E457 Hazlitt, The French Revolution Etext
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, BY WILLIAM HAZLITT


The French Revolution might be described as a remote but inevitable result of the invention of the art of printing. The gift of speech, or the communication of thought by words, is that which distinguishes man from other animals. But this faculty is limited and imperfect without the intervention of books, which render the knowledge possessed by every one in the community accessible to all. There is no doubt, then, that the press (as it has existed in modern times) is the great organ of intellectual improvement and civilisation. It was impossible in this point of view, that those institutions, which were founded in a state of society and manners long anterior to this second breathing of understanding into the life of man, should remain on the same proud footing after it, with all their disproportions and defects. Many of these, indeed, must be softened by the lapse of time and influence of opinion, and give way of their own accord: but others are too deeply rooted in the passions and interests of men to be wrenched asunder without violence, or by the mutual consent of the parties concerned; and it is this which makes revolutions necessary, with their train of lasting good and present evil. When a government, like an old-fashioned building, has become crazy and rotten, stops the way of improvement, and only serves to collect diseases and corruption, and the proprietors refuse to come to any compromise, the community proceed in this as in some other cases; they set summarily to work — ' they pull down the house, they abate the nuisance.' All other things had changed: why then should governments remain the same, an excrescence and an incumbrance on the state? It is only because they have most power and most interest to continue their abuses. This circumstance is a reason why it is doubly incumbent on those who are aggrieved by them to get rid of them; and makes the shock the greater, when opinion at last becomes a match for arbitrary power.

The feudal system was in full vigour almost up to the period of the discovery of printing. Much had been done since that time: but it was the object of the French Revolution to get rid at one blow of the frame-work and of the last relics of that system. Before the diffusion of knowledge and inquiry, governments were for the most part the growth of brute force or of barbarous superstition. Power was in the hands of a few, who used it only to gratify their own pride, cruelty, or avarice, and who took every means to extend and cement it by fear and favour. The lords of the earth, disdaining to rule by the choice or for the benefit of the mass of the community, whom they regarded and treated as no better than a herd of cattle, derived their title from the skies, pretending to be accountable for the exercise or abuse of their authority to God only — the throne rested on the altar, and every species of atrocity or wanton insult having power on its side, received the sanction of religion, which it was thenceforth impiety and rebellion against the will of Heaven to impugn. This state of things continued and grew worse and worse, while knowledge and power were confined within mere local and personal limits. Each petty sovereign shut himself up in his castle or fortress, and scattered havoc and dismay over the unresisting country around him. In an age of ignorance and barbarism, when force and interest decided every thing, and reason had no means of making itself heard, what was to prevent this, or act as a check upon it? The lord himself had no other measure of right than his own will: his pride and passions would blind him to every consideration of conscience or humanity; he would regard every act of disobedience as a crime of the deepest die, and to give unbridled sway to his lawless humours, would become the ruling passion and sole study of his life. How would it stand with those within the immediate circle of his influence or his vengeance? Fear would make them cringe, and lick the feet of their haughty and capricious oppressor: the hope of reward or the dread of punishment would stifle the sense of justice or pity; despair of success would make them cowards, habit would confirm them into slaves, and they would look up with bigotted devotion (the boasted loyalty of the good old times) to the right of the strongest as the only law. A king would only be the head of a confederation of such petty despots, and the happiness or rights of the people would be equally disregarded by them both. Religion, instead of curbing this state of rapine and licentiousness, became an accomplice and a party in the crime; gave absolution and plenary indulgence for all sorts of enormities; granting the forgiveness of Heaven in return for a rich jewel or fat abbey-lands, and setting up a regular (and what in the end proved an intolerable) traffic in violence, cruelty, and lust. As to the restraints of law, there was none but what resided in the breast of the Grand Seigneur, who hung up in his court-yard, without judge or jury, any one who dared to utter the slightest murmur against the most flagrant wrong. Such must be the consequence, as long as there was no common standard or impartial judge to appeal to; and this could only be found in public opinion, the offspring of books. As long as any unjust claim or transaction was confined to the knowledge of the parties concerned, the tyrant and the slave, which is the case in all unlettered states of society, might must prevail over right; for the strongest would bully, and the weakest must submit, even in his own defence, and persuade himself that he was in the wrong, even in his own despite: but the instant the world (that dread jury) are impannelled, and called to look on and be umpires in the scene, so that nothing is done by connivance or in a corner, then reason mounts the judgment-seat in lieu of passion or interest, and opinion becomes law, instead of arbitrary will; and farewell feudal lord and sovereign king!

