Wednesday, August 3, 2022

When Revolution Comes

Louis XVI had called for the convocation of the Estates General, and as the year 1789 opened it began to assemble.

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

He had no choice, really.  The state’s finances were a mess.  He would have the support of most of the first two estates – the clergy and the nobility – as long as no new taxes were involved.  The third estate was not so obliging.  More than mere financial reform was expected; they wanted to see action on many fronts, where critical views were now circulating on the shape and nature of the state itself.

Here is where the vision of Jean-Jacques Rousseau would be decisive.  None of the Augustinian anthropological pessimism for him.  “Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.”  Man is not born evil, but good.  It is human society that corrupts him.  The restoration of innocence is possible, but only through a transformation of society.

A “general will” replaces the individual will.  This general will offers an escape from evil that is neither natural nor supernatural.  Idealism and self-sacrifice are required.  And, of course, revolution.

By the time the Estates General convened in May of 1789, revolution was already brewing.  The third estate demanded a national assembly to serve the interests of the majority of the population.  Louis scoffed, an insurrection was fomented, and on July 14 the Bastille was stormed.  Mostly symbolic by this time, except for the garrison manning this prison.  Massacred, and the commander beheaded.  Terror would soon Reign, replacing the reign of the monarch.

In the meantime, the self-proclaimed National Assembly created a constitutional monarchy modeled on that of Britain.

All Roman Catholic Church property was confiscated; monastic orders were dissolved.  In 1790 a law was passed, demanding that Roman Catholic clergy swear an oath of obedience to the revolutionary government.  Many would refuse to take the oath.

In 1791, Louis would attempt to flee France in disguise.  Discovered, he was forced to return to Paris.  In 1792, Austria and Prussia would invade France to defend the principle of absolutism; national conscription helped to keep this enemy at bay.

The Terror would now reach its full force: Roman Catholic priests chased down and hacked to pieces; the king and queen were publicly executed.  The guillotine reached its place in infamy – symbolizing the terror to come.

As is almost always the case, the most radical of the revolutionaries would be the ones to seize power.  The Jacobins, with their leader Maximilien Robespierre, were fervent utopians.  A deist who would not survive even a couple of years after this, would proclaim the aim of the revolution as a wish…

“…to fulfil the course of nature…accomplish the destiny of mankind…make good the promises of philosophy…absolve Providence from the long reign of tyranny and crime.”

This new France would be a model to all nations and a terror to oppressors.  They would seal their work with blood.

“That is our ambition.  That is our aim.”

The clergy and nobility were to be eradicated.  As an aside, the so-called nobility of our time (including many who feign Christianity) seem to believe that they can be spared this fate by also joining sides against the clergy.

The Committee for Public Safety (perhaps creating the tradition of naming such entities in precisely the opposite manner of their actual objective) would issue thousands of death sentences in the years 1793 and 1794.

No more Christian calendar.  Marking time would now begin with the incarnation of utopia, meaning the death of the monarchy.  The names of months would be changed and the Lord’s Day abolished.  Faithful Christians were put to death – tens-of-thousands summarily executed by guillotine or grapeshot.  Barges, hatches and doors locked and stuffed with the “recalcitrant,” were put out to the river and sunk. 

Notre Dame would be the Temple of Reason.  The torchlit busts of “a secular trinity” would be at the summit of this temple: Voltaire, Rousseau…and Benjamin Franklin.  Robespierre would see this cult of reason as much too provocative for a recently Christian nation.  Hence, he would replace this cult with the cult of the Supreme Being. 


This revolution, like many before and since, would eat its own.  The story of Robespierre serves as an example.  As the dominant personality on the Committee of Public Safety, he had overseen and ordered some of the executions of the revolution’s chief enemies.  He was there when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were dragged through the street and beheaded.

In July 1794, Robespierre would make a speech in the chamber not unlike many he had given before: a tirade about the revolution and its enemies.  But this time the reception was different:

The deputies, it seemed, had finally had enough.  “Down with the tyrant!” they yelled.

He would return to confront the irreverent crowd, but to no effect.  Knowing his fate was sealed, he somehow managed to make his way back to his apartment.  At two in the morning, the police came.  Failing to kill himself with a pistol, he was taken away to the guillotine.

Utopia without Christendom.  It can only end this way, even for the most enthusiastic.


  1. Rousseau's "general will" concept is one of the most destructive concepts ever thought up. It basically says that a great leader is the only one who can understand the "general will", which is what the people really want or need in order to flourish. The "general will" can't be democratically determined through vote or debate even. Rousseau said that the people don't know what is best for them and often work against the "general will". Only the great leader can know it and is therefore justified to do whatever he will in order to bring it about. Lie. Steal. Destroy. Kill. The end justifies the means. The idea has to be straight out of the depths of the abyss.

  2. "Utopia without Christendom..." Even worse is Christendom without Christ that just gives into the world to be popular. Who swear allegiance to the state without even being asked as many are today. God forgive us.

  3. We all know what the general will really was, and is: the will of the father of lies, whispered into the ears of the weak and willing. The leaders of these movements may not fully understand at first, but it’s my belief that by the end, they know full well whom they have served.

    1. Greg M, see here:

  4. "Man is not born evil, but good. It is human society that corrupts him"

    That statement is not true, "for there is none good but one, that is, God.". Man is born in innocence, but sometime soon as a child, he begins to show evil propensities, for it is in his nature to do wrong, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." Anyone that has trained (you raise animals) children, unless blinded by their own sins, knows that.

    Certainly, society in its complex form contributes to the fall of man, for "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" which continues exponentially to compound the evil.

    Only the biblical truth of salvation, not religion, can save mankind.

    1. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."

      According to this scripture, every single soul, including those who die before they are born, has sinned because they all die. How can it be that an unborn child has "sinned"? If this is true, the only possible answer is that man is conceived in a state of sin. It is part of his nature from the very moment of conception. It is hereditary, not environmental.

      The fact is that there are innumerable conceptions (sperm impregnates egg) which never, ever, make it to the light of day through the process known as pregnancy and delivery. How can it be that the product of these conceptions, i.e., a human soul, can die--unless it has sinned?

      We need (or ought to) change the way we think about sin. It is not just a deliberate action, thought, or word which goes against the Law of God. Instead, it is an inherent part of human nature which we are obligated to overcome as much as we are capable of.

      It is this part of fallen human nature which Christ has redeemed and, in doing so, has shown us the way to the perfect liberty promised by God.