End of Summer, Feed Is Working Again, and The French Revolution

Monday, September 1, AD 2014

It’s the unofficial end of Summer and it’s my annual gratuitous post of myself day.  The pic below was taken in mid-July, but I waited to fix the feed to The American Catholic in order celebrate the Summer.  Needless to say, it’s fixed and the Summer is almost over.

During the Summer I asked my fellow blogger Don for some book recommendations for the French Revolution.  Of the few he did mentioned, I picked up Simon Schama’s ‘Citizen’.  The reading is in-depth, interesting, and balanced.  I’m a bit over halfway finished of the 948 pages and am so far impressed.  Considering that we are in the post-Cold War era, I wanted to know a bit more on the French Revolution since their errors have already engulfed Europe and has almost metastasizing here in the United States.  The book is good and if there is any criticism of Simon Schama’s work it’s that he views Christianity, in particular the Catholic Church, through a materialistic lens.

My opinion on the subject is that the French Revolution is the confluence of anti-Christian ideas emanating from the so-called era of enlightenment.  These very same ideas unleashed the short-term devastation of the rape of nuns, the execution of priests, and the degradation of houses of worship.  The long-term affects have furthered the cause of eliminating God from all aspects of life blossoming further in the Communist Revolution in Russia and continued to bear the fruit of death in World Wars I & II.  From this compost grew what we now call modern liberalism & democratic socialism.

End of Summer Tito Edwards Simon Schama Citizens 500x625Happy Labor Day!

 

36 Responses to End of Summer, Feed Is Working Again, and The French Revolution

  • The best histories of the French Revolution probably remains those of two Catholic historians, Hilaire Belloc and Lord Acton.
    Belloc brings out the central rôle of Carnot, the War Minister and effective head of the Committee of Public Safety and gives full credit to the “generation of genius,” Kléber, Moreau, Reynier, Marceau, and Ney commanding the army of Sambre et Meuse, Hoche, Desaix, and St. Cyr on the Rhine and, above all, Bonaparte and Masséna in the Appenine campaign.
    Acton rightly divined the underlying political motive. “The hatred of royalty was less than the hatred of aristocracy; privileges were more detested than tyranny; and the king perished because of the origin of his authority rather than because of its abuse. Monarchy unconnected with aristocracy became popular in France, even when most uncontrolled; whilst the attempt to reconstitute the throne, and to limit and fence it with its peers, broke down, because the old Teutonic elements on which it relied – hereditary nobility, primogeniture, and privilege — were no longer tolerated. The substance of the ideas of 1789 is not the limitation of the sovereign power, but the abrogation of intermediate powers.”
    The love of equality, the hatred of nobility and the tolerance of despotism naturally go together, for, If the central power is weak, the secondary powers will run riot and oppress The Empire was the consummation of the Revolution, not its reversal and Napoléon’s armies gave a code of laws and the principle of equal citizenship to a continent.

  • Thanks Michael!

    Those recommendations are going on my Reading List for next Summer, awesome!

  • Simon Schama’s ‘Citizens’ was published for the bicentenary of the French Revolution. It is regarded as the best work on the subject in the 20th century. The French hated it, calling it ‘Thatcherite history’. Its main thesis, that the violence of the Revolution was inherent, particularly upset them.

    In particular, Schama makes the point that pre-Revolutionary France was not an ossified feudal society but one that was obsessed with modernity. He also stresses that when the revolutionaries destroyed the Church they destroyed the social welfare system with drastic results in the 1790s.

    People tend to mythologize their revolutions. Englishmen did so regarding 1688; Americans still do over theirs (even though many of the mythologizers are well-educated) and the French are no exception.

  • Odd that Michael Peterson-Seymour (who sounds as if his ancestors fought at Waterloo) should be an unreconstructed Bonapartist. All the more so since one assumes that he is a Catholic.

  • I find a 948 page book to be daunting.

    I am eagerly awaiting the shortest book in history: subject what Obama did right.

  • I want to clarify that the criticism of Simon Schama’s book, Citizen, is my own. He refers to nuns and monks and unfulfilled citizens, it, not meeting any of their potential because they are cloistered. I am not sure if he was be sarcastic, which would be fine, or serious, which would explain my criticism.

