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The Danger of Being a Gentleman (Works of Harold J. Laski): And Other Essays by Harold J. Laski

The Danger of Being a Gentleman (Works of Harold J. Laski): And Other Essays by Harold J. Laski

Author:Harold J. Laski [Laski, Harold J.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Communism; Post-Communism & Socialism, Democracy, Political Ideologies, Political Science, General
ISBN: 9781317586593
Google: 6RQhBQAAQBAJ
Goodreads: 23530760
Publisher: Routledge
Published: 1939-01-01T00:00:00+00:00


II

That is not what occurred; and my main purpose is to try and show why it did not occur. When the drama of the Revolution began, some of the ablest members of the States-General were the enthusiastic protagonists of such a scheme. They were well informed; they were even well organized; and they fought hard to achieve their purpose. Yet by the autumn of 1789 it was clear that they had lost all hope of success. Thereafter the prospect of any such achievement as they desired grew rapidly more remote. The more the Revolution became intensified, the more obvious it became that they were speaking only to themselves. One by one they disappeared, embittered and disappointed, from the scene. By the declaration of war there was scarcely a trace of their enthusiasm. By the time that the Jacobins had arrived at power, the profession of enthusiasm for English institutions was almost equivalent to the expression of counter-revolutionary sentiments. What currents of thought contributed to so rapid and so resounding a defeat?

There is no doubt of the early enthusiasm. “Men spoke more,” wrote Madame de Staël,1 “of the British Constitution than of the French.” As early as July of 1789 Mounier recalled the “excessive admiration” for the English Constitution.2 The Czar’s correspondent in Paris told his master that opinion had fixed itself on the English model as one that “made men free.”3 So thought, also, Roederer4 and that detached American, Gouverneur Morris.5 Even the critics of British institutions admit the strength of this view. It is, writes one opponent,6 “the mania of the day.” Men think of it, another tells us, as the “chief product of human powers.” “Every Frenchman,” wrote Siéyès ironically,7 “is mocked at unless he bows down before the English Constitution.”

The admiration extended to unexpected quarters. It had significant supporters among the aristocracy. Brienne and Calonne were anxious to adapt the English plan to French ideas.1 Ségur tells us that th young nobles piqued themselves on their hope o playing their part like English peers2; and the Dude Lévis gives us a picture of them practising thei oratory at masonic meetings.3 The higher clergy, a least in part, shared these views. The Archbishop o Bordeaux, Champion de Cicé, was an English enthu siast4; so, also, were the Bishops of Langres and Aix the latter was a profound admirer of Fox and spot in almost lyrical terms of Montesquieu’s analysis o the British Constitution.5

It is, perhaps, less surprising to find a similar feelin in administrators like Necker6 and members of th Parlements like Duval d’Esprémesnil.7 Both had suffered from the consequences of royal arbitrariness The latter, at least, had no doubt of what he wanted “The right of the nation,” he wrote,8 “freely to vote its aids by a States-General regularly called and properly composed ; the right of every citizen never to be taken before any judges save his natural judge who are those appointed by statute for this purpose the right, without which all others are worthless, no to be arrested, by any authority whatsoever, without being tried at once by competent judges.



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