From the moment that the press opens the eyes of the community beyond the actual sphere in which each moves, there is from that time inevitably formed the germ of a body of opinion directly at variance with the selfish and servile code that before reigned paramount, and approximating more and more to the manly and disinterested standard of truth and justice. Hitherto force, fraud, and fear decided every question of individual right or general reasoning; the possessor of rank and influence, in answer to any censure or objection to his conduct, appealed to God and to his sword: — now a new principle is brought into play which had never been so much as dreamt of, and before which he must make good his pretensions, or it will shatter his strongholds of pride and prejudice to atoms, as the pent-up air shatters whatever resists its expansive force. This power is public opinion, exercised upon men, things, and general principles, and to which mere physical power must conform, or it will crumble it to powder. Books alone teach us to judge of truth and good in the abstract: without a knowledge of things at a distance from us, we judge like savages or animals from our senses and appetites only; but by the aid of books and of an intercourse with the world of ideas, we are purified, raised, ennobled from savages into intellectual and rational beings. Our impressions of what is near to us are false, of what is distant feeble; but the last gaining strength from being united in public opinion, and expressed by the public voice, are like the congregated roar of many waters, and quail the hearts of princes. Who but the tyrant does not hate the tyrant? Who but the slave does not despise the slave? The first of these looks upon himself as a God, upon his vassal as a clod of the earth, and forces him to be of the same opinion: the philosopher looks upon them both as men, and instructs the world to do so. While they had to settle their pretensions by themselves, and in the night of ignorance, it is no wonder no good was done; while pride intoxicated the one, and fear stupefied the other. But let them be brought out of that dark cave of despotism and superstition, and let a thousand other persons, who have no interest but that of truth and justice, be called on to determine between them, and the plea of the lordly oppressor to make a beast of burden of his fellow-man becomes as ridiculous as it is odious. All that the light of philosophy, the glow of patriotism, all that the brain wasted in midnight study, the blood poured out upon the scaffold or in the field of battle can do or have done, is to take this question in all cases from before the first gross, blind and iniquitous tribunal, where power insults over weakness, and place it before the last more just, disinterested, and in the end more formidable one, where each individual is tried by his peers, and according to rules and principles which have received the common examination and the common consent. A public sense is thus formed, free from slavish awe or the traditional assumption of insolent superiority, which the more it is exercised becomes the more enlightened and enlarged, and more and more requires equal rights and equal laws. This new sense acquired by the people, this new organ of opinion and feeling, is like bringing a battering-train to bear upon some old Gothic castle, long the den of rapine and crime, and must finally prevail against all absurd and antiquated institutions, unless it is violently suppressed, and this engine of political reform turned by bribery and terror against itself. Who in reading history, where the characters are laid open and the circumstances fairly stated, and where he himself has no false bias to mislead him, does not take part with the oppressed against the oppressor? Who is there that admires Nero at the distance of two thousand years? Did not the Tartuffe in a manner hoot religious hypocrisy out of France; and was it not on this account constantly denounced by the clergy? What do those, who read the annals of the Inquisition, think of that dread tribunal? And what has softened its horrors but those annals being read? What figure does the massacre of St. Bartholomew make in the eyes of posterity? But books anticipate and conform the decision of the public, of individuals, and even of the actors in such scenes, to that lofty and irrevocable standard, mould and fashion the heart and inmost thoughts upon it, so that something manly, liberal, and generous grows out of the fever of passion and the palsy of base fear; and this is what is meant by the progress of modern civilisation and modern philosophy. An individual in a barbarous age and country throws another who has displeased him (without other warrant than his will) into a dungeon, where he pines for years, and then dies; and perhaps only the mouldering bones of the victim, discovered long after, disclose his fate: or if known at the time, the confessor gives absolution, and the few who are let into the secret are intimidated from giving vent to their feelings, and hardly dare disapprove in silence. Let this act of violence be repeated afterwards in story, and there is not an individual in the whole nation whose bosom does not swell with pity, or whose blood does not curdle within him at the recital of so foul a wrong. Why then should there be an individual in a nation privileged to do what no other individual in the nation can be found to approve? But he has the power, and will not part with it in spite of public opinion. Then that public opinion must become active, and break the moulds of prescription in which his right derived from his ancestors is cast, and this will be a Revolution. Is that a state of things to regret or bring back, the bare mention of which makes one shudder? But the form, the shadow of it only was left: then why keep up that form, or cling to a shadow of injustice, which is no less odious than contemptible, except to make an improper use of it? Let all the wrongs public and private produced in France by arbitrary power and exclusive privileges for a thousand years be collected in a volume, and let this volume be read by all who have hearts to feel or capacity to understand, and the strong, stifling sense of oppression and kindling burst of indignation that would follow will be that impulse of public opinion that led to the French Revolution. Let all the victims that have perished under the mild, paternal sway of the ancient regime, in dungeons, and in agony, without a trial, without an accusation, without witnesses, be assembled together, and their chains struck off, and the shout of jubilee and exultation they would make, or that nature would make at the sight, will be the shout that was heard when the Bastille fell! The dead pause that ensued among the Gods of the earth, the rankling malice, the panic-fear, when they saw law and justice raised to an equality with their sovereign will, and mankind no longer doomed to be their sport, was that of fiends robbed of their prey: their struggles, their arts, their unyielding perseverance, and their final triumph was that of fiends when it is restored to them !

