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Louis XV is in his deathbed. Much has changed in France since he lay ill some three decades earlier and now he is dying and people go about as though they couldn’t care less. Thomas Carlyle examines the role of history,Belief,Pomp and Circumstance and the symbolic value of Power

“Realised Ideals.

Such a changed France have we; and a changed Louis. Changed, truly; and
further than thou yet seest!–To the eye of History many things, in that
sick-room of Louis, are now visible, which to the Courtiers there present
were invisible. For indeed it is well said, ‘in every object there is
inexhaustible meaning; the eye sees in it what the eye brings means of
seeing.’ To Newton and to Newton’s Dog Diamond, what a different pair of
Universes; while the painting on the optical retina of both was, most
likely, the same! Let the Reader here, in this sick-room of Louis,
endeavour to look with the mind too.

Time was when men could (so to speak) of a given man, by nourishing and
decorating him with fit appliances, to the due pitch, make themselves a
King, almost as the Bees do; and what was still more to the purpose,
loyally obey him when made. The man so nourished and decorated,
thenceforth named royal, does verily bear rule; and is said, and even
thought, to be, for example, ‘prosecuting conquests in Flanders,’ when he
lets himself like luggage be carried thither: and no light luggage;
covering miles of road….

For ours is a most fictile world; and man is the most fingent plastic of
creatures. A world not fixable; not fathomable! An unfathomable Somewhat,
which is Not we; which we can work with, and live amidst,–and model,
miraculously in our miraculous Being, and name World.–But if the very
Rocks and Rivers (as Metaphysic teaches) are, in strict language, made by
those outward Senses of ours, how much more, by the Inward Sense, are all
Phenomena of the spiritual kind: Dignities, Authorities, Holies, Unholies!
Which inward sense, moreover is not permanent like the outward ones, but
forever growing and changing. Does not the Black African take of Sticks
and Old Clothes (say, exported Monmouth-Street cast-clothes) what will
suffice, and of these, cunningly combining them, fabricate for himself an
Eidolon (Idol, or Thing Seen), and name it Mumbo-Jumbo; which he can
thenceforth pray to, with upturned awestruck eye, not without hope? The
white European mocks; but ought rather to consider; and see whether he, at
home, could not do the like a little more wisely.

So it was, we say, in those conquests of Flanders, thirty years ago: but
so it no longer is. Alas, much more lies sick than poor Louis: not the
French King only, but the French Kingship; this too, after long rough tear
and wear, is breaking down. The world is all so changed; so much that
seemed vigorous has sunk decrepit, so much that was not is beginning to
be!–Borne over the Atlantic, to the closing ear of Louis, King by the
Grace of God, what sounds are these; muffled ominous, new in our centuries?
Boston Harbour is black with unexpected Tea: behold a Pennsylvanian
Congress gather; and ere long, on Bunker Hill, DEMOCRACY announcing, in
rifle-volleys death-winged, under her Star Banner, to the tune of Yankee-
doodle-doo, that she is born, and, whirlwind-like, will envelope the whole
world!

Sovereigns die and Sovereignties: how all dies, and is for a Time only; is
a ‘Time-phantasm, yet reckons itself real!’ The Merovingian Kings, slowly
wending on their bullock-carts through the streets of Paris, with their
long hair flowing, have all wended slowly on,–into Eternity. Charlemagne
sleeps at Salzburg, with truncheon grounded; only Fable expecting that he
will awaken. Charles the Hammer, Pepin Bow-legged, where now is their eye
of menace, their voice of command? Rollo and his shaggy Northmen cover not
the Seine with ships; but have sailed off on a longer voyage. The hair of
Towhead (Tete d’etoupes) now needs no combing; Iron-cutter (Taillefer)
cannot cut a cobweb; shrill Fredegonda, shrill Brunhilda have had out their
hot life-scold, and lie silent, their hot life-frenzy cooled….  They are all gone; sunk,–down, down,
with the tumult they made; and the rolling and the trampling of ever new
generations passes over them, and they hear it not any more forever.

