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Bastille Day

Allons enfants de la Patrie, le jour de gloire est arrivé. And so forth. It's sad that contemporary France has edited out the bloodthirsty verses two through five. Number two, I think, is crucial:

Que veut cette horde d'esclaves
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
Français, pour nous, ah ! quel outrage
Quels transports il doit exciter ?
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à l'antique esclavage !
Roughly speaking, it says a horde of traitors and conspiring kinds is plotting to throw us back into slavery, so we need to kill them. Let impure blood water our fields!

July 14, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

Yeah, it really is the goriest national anthem imaginable. Love how the French have a verb for "to slit the throat of".

Posted by: Chris in Boston | Jul 14, 2004 12:09:55 PM

Happy Bastille Day!

The French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, even though they opened the way for Napoleon and his successors, has to be counted as one of the most successful such events in history over the long term. The French took a long time to revolt, but when they did, they did it right (i.e., effectively).

Liberte, Fraternite, et Egalite, Citoyen Iglesias!

Posted by: tcb or tcb3 | Jul 14, 2004 12:11:21 PM

Got so excited I forgot my subject-verb number agreement.

Posted by: tcb or tcb3 | Jul 14, 2004 12:13:12 PM

I was not aware that "La Marseillaise" had been edited. Where did you get that info?

It is however true that not many people know the whole text. I searched for the text on the internet last week and was amazed to discover that I did remember perhaps only 25% of it.

In the 1980's, a very patriotic minister for education decided that "La Marseillaise" should be taught in school, but the idea was largley ridiculed and never implemented. As a result, among peole under 40, hardly anybody knows the text after the first few sentences (including the players on the national soccer team, as Jean-Marie Le Pen commented publicly once).

Posted by: amusedfrog | Jul 14, 2004 12:25:16 PM

Thing is it's a good tune. Major key and triumphalist, but what would you expect from a national anthem? Ours on the other hand blows. Can't sing it. Barely a melody.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 14, 2004 12:48:57 PM

Mr. Tcb,
I disagree profoundly on the positive nature of the French revolution. On this matter I take my bearings from Burke. History has justified him.
It was a highly influential "bad example" that opened the way to much greater horrors and turned France, Europe and much of the rest of the world away from the much more positive reforms then proceeding and replaced that rational pursuit of organic change with the romance of revolution.
Evil in its own right, it was the mother of a host of other evils.

Posted by: luisalegria | Jul 14, 2004 12:54:55 PM

On this date in 1789, the French populus stormed the bastille to protest how their government locked up those who disagreed.

It was proof that power no longer resided in the King or in God, but in the people.

For all citizens of France, the storming of the Bastille came to symbolize liberty, democracy in the struggle against oppression.

Thus began the French Revolution.

Posted by: dstein | Jul 14, 2004 1:35:20 PM

I have to ask if luisalegria's (and Burke's) objections to the French Revolution are to its inception rather than the particular path it took.
Is the right to overthrow an unjust and irresponsible king reserved to the nobility and upper classes?

"much of the rest of the world away from the much more positive reforms"

To blame the following 100+ (and probably WWI) years of upper class privilege and oppression on the peasants asking for bread does indeed mark Burke as the father of modern conservatism.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 14, 2004 2:49:11 PM

luisalegria,

I take issue with your assertion that the French Revolution was "a bad influence," and with the fact that you refer to Burke, of all people, for support.

"The peasants" didn't revolt in France for upwards of eight hundred years of oppression. When the specific generation of "peasants" that revolted, revolted, they did so because during the Enlightenment thought had progressed to the point that they were able to entertain the idea of forcibly removing the nobility (yes, that's highly simplified, but no matter). They did a fine job of destroying the parasitic classes of church and state. They also destroyed the competent bureaucrats required to keep the state running, but in retrospect that seems like a more than fair trade. There may well be cleaner ways of dealing with unjust societies from the inside; but revolution and decimation of the oppressors is certainly, and rightly, part of society's toolkit.

Posted by: tcb or tcb3 | Jul 14, 2004 3:32:37 PM

It is tempting, not to mention cliche', to bring Burke into this in order to condemn the French Revolution. The problem remains, of course, that Burke himself was defending British society, whose structure was based on very similar destructive impulses of Henry VIII 200 years before.

Sure, Burke at the time condemned the French Revolution, but the tenets of his philosophy would compel one to defend the precepts of the French Revolution and their expression in current French law as sacred institutions that are not to be overturned.

Posted by: Constantine | Jul 14, 2004 4:02:45 PM

Burke's Greatness

Paul Cella on Burke's French Revolution, as posted on RedState.org. Mr Cella is a conservative I respect unconditionally, and I am sure luisalegria has recently read this posting.

Burke

Edmund Burke's Reflections, courtesy of Bartleby.com.

I mean to reread Burke, my first was not at all close. The above comment was irresponsibly tendetious, but not entirely insincere. Perhaps a little uninformed.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 14, 2004 4:08:38 PM

Is the right to overthrow an unjust and irresponsible king reserved to the nobility and upper classes?

Poor Louis XVI...I suppose the revisionists haven't penetrated popular culture yet. Louis XVI was weak, but it was, in fact, the nobility and upper classes who got the ball rolling, because they didn't like his ministers' attempts to end their tax privileges.

Posted by: John | Jul 14, 2004 4:46:46 PM

I appreciate bob mcmanus' link. The problem is that, while Burke was writing against the revolutionary French, he could just as well have been writing about the US when he objects that the French seem to think it is a "fundamental right of man, that all government, not being a democracy, is an usurpation." Uh, well, yeah, isn't it?

Posted by: epistemology | Jul 14, 2004 4:48:03 PM

"that all government, not being a democracy, is an usurpation." Uh, well, yeah, isn't it?"