It has been sometimes pretended as if the French Revolution burst out like a volcano, without any previous warning, only to alarm and destroy — or was one of those comet-like appearances, the approach of which no one can tell till the shock and conflagration are felt. What is the real state of the case? There was not one of those abuses and grievances which the rough grasp of the Revolution shook to air, that had not been the butt of ridicule, the theme of indignant invective, the subject of serious reprobation for near a century. They had been held up without ceasing and without answer to the derision of the gay, the scorn of the wise, the sorrow of the good. The most witty, the most eloquent, the most profound writers were unanimous in their wish to remove or reform these abuses, and the most dispassionate and well-informed part of the community joined in the sentiment: it was only the self-interested or the grossly ignorant who obstinately clung to them. Every public and private complaint had been subjected to the touchstone of inquiry and argument; the page of history, of fiction, of the drama, of philosophy had been laid open, and their contents poured into the public ear, which turned away disgusted from the arts of sophistry or the menace of authority. It was this operation of opinion, enlarging its circle, and uniting nearly all the talents, the patriotism, and the independence of the country in its service, that brought about the events which followed. Nothing else did or could. It was not a dearth of provisions, the loss of the queen's jewels, that could overturn all the institutions and usages of a great kingdom — it was not the Revolution that produced the change in the face of society, but the change in the texture of society that produced the Revolution, and brought its outward appearance into a nearer correspondence with its inward sentiments.

There is no other way of accounting for so great and sudden a transition. Power, prejudice, interest, custom, ignorance, sloth, and cowardice were against it: what then remained to counterbalance this weight, and to overturn all obstacles, but reason and conviction which were for it? Magna est veritas, et prevalebit. A king was no longer thought to be an image of the Divinity; a lord to be of a different species from other men; a priest to carry an immediate passport to heaven in his pocket. On what possible plea or excuse then, when the ground of opinion on which they rested was gone, attempt to keep up the same exclusive and exorbitant pretensions, without any equivalent to the community in the awe and veneration they felt for them? Why should a nobleman be permitted to spit in your face, to rob you of an estate, or to debauch your wife or daughter with impunity, when it was no longer deemed an honour for him to do so? If manners had undergone a considerable change in this respect, so that the right was rarely exercised, why not abrogate the insult implied in the very forbearance from the injury, alike intolerable to the free-born spirit of man? Why suspend the blow over your head, if it was not meant to descend upon it? Or why hold up claims in idle mockery, which good sense and reason alike disowned, as if there were really a distinction in the two classes of society, and the one were rightful lords over the other, instead of being by nature all equal? But the evil did not stop here; for it was never yet known that men wished to retain the semblance of a wrong, unless they aimed at profiting as far as in them lay by the practice of it. While the king wore the anointed crown that was supposed to be let down in a golden chain from heaven on his head, while the lord dyed his sword in blood, while the priest worked fancied miracles with a crucifix and beads, they did well to claim to be masters of the world, and to trample in triple phalanx on mankind: but why they should expect us to allow this claim in mere courtesy and good-will, when it is no longer backed by fraud or force, is difficult to comprehend. What is a legitimate government? It is a government that professedly derives its title from the grace of God and its ancestors, that sets the choice or the good of the governed equally at defiance, and that is amenable for the use it makes of its power only to its own caprice, pride, or malice. It is an outrage and a burlesque on every principle of common sense or liberty. It puts the means for the end: mistakes a trust for a property, considers the honours and offices of the state as its natural inheritance, and the law as an unjust encroachment on its arbitrary will.