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  • My complete recommendations to Tito:

    “In regard to the French Revolution a good starting point is Citizens by Simon Schama:

    http://www.amazon.com/Citizens-A-Chronicle-French-Revolution/dp/0679726101

    Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France still cannot be beat as an analysis of the early Revolution and is eerily prophetic. Carlyle’s History of the French Revolution is quite dated, and written in his usual odd style, but has valuable insights overlooked by many modern commenters.

    The late Henri Lefebvre, although a Marxist, did valuable work on both the French Revolution and Napoleon and I recommend his tomes. His style is dry as dust, but his research is impeccable.”

  • Um, what beach was that?

  • Tito Edwards: I expected you would look more like Padre Pio. You look happy.

  • Tamsin,

    An undisclosed location on the gulf coast of Florida.

    Mary De Voe,

    LOL. Very happy, my wife was there with me, but she had to take the picture. 🙂

  • My brother Mike lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Say “Hi” to him for me.

  • Thank you for fixing the feed!

  • Tito, I share your view of the French Revolution. It lives on in the Social Radicalism that permeates so much of our politics. Social Radicalism is a phenomenon that bears close scrutiny. It transcends the individual with a mindset all its own. If not scrutinized and moderated the mindset morphs into moral chaos. This can happen in slow creeping fashion or with the rapidity of revolution. The French Revolution is a signal example. It started with the whole nation seeking to justly address a financial crisis but rapidly resolved into open rebellion and uncontrollable rage. Carlyle describes it thus: “On a sudden, the Earth yawns asunder, and amid Tartarean smoke, and glare of fierce brightness, rises SANSCULOTTISM, many-headed, fire-breathing, and asks; What think ye of me?” Do I engage in hyperbole when I compare the presentable, well-clothed and well-intended modern social radical with the maddened mob of Paris? Yes but to make a point. I cross a Robespierre and risk the guillotine, the loss of my life. The modern well-dressed social-radical only asks that I risk my soul. Who does me less violence?

  • John Nolan wrote, “Odd that Michael Peterson-Seymour (who sounds as if his ancestors fought at Waterloo) should be an unreconstructed Bonapartist. All the more so since one assumes that he is a Catholic.”
    Another Catholic, G K Chesterton described the tragedy of England:
    “A war that we understood not came over the world and woke
    Americans, Frenchmen, Irish; but we knew not the things they spoke.
    They talked about rights and nature and peace and the people’s reign:
    And the squires, our masters, bade us fight; and scorned us never again.
    Weak if we be for ever, could none condemn us then;
    Men called us serfs and drudges; men knew that we were men.
    In foam and flame at Trafalgar, on Albuera plains,
    We did and died like lions, to keep ourselves in chains,
    We lay in living ruins; firing and fearing not
    The strange fierce face of the Frenchmen who knew for what they fought,
    And the man who seemed to be more than a man we strained against and broke;
    And we broke our own rights with him. And still we never spoke.”
    Hilaire Belloc, too, another Catholic, whose grandfather served in the armies of Napoléon, declared, “Those who ask how it was that a group of men sustaining all the weight of civil conflict within and of universal war without, yet made time enough in twenty years to frame the codes which govern modern Europe, to lay down the foundations of universal education, of a strictly impersonal scheme of administration, and even in detail to remodel the material face of society—in a word, to make modern Europe—must be content for their reply to learn that the Republican Energy had for its flame and excitant this vision: a sense almost physical of the equality of man.”

  • William P Walsh wrote, “It started with the whole nation seeking to justly address a financial crisis but rapidly resolved into open rebellion and uncontrollable rage.”
    Certainly, it did start with a bankrupt government, but here is the curiosity: this bankrupt nation found itself able to sustain twenty years of war against the whole of Europe and to raise and maintain an army to fight it. For most of that period it had 700,000 men in the field. As for “open rebellion,” it crushed it wherever it showed itself, in Brittany, in Lyons, in the Vendée. It takes something rather more than “uncontrollable rage” to do that.

  • “It takes something rather more than “uncontrollable rage” to do that.”

    1. Mass murder against opponents.
    2. Mass repudiation of the debts of the Old Regime.
    3. The military genius of Napoleon and some of the other generals and marshals that rose to the fore as a result of the Revolution.
    4. Total War-no longer was war the sport of kings but rather the preocupation of peoples.

  • Donald R McClarey

    “3. The military genius of Napoleon and some of the other generals and marshals”

    I would certainly agree with that. There is a sense in which Napoléon, Dumoriez (despite his later defection), Kellerman, Hoche and Kléber were the French Revolution – It is their legacy.

