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F. A. M. Mignet

The death of Louis XVI. rendered the different parties irreconcilable, and increased the external enemies of the revolution. The republicans had to contend with all Europe, with several classes of malcontents, and with themselves. But the Mountain, who then directed the popular movement, imagined that they were too far involved not to push matters to extremity.

It was to be presumed that the Girondists would not bow to their defeat, and that the 31st of May would be the signal for the insurrection of the departments against the Mountain and the commune of Paris. This was the last trial left them to make, and they attempted it. But, in this decisive measure, there was seen the same want of union which had caused their defeat in the assembly. It is doubtful whether the Girondists would have triumphed, had they been united, and especially whether their triumph would have saved the revolution.

During the four months following the fall of the Danton party, the committees exercised their authority without opposition or restraint. Death became the only means of governing, and the republic was given up to daily and systematic executions.

The 9th of Thermidor was the first day of the revolution in which those fell who attacked. This indication alone manifested that the ascendant revolutionary movement had reached its term. From that day the contrary movement necessarily began. The general rising of all parties against one man was calculated to put an end to the compression under which they laboured. In Robespierre the committees subdued each other, and the decemviral government lost the prestige of terror which had constituted its strength.

The exterior prosperity of the revolution chiefly contributed to the fall of the dictatorial government and of the Jacobin party. The increasing victories of the republic to which they had very greatly contributed by their vigorous measures, and by their enthusiasm, rendered their power superfluous. The committee of public safety, by crushing with its strong and formidable hand the interior of France, had developed resources, organized armies, found generals and guided them to victories which ultimately secured the triumph of the revolution in the face of Europe.

The French revolution, which had destroyed the old government, and thoroughly overturned the old society, had two wholly distinct objects; that of a free constitution, and that of a more perfect state of civilization. The six years we have just gone over were the search for government by each of the classes which composed the French nation.

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.

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