What motive can there be for tolerating such a government a single instant, except from sheer necessity or blindfold ignorance? Or what chance of modifying it so as to answer any good purpose, without a total subversion of all its institutions, principles, or prejudices? The kings of France, tamed by opinion, conforming to the manners of the time, no longer stabbed a faithful counsellor in the presence-chamber, or strangled a competitor for the throne in a dungeon, or laid waste a country or fired a city for a whim: but they still made peace or war as they pleased, or hung the wealth of a province in a mistress's ear, or lost a battle by the promotion of a favourite, or ruined a treasury by the incapacity of a minister of high birth and connexions. The noble no longer, as in days of yore, hung up his vassal at his door for a disrespectful word or look (which was called the haute justice), or issued with a numerous retinue from his lofty portcullis to carry fire and sword into the neighbouring country; but he too laboured in his vocation, and in the proud voluptuous city drained the last pittance from the toil-worn peasant by taxes, grants, and exactions, to waste it on his own vanity, luxury, and vices. If he had a quarrel with an inferior or with a rival less favoured than himself, the king would issue his lettre-de-cachet, and give the refractory and unsuspecting offender a lodging for life in what Mr. Burke is pleased to call the ' kings castle!' Had opinion put a stop to this crying abuse, had it rendered this odious privilege of royalty merely nominal? 'In the mild reign of Louis XV. alone,' according to Blackstone, 'there were no less than 15,000 lettres-de-cachet issued.' Some persons will think this fact alone sufficient to account for and to justify the overturning of the government in the reign of his successor. The priests no longer tied their victim to the stake or devoted him to the assassin's poniard as of old; they thought it enough if they could wallow in the fat of the land, pander to the vices of the rich and the abuses of power, to which they looked for the continuance of wealth and influence, and fly-blow every liberal argument and persecute every liberal writer, from whom they dreaded their loss. From the moment that the ancient regime ceased to be supported by that system of faith and manners in which it had originated, the whole order of the state became warped and disunited, a wretched jumble of claims that were neither enforced nor relinquished. There was ill-blood sown between the government and the people; heart-burning, jealousy, and want of confidence between the different members of the community. Every advance in civilisation was regarded by one party with dislike and distrust, while by the other every privilege held by ancient tenure was censured as the offspring of pride and prejudice. The court was like a decayed beauty, that viewed her youthful rival's charms with scorn and apprehension. The nation, in the language of the day, had hitherto been nothing, was every thing, and wanted to be something. The great mass of society felt itself as a degraded caste, and was determined to wipe out the stigma with which every one of its opinions, sentiments and pretensions was branded. This was a thing no longer to be endured and must be got rid of at any rate.