    “4. Total War-no longer was war the sport of kings but rather the preoccupation of peoples.”

    The levée en masse and all that it entailed was the achievement of Carnot, but we sometimes forget what an astonishing achievement it was. The army was increased from 645,000 in mid-1793 to 1,500,000 in September 1794. The unbroken succession of victories, from Fleurus in June 1794 to Marengo in June 1800 were all, in a sense, his. He was ably seconded by Lindet, in effect, minister of food, munitions and manufacture.

    The political will and administrative skills needed to raise, equip, train, discipline and provision armies on that scale was enormous and quite without precedent. Much of the credit must go to the Committee of Public Safety, which was, in effect, the War Cabinet and to the brilliant innovation of seconding the “Deputies on Mission” from the National Assembly, as political commissioners to the armies.

  • Michael points out my inattention to the economic situation in France. I admit to a lack of formal study of that dismal science. I have yet in mind the diabolical ingredient of revolution. The first revolution starts with Lucifer’s “Non Serviam” and every revolution carries that sentiment in its bloodstream. The laws of economics are swept away when everything can be stolen from rightful owners. The State can be most efficient when it can murder the opposition. “If God does not exist, all things are permitted”. The Social Radical who looks so benign in his well-tailored clothing can do great injustice with a pen-stroke. If the end justifies the employment of any means, we are living in a state of moral chaos. We are then lunatics pulling down our house upon us. But I sing to the choir, as I sort out my thoughts.

  • I can assure Tito that Schama when referring to cloistered religious is not giving us his own opinion, but that of the revolutionaries whose construct of what constitutes a ‘citizen’ is an important theme of the book.

    I am an admirer of Belloc but he was fundamentally wrong on two counts – all his life he believed a) that the French Revolution was a ‘good thing’ and b) Dreyfus was guilty.

  • John Nolan
    I think both Belloc (and Chesterton, too) wrote a great deal in reaction to the way the Revolution and Napoléon were portrayed in England.

    There is a print, which can still be seen in the bar parlours of some country inns, of the handshake of Wellington and Blucher after Waterloo. They must have been produced by the million

    http://tinyurl.com/m42zlof

    Chesterton summed up the whole business pretty well.

    “Our middle classes did well to adorn their parlours with the picture of the “Meeting of Wellington and Blucher.” They should have hung up a companion piece of Pilate and Herod shaking hands. Then, after that meeting amid the ashes of Hougomont, where they dreamed they had trodden out the embers of all democracy, the Prussians rode on before, doing after their kind. After them went that ironical aristocrat out of embittered Ireland, with what thoughts we know; and Blucher, with what thoughts we care not; and his soldiers entered Paris, and stole the sword of Joan of Arc.”

    To both Belloc and Chesterton, the fall of Paris to the Allies could only be compared to the sack of Rome by the Goths.

  • An interesting summary of an enormous matter,re. the French Revolution: “It started with the whole nation seeking to justly address a financial crisis but rapidly resolved into open rebellion and uncontrollable rage.” – William P. Walsh
    However, from whence came the bitterly murderous hatred of the Catholic Faith and its individual servants, only the abyss could cough up that demon.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Chesterton wrote ‘The Crimes of England’ in 1916. It’s a polemic, brilliant in parts, but it ain’t history. The author’s unreasoning ‘Teutonophobia’, his withering scorn for Pitt, Castlereagh and Peel (in contrast with his hero-worship of Charles James Fox) and his take on the French Revolution and Bonaparte simply parade his prejudices. Comparing the Allied occupation of Paris in 1814 with the sack of Rome by the Goths takes hyperbole to new heights, especially since French armies had looted and plundered their way across Europe for the previous twenty years. Historical method requires conclusions to be based on evidence. Both Belloc and Chesterton were counter-historical, if not positively anti-historical. They rightly challenged the consensus of the Whig historians, but what they put in its place was too intuitive and subjective. Since it did not rely on evidence it could be sometimes right, but more often wrong.

    Simon Schama’s book is revisionist, not least in that he uses the narrative approach which was unfashionable in 1989 (Orlando Figes does the same in his study of the Russian Revolution ‘A People’s Tragedy’). But both men are historians; Belloc and Chesterton, for all their brilliance, were not.

