government to turn religion and the Catholic church into tools for the government to control the hearts and minds of the people
    • Ouuuuuuulà, That's really a pretty twisted view of the things. First, what did the Kings other than turn religion and the Catholic church into tools for the governements to control the hearts and minds of the people ? They Kings by "divine right", Church theologically justified the monarchy and obedience to how the society worked, and intolerance against protestants and Jews was commonplace before the Revolution.
    • Second, the Civil Constitution of the clergy was really nothing new, as it was part of a tradition initiated by the French Kings to have the French church dependant from them (that is called gallicanism) but they were cunning enough to never anger the Pope enough so they didn't got Henry VIII's problems.
    • The "Control the hearts and mind of people" can be reversed: the Pope controlled the hearts and minds, as there were no problem until he declared the civil constitution was a bad thing, under influence from the émigrés
    • If having the government making priests as public officers is totalitarian, so what about all these countries who have a state religion ?
    • The spark for the Vendée war was the refusal of the "levée en masse", religion came quickly after the first fights and the royalty only once the peasants took some local noblemen for leaders.

  • And she must have looked at what she did as very similar to what Anne of Austria did - Anne fled from Paris with her family (taking Louis XIV and his brother to St. Germain-en-Laye) during the uprising in support of the Fronde, and thus was able to hand over the reins of government to Louis in a way that enabled him to put the "absolute" in "absolute monarchy" (Anne too was loyal to the king, not an abstract "nation", to claim otherwise is a-historic). So from her POV calling in the army was not disloyal to her king and country, but instead a way of restoring "God's Anointed" to his rightful place
    • You have to present the full picture. Yes Anne of Austria fled Paris. No, she didn't do it with the intent to go to foreign country. Furthermore, France was at war with her native country, Spain, and she never asked for help from Spain against the Fronde, unlike Marie-Antoinette did. Anna of Austria shows that it is perfectly possible to be a foreign queen facing an insurrection and to not ask help from your native country against your own people. She perfectly understood that doing so would have disastrously weakened her and her son's position. Marie-Antoinette didn't understand that, which shows her limits. She hid herself behind Louis XVI at her trial, but it has been proven since that several of her moves towards Austria were done in his back. Her attitude really is more like the 19th monarchs calling for Metternich and Austria's help when their people obtained democratic changes through upprising, unraveling the changes once the Austrians had trounced the democrats.

  • Etienne Marcel, who at least since the 3rd Republic is regarded as a national hero, conspired with the English during the Hundred Years War.
    • Marcel is a Parisian hero, not a national one. The narrative about him is not very friendly to him these days. He's described as a power-hungry opportunist who really only cared about himself and/or the merchant class. His alliance with the English and his miserable death are quite well-known. He's no more part of the national education story of democracy in France.
06:34:09 PM Feb 5th 2015
@Menshevik "Reversals" — Well the first and major reversal came from the Girondins, who went against the Declaration's statement that France would never go on a war of conquest or invade another nation by force of arms, by coming up with a war for "spreading the revolution's ideals" with Brissot, unironically, using the word "crusade". The sad part is so many smart people who should have known better (Madame de Stael, Condorcet, Thomas Paine — People of The Enlightenment) got on this fool's endeavour. At that time, the war seemed inevitable as they (and their apologists) told themselves but I don't think that's true. I wouldn't feel all that bad about Robespierre's downfall if the Thermidorian government retained the 1793 Constitution, as Thomas Paine (who was obviously no Robespierre sympathizer) argued they should have done so. Before that, there weren't any reversals, the 1793 Constitution extended the 1791 Declaration and the Committee of Public Safety while an emergency executive at least ensured that reforms continued and would remain a part of the Revolutionary process.

As for the "sadly they escaped" comment and Broken Aesop, I am no fan of the Great Terror and law of Prairial which specifically targeted the nobility and the rich(and many of their servants). Individual slaveowners who profited legally by existing government laws is one thing (that would be "the banality of evil") but a slaveowners lobby like Club Massiac, people who actively campaign to ensure slavery continues and who oppose all efforts to end slavery (they barred Mirabeau's early campaign to end slavery) are among the lowest evil people I can imagine, so I certainly do regret them escaping the guillotine.

