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The French Revolution A Short History   By: (1867-1920)

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The French Revolution

A SHORT HISTORY

By

R. M. Johnston

M.A., CANTAB.

Assistant Professor of History in Harvard University

NEW YORK

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

1910.

COPYRIGHT, 1909

BY

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

Published, May, 1909

Second Printing, January, 1910

TO

Rayner Neate

IN MEMORY OF OLD PEMBROKE DAYS

{v}

PREFACE

The object of this book is similar to that with which, a few years ago, I wrote a short biography of Napoleon. The main outlines of the Revolution, the proportion and relation of things, tend to become obscured under the accumulation of historical detail that is now proceeding. This is an attempt, therefore, to disentangle from the mass of details the shape, the movement, the significance of this great historical cataclysm. To keep the outline clear I have deliberately avoided mentioning the names of many subordinate actors; thinking that if nothing essential was connected with them the mention of their names would only tend to confuse matters. Similarly with incidents, I have omitted a few, such as the troubles at Avignon, and changed the emphasis on others, judging freely their importance and not following the footsteps of my predecessors, as in the case of the capture of the Bastille, the importance of which was vastly exaggerated by early writers on the subject.

The end of the Revolution I place at Brumaire, as good a date as any, though like all others, open to criticism. The present narrative, however, will be found to merge into that of my Napoleon , which forms its natural continuation after that date.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS., Feb., 1909.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION . . . . 1 II. VERSAILLES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 III. ECONOMIC CRISIS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 IV. CONVOCATION OF THE STATES GENERAL . . . . . . . 35 V. FRANCE COMES TO VERSAILLES . . . . . . . . . . . 52 VI. FROM VERSAILLES TO PARIS . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 VII. THE ASSEMBLY DEMOLISHES PRIVILEGE . . . . . . . 89 VIII. THE FLIGHT TO VARENNES . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 IX. WAR BREAKS OUT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 X. THE MASSACRE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 XI. ENDING THE MONARCHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157 XII. THE FALL OF THE GIRONDE . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 XIII. THE REIGN OF TERROR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185 XIV. THERMIDOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202 XV. THE LAST DAYS OF THE CONVENTION . . . . . . . . 222 XVI. THE DIRECTOIRE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239 XVII. ART AND LITERATURE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262 INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279

{1}

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

CHAPTER I

THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

The magnitude of an event is too apt to lie with its reporter, and the reporter often fails in his sense of historical proportion. The nearer he is to the event the more authority he has as a witness, but the less authority as a judge. It is time alone can establish the relation and harmony of things. This is notably the case with the greatest event of modern European history, the French Revolution, and the first task of the historian writing a century later, is to attempt to catch its perspective. To do this the simplest course will be to see how the Revolution has been interpreted from the moment of its close to the present day.

It was Madame de Staël, under the influence of Constant, who first made Europe listen to reason after the Bourbon restoration of 1815. {2} Her Considérations sur la Révolution francaise , published in 1818, one year after her death, was a bold though temperate plea for the cause of political liberty. At a moment of reaction when the Holy Alliance proclaimed the fraternity not of men but of monarchs, and the direct delegation by Divine Providence of its essential virtues to Alexander, Frederick William and Francis, at a moment when the men of the Convention were proscribed as regicides, when the word Jacobin sent a thrill of horror down every respectable spinal chord, the daughter of Necker raised her voice to say that if, during the stormy years just passed, the people of France had done nothing but stumble from crime to folly and from folly to crime, the fault did not, after all, lie with them, but with the old régime... Continue reading book >>




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