  • The errors of the french revolution came from somewhere!
    The protestant reformation shaped Europe and the world in ways we are still discerning. That “reformation” preceded the Enlightenment, which came to the “spirit” of revoltion of the 18 and 19 centuries everything from the very un- “reason”able reign of terror to marx to the culture kampf– and what follows in russia and mexico and china and on and on and on

  • John Nolan wrote, “Comparing the Allied occupation of Paris in 1814 with the sack of Rome by the Goths takes hyperbole to new heights…”
    Hardly. In both cases, the capital of civilisation fell to the barbarians from beyond the Rhine.
    Belloc’s evaluation of the Revolution is not all that different from the great French historian of the Revolution, Louis Blanc. Blanc, one recalls, during his exile in London (he had fought on the barricades during les journées de juin 1848), had access to Croker’s unrivalled collection of manuscripts and pamphlets.
    Acton summarises Blanc’s principle: ”He desires government to be so constituted that it may do everything for the people, not so restricted that it can do no injury to minorities. The masses have more to suffer from abuse of wealth than from abuse of power, and need protection by the State, not against it. Power, in the proper hands, acting for the whole, must not be restrained in the interest of a part.” That was also the view of the great Dominican, Lacordaire, “Between the weak and the strong, between the rich and the poor, between the master and the servant, it is freedom which oppresses and the law which sets free.”
    This was a principle Belloc and Chesterton would have heartily endorsed. It is the negation of Liberalism and its doctrine of laissez-faire.

  • “In both cases, the capital of civilisation fell to the barbarians from beyond the Rhine.”

    Please. Even as hyperbole that is over the circus top. The French Revolution was a complex historical event, but by the time Napoleon fell it had devolved into one of the first military dictatorships in modern times, one with delusions of grandeur. It was a very good thing for the peace of Europe that Napoleon fell in 1814 and that he was soundly thrashed in 1815 at Waterloo which brought an end to his “Golden Oldies” attempt at a Bonaparte revival.

  • Donald R McClarey wrote, “[B]y the time Napoleon fell it had devolved into one of the first military dictatorships in modern times.”
    That is to misunderstand the nature, both of the Republic and the Empire. Napoléon was no more a military dictator than Augustus or Charlemagne. As Chesterton said, “French democracy became more democratic, not less, when it turned all France into one constituency which elected one member.”
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Swinburn’s “Sea-Eagle of English feather”) understood:
    “And kings crept out again to feel the sun.
    The kings crept out — the peoples sat at home.
    And finding the long-invocated peace
    (A pall embroidered with worn images
    Of rights divine) too scant to cover doom
    Such as they suffered, cursed the corn that grew
    Rankly, to bitter bread, on Waterloo.”

    Those “carrion kings, unsheeted and unmasked,” described by Michelet, the great historian of the Revolution.

  • “That is to misunderstand the nature, both of the Republic and the Empire. Napoléon was no more a military dictator than Augustus or Charlemagne”

    Augustus was a military dictator, the last man standing of the ambitious warlords/politicians who murdered the dying Republic. Charlemagne was not a military dictator but the scion of a family that had been running the chief of the Frankish states for some time. Napoleon owed his position to his military brilliance and his willingness to use military force against civilian rule and nothing more.

    “French democracy became more democratic, not less, when it turned all France into one constituency which elected one member.”

    That quote always had my vote for the dumbest thing written by Chesterton.

  • M P-S, the ‘barbarians from beyond the Rhine’ produced Lessing, Schiller, Goethe, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, to name but a few. I’m sure those German citizens, living in their peaceful towns and villages, often in the shadow of old-established monasteries on which the local economy depended and which were soon to be destroyed, were overjoyed at the arrival of Revolutionary French armies with their portable guillotines. Germany in the eighteenth century was civilized in the real sense that the local ‘civitas’ enforced its own laws for the benefit of the citizens. It is telling that the incidence of capital punishment in the German states was far lower than in France or England.

    Michael, get off your hobby-horse and face facts. Bonaparte has a good record when it comes to establishing (or more correctly re-establishing, since the Revolution had destroyed much) institutions in France; but he also erected a police state. His hubristic lust for conquest led (as in the case of Hitler, with whom he has much in common) to eventual nemesis. And France only recovered its 1789 levels of foreign trade in the 1830s by which time Britain had far outstripped it.