03:25:56 AM Feb 6th 2015
Hi, Manawyddan -

obviously we had different experiences with the British people we met. But the funny thing is how many quotes brought up in support of the French Revolution on the page are from British (and American) authors?

Re. religion and the Catholic church: Despite Gallicanism, the relationship between the church and the French kings was a bit more complex than you describe it. The kings may have succeeded in limiting the Pope's powers and the French church's autonomy, but they had to respect what was left. Henri IV had to become Catholic to become accepted as king (and in particular to please the Parisians, who were in cahoots with the Spanish king). Louis XIV became devoutly religious and in the interest of "the one true faith" started persecuting Protestants (Huguenots) and dissenting Catholic groups (the Jansenists) even though it hurt him from the POV of his rule (and "the nation"). And if the French king could stand up to the Pope, it was because he himself was "God's anointed" and because in general the French bishops would support him. This was a "give and take" working arrangement that functioned under feudalism. (And if you look back into earlier periods of feudalism you'll find conflicts between the king and the pope that the pope won).

With the revolutionary government you have a situation where they unilaterally change everything, rob the church of its worldly possessions despite otherwise treating the right to property as a sacred cow (and this also affected church foundations for the support of the poor and sick, as e. g. Cobban pointed out) in order to distribute them among their supporters (a cynic would file this under "Bribing Your Way to Victory"). Then, instead of declaring religion a private matter and separating church and state, they try to turn the French Catholic church into a handmaiden of the state without the special relationship that existed before (indeed, many of the men in power were proud of not being believers). And when the pope and a large part of the devout did not accept that, the state resorted to repression and persecution and to cynically trying to create a new religion of its own and impose it from above with the stated purpose of facilitating government. (These new cults proved unworkable, but the quasi-religious cult of the nation and the legacy of the secular cult of personality lingered on, proving useful tools to totalitarian regimes in the 20th century and even today (North Korea)). And when a secular government engages in repressive measures against dissident religous groups that is generally seen as a bad thing (Cromwell gets flak for his anti-Catholic measures, even though he did a lot to protect dissident Protestant groups and to make it possible again for Jews to live in Britain, and in the context of Germany Bismarck's Kulturkampf against the Catholic church is seen as going too far, not to mention that he had to abandon the project).

BTW, revolutionary governments and Napoleon were control freaks not just when it came to Catholicism. In his legislation Napoleon micromanaged the way Jewish religious life was run, starting from setting a minimum number of Jews that had to live in a community before they were permitted to build a synagogue. And he also largely succeeded in transforming freemasonry from a society apart from the state into an Empire-affirming one.

Re. the Vendée: So what? It was an escalating process where different causes became prominent over time, just like the French Revolution in general (where a cynic might say that the "spark" was some at best half-true rumours and Desmoulins' incendiary rhethorics).

Anne of Austria did not flee from France because unlike Marie-Antoinette she still had enough strong allies inside the country (and it was actually her internal enemies who were working together with the exterior enemies).

Okay, so the pendulum has swung back a bit re. Etienne Marcel, but he still is honoured in Paris (which so often speaks for France). When I'm there, I frequently use the Metro station named after him and his statue (on horseback - a privilege that in the Ancien régime was reserved for kings!) still stands by the Hôtel the Ville. And he definitely was a national hero in the 3rd Republic. Here's a 1914 school textbook ("Histoire de France. Cours moyen" by Ernest Lavisse (de l'Académie Francaise)) re. the Etats généraux of 1356 and Etienne Marcel's role in them: "Il aurait voulou que les États généraux se réunissent souvent et que le roi ne pût rien faire sans les consulter." (Then, in italics for emphasis:) "S'il avait réussi, la France aurait été depuis ce temps-là un pays libre." (Normal letters again:) "C'aurait été un grand bonheur pour nous. Mais Étienne Marcel ne réussit pas. Il fut assassiné."
03:46:50 AM Feb 6th 2015
Julian -

