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the period of his ascendency, or whether he divided the
responsibility with his associates, is of small historical con-
sequence.

A subject of transcendent interest, however, is the
phenomenon of a small number of absolutely inconse-
quential adventurers, so completely paralyzing the humane
instincts and noble impulses of a brave and generous peo-
ple as to make them appear the silent participants in these
horrors.

The most eminent writers of the Eevolution endeavor
to explain this phenomenon on the plea of necessity.
France, at that epoch, they say, was threatened with
destruction by enemies of the Eepublic from within and
by a powerful coalition of potentates from without, and,
consequently. Jacobin energy (free use of the guillotine)
was necessary to save France from destruction by both.

To admit the truth of this proposition is to question
the love of liberty and patriotism of the French people —
that is to say, it was not enthusiasm for their regenerated
country, but the dread of the guillotine that moved them
to fly to the threatened standard of the Eepublic; that
their commanders were not men of military genius,
inspired by the noble impulses of soldierly pride and
ambition, and that the victories they had achieved were the
result of fear created by ^'Jacobin energy.'' The truth
of the matter, hoAvever, is that the greatest reverses of the
Army, both on the frontier and in the Vendee, belong to



REGULATING RELIGION. 331

the periods of 1793 and 1794, when the generals were
harrassed, interfered with and threatened with disgrace
and death by presumptions and vindictive commissioners
of the Eevolutionary Committee, while almost all of her
important successes were accomplished before and after
this period.

The success of arming and equipping more than a
million of men and of organizing them into armies, gen-
erally attributed to ''Jacobin energy/' belongs chiefly to
one of the members of the Com.mittee of Public Safety,
M. Carnot, the ancestor of the present chief executive of
the French Eepublic. M. Carnot was opposed to Robes-
peirre's policy and repeatedly expressed his disgust at its
excesses ; all his time and energy, however, were devoted
to the military administration, over which he had almost
the exclusive control.

No, this plea of necessity can not be admitted, and, out
of respect to the people of France, should not be made.
Why seek the truth so far away when proof is close at
hand? The Reign of Terror was the legitimate result of
anarchy, which, on the 2nd of June, 1792, gained control of
France, when the National Convention was overawed by a
lawless mob, encouraged and supported by a military sa-
trap. The floodgates of anarchy once opened, demagog-
ism necessarily reigned supreme, while true patriotism and
statesmanship were treated as the attributes of aristocrats
and suspects. Of all the demagogues of that epoch, Robes-
pierre was unquestionably the most astute, and, conse-
quently, the most successful. Centralization had worked
out its logical conclusion. It had rendered Jacobin usurp-
ation possible, and by controlling the Jacobins, Robespierre
controlled France.



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Online LibraryHermann LiebThe foes of the French revolution → online text (page 25 of 25)