And yet withal has there not been realised somewhat? Consider (to go no
further) these strong Stone-edifices, and what they hold! Mud-Town of the
Borderers (Lutetia Parisiorum or Barisiorum) has paved itself, has spread
over all the Seine Islands, and far and wide on each bank, and become City
of Paris, sometimes boasting to be ‘Athens of Europe,’ and even ‘Capital of
the Universe.’ Stone towers frown aloft; long-lasting, grim with a
thousand years. Cathedrals are there, and a Creed (or memory of a Creed)
in them; Palaces, and a State and Law. Thou seest the Smoke-vapour;
unextinguished Breath as of a thing living. Labour’s thousand hammers ring
on her anvils: also a more miraculous Labour works noiselessly, not with
the Hand but with the Thought. How have cunning workmen in all crafts,
with their cunning head and right-hand, tamed the Four Elements to be their
ministers; yoking the winds to their Sea-chariot, making the very Stars
their Nautical Timepiece;–and written and collected a Bibliotheque du Roi;
among whose Books is the Hebrew Book! A wondrous race of creatures: these
have been realised, and what of Skill is in these: call not the Past Time,
with all its confused wretchednesses, a lost one.

Observe, however, that of man’s whole terrestrial possessions and
attainments, unspeakably the noblest are his Symbols, divine or divine-
seeming; under which he marches and fights, with victorious assurance, in
this life-battle: what we can call his Realised Ideals. Of which realised
ideals, omitting the rest, consider only these two: his Church, or
spiritual Guidance; his Kingship, or temporal one. The Church: what a
word was there; richer than Golconda and the treasures of the world! In
the heart of the remotest mountains rises the little Kirk; the Dead all
slumbering round it, under their white memorial-stones, ‘in hope of a happy
resurrection:’–dull wert thou, O Reader, if never in any hour (say of
moaning midnight, when such Kirk hung spectral in the sky, and Being was as
if swallowed up of Darkness) it spoke to thee–things unspeakable, that
went into thy soul’s soul. Strong was he that had a Church, what we can
call a Church: he stood thereby, though ‘in the centre of Immensities, in
the conflux of Eternities,’ yet manlike towards God and man; the vague
shoreless Universe had become for him a firm city, and dwelling which he
knew. Such virtue was in Belief; in these words, well spoken: I believe.
Well might men prize their Credo, and raise stateliest Temples for it, and
reverend Hierarchies, and give it the tithe of their substance; it was
worth living for and dying for.

Neither was that an inconsiderable moment when wild armed men first raised
their Strongest aloft on the buckler-throne, and with clanging armour and
hearts, said solemnly: Be thou our Acknowledged Strongest! In such
Acknowledged Strongest (well named King, Kon-ning, Can-ning, or Man that
was Able) what a Symbol shone now for them,–significant with the destinies
of the world! A Symbol of true Guidance in return for loving Obedience;
properly, if he knew it, the prime want of man. A Symbol which might be
called sacred; for is there not, in reverence for what is better than we,
an indestructible sacredness? On which ground, too, it was well said there
lay in the Acknowledged Strongest a divine right; as surely there might in
the Strongest, whether Acknowledged or not,–considering who made him
strong. And so, in the midst of confusions and unutterable incongruities
(as all growth is confused), did this of Royalty, with Loyalty environing
it, spring up; and grow mysteriously, subduing and assimilating (for a
principle of Life was in it); till it also had grown world-great, and was
among the main Facts of our modern existence. Such a Fact, that Louis
XIV., for example, could answer the expostulatory Magistrate with his
“L’Etat c’est moi (The State? I am the State);” and be replied to by
silence and abashed looks. So far had accident and forethought; had your
Louis Elevenths, with the leaden Virgin in their hatband, and torture-
wheels and conical oubliettes (man-eating!) under their feet; your Henri
Fourths, with their prophesied social millennium, ‘when every peasant
should have his fowl in the pot;’ and on the whole, the fertility of this
most fertile Existence (named of Good and Evil),–brought it, in the matter
of the Kingship. Wondrous! Concerning which may we not again say, that in
the huge mass of Evil, as it rolls and swells, there is ever some Good
working imprisoned; working towards deliverance and triumph?