Well, some people would say that Robespierre changing from someone who called for the abolition of the death penalty to his position at the trial of Louis Capet and what he did when he came to power was a bit of a reversal ;-) And I would say that the way the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the constitutional guarantees of the rights to your own beliefs and to freely express them (which e. g. Olympe de Gouges unsuccessfully invoked) to the prosecution and execution for what one could call "thought crimes" is a serious matter that cannot be whitewashed by "it was an emergency situation" (and one may even legitimately ask to what extent the emergency situation was of the Jacobins' own making).

By the way, is there a trope that fits Vergniaud's famous dictum "La Révolution est comme Saturne: elle dévore ses propres enfants" (which Büchner also used in "Danton's Death", where Danton utters it)?
04:44:25 AM Feb 6th 2015
edited by JulianLapostat
@Menshevik, for the Vergniaud quote, I recommend Became Their Own Antithesis and He Who Fights Monsters. I suggest the former because it addresses the reversals well, while the latter is 1) Cliche and half-baked 2) Literary.

Robespierre was nothing if not consistent. Even when he protested the death penalty, he said that the only crime he would consider using it for was treason. And that was the theme of his speech at the Trial (as printed on the page), where he clarified and insisted that the death penalty shouldn't be used for ordinary crimes but against people whose existence harmed the state. From there, he went on to describe "Virtue and Terror" as the theme of Revolutionary government. The scary part of Robespierre is that logically what he is arguing is consistent and makes sense, especially if you read the full speech. Intellectually Supported Tyranny might be a trope to describe the Terror since it became the go-to example for that in the 19th Century. All the cliche fantasy sci-fi villains of Utopians willing to sacrifice anything to achieve their perfect society comes from Robespierre, the irony being that his perfect society is pretty much post-war anti-racist liberal democracy with wealth redistribution and social services.

As for the Jacobins making the emergency situation, I am sorry that came from the war that the Girondins started and then failed to prosecute properly, instead indulging in smear campaigns against the Montagnards by abusing their state-owned press. Madame de Gouges in addition to being a feminist was a warmonger, indeed a proud one if you read some of her writings. Jules Michelet is quite scathing (and misogynist) in addressing her military advice. Now of course I don't think Madame de Gouges was executed as a war criminal (At Brissot's trial, they did charge him for instigating war against England, since many of the Montagnards and the Hebertists had backed the 1792 War, so that was the only charge the Jacobins placed against him) and I hope it goes without saying that it doesn't justify her death or the misogyny with which she and other historians have treated her. But at the same time, it does her credit to point out that she had serious political opinions (and ought to be judged for that).

Regarding the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, I agree that the government should have come up with a better solution but to say that it's totalitarian or that they "robbed" Church property is ridiculous, since the Church was the largest landowner in Paris at the time and holding that much land in a time of famine and poverty, pardon me for getting all Brechtian here, a bigger crime than anything the Revolutionaries did to them. Okay they sold it to wealthy bourgeois and yes it did affect their charity work but you can't expect anyone to take seriously that the Church kept these large tracts of land because they were secretly socialists. And in any case it doesn't honor the great people who participated in the Civil Constitution like Abbe Gregoire who till his dying day remained a devout Catholic and a true revolutionary. On his deathbed he asked for sacraments but the French Archbishop refused to him until he renounced the Civil Constitution which he refused to do till the end. Defiant to the End might be good for him, since he's fairly obscure otherwise.
10:14:37 AM Feb 7th 2015
I think neither really fits the Vergniaud quote, as what it really is saying IMO is that the revolution has taken on a life of its own, turning against those who set it in motion. More like in The Sourcerer's Apprentice?