II

The excesses of the French Revolution have indeed been considered as an anomaly in history, as a case taken out of every rule or principle of morality by comparison with any thing else. But there are three tests by which we may form a tolerably fair estimate of the characters and motives of those concerned in it. First, do we not see the hold which the love of power and all strong excitement takes of the mind; how it engrosses the faculties, stifles compunction, and deadens the sense of shame, even when it is purely selfish or mischievous, when it does not even pretend to have any good in view, and when we have all the world against us? What then must be the force and confidence in itself which any such passion, ambition, cruelty, revenge, must acquire when it is founded on some lofty and high-sounding principle, patriotism, liberty, resistance to tyrants; when it aims at the public good as its consequence, and is strengthened by the applause of the multitude? Evil is strong enough in itself; when it has good for its end, it is conscience-proof. If the common bravo or cut-throat who stabs another merely to fill his purse or revenge a private grudge, can hardly be persuaded that he does wrong, and postpones his remorse till long after — he who sheds blood like water, but can contrive to do it with some fine-sounding name on his lips, will be in his own eyes little less than a saint or martyr. Robespierre was a professed admirer of Rousseau's Social Contract and the Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar; and I do not conceive it impossible that he thought of these when the mob were dancing round him at his own door. He would certainly have sent any one to the guillotine who should have confuted him in a dispute on the one or have ridiculed the other; but this would not prove that he had altered his opinion of either. He was a political pedant, a violent dogmatist, weak in argument, and who wished to be strong in fact. Every head he cut off, he felt his power the greater; with the increase of power, he felt his opinions confirmed, and with the certainty of his opinions, the security for the welfare and liberty of mankind. These were the rollers on which his actions moved, spreading ruin and dismay in large and sweeping circles; these were the theoretical moulds in which cruelty, suspicion, and proscription were cast, which according to the abstractedness, or what in the cant of the day was called the purity of his principles, embraced a wider sphere, and called for unlimited sacrifices. The habitual and increasing lust of power and gratification in counting his victims did not enable him to disentangle the sophistry which bewildered him or prove to him that he was in the wrong, but the contrary, however the actual results might occasionally stagger him: to save was in his mind to destroy, to destroy was to save; and he remained in all probability as great a contradiction to himself as he has been an anomaly and riddle incapable of solution to others. The fault of such characters is not the absence of strictness of principle or a. sense of duty, but an excess of these over their natural sensibility or instinctive prejudices, which makes them both dangerous to the community and hateful in themselves by their obstinate determination to carry into effect any dogma or theory to which they have made up their minds, be the objections or consequences what they will. Such instruments may indeed be wanted for great and trying occasions; but their being thrown into such a situation does not alter the odiousness of their characters nor the opinion of mankind concerning them. The action alone is certain; the motive is hid; the future benefit doubtful. Fame and even virtue are to a certain degree common-place things ! This' differences' Robespierre from characters of mere natural ferocity or from the tyrants of antiquity, who indulged in the same insatiable barbarity only to pamper their personal pride and sense of self-importance. Robespierre was nothing in himself but as the guider of a machine, the mouth-piece of an abstract proposition; he would hurt no one but for differing from him in an opinion, which he had worked himself up to believe was the link that held the world together, the peg on which the safety of the state hung, the very ' keystone that made up the arch ' of the social fabric, and that if it was removed, the whole fell together to cureless ruin.

Secondly, let those who deny this view of the subject explain if they can the conduct of religious persecutors and tyrants for conscience' sake. The religious and the political fanatic are one and the same character, and run into the same errors on the same grounds. Nothing can surely surpass the excesses, the horrors, the refinements in cruelty, and the cold-blooded malignity which have been exercised in the name and under the garb of religion. Yet who will say that this strikes at the root of religion itself or that the instigators and perpetrators of these horrors were men without one particle of the goodness and sanctity to which they made such lofty and exclusive pretensions; that they were not many of them patterns of sincerity, piety, and the most disinterested zeal (who were ready to undergo the same fate they inflicted on others); and that in consigning their opponents to the stake, the dagger, or the dungeon, they did not believe they were doing God and man good service? The kindling pile, the paper-caps of the victims at an auto-de-ft, the instruments of torture, the solemn hymn, the shout of triumph, the callousness of the executioner, the gravity of the judges are circumstances sufficiently revolting to human nature; but to argue from hence that those who sanctioned or who periodically assisted at such scenes were mere monsters of cruelty and hypocrisy, would be betraying a total ignorance of the contradictions of the human mind. All sects, all religions have retaliated upon one another where they had the power, and some of the best and most enlightened men have been zealots in the cause. We see by this how far an opinion, the conviction of an abstract and contingent good will carry men to violate all their natural feelings and all common ties conscientiously and in the face of day; nor should we imagine that this is confined to religion. I grant that religion being of the highest and least questionable authority has caused more fanaticism and bigotry, more massacres and persecutions than any thing else; but whatever cause, religion, patriotism, freedom, can strongly excite the affections and agitate large masses of men, will produce the same blindfold and headlong zeal, and plead the same excuse for the excesses of its adherents. At the same time I think that those who have been most forward to distinguish themselves as bigots and persecutors have been generally men of austere, vindictive, and narrow minds; and their names are branded in history accordingly.

Thirdly, there is some affinity between foreign and civil war. We pour molten lead on the heads of those who are scaling the walls of a city; but this would be of no use if those within could be found delivering up the keys with impunity. Why then are all our pity and complaints reserved for the evils of civil war, since the passions are as much excited and the danger as great in the one case as in the other?