How such Ideals do realise themselves; and grow, wondrously, from amid the
incongruous ever-fluctuating chaos of the Actual: this is what World-
History, if it teach any thing, has to teach us, How they grow; and, after
long stormy growth, bloom out mature, supreme; then quickly (for the
blossom is brief) fall into decay; sorrowfully dwindle; and crumble down,
or rush down, noisily or noiselessly disappearing. The blossom is so
brief; as of some centennial Cactus-flower, which after a century of
waiting shines out for hours! Thus from the day when rough Clovis, in the
Champ de Mars, in sight of his whole army, had to cleave retributively the
head of that rough Frank, with sudden battleaxe, and the fierce words, “It
was thus thou clavest the vase” (St. Remi’s and mine) “at Soissons,”
forward to Louis the Grand and his L’Etat c’est moi, we count some twelve
hundred years: and now this the very next Louis is dying, and so much
dying with him!–

But of those decadent ages in which no Ideal either grows or blossoms?
When Belief and Loyalty have passed away, and only the cant and false echo
of them remains; and all Solemnity has become Pageantry; and the Creed of
persons in authority has become one of two things: an Imbecility or a
Macchiavelism? Alas, of these ages World-History can take no notice; they
have to become compressed more and more, and finally suppressed in the
Annals of Mankind; blotted out as spurious,–which indeed they are.
Hapless ages: wherein, if ever in any, it is an unhappiness to be born.
To be born, and to learn only, by every tradition and example, that God’s
Universe is Belial’s and a Lie; and ‘the Supreme Quack’ the hierarch of
men! In which mournfulest faith, nevertheless, do we not see whole
generations (two, and sometimes even three successively) live, what they
call living; and vanish,–without chance of reappearance?

In such a decadent age, or one fast verging that way, had our poor Louis
been born. Grant also that if the French Kingship had not, by course of
Nature, long to live, he of all men was the man to accelerate Nature. The
Blossom of French Royalty, cactus-like, has accordingly made an astonishing
progress. In those Metz days, it was still standing with all its petals,
though bedimmed by Orleans Regents and Roue Ministers and Cardinals; but
now, in 1774, we behold it bald, and the virtue nigh gone out of it…

Who is it that the King (Able-man, named also Roi, Rex, or Director) now guides? His own
huntsmen and prickers: when there is to be no hunt, it is well said, ‘Le
Roi ne fera rien (To-day his Majesty will do nothing). (Memoires sur la
Vie privee de Marie Antoinette, par Madame Campan (Paris, 1826), i. 12).
He lives and lingers there, because he is living there, and none has yet
laid hands on him.

The nobles, in like manner, have nearly ceased either to guide or misguide;
and are now, as their master is, little more than ornamental figures. It
is long since they have done with butchering one another or their king:
the Workers, protected, encouraged by Majesty, have ages ago built walled
towns, and there ply their crafts; will permit no Robber Baron to ‘live by
the saddle,’ but maintain a gallows to prevent it. Ever since that period
of the Fronde, the Noble has changed his fighting sword into a court
rapier, and now loyally attends his king as ministering satellite; divides
the spoil, not now by violence and murder, but by soliciting and finesse.
These men call themselves supports of the throne, singular gilt-pasteboard
caryatides in that singular edifice! For the rest, their privileges every
way are now much curtailed. That law authorizing a Seigneur, as he
returned from hunting, to kill not more than two Serfs, and refresh his
feet in their warm blood and bowels, has fallen into perfect desuetude,–
and even into incredibility; for if Deputy Lapoule can believe in it, and
call for the abrogation of it, so cannot we. (Histoire de la Revolution
Francaise, par Deux Amis de la Liberte (Paris, 1793), ii. 212.) No
Charolois, for these last fifty years, though never so fond of shooting,
has been in use to bring down slaters and plumbers, and see them roll from
their roofs; (Lacretelle, Histoire de France pendant le 18me Siecle (Paris,
1819) i. 271.) but contents himself with partridges and grouse. Close-
viewed, their industry and function is that of dressing gracefully and
eating sumptuously. As for their debauchery and depravity, it is perhaps
unexampled since the era of Tiberius and Commodus. Nevertheless, one has
still partly a feeling with the lady Marechale: “Depend upon it, Sir, God
thinks twice before damning a man of that quality.” (Dulaure, vii. 261.)
These people, of old, surely had virtues, uses; or they could not have been
there. Nay, one virtue they are still required to have (for mortal man
cannot live without a conscience): the virtue of perfect readiness to
fight duels.