Re. Robespierre and liberal democracy: I suppose the appropriate quote (adapted from one from the Vietnam War) would be "We had to destroy liberty and human rights in order to save them". ;-)

As you yourself mention in passing, the Girondins did not start the war by their lonesome, some Hébertists and Montagnards had also supported it in 1792, so one may wonder if attacking the Brissot and co. for starting the war is not to a not insignificant degree scapegoating. Anyway, the Terrorists continued and intensified the war, and transformed it from a self-declared crusade for the spreading of liberty and republicanism to a war for the political and economic benefit of France (which also made many of the foreign revolutionaries living in France targets, e. g. Payne and Cloots). What they did against the Girondins, even if you think the Girondins provoked it, sparked off a wave of new rebellions, that part of the emergency situation was the Terrorists' own responsibility. And Robespierre was still working to intensify the Terror after the crisis had passed. "War crime" wasn't a meaningful term in the 1790s anyway, but writing warmongering articles is not a war crime, so citoyenne de Gouges was justified to invoke freedom of thought and of expression.

They took away property the church owned legally (either because the previous owners had given it to them or because they had bought it), but AFAIK they did not have trouble with private persons being huge owners of real estate. They also killed many priests, nuns and monks, but they did not really improve the situation of the poor and working classes in Paris (considering the Loi Le Chapelier, the grinding to a halt of church charities and the devaluation of the assignats, it may have deteriorated quite a bit). Good intentions are not always an excuse. Maybe Stalin (for whom Brecht made propaganda from a safe distance) had good intentions too when he dispossessed the "kulaks" to further collectivization, but it still led not only to far too many peasants being executed or sent to the Gulag, but also to one of the greatest famines in Russian history.

Speaking of Brecht, here's a rather Brechtian sentiment expressed in a classical distych by Friedrich Schiller:

Würde des Menschen Nichts mehr davon, ich bitt euch. Zu essen gebt ihm, zu wohnen, Habt ihr die Blöße bedeckt, gibt sich die Würde von selbst.

Dignity of Man No more of it, I ask you. Give him to eat, to dwell, Once you covered nakedness dignity comes from itself.

Re. "because they were secretly socialists" - who claimed they were? That's just silly. Anyway, it doesn't stop anyone from honoring Abbé Grégoire (who in any case already was screwed by Napoleon who betrayed him so he could make his concordat) to point this out. What annoys me in any case is that some of the prime exponents of "Corrupt Church" (like Talleyrand and Napoleon's uncle Fesch) then became exponents of the corrupt upper class of the nouveaux régimes without any big problem. Abbé Grégoire is not exactly obscure, interest in him has grown a lot recently as the focus on race relations during the Revolution and Empire assumed bigger importance. And he was of course one of the people who was transferred to the Panthéon for the 200th anniversary of the Revolution.

The nit-picker in me comes to the fore: It wasn't the "French Archbishop", of course, but the Archbishop of Paris, Hyacinthe de Quélen. Whose palace (already damaged during the revolution of 1830) had been completely destroyed a few months before Grégoire's death because on 14 February 1831 de Quélen held a mass in memory of the Duc de Berry. Pre-emptive karma, you might say.

And now I really get started on the wiki: Archbishop of Paris was a bit of a dangerous position in the 19th century. De Quélen's successor Denis Auguste Affre (who supported the Second Republic) was killed trying to bring about a truce during the June rising in 1848, Auguste Sibour was murdered in 1857 by a suspended priest (who accused him of protecting "sodomite priests"), and Georges Darboy was shot as a hostage on the orders of the Paris Commune in 1871. Before that you had Jean-Baptiste Gobel, a constitutional bishop of Paris, who left the church to participate in the Cult of Reason, but that did not save him from being guillotined for atheism in April 1794.
11:40:51 AM Feb 7th 2015
edited by JulianLapostat
I think neither really fits the Vergniaud quote, as what it really is saying IMO is that the revolution has taken on a life of its own, turning against those who set it in motion.

Hoist by His Own Petard but that's usually too crude. There's also Didn't Think This Through, but that's sometimes seen as comedic or satirical. There's also Jumping Off the Slippery Slope which I think might be what you are looking at, or Serial Escalation, where slowly things get more and more extreme until it jumps off the rails. I like Became Their Own Antithesis because Vergniaud's full quote uses the Saturn metaphor to talk about how the Revolution will finally bring a despot to power, and you know you have well meaning people slowly using means that bring about the opposite of what they wanted to do.

