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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
French Governmental Experiments
By Alfred Rambaud (1842–1905)
 
From the ‘History of Contemporary Civilization in France’

CONTEMPORARY history should not be separated from politics; nor can politics be, as some seem to think, a matter of opinion, of prejudice, passion, or excitement. When well understood they are a science, and even belong to experimental science; and as such, are of course still uncertain, hypothetical in conclusions: but must tend, if judged in a truly scientific spirit, to laws as sure as those of physics, chemistry, or natural history…. In politics, the heat of passion is always in inverse ratio to a man’s scientific education. Ignorant people are always violent….  1
  In my study of the different forms of government we have tried, it will be seen that I have denied the merits of none: neither the generous, humane ideas of the Constituent, nor the patriotic energy of the Convention, nor the administrative genius of Napoleon I., nor the parliamentary honesty of the two constitutional monarchies, nor the ardent spirit of social justice which animated the Second Republic [1848], nor the great material progress accomplished under the Second Empire. At the same time, these studies show that none of these forms of government realized the ideal of liberty, equality, and public order, which every party worthy of the name should have in view….  2
  French royalty had not been strong enough to realize equality: it was too strong to permit liberty. Timid with regard to the historical rights of clergy and nobility, it had been tyrannical towards its people….  3
  The population of France was divided into three estates: the clergy, nobility, and Third Estate. It formed three distinct classes, each having its own laws. The clergy alone numbered 130,000 priests; the nobility 140,000 persons; the Third Estate twenty-five million….  4
  The great revolution is not an accident in our history. It was prepared and brought on by the preceding eight centuries. Its results may be described in three words,—Unity, Equality, Liberty. 1  5
 
Note 1. The last paragraph is from the main work, ‘History of Civilization in France.’ [back]
 
 
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