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F. A. M. Mignet

The chief result of the 18th Fructidor was a return, with slight mitigation, to the revolutionary government. The two ancient privileged classes were again excluded from society; the dissentient priests were again banished.

Of the great incidents of History, none has attracted more attention or proved more difficult of interpretation than the French Revolution. The ultimate significance of other striking events and their place in the development of mankind can be readily estimated. It is clear enough that the barbarian invasions marked the death of the classical world, already mortally wounded by the rise of Christianity.

The 18th Brumaire had immense popularity. People did not perceive in this event the elevation of a single man above the councils of the nation; they did not see in it the end of the great movement of the 14th of July, which had commenced the national existence.

Eloge de Charles VII., 1820; Les Institutions de Saint Louis, 1821; De la feodalite, des institutions de Saint Louis et de l'influence de la legislation de ce prince, 1822; Histoire de la revolution francaise, 1824 (trans.

After the establishment of the empire, power became more arbitrary, and society reconstructed itself on an aristocratic principle. The great movement of recomposition, which had commenced on the 9th Thermidor went on increasing. The convention had abolished classes; the directory defeated parties; the consulate gained over men; and the empire corrupted them by distinctions and privileges. This second period was the opposite of the first.

I am about to take a rapid review of the history of the French revolution, which began the era of new societies in Europe, as the English revolution had begun the era of new governments. This revolution not only modified the political power, but it entirely changed the internal existence of the nation. The forms of the society of the middle ages still remained. The land was divided into hostile provinces, the population into rival classes.

The 5th of May, 1789, was fixed for the opening of the states-general. A religious ceremony on the previous day prefaced their installation. The king, his family, his ministers, the deputies of the three orders, went in procession from the church of Notre-Dame to that of Saint Louis, to hear the opening mass. Men did not without enthusiasm see the return of a national ceremony of which France had for so long a period been deprived. It had all the appearance of a festival.

The national assembly, composed of the elite of the nation, was full of intelligence, pure intentions, and projects for the public good. It was not, indeed, free from parties, or wholly unanimous; but the mass was not dominated by any man or idea; and it was the mass which, upon a conviction ever untrammelled and often entirely spontaneous, decided the deliberations and bestowed popularity. The following were the divisions of views and interests it contained within itself: -

The period which forms the subject of this chapter was less remarkable for events than for the gradually decided separation of parties. In proportion as changes were introduced into the state and the laws, those whose interests or opinions they injured declared themselves against them. The revolution had had as enemies, from the beginning of the states-general, the court; from the union of orders and the abolition of privileges, the nobility; from the establishment of a single assembly and the rejection of the two chambers, the ministry and the partisans of the English form of government.

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