  • “I can assure Tito that Schama when referring to cloistered religious is not giving us his own opinion, but that of the revolutionaries whose construct of what constitutes a ‘citizen’ is an important theme of the book.”
    .
    The sovereign personhood of the newly begotten human being (His body and his soul) constitutes the nation from the very first moment of existence. His absolute moral and legal innocence are the standard of Justice and the compelling interest of the state in its duty to deliver Justice and in protecting the newly begotten human being. Francisco Suarez says that: “Human existence is the criterion for the objective ordering of human rights.”
    .
    The newly begotten human being who constitutes the state from the very first moment of his existence and through his sovereign personhood endowed by “their Creator” is the citizen. At birth the new citizen is given documents to prove his citizenship and a tax bill.
    .
    The French Revolution must have been dealing with the loss and denial of citizenship by the state as in “persona non grata”. Religious persons, priests and nuns, do not forfeit or surrender their God-given sovereign personhood and/or citizenship by answering their vocation. A higher calling, in fact, purifies their citizenship and brings “the Blessings of Liberty”.
    .
    It is nothing less than communism, oppression, for another individual or the state to tell a person who is a citizen that he is not a citizen without indictment for a capital offense, treason. It appears that being a religious person in France during the French Revolution was treason, the absolute reversal of the truth.
    .
    This same separation of citizenship and soul is happening here in America, where having a soul has become treason, treason in the land of atheism.

  • Donald R McCleary wrote, “’ French democracy became more democratic, not less, when it turned all France into one constituency which elected one member.’ – That quote always had my vote for the dumbest thing written by Chesterton.”

    And yet it was, in effect, endorsed by Walter Bagehot, a man politically poles apart from Chesterton. Writing of the nephew, that shrewd cynic observed, “The nature of a constitution, the action of an assembly, the play of parties, the unseen formation of a guiding opinion, are complex facts, difficult to know and easy to mistake. But the action of a single will, the fiat of a single mind, are easy ideas: anybody can make them out, and no one can ever forget them. When you put before the mass of mankind the question, ‘Will you be governed by a king, or will you be governed by a constitution?’ the inquiry comes out thus—’Will you be governed in a way you understand, or will you be governed in a way you do not understand?’ The issue was put to the French people; they were asked, ‘Will you be governed by Louis Napoleon, or will you be governed by an assembly?’ The French people said, ‘We will be governed by the one man we can imagine, and not by the many people we cannot imagine.'”

  • “The French people said, ‘We will be governed by the one man we can imagine, and not by the many people we cannot imagine.’”

    Preposterous. The plebiscite of 1851 was instituted only after wannabe Napoleon had instituted repression. It had as much validity as one of Stalin’s show trials in the thirties. Like his much greater uncle, wannabe Napoleon owed his imitation imperial title, eventually granted him officially through another plebiscite with an unimaginative 97% yes vote, to the bayonets he controlled rather than the ballots he manufactured in pretend plebiscites.

  • Donald R McClarey
    Louis Napoléon may not have been supported by a numerical majority of the nation, that’s as may be; but there is no doubt that he had the support of a determinant current of opinion—determinant in intensity and in weight, that is, as well as in numbers. That was true of his uncle also and it needed no plebiscite to establish this obvious truth.

  • “but there is no doubt that he had the support of a determinant current of opinion”

    Nope, like his uncle he had control of the military and crushed all opposition. Speculations about his “true” popularity among the people or the elite are meaningless when he made certain that his opposition had no voice.

  • Mary De Voe’s, “It is nothing less than communism, oppression, for another individual or the state to tell a person who is a citizen that he is not a citizen without indictment for a capital offense, treason. It appears that being a religious person in France during the French Revolution was treason, the absolute reversal of the truth. . This same separation of citizenship and soul is happening here in America, where having a soul has become treason, treason in the land of atheism.”, nails it.
    In America today, the newly begotten human being is no longer protected, the person who is religious, a veteran, a supporter of Constitutional rights is a potential domestic terrorist. Remember Andrew Cuomo’s saying that a supporter of the Second Amendment has no place in New York State. If he becomes President, that may apply to the whole country.

  • I started to watch Simon Schamas tv program about judiasm since i enjoyed his shows about England. I caught an episode in the middle and what amazed me was that the program seemed more of a rant against the injustices perpetrated upon the Jews by Christians than a true unbiased history of Judaism.
    I was a bit shocked but it may explain this “book is good and if there is any criticism of Simon Schama’s work it’s that he views Christianity, in particular the Catholic Church, through a materialistic lens “