Re. Robespierre and liberal democracy: I suppose the appropriate quote (adapted from one from the Vietnam War) would be "We had to destroy liberty and human rights in order to save them". ;-)

There's Start X to Stop X, or as Robespierre put it in his notorious speech, "Terror without Virtue is cruel, Virtue without Terror is weak". Though he did say that only applies to a Revolutionary situation and not during peace-time, Government is to be virtue only. Robert Roswell Palmer (who is hardly a Stalinist) called him one of the half-dozen prophets of Democracy at the end of the Age of Enlightenment, on the basis of that speech.

As you yourself mention in passing, the Girondins did not start the war by their lonesome, some Hébertists and Montagnards had also supported it in 1792, so one may wonder if attacking the Brissot and co. for starting the war is not to a not insignificant degree scapegoating.

Robespierre hardly launched Terror by his lonesome either, but that doesn't stop even people who know better to continue scapegoating him. The Girondins went out of their way to launch the 1792 War and they did it with a deliberate campaign of exaggeration and misinformation, and the Royal Family saw them as pawns (The Queen called them "imbeciles" and on this occassion I agree with her) to restore the Ancien Regime. Robert Darnton has shown that Brissot was a police spy and perhaps an Agent Provocateur. So I don't think calling him a war criminal is excessive at all. By contemporary terms, Robespierre would certainly be guilty of "human rights violations" for sure, even though that discourse didn't exist at the time (though the trials of Carrier and Fouquier-Tinville and Benjamin Constant's pamphlets on the same do foreshadow it).

Good intentions are not always an excuse.

Yes but it hardly counts for nothing either. And you know I am tired of the lazy invocations of the French Revolution as foreshadowing Stalin (and his kulaks) and the Russian Revolution that everyone since Furet kept doing. Albert Mathiez, the man who rehabilitated Robespierre's reputation was a staunch anti-Stalinist (and the same cannot be said of Furet in his youth as a Communist). The Communists definitely looked at the French Revolution for inspiration but many people across the world did so before them. The Chartist movement in England was inspired by the French Revolution certainly and the English in the 19th Century kept invoking fears of Revolution to bring changes there (as did many other governments). In my view the French Revolutionary excesses and the contradictions are not apart from the contradictions of nationalism in any nation, and certainly not all that exceptional or "an other" to inveigle against. Yes, the situtation did deteriorate for factory workers and the lower-classes but compared to the famine-run and inflationary Ancien Regime, it definitely qualifies as an improvement. The beneficiaries included shopkeepers and small-business owners in Paris and the provinces, artisans and several peasant farmers. None of that change would have happened without the revolution either.
02:16:30 AM Feb 9th 2015
Well, it has been an interesting and stimulating discussian, but I think we might as well agree to disagree as we keep repeating many of our arguments.

I'll have to look up the full Vergniaud quote.

The problem many people have with the French Revolution (and here I'll be Clemenceauvian - "The Revolution is a block") is that re. human rights, democracy etc. they preached one thing and then cheerfully practiced the opposite. And if you take the popular pick-and-choose approach, things can also look pretty bad and you end up with the message that with the exception of St. Maximilien the Well-Meaning, St. Gracchus and a handful of others all revolutionary leaders were despicable.

Re. war crimes I was thinking of the legal aspects foremost, in particular the principle "nulla crimen sine lege". So at the time Brissot could have been put on trial for treason because he was on the take with a foreign power, but AFAIK before the First Hague Conference the only things that you could say were war crimes were the crimes defined in a country's articles of war, which were only applicable to soldiers, not politicians. I am not sure if Brissot would be guilty of a war crime by modern standards either, as France at the time had not signed an international treaty outlawing wars of aggression (like the Kellog-Briand pact). The case for "war crimes" is much stronger against the Committee of Public Safety because of their order not to give any quarter to British and Hanoverian soldiers, which was against the usages of war at the time that the French armies in the field did not execute it.

