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FrRevol_401-450.indd 22 3/16/12 1:10 PM CHAPTER XXIX Ofthe Termination ofthe Directory. After the fatal blow which, on the 18th of Fructidor, the military force inflicted on the dignity ofthe representatives ofthe people, the Directory, as we have just seen, still maintained itself for two years, without any external change in its organization. But the vital principle which had animated it existed no more, and one might have said of it, as of the giant in Ariosto,1 that it still fought, forgetting that it was dead. The elections, the deliberations of the councils, presented nothing to excite interest; for the results were always known beforehand. The persecutions which were carried on against nobles and priests were no longer incited by popular hatred: the war had ceased to have an object since the independence of France and the limit of the Rhine were secured. But, instead of attaching Europe to France, the Directors were already beginning the fatal work which Napoleon so cruelly completed; they inspired the neighboring nations with as much aversion to the French government as princes alone had at first experienced. The Roman republic was proclaimed from the summit of the Capitol;2 but, in our days, the statues are the only republicans in Rome; and those must know little of the nature of enthusiasm who imagine that, by counterfeiting it, they will cause it to spring up. The free consent ofthe people can alone give to political institutions a certain native and spontaneous beauty, a natural harmony which guarantees their duration. The monstrous system of despotism in the means, under pretext of liberty in the end, produced nothing but governments depending upon springs, which required to be constantly repaired, and stopped the moment that they 1. Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), author of Orlando furioso. 2. On February 15, 1798. 422 FrRevol_401-450.indd 23 3/16/12 1:10 PM cHAPTER X X I X. Termination ofthe Directory ceased to be put in motion by external impulse. Festivals were celebrated at Paris with Grecian costumes and antique cars: but there was no fixed principle in the soul; immorality alone made rapid progress on every side; for public opinion was neither a terror nor a recompense to anyone. A revolution had occurred in the interior of the Directory, as in the interior of a seraglio, in which the nation had taken no share. The men last chosen3 were so little worthy of respect that France, quite weary of them, called with loud cries for a military chief; for she would neither have the Jacobins, the remembrance ofwhom struck her with horror, nor a counter-revolution, which the arrogance of the emigrants rendered terrible. The lawyers who had been called in 1799 to the place of Directors, exhibited there only the ridiculous pretense ofauthority, without the talents and the virtues which render it respectable; the facility with which, in the course of an evening, a Director assumed the airs of a Court, was truly singular; the part must be one not very difficult to play. Gohier, Moulins-what do I know?-the most obscure of men, once appointed Directors, were already occupied the very next day with themselves; they spoke to you of their health and of their family interests, as if they had been personages dear to the whole world. They were kept in this illusion by flatterers who were people ofgood or bad company, but who all were fulfilling their role of courtiers, by showing to their prince the most affecting solicitude with regard to everything which could concern him, on condition of obtaining a short audience for some particular request. Among these people, those who had anything to reproach themselveswith during the Reign of Terror always retained a remarkable sensibility on that subject. If you pronounced a single word which might allude to the recollection which disturbed them, they immediately related their history to you in the most minute detail, and abandoned everything to talk to you about it for hours and hours. If you returned to the affair on which you wished to converse with them, they listened to you no longer. The life of 3· On June r8, 1799, four directors (Reubell, La Reveillere-Lepeaux, Treilhard, and Merlin de Douai) were replaced by Sieyes, Ducos, Gohier (1746- 183o), and General Moulin (17)2- 1819)· FrRevol_401-450.indd 24 3/16/12 1:10 PM PART III any individual who has committed a political crime is forever linked to that...


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