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FrRevol_601-650.indd 29 3/16/12 1:15 PM ++++++ PART VI ++++++ CHAPTER I Are Frenchmen Made to Be Free? Frenchmen are not made to be free, says a certain party composed of Frenchmen who want to do the honors of the nation in such a way as to represent it as the most miserable ofall human associations. What indeed is more miserable than to be incapable either of respect for justice, or of love for our country, or of energy of soul; virtues ofwhich the whole, of which any one singly, is sufficient to render a nation worthy of liberty? Foreigners do not fail to lay hold ofthese expressions, and to glorify themselves as if they were of a nobler race than the French. This ridiculous assertion, however, means only one thing, that it suits certain privileged persons to be acknowledged as alone fitted to govern France withwisdom, and that the rest of the nation should be regarded as factious. We shall examine, under a more philosophic and impartial point of view, what is meant by a "people made to be free." I would simply answer: it is a people who wish to be free; for I do not believe that history affords one example of the will of a whole nation not being accomplished. The institutions of a country, whenever they are below the degree of knowledge diffused throughout it, tend necessarily to raise themselves to the same level. Now, since the latter years of Louis XIV down to the French Revolution, spirit and energy have belonged to individuals, while government has been on the decline. But it will be said that the French, during the Revolution, incessantly wandered between follies and crimes. Ifit was so, this must be attributed, I cannot too often repeat, to their former political institutions; for it was they that had formed the nation; and if they FrRevol_601-650.indd 30 3/16/12 1:15 PM PART VI were ofa nature to enlighten only one class of men and deprave the mass, they were certainly good for nothing. But the sophistry of the enemies of human reason lies in their requiring that a people should possess the virtues of liberty before they obtain liberty; while it cannot acquire these virtues till after having enjoyed liberty, since the effect cannot precede the cause. The first quality of a nation that begins to be weary of exclusive and arbitrary governments is energy. Other virtues can be only the gradual result of institutions which have lasted long enough to form a public spirit. There have been countries, like ancient Egypt, in which religion, being identified with policy, left a passive and stationary character on the manners and habits of men. But, in general, nations are seen to improve or to retrograde according to the nature of their government. Rome has not changed her climate, and yet, from the Romans to the Italians ofour days, we can run through the whole scale of the modifications which men undergo by diversity of government. Doubtless, that which constitutes the dignity of a people is to know how to give itself a suitable government; but this work may encounter great obstacles, and one of the greatest certainly is the coalition of the old states of Europe to prevent the progress of new ideas. We must then make an impartial estimate of its difficulties and its efforts before deciding that a nation is not made to be free, which at bottom is a phrase devoid of meaning; for, can there exist men to whom security, emulation, the peaceable application of their industry, and the untroubled enjoyment of the fruits of their labor are not suitable? And if a nation was condemned by a curse of Heaven never to practice either justice or public morality, why should one part ofthis nation account itself exempt from the curse pronounced on the race? Ifall are equally incapable of virtue, what part shall oblige the other to possess it? During twenty-five years, it will still be said, there has been no government founded by the Revolution which has not shown itself mad or wicked. Be it so; but the nation has been incessantly agitated by civil troubles , and all nations in that situation resemble each other. There exist in mankind dispositions which always reappear when the same circumstances call them forth. But ifthere is not an era ofthe Revolution in which crime has not borne its part, neither is there one in which...


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