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FrRevol_351-400.indd 4 3/16/12 1:09 PM CHAPTER XV OfPolitical Fanaticism. The events which we have been recalling until this point have been the only kind of history for which we can find examples elsewhere. But an abyss is now about to open under our feet; we do not know what course to pursue in such a gulf, and the mind leaps in fear from disaster to disaster, till it reaches the annihilation of all hope and of all consolation. We shall pass as rapidly as we can over this frightful crisis, in which there is no individual to fix attention, no circumstance to excite interest: all is uniform , though extraordinary; all is monotonous, though horrible; and we should be in some measure ashamed ofourselves ifwe could contemplate these brutal atrocities sufficiently near to characterize them in detail. Let us only examine the great principle of these monstrous phenomena-political fanaticism. Worldly passions have always played a part in religious fanaticism; and frequently, on the contrary, true faith by some abstract ideas feeds political fanaticism: the mixture is found everywhere, but its proportions are what constitutes good and evil. Social order is in itselfa most peculiar structure; it is impossible, however, to imagine it as other than what it is. The concessions that we must make in order to ensure its continuing existence torment exalted souls with pity, satisfy the vanity of some, and provoke the irritation and the desires of the greater number. It is to this state of things, more or less pronounced, more or less softened by manners and knowledge, that the political fanaticism must be ascribed ofwhich we have been witnesses in France. A sort of frenzy seized the poor in the presence of the rich; the distinctions of nobility adding to the jealousy which property inspires, the people were proud of their multitude; and all that constitutes the power and splendor of the few appeared to them mere usurpation . The germs of this sentiment have existed at all times; but we have FrRevol_351-400.indd 5 3/16/12 1:09 PM CHAPTER XV. Political Fanaticism felt human society shaken to its foundation only during the Reign ofTerror in France. We need not be surprised if this abominable scourge has left deep traces in men's minds; and the only reflection in which we can indulge, and which the remainder of this work will, I hope, confirm, is that the remedy for popular passions is to be found not in despotism, but in the rule oflaw. Religious fanaticism presents an indefinite future which exalts all the hopes of the imagination; but the enjoyments of life are as unlimited in the eyes ofthose who have not tasted them. The 0 ld Man ofthe Mountain1 sent his subjects to death by means ofallowing them delights on this earth; and we frequently see men expose themselves to death in order to live better. On the other hand, vanity takes a pride in defending the superior advantages which it possesses; it appears less guilty than the attackers, because some notion ofproperty clings even to injustices when they have existed for a long time. Nevertheless, the two elements of religious fanaticism and political fanaticism always subsist; the will to dominate in those who are at the top of the wheel, the eagerness to make it turn in those who are on the bottom. This is the principle ofall kinds ofviolence; the pretext changes, the cause remains, and the reciprocal fury continues the same. The quarrels of the patricians and the war of the slaves, the servile war, the war of the peasants, that which still goes on between the nobles and the bourgeois, have all equally had their origin in the difficulty ofmaintaining human society without disorder and without injustice. Men could not exist today, either apart or united, if respect for the law were not established in their minds: crimes ofevery sort would arise from that very society which ought to prevent them. The abstract power of representative governments irritates in nothing the pride ofmen, and it is by this institution that the torches of the furies are to be extinguished. They were lighted in a country where everything was self-love; and self-love irritated does not, with the people, resemble our fleeting nuances; it is the need to kill. Massacres no less frightful than those ofthe Reign ofTerror have been 1. The name given by the Crusaders to the chief of a Mohammedan sect...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878636
Related ISBN
9780865977327
MARC Record
OCLC
836874520
Pages
834
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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