French Revolution Quotes

Quotes tagged as "french-revolution" (showing 1-30 of 145)
Jennifer Donnelly
“History is a Rorschach test, people. What you see when you look at it tells you as much about yourself as it does about the past.”
Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution

Charles Dickens
“Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; - the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!”
Charles Dickens , A Tale of Two Cities

Thomas A. Edison
“I have always been interested in this man. My father had a set of Tom Paine's books on the shelf at home. I must have opened the covers about the time I was 13. And I can still remember the flash of enlightenment which shone from his pages. It was a revelation, indeed, to encounter his views on political and religious matters, so different from the views of many people around us. Of course I did not understand him very well, but his sincerity and ardor made an impression upon me that nothing has ever served to lessen.

I have heard it said that Paine borrowed from Montesquieu and Rousseau. Maybe he had read them both and learned something from each. I do not know. But I doubt that Paine ever borrowed a line from any man...

Many a person who could not comprehend Rousseau, and would be puzzled by Montesquieu, could understand Paine as an open book. He wrote with a clarity, a sharpness of outline and exactness of speech that even a schoolboy should be able to grasp. There is nothing false, little that is subtle, and an impressive lack of the negative in Paine. He literally cried to his reader for a comprehending hour, and then filled that hour with such sagacious reasoning as we find surpassed nowhere else in American letters - seldom in any school of writing.

Paine would have been the last to look upon himself as a man of letters. Liberty was the dear companion of his heart; truth in all things his object.

...we, perhaps, remember him best for his declaration:

'The world is my country; to do good my religion.'

Again we see the spontaneous genius at work in 'The Rights of Man', and that genius busy at his favorite task - liberty. Written hurriedly and in the heat of controversy, 'The Rights of Man' yet compares favorably with classical models, and in some places rises to vaulting heights. Its appearance outmatched events attending Burke's effort in his 'Reflections'.

Instantly the English public caught hold of this new contribution. It was more than a defense of liberty; it was a world declaration of what Paine had declared before in the Colonies. His reasoning was so cogent, his command of the subject so broad, that his legion of enemies found it hard to answer him.

'Tom Paine is quite right,' said Pitt, the Prime Minister, 'but if I were to encourage his views we should have a bloody revolution.'

Here we see the progressive quality of Paine's genius at its best. 'The Rights of Man' amplified and reasserted what already had been said in 'Common Sense', with now a greater force and the power of a maturing mind. Just when Paine was at the height of his renown, an indictment for treason confronted him. About the same time he was elected a member of the Revolutionary Assembly and escaped to France.

So little did he know of the French tongue that addresses to his constituents had to be translated by an interpreter. But he sat in the assembly. Shrinking from the guillotine, he encountered Robespierre's enmity, and presently found himself in prison, facing that dread instrument.

But his imprisonment was fertile. Already he had written the first part of 'The Age of Reason' and now turned his time to the latter part.

Presently his second escape cheated Robespierre of vengeance, and in the course of events 'The Age of Reason' appeared. Instantly it became a source of contention which still endures. Paine returned to the United States a little broken, and went to live at his home in New Rochelle - a public gift. Many of his old companions in the struggle for liberty avoided him, and he was publicly condemned by the unthinking.

{The Philosophy of Paine, June 7, 1925}”
Thomas A. Edison, Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison

Jennifer Donnelly
“Little by little, the old world crumbled, and not once did the king imagine that some of the pieces might fall on him.”
Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution

Wilhelm Reich
“It is the fate of great achievements, born from a way of life that sets truth before security, to be gobbled up by you and excreted in the form of shit. For centuries great, brave, lonely men have been telling you what to do. Time and again you have corrupted, diminished and demolished their teachings; time and again you have been captivated by their weakest points, taken not the great truth, but some trifling error as your guiding principal. This, little man, is what you have done with Christianity, with the doctrine of sovereign people, with socialism, with everything you touch. Why, you ask, do you do this? I don't believe you really want an answer. When you hear the truth you'll cry bloody murder, or commit it. … You had your choice between soaring to superhuman heights with Nietzsche and sinking into subhuman depths with Hitler. You shouted Heil! Heil! and chose the subhuman. You had the choice between Lenin's truly democratic constitution and Stalin's dictatorship. You chose Stalin's dictatorship. You had your choice between Freud's elucidation of the sexual core of your psychic disorders and his theory of cultural adaptation. You dropped the theory of sexuality and chose his theory of cultural adaptation, which left you hanging in mid-air. You had your choice between Jesus and his majestic simplicity and Paul with his celibacy for priests and life-long compulsory marriage for yourself. You chose the celibacy and compulsory marriage and forgot the simplicity of Jesus' mother, who bore her child for love and love alone. You had your choice between Marx's insight into the productivity of your living labor power, which alone creates the value of commodities and the idea of the state. You forgot the living energy of your labor and chose the idea of the state. In the French Revolution, you had your choice between the cruel Robespierre and the great Danton. You chose cruelty and sent greatness and goodness to the guillotine. In Germany you had your choice between Goring and Himmler on the one hand and Liebknecht, Landau, and Muhsam on the other. You made Himmler your police chief and murdered your great friends. You had your choice between Julius Streicher and Walter Rathenau. You murdered Rathenau. You had your choice between Lodge and Wilson. You murdered Wilson. You had your choice between the cruel Inquisition and Galileo's truth. You tortured and humiliated the great Galileo, from whose inventions you are still benefiting, and now, in the twentieth century, you have brought the methods of the Inquisition to a new flowering. … Every one of your acts of smallness and meanness throws light on the boundless wretchedness of the human animal. 'Why so tragic?' you ask. 'Do you feel responsible for all evil?' With remarks like that you condemn yourself. If, little man among millions, you were to shoulder the barest fraction of your responsibility, the world would be a very different place. Your great friends wouldn't perish, struck down by your smallness.”
Wilhelm Reich, Listen, Little Man!

Jennifer Donnelly
“Because beautiful things never last. Not roses nor snow… And not fireworks, either”
Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution

John  Adams
“This society [Jesuits] has been a greater calamity to mankind than the French Revolution, or Napoleon's despotism or ideology. It has obstructed the progress of reformation and the improvement of the human mind in society much longer and more fatally.

{Letter to Thomas Jefferson, November 4, 1816. Adams wrote an anonymous 4 volume work on the destructive history of the Jesuits}”
John Adams, The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams

Maximilien Robespierre
“Peoples do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts.”
Maximilien Robespierre

Jennifer Donnelly
“Had you but seen it, I promise you, your high-minded principles would have melted like candle wax. Never would you have wished such beauty away.”
Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution

Maximilien Robespierre
“A sensibility that wails almost exclusively over the enemies of liberty seems suspect to me. Stop shaking the tyrant's bloody robe in my face, or I will believe that you wish to put Rome in chains.”
Maximilien Robespierre

Christopher Hitchens
“The matter on which I judge people is their willingness, or ability, to handle contradiction. Thus Paine was better than Burke when it came to the principle of the French revolution, but Burke did and said magnificent things when it came to Ireland, India and America. One of them was in some ways a revolutionary conservative and the other was a conservative revolutionary. It's important to try and contain multitudes. One of my influences was Dr Israel Shahak, a tremendously brave Israeli humanist who had no faith in collectivist change but took a Spinozist line on the importance of individuals. Gore Vidal's admirers, of whom I used to be one and to some extent remain one, hardly notice that his essential critique of America is based on Lindbergh and 'America First'—the most conservative position available. The only real radicalism in our time will come as it always has—from people who insist on thinking for themselves and who reject party-mindedness.”
Christopher Hitchens, Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left

Hilary Mantel
“92, '93, '94. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death.”
Hilary Mantel, A Place of Greater Safety

Gustave Le Bon
“To the Jacobins of this epoch [the French Revolution], as well as to those of our times, this popular entity constitutes a superior personality possessing attributes peculiar to the gods of never having to answer for their actions and never making a mistake. Their wishes must be humbly acceded to. The people may kill, burn, ravage, commit the most frightening cruelties, glorify their hero today and throw him into the gutter tomorrow, it is all the same; the politicians will not cease to vaunt the people's virtues and to bow to their every decision.”
Gustave Le Bon, The Psychology of Revolution