Furet may have gone too far in stressing the negative, but he certainly challenged the cosy view that everything resulting from the French Revolution was unequivocally good, ultimately. Sure, Lenin, Stalin and co. were not the only ones to invoke the French Revolution, but they did invoke it, something that before Furet people liked to gloss over. To me it also seems that many admirers of the French Revolution are to some extent romanticizing violence for its own sake. Which is why the Revolution is heralded as a success while the German Revolution of 1918 is condemned as a failure even though the one of 1789 resulted in Reign of Terror within five, a dictatorship within ten, and and absolute monarchy within 15 years, which does not really compare that well with the Weimar Republic, which at least was a functioning democracy until 1930 (nearly 12 years) despite many serious challenges and despite having to deal with losing a war rather than being able to profit from war as the First French Republic did.

Re. nationalism: As for me, I am a bit wary of the way traditionally French nationalism in the wake of the Revolution is portrayed as "good" and "progressive" while the nationalism that developed elsewhere in Europe in a reaction to it, most notably in Germany, is portrayed as a bad thing. (Which reminds me: Danton was also one of those who invoked the fiction of the "natural frontiers" of France, the natural consequence of which was to annex Belgium, Luxemburg and the German left bank of the Rhine without asking the local populations if they wanted to become French).

Um, the Ancien Régime ran up huge debts, but if you think of inflation in 18th century France you think of the assignats of the Revolution. The extraordinary famine in the years before 1789 hardly typefied the Ancien Régime as a whole, and some would say it was more a matter of luck (better weather) that it ended than something you can credit to the revolutionary government. (Certainly some people who praise Robespierre the politician do not see him as making useful contributions on the economic front, more stop-gap measures to fix arising emergencies). During the Revolution (and to a large extent the First Empire) France fell behind economically, the Industrial Revolution happened in Britain, which also introduced agricultural improvements which according e. g. to Cobban France was much too slow to pick up. And counterfactual arguments are always tricky. Would the changes not have happened if the French Revolution had not happened or would they have happened but at a slower pace? Do you count the social progress that did happen in the 18th and 19th century in non-revolutionary countries like Great Britain, Denmark and Sweden as counter-examples or freak aberrations? Impossible to be certain as we're dealing with hypotheses.
04:47:28 AM Feb 9th 2015
edited by JulianLapostat
Personally, I thorough enjoy this discussion and I regret if I have irritated you to withdraw. You have a lot of solid arguments and I don't think there's much to agree or disagree, it's just a matter of sentiment and experience. From where I am, in India, with our own ambiguities and displeasement with the idea of the nation, the French Revolution doesn't strike me as so bad, but I am sure for an European that would be a different thing.

— I do agree with Clemenceau that "the Revolution should be seen as a block". As for preaching one thing and practicing the other, I don't see why you can't accept that ambiguity and still respect the achievement. The point of the Enlightenment is that human beings apply their reason to solve problems and I don't think the revolutionaries were saints nor did they claim to be, they were deeply flawed individuals, people who had no experience or local precedent for political life except for discussions in seminary and convent schools and village salons (Lot of the arguments and parliamentary debates are fairly juvenile in rhetoric, its essentially "you are a counter-revolutionary because you suck"). I mean I don't think Mirabeau was wrong about serving as a secret advisor to Louis XVI, it was definitely a gamble (I respect people who take such actions even if it falls flat) and, who knows, if Louis XVI had listened to his advice instead of Marie Antoinette's, maybe it would have avoided further unpleasantness and no one would have made a fuss about the "armoire de fer" documents. He could have been France's first Prime Minister (and he would have been great at it). Likewise with Danton, I am not a fan of corruption in general but he had great talent and intelligence, he certainly had a pragmatic sense of looking beyond the Terror to peacetime and rebuilding relations. The thing is, Revolutions are risky affairs and gambles (cf, Cromwell's "Why do we Rebel then?" or Franklin's "Hang together or hang separately"), and people should be skeptical about treating it as a one-dimensionally positive thing (there aren't any pro-gambling films after all). There's that film by Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, "Every Revolution is a Throw of the Dice" (which dealt with the Paris Commune). But I don't think acknowledgement of the gamble takes away from the ideals or partial-achievements.