Such are the shepherds of the people: and now how fares it with the flock?
With the flock, as is inevitable, it fares ill, and ever worse. They are
not tended, they are only regularly shorn. They are sent for, to do
statute-labour, to pay statute-taxes; to fatten battle-fields (named ‘Bed
of honour’) with their bodies, in quarrels which are not theirs; their hand
and toil is in every possession of man; but for themselves they have little
or no possession. Untaught, uncomforted, unfed; to pine dully in thick
obscuration, in squalid destitution and obstruction: this is the lot of
the millions; peuple taillable et corveable a merci et misericorde. In
Brittany they once rose in revolt at the first introduction of Pendulum
Clocks; thinking it had something to do with the Gabelle. Paris requires
to be cleared out periodically by the Police; and the horde of hunger-
stricken vagabonds to be sent wandering again over space–for a time.
‘During one such periodical clearance,’ says Lacretelle, ‘in May, 1750, the
Police had presumed withal to carry off some reputable people’s children,
in the hope of extorting ransoms for them. The mothers fill the public
places with cries of despair; crowds gather, get excited: so many women in
destraction run about exaggerating the alarm: an absurd and horrid fable
arises among the people; it is said that the doctors have ordered a Great
Person to take baths of young human blood for the restoration of his own,
all spoiled by debaucheries. Some of the rioters,’ adds Lacretelle, quite
coolly, ‘were hanged on the following days:’ the Police went on.
(Lacretelle, iii. 175.) O ye poor naked wretches! and this, then, is your
inarticulate cry to Heaven, as of a dumb tortured animal, crying from
uttermost depths of pain and debasement? Do these azure skies, like a dead
crystalline vault, only reverberate the echo of it on you? Respond to it
only by ‘hanging on the following days?’–Not so: not forever! Ye are
heard in Heaven. And the answer too will come,–in a horror of great
darkness, and shakings of the world, and a cup of trembling which all the
nations shall drink.

Remark, meanwhile, how from amid the wrecks and dust of this universal
Decay new Powers are fashioning themselves, adapted to the new time and its
destinies. Besides the old Noblesse, originally of Fighters, there is a
new recognised Noblesse of Lawyers; whose gala-day and proud battle-day
even now is. An unrecognised Noblesse of Commerce; powerful enough, with
money in its pocket. Lastly, powerfulest of all, least recognised of all,
a Noblesse of Literature; without steel on their thigh, without gold in
their purse, but with the ‘grand thaumaturgic faculty of Thought’ in their
head. French Philosophism has arisen; in which little word how much do we
include! Here, indeed, lies properly the cardinal symptom of the whole
wide-spread malady. Faith is gone out; Scepticism is come in. Evil
abounds and accumulates: no man has Faith to withstand it, to amend it, to
begin by amending himself; it must even go on accumulating. While hollow
langour and vacuity is the lot of the Upper, and want and stagnation of the
Lower, and universal misery is very certain, what other thing is certain?
That a Lie cannot be believed! Philosophism knows only this: her other
belief is mainly that, in spiritual supersensual matters no Belief is
possible. Unhappy! Nay, as yet the Contradiction of a Lie is some kind of
Belief; but the Lie with its Contradiction once swept away, what will
remain? The five unsatiated Senses will remain, the sixth insatiable Sense
(of vanity); the whole daemonic nature of man will remain,–hurled forth to
rage blindly without rule or rein; savage itself, yet with all the tools
and weapons of civilisation; a spectacle new in History.

In such a France, as in a Powder-tower, where fire unquenched and now
unquenchable is smoking and smouldering all round, has Louis XV. lain down
to die. With Pompadourism and Dubarryism, his Fleur-de-lis has been
shamefully struck down in all lands and on all seas; Poverty invades even
the Royal Exchequer, and Tax-farming can squeeze out no more; there is a
quarrel of twenty-five years’ standing with the Parlement; everywhere Want,
Dishonesty, Unbelief, and hotbrained Sciolists for state-physicians: it is
a portentous hour.

