The French Revolution
La Révolution : II – La conquête jacobine
Автор(и) : Hippolyte Taine
Издател : Liberty Fund, Inc.
Място на издаване : Indianapolis, USA
Година на издаване : 2002
ISBN : 0-86597-364-4 (vol. 2)
Брой страници : 837
Език : английски
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Hippolyte Taine’s The French Revolution, which is written from the viewpoint of conservative French opinion, is a unique and important contribution to revolutionary historiography.
Taine condemns the radicals of the French Revolution, unhesitatingly contradicting the rosy, Rousseauesque view of the Revolution.Taine approached the Revolution in the same way that a medical doctor approaches a disease. Indeed, he described his work not so much as a history as a “pathology” of the Revolution. His method constitutes his principal contribution to study of the subject. This method began with an examination, not of the French, but of the English. As Professor Mona Ozouf observes, Taine “maintained [that] the history of the Revolution depended on the definition of the French spirit.” He had, in an earlier account of English literature, defined “a unique explanatory principle” for investigation of the contrasting societies of the French and the English. This principle among the English, he reported, is “the sense of liberty,” or what he described as the English conviction that “man, having conceived alone in his conscience and before God the rules of his conduct, is above all a free, moral person.” In contrast to the English ability to conserve and even to expand liberty through gradual adaptation to changing circumstances, Taine identified a “French spirit” that became, Ozouf emphasizes, “his central explanation of the French revolutionary phenomenon.” This phenomenon explained, Taine argued, why France “had demolished its national community well before the Revolution”—thus making the Revolution not only inevitable, but also inevitably terrible.
We find a theory at the outset, in justification of these popular outbreaks and assaults, which is neither improvised, added to, nor superficial, but firmly fixed in the public mind, fed by long anterior philosophical discussion; a sort of enduring, long-lived root out of which the new constitutional tree has arisen, namely, the dogma of popular sovereignty. Literally interpreted, it means that the government is merely an inferior clerk or domestic.1 We, the people, have established the government; and ever since, as well as before its organization, we are its masters. Between us and it “no contract” that is undefined, or at least lasting—“none which cannot be done away with by mutual consent or through the unfaithfulness of one of the two parties.” Whatever it may be, or provide for, we are nowise bound by it; it depends wholly on us; we remain free to “modify, restrict, and resume as we please the power of which we have made it the depository.” By virtue of a primitive, inalienable right the commonwealth belongs to us and to us only; if we put this into the hands of the government it is as when kings delegate authority for the time being to a minister, and which he is always tempted to abuse; it is our business to watch him, warn him, check him, curb him, and, if necessary, displace him. We must especially guard ourselves against the craft and manoeuvres by which, under the pretext of preserving public tranquillity, he would tie our hands. A law, superior to any he can make, forbids him to interfere with our sovereignty; and he does interfere with it when he undertakes to forestall, obstruct, or impede its exercise. The Assembly, even the Constituent, usurps when it treats the people like a royal drone (roi fainéant), when it subjects them to laws which they have not ratified, and when it deprives them of action except through their representatives. The people themselves must act directly, must assemble together and deliberate on public affairs; they must control and censure the acts of those they elect; they must influence these with their resolutions, correct their mistakes with their good sense, atone for their weakness by their energy, stand at the helm alongside of them, and even employ force and throw them overboard, so that the ship may be saved, which, in their hands, is drifting on a rock.
Hippolyte Adolphe Taine (1828 – 1893) was a French critic and historian. He was the chief theoretical influence of French naturalism, a major proponent of sociological positivism, and one of the first practitioners of historicist criticism. Literary historicism as a critical movement has been said to originate with him. Taine is particularly remembered for his three-pronged approach to the contextual study of a work of art, based on the aspects of what he called "race, milieu, and moment".
Taine had a profound effect on French literature; the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica asserted that "the tone which pervades the works of Zola, Bourget and Maupassant can be immediately attributed to the influence we call Taine's."