And you know people hold the American Revolution as a positive model (like Hannah Arendt and other liberals these days), and I don't think any French Revolutionary ever attained the stark contrast of preaching-one-thing-and-practicing-another as the person who wrote "All Men Are Created Equal" and then went home to his slave-run plantation and took his concubine to bed. Thomas Jefferson consistently supported the French Revolution and he was a great President, but at the end of the day, he probably made more people suffer than the Reign of Terror did, by allowing the slave states to function, leave alone, abandoning his own illegitimate children to be raised as slaves. Even Thomas-Alexandre Dumas' father and other French aristocrats under the Code Noir were not so callous. This is the Mark Twain defense, a moral or aesthetic judgment if you will. It's not a one-to-one legal comparison. In either case, even with this hypocrisy, the truth of the American Declaration or the achievements of the founders still endure. The same is true of the French Revolution and Mirabeau, Danton and Robespierre.

— You are probably right about Brissot not being a "war criminal", I wasn't thinking in legal terms but moral, judgmental, ahistorical terms. I was thinking in terms about how George Bush and several members of the Western government are war criminals, the kind who don't really get brought to trial. I read the French Revolution in the last few years in the shadow of the Iraq war and the recession, and to me the Girondins are the neocons (albeit more tragic-sympathetic than cynical) of the Enlightenment.

— According to Eric Hobsbawm in his book "Age of Revolution", the French Revolution nurtured a class of small businessmen and independent shopowners and that while France didn't develop proper industries, by the 1815, French lower-classes were better off than the English were. The effects of the Industrial Revolution took a while to develop in England and show effects. Napoleon's Continental Blockade came very close to fruition since England had a surplus of goods produced but didn't have access to European markets (they had the same problem in India, where the Bengal Cloth trade had a higher demand on the local market, they solved that problem by brute force by sacking local shops, including forcefully breaking the fingers of handscraftmen). So I don't think the Industrial Revolution was delayed from arriving in France solely because the Revolution broke out. The truth is that the English, under William Pitt Jr, kept agitating against France in order to curtail local tensions and they were the ones who first violated the Amiens peace and forced Napoleon on the war footing. I have stated this elsewhere and I regret repeating this.

My point is, isn't the more interesting counterfactual (rather than If-The-Revolution-Didn't-Break-Out) was if England (and its allies) wasn't so anti-Revolutionary, perhaps that would have eased tensions better. At the least, not prevent the Revolution from becoming a problem for other nations. It could have at least dialed down France's developing siege mentality (which preceded Brissot declaring war on Austria). After all, Burke didn't rage against Robespierre, he went after Mirabeau and the Tennis Court Oath. It was the Anglophile Girondins who finally declared war on England, and even after they got rid of the "dictateur sanguinnaire" they didn't make peace with the Thermidor or Directory government either. The English foreign policy was belligerent and reactionary and they wanted the Revolution to fail. Now the Revolution had its own flaws, certainly and I am not blaming anyone but the French for those mistakes, but did England do anything other than fan the flames or pour gasoline? I don't think they did and I can't find evidence to the contrary. Madame de Stael, in her book of Reflections, stated that the English government would dishonor itself by treating diplomatically with Marat and Robespierre, but they didn't treat with anybody else either and those two were the only ones who wanted to avoid war with England. And funnily enough, of the two, Marat was an Anglophile who publicly criticized French xenophobia towards England(He had spent several years there after all, unlike the provincial Robespierre who never saw life beyond a quarter of France, leave alone Europe). The Terror wasn't a product of solely the Revolution, it was also a product of International relations as well.
08:56:20 AM Sep 13th 2014
Is there a trope which would cover some more positive heritage of the Revolution, like the metric system, a more rational map of regions, the end of the society of the 3 Orders ?
09:07:03 AM Sep 13th 2014
Not as far as I know.
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