Hilary Mantel
“Just think, she said to herself. I could be living on the Right Bank. I could be married to a senior clerk at the Treasury. I could be sitting with my feet up, embroidering a linen handkerchief with a rambling-rose design. Instead I'm on the rue des Cordeliers in pursuit of a baguette, with a three-inch blade for comfort.”
Hilary Mantel, A Place of Greater Safety

“A collective insanity seemed to have seized the nation and turned them into something worse than beasts. The princess de Lamballe, Marie Antoinette's intimate friend, was literally torn to pieces; her head, breasts, and pudenda were paraded on pikes before the windows of the Temple, where the royal family was imprisoned, while a man boasted drunkenly at a cafe that he had eaten the princess' heart, which he probably had.”
J. Christopher Herold, The Age of Napoleon

Michael Coren
“...more men and women were slaughtered in a couple of weeks of the terror of the atheistic French Revolution than in a century of the Inquisition.”
Michael Coren, Why Catholics are Right

Victor Hugo
“So far as Louis XVI. was concerned, I said `no.' I did not think that I had the right to kill a man; but I felt it my duty to exterminate evil. I voted the end of the tyrant, that is to say, the end of prostitution for woman, the end of slavery for man, the end of night for the child. In voting for the Republic, I voted for that. I voted for fraternity, concord, the dawn. I have aided in the overthrow of prejudices and errors. The crumbling away of prejudices and errors causes light. We have caused the fall of the old world, and the old world, that vase of miseries, has become, through its upsetting upon the human race, an urn of joy."

"Mixed joy," said the Bishop.

"You may say troubled joy, and to-day, after that fatal return of the past, which is called 1814, joy which has disappeared! Alas! The work was incomplete, I admit: we demolished the ancient regime in deeds; we were not able to suppress it entirely in ideas. To destroy abuses is not sufficient; customs must be modified. The mill is there no longer; the wind is still there."

"You have demolished. It may be of use to demolish, but I distrust a demolition complicated with wrath."

"Right has its wrath, Bishop; and the wrath of right is an element of progress. In any case, and in spite of whatever may be said, the French Revolution is the most important step of the human race since the advent of Christ. Incomplete, it may be, but sublime. It set free all the unknown social quantities; it softened spirits, it calmed, appeased, enlightened; it caused the waves of civilization to flow over the earth. It was a good thing. The French Revolution is the consecration of humanity.”
Victor Hugo, Fantine: Les Miserables #1

Victor Hugo
“I congratulate you," said he, in the tone which one uses for a reprimand. "You did not vote for the death of the king, after all."

The old member of the Convention did not appear to notice the bitter meaning underlying the words "after all." He replied. The smile had quite disappeared from his face.

"Do not congratulate me too much, sir. I did vote for the death of the tyrant."

It was the tone of austerity answering the tone of severity.

"What do you mean to say?" resumed the Bishop.

"I mean to say that man has a tyrant,--ignorance. I voted for the death of that tyrant. That tyrant engendered royalty, which is authority falsely understood, while science is authority rightly understood. Man should be governed only by science."

"And conscience," added the Bishop.

"It is the same thing. Conscience is the quantity of innate science which we have within us.”
Victor Hugo, Fantine: Les Miserables #1

Eric Hobsbawm
“On the whole, however, it was accepted that money not only talked, but governed. All the industrialist had to get to be accepted among the governors of society was enough money.”
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848

Charles Dickens
“Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and started up from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker's shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Michelle Moran
“Repeat the names,” my mother instructs, and we listen while Paschal recites the names of the months.
“Vintage, Fog, Frost, Snow, Rain …” He hesitates on the sixth month.
“Wind,” she says helpfully. We are all sitting at the caissier’s desk, and it is very important he get this right.
“Wind,” he repeats after her. “Seed, Blossoms, M-Mead—”
“Meadows,” I say.
“Meadows, Harvesting, Heat, and Fruit.”
Isabel claps. “Very good.”
“And what year is this?” my mother asks.
Paschal frowns. “Seventeen ninety-three?”
“No,” Isabel says forcefully. “It is Year Two.”
“But I don’t understand.”
“The first year began on September twenty-second, seventeen ninety-two.” The day France declared itself the First Republic.
“But how?” He doesn’t see how he could have been alive before time began.
“That is the decree of the Convention,” she explains.”
Michelle Moran, Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

