A man full of warm, speculative benevolence may wish his society otherwise constituted than he finds it, but a good patriot and a true politician always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution… Edmund Burke


We must continue a while with Burke and let him describe the French revolution for us; For I must do it justice; it was a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and deliberate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man. It was the beginning of a tradition where feudalism was replaced by violence and what filled the void was an aping of feudalism visiting even greater violence in the name of the collective instead of the king.

By attempting to throw off every vestige of feudalism Danton attempted to discredit and destroy the Church – even though it was the one safeguard against the most egregious excesses of any monarch seeking absolutism – and Burke outlined the terms of what was to come; We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long. But if, in the moment of riot, and in a drunken delirium from the hot spirit drawn out of the alembic of hell, which in France is now so furiously boiling, we should uncover our nakedness, by throwing off that Christian religion which has hitherto been our boast and comfort, and one great source of civilization amongst us, and amongst many other nations, we are apprehensive (being well aware that the mind will not endure a void) that some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading superstition might take place of it.

Danton may have finally realized that In revolutions authority remains with the greatest scoundrels, but he had been one himself too long and could save neither his own neck nor his nation. A mirror that Trotsky must have peered uneasily into he is worth studying as an object lesson of what not to do. For what to do we still look to Burke!

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The giant of the French Revolution: Danton, a life New York: Grove Press; 2009 David Lawday France History Revolution, 1789-1799 Biography, Danton, Georges Jacques, 1759-1794 Hardcover. 1st. American ed. and printing.  Originally published: Danton. London: Jonathan Cape, 2009. 294 p., [8] p. of plates: ill., maps; 24 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p. 265-284) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

One of the Western world’s most epic uprisings, the French Revolution brought an end to an absolute monarchy that had ruled for almost a thousand years. And George-Jacques Danton was a driving force behind it. In the first biography of Danton in over forty years, the historian David Lawday reveals the tragic, larger-than-life figure who joined the fray at the storming of the Bastille in 1789 at age twenty-nine and was dead five years later.

Danton’s booming voice was a perpetual roll of thunder that excited bourgeois reformers and the mobs alike; his impassioned speeches, often hours long, drove the sansculottes to action and kept the revolution alive at the critical moment when it stumbled and risked collapse. But as the newly appointed minister of justice, Danton struggled to steer the increasingly divided revolutionary government. Working tirelessly to halt the bloodshed of Robespierre’s Terror, he ultimately lost his grip, becoming one of its victims. True to form, Danton did not go easily to the guillotine; at his trial, he defended himself with such vehemence that the tribunal hastily approved a gag motion and convicted him before he could rally the crowd in his favor.

In vivid, almost novelistic prose worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy, Lawday leads us from Danton’s humble roots deep in France profonde to the streets of revolutionary Paris, where this political legend acted on the operatic stage of the revolution that altered Western civilization.

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