No one will compare Shaw the Life-guards'-man with the celebrated Coup-Tete; the one was a gallant soldier, the other a sneaking villain; yet the one cut off as many heads in a day as the other; it is not the blood shed then, but the manner and motive; the one braved a formidable enemy in the field, the other gloated over a hapless victim. We distinguish the soldier and the assassin; to be just, we must distinguish between public and private malice. But here comes in the hypocrisy or cowardice of mankind. In war, the enemy is open and challenges your utmost malice; so that there is nothing more to be said. In conspiracy and civil strife, the enemy is either secret and doubtful or lies at your mercy; and after the catastrophe is over, it is pretended that he was both helpless and innocent, entitled to pity in himself and fixing an indelible stain on his dastardly and cruel oppressor. Here then is again required in times of revolution that moral courage, which uses a discretionary power and takes an awful responsibility upon itself, going right forward to its object, and setting fastidious scruples, character, and consequences (all but principle and self-preservation) at defiance. What were the leaders of the Revolution to do? Were they to suffer a renewal of the massacres of Ismael and Warsaw, by those tender preachers of morality and the puling sentimentalists that follow in their train, who think to crush men like worms and complain that they have trod on asps? They not only had these scenes fresh before their eyes, but they were in part the same identical persons who threatened to treat them with a second course of them!

'Rather than so, come Fate into the lists and champion us to the outrance !' — seems to have been the motto of the Revolutionists and their reply. Were they not to anticipate the ignominious blow prepared for them by their insolent invaders? Or should they spare those who stood gaping by and beckoning others on to their banquet of blood? But the number of these last increased, and made it difficult to know where to strike. It was this very uncertainty that distracted and irritated the government; and in the multitude and concealment of their adversaries, hurried them forward to indiscriminate fury. What the Revolution wanted, and what Robespierre did for it in these circumstances, was to give to the political machine the utmost possible momentum and energy of which it was capable; to stagger the presumption and pride of the Coalition by shewing on the opposite side an equally inveterate and intense degree of determined hostility and ruthless vengeance; to out-face, to out-dare; to stand the brunt not only of all the violence but of all the cant, hypocrisy, obloquy and prejudice with which they were assailed; to stamp on the revolution a -practical character; to wipe out the imputation of visionary and Utopian refinement and consequent imbecility from all plans of reform j to prove that ' brave Sansculottes were no triflers;' and to enlist all passions, all interests, all classes, and all the resources of the country in the one great object, the defence of the Republic. The decks were cleared as for a battle, all other considerations, scruples, objections were thrown on one side; and the only question being to save the vessel of the state, it was saved. Under this impulse the Revolution went on through all chances and changes, ' like tumbler-pigeons making all sorts of summersaults and evolutions of figure,' but never losing sight of its goal, and arriving safe at its place of destination. All feelings, all pretensions, all characters, levity, brutality, rage, envy, ambition, self-interest, generosity, refinement, were melted down in the furnace of the Revolution, but all heightened the flame and swelled the torrent of patriotism. The blaze thus kindled threw its glare on all objects, so that the whole passed in a strange, preternatural light, that precluded the discrimination of motives or characters. Nor was it necessary to distinguish to a nicety. The great point was to distinguish friends from foes, and for this purpose they were put to a speedy probation. Otherwise, it was not asked whether a man wore a long beard or a short one, whether he carried an axe or a pike, no attention was paid to the dramatis •persona or to costume — but all to the conduct of the fable and to bringing about the catastrophe ! Every state contains within itself the means of salvation, if it will look its danger in the face and not shrink from the course actually necessary to save it. But to do this, it must rise to the magnitude of the occasion, above rules and appearances. France, baited, hunted down as she was, had but one resource left to retaliate on her aggressors, to throw aside all self-regards and all regards for others, and in order to escape from the toils spread around, to discard all obligations, and cut asunder the very nerves of humanity. Few persons could be found to help her at this exigency so well as Robespierre. The Brissotins, who were fine gentlemen, would have been entangled in ' the drapery of a moral imagination: ' Robespierre, to give no hold to his adversary, fought the battle naked and threw away both shame and fear. When it comes to the abstract choice between slavery or freedom, principles are of more importance than individuals; it is to be apprehended that an energy and pertinacity of character that would not have exceeded the occasion, would not have come up to it; and we see that when the dread of hostile invasion or domestic treachery no longer existed and tyrannised over the minds of men, the reign of terror ceased with the extreme causes that had provoked and alone rendered its continuance endurable.