George Orwell
“The class-struggle is the main source of progress, and therefore the nobleman who robs the peasant and goads him to revolt is playing a necessary part, just as much as the Jacobin who guillotines the nobleman.”
George Orwell

Eric Hobsbawm
“Our problem is not to trace the emergence of a world market, of a sufficiently active class of private entrepreneurs, or even (in England) of a state dedicated to the proposition that the maximization of private profit was the foundation of government policy...By the 1780s we can take the existence of all these for granted...”
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848

Ron Chernow
“An essential difference between the American and French revolutions was that the American version allowed a search for many truths, while French zealots tried to impose a single sacred truth that allowed no deviation. " page 714”
Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life

Charles Dickens
“Villain Foulon taken, my sister! Old Foulon taken, my mother! Miscreant Foulon taken, my daughter! Then, a score of others ran into the midst of these, beating their breasts, tearing their hair, and screaming, Foulon alive! Foulon who told the starving people they might eat grass! Foulon who told my old father that he might eat grass, when I had no bread to give him! Foulon who told my baby it might suck grass, when these breasts were dry with want! O mother of God, this Foulon! O Heaven our suffering! Hear me, my dead baby and my withered father: I swear on my knees, on these stones, to avenge you on Foulon! Husbands, and brothers, and young men, Give us the blood of Foulon, Give us the head of Foulon, Give us the heart of Foulon, Give us the body and soul of Foulon, Rend Foulon to pieces, and dig him into the ground, that grass may grow from him!”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Emil M. Cioran
“An inexorable law strikes and directs societies and civilisations. When, for lack of vitality, the past collapses, clinging to it serves no purpose — and yet it is this attachment to antiquated forms of life, to lost or bad causes, that makes so touching the anathemas of a de Maistre or a Bonald. Everything seems admirable and everything is false in the utopian vision; everything is execrable and everything seems true in the observations of the reactionaries.”
Emil M. Cioran, Anathemas and Admirations

Peter Weiss
“Chorus:
The Kings are our dear fathers
Under whose care we live in peace
The Kings are our dear fathers
Under whose care we live in peace
Marat:
And the children repeated the lesson they believed it
As anyone believes
What they hear over and over again
And over and over again the priests said
Our love embraces all mankind
Of every colour race and creed
Our love is international universal
We are all brothers every one
And the priests looked down into the pit of injustice
And they turned their faces away and said
Our Kingdom is not as the kingdom of this world
Our life on earth is out a pilgrimage
The soul lives on humility and patience
At the same time screwing from the poor their last centime
They settled down among their treasures
And ate and drank with princes
And to the starving they said
Suffer
Suffer as he suffered on the cross
For it is the will of God
And anyone believes what they hear over and over again
So the poor instead of bread made do with a picture
Of the bleeding scourged and nailed-up Christ
And prayed to that image of their helplessness
And the priests said
Raise your hands to heaven bend your knees
And bear your suffering without complaint
For prayer and blessing are the only stairways
Which you can climb to Paradise
And so they chained down the poor in their ignorance
So that they wouldn't stand up and fight their bosses
Who ruled in the name of the lie of divine right
Chorus:
Amen”
Peter Weiss, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade

Jocelyn Green
“Vienne had been wrong about grief, to think of it as mere sadness, to believe it could be dammed while inconvenient, or set free to run its course and then dry up. It was a crush in the chest, a sharp pull in the gut, pain that encircled back without warning. No respecter of time or will.”
Jocelyn Green, A Refuge Assured

Victor Hugo
“As long as he has for refrain nothing but la Carmagnole, he only overthrows Louis XVI.; make him sing the Marseillaise, and he will free the world.”
Victor Hugo, Fantine: Les Miserables #1

Gladys Malvern
“Life - hers and her family's - had become like a constantly twisting road and you never knew what fresh horrors might confront you around every bend; a road full of ruts and jolts. And sometimes you said you couldn't take any more jolts - but somehow you did. You took what came, and you took it with a stamina that you never imagined you possessed; but always you were tense, apprehensive, scared - wondering what was coming next.”
Gladys Malvern, Patriot's Daughter: The Story of Anastasia Lafayette for teen-age girls

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