Such things can the eye of History see in this sick-room of King Louis,
which were invisible to the Courtiers there. It is twenty years, gone
Christmas-day, since Lord Chesterfield, summing up what he had noted of
this same France, wrote, and sent off by post, the following words, that
have become memorable: ‘In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met
with in History, previous to great Changes and Revolutions in government,
now exist and daily increase in France.’ (Chesterfield’s Letters:
December 25th, 1753.)

End of the selection.

“History repeats itself, not exactly from a script man may draw up from the past but what moral laws Justice and Equity demand. It is God-ordained. Heaven and Earth belong to God so for those in positions of trust, who carelessly mete out injustice because the color of man is wrong and he cannot defend himself if he is defrauded by some unjust laws or by brute force he is a disgrace. Deny Justice and make the nation bleed itself to insignificance is what History teaches-benny”

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Georges-Jacques Danton (1759-1794)
According to a biographer, “Danton’s height was colossal, his make athletic, his features strongly marked, coarse, and displeasing; his voice shook the domes of the halls” The pen portrait is drawn after a painting by Mlle. Charpentier. Danton studied law and became a lawyer in Paris. Danton’s first appearance in the Revolution was as president of the Cordeliers club, whose name derived from the former convent of the Order of Cordeliers, where it met. One of many clubs important in the early phases of the Revolution, his gift of oratory coupled with commanding presence brought him attention. The Cordeliers was a centre for the “popular principle”, that France was to be a country of its people under popular sovereignty. It was here he came into contact with Marat, Camille Desmoulins. This group believed in popular sovereignty and the need for a radical action to dramatically change the face of the French society. Danton was a very good orator and this ability allowed him to become more and more famous within the people of Paris.
In June 1791, the King and Queen made a disastrous attempt in what is now known as the Varennes escape. They fled from the capital. They were forced to return to the Tuileries Palace and were held as prisoners. This precipitated the popular reaction to think on abolishing the monarchy altogether or for a constitutional monarchy. Lafayette of the American war of Independence fame belonged to the latter group but the massacre of the Champ de Mars (July 1791) resulting in an effort to put down the insurrection killed whatever chance this party had. Danton fearing counter-revolutionary backlash, fled to England for the rest of the summer. Back in Paris in November, he was elected “Procureur de la communes de Paris“.
The National Constituent Assembly completed its work in September 1791.On July 31st, 1791 he was elected administrator of the “departement” of Paris.
In April 1792, the Girondist government—still functioning as a constitutional monarchy—declared war against Austria. A country in turmoil from the immense civil and political changes of the past two years now faced war with an enemy on its eastern frontier. Parisian distrust for the court turned to open insurrection. On 10 August 1792, the popular forces marched on the Tuileries; the king and queen took refuge with the Legislative Assembly. Danton became minister of justice, which was a reflection of his growing status within the insurrectionary party. On September 2nd, 1792 France was close to an Austrian invasion and Danton asked for “De l’audace, encore de l’audace, toujours de l’audace” (“We need audacity, and yet more audacity, and always audacity!”).

By 1792 he was at the height of his powers. He was elected Deputy of Paris on September 5th, 1792. He resigned from his deputy role and joined the Convention, side by side with Marat, Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins. He was quickly opposed to Robespierre who he saw as a competitor within the group.
Danton voted for the execution of Louis XVI and participated in the creation of a revolutionary’s court in March 1793. He became president of this court. He entered the “Comite de Salut public” in April 1793. He voted for the exclusion of the Girondist group, which he considered a obstacle to the development of the Convention.
His downfall came in the ensuing conflict of ideology in the direction of the revolution should take. He was accused of being too soft by counter revolutionaries. The austere and inflexible Robespierre feared his rabble rousing skills. He was fired from the “Comite de Salut public” and Robespierre took his position. In August 1793, he supported the “sans culottes” and the Terror. In November, he lost power within the “Cordeliers” group. Danton did not seem to take heed and secure his safety while Robespierre and his cohorts were maneuvering his downfall. On March 30th, 1794 Danton was arrested with Desmoulins. He was accused by the revolutionaries court of being an enemy of the Republique. He was condemned and killed on April 5th, 1794. His last words were: “Do not forget to show my head to the people, it is well worth seeing”.

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