Uh,no. A Republic is neither a Democracy nor, ideally, a usurpation. An important distinction at the time.

Maybe it is the time to restudy Burke. It is my habit to closely study my opponents. The US Constitution was written in 1787, surely Burke had read it. Too many conservatives credit Burke with the fine understanding of America that Tocqueville had, some 40 years(?) after Reflections. I suspect that Burke, while pleased with the aristocratic nature of the American Revolution, was less pleased with the US Constitution that followed it. And wrote "Reflections" partially, not in immediate fear of an obviously doomed and self-consuming French Revolution, but in long-term worry about a far more viable and attractive US system.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 14, 2004 5:33:58 PM

Burke objects to the lack of respect accorded Marie Antoinette. But he gives good prose. Vive Camille Desmoulins!

Posted by: John Isbell | Jul 14, 2004 5:48:56 PM

Roughly speaking, it says a horde of traitors and conspiring kinds

You probably meant "kings".

And i fart in burke's general direction, but that goes without saying.

Posted by: yabonn | Jul 14, 2004 7:17:48 PM

There's a bit of bloodthirstiness in this one, too, which actually seems somewhat similar to the French verse Matt quotes:

"And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."

I suspect the truth of the matter is not that the French have edited verses out of their national anthem, but that no one remembers any verse of any natinal anthem after the first one (as the example above may show)

Posted by: rea | Jul 14, 2004 7:27:25 PM

Mr. Mcmanus,
No, I had not been to "Red State" yet, nor read Mr. Cella's piece, thank you for the link, it is very interesting.
What I mean by the French Revolution ending the European climate of reform was that there was such a thing at the time. France was catching up to Britain in the matter of capitalism, and the power of capitalists was growing vs the nobility and the church, and it was actively promoted by the Royal authority. The revolution set this back terribly. I refer to Schama's "Citizens" for a fine exposition.
Its effect on Spain was worse, if anything. The military stress on, and overthrow of the (in Spanish terms) liberal and reformist Bourbon monarchy set off 200 years of very destructive struggle in Spain. Spain in 1789 was a more progressive, more prosperous, and more liberal place than the Spain of 1815, and did not have such a store of internal bitterness.
All of Europe came out of the revolutionary/Napoleonic period politically polarized like it had never been since the wars of religion.
And what can we say of Latin America ? How many Napoleons and Robespierres took their cue from the French ? The death toll there in the 19th century was enormous.

Posted by: luisalegria | Jul 14, 2004 8:00:36 PM

Luisalegria, I will give your post much thought. Correlation does not necessarily imply causality, or however that goes, and what is cause, effect , or symptom in the evidence you cite is not so clear. I am no fan of Romanticism, but I would also claim it insignificant beside the great wave of the Enlightenment.

That Burke's England reformed so peacefully in the 19th century might be in part because they were ahead of their time, in that they had their bloodbath earlier than the others. I classify the Age of Cromwell as much an economic and political conflict as a religious one.

Our own mass fratricide (or mine, I am not sure you are American) might also be described as a clash between feudal structures/values and modern egalitarianism. Certainly the nation that survived was a different one than the founders had imagined.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 14, 2004 10:15:24 PM

Oh, and I suspect that we differ in that I don't believe each of the steps in the French Revolution necessarily followed from the previous. Napoleon was not an inevitable consequence of the Storming of the Bastille.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 14, 2004 10:19:00 PM

Mr. Mcmanus,

I am not American, I am a Filipino resident of the US who holds dual Spanish nationality as well. My wife and children are US citizens.

No, Napoleon was not inevitable, but in 1792 France went to war with most of Europe, long before Napoleon. It was French Republican armies led by men other than Napoleon that first invaded the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain. France went through 11 years of war before Napoleon brought a short peace. Napoleons own wars were a 10-year extension of the wars of the Revolution.

Posted by: luisalegria | Jul 15, 2004 1:28:41 AM

Mr Alegria,

You state that "in 1792 France went to war with most of Europe".

I just would like to mention that on year before in August 1991, by the "Declaration of Pillnitz", the rulers of Austria and Prussia made the commitment to halt the French Revolution.

Even if formally, the war was declared by France in 1792, there was little doubt that France was going to be attacked by Prussia and Austria, in order to defend the old social order (that is what the text of the Marseillaise is about, the struggle against "tyrants").

The war (wanted by European monarchies in order to stop the Revolution), resulted on the contrary in a radicalisation of the revolution (a phenomenon that has happened in other countries, cf. the Russian Revolution).

It is interesting to note another analogy: the more extreme elements among the revoltionnary movement(notably Robespierre and the Jacobins), that later gained power thanks to the radicalization resulting from the war, were the most reticent towards the war (the future communists were also the fraction that usually opposed the war in 1914).

If the total human toll of the Revolution is very high and one could wish that ot had never happen, it is difficult to contest that there is also a positive legacy of the French Revolution.

August 4 1989
The National Assembly abolishes most feudal privileges held by the aristocracy and the clergy, including taxes, obligatory labor on roads and payment of crops.

August 26 1989
The National Assembly adopts the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

March 2 1791
All guilds, which regulated entry into artisan crafts, are abolished.

Yes, the French Revolution was largely pro-capitalist: " June 14 1991 - Worker unions and strikes are prohibited by the Le Chapelier Law"

September 27 1991
Jews in all regions of France are granted full citizenship (those in the Midi had been granted citizenship on January 28, 1790).


August 1 1993
The metric system is decreed the new national standard

February 4 1994

Abolishion of slavery in French colonies.



Posted by: amusedfrog | Jul 15, 2004 10:24:02 AM

" "The peasants" didn't revolt in France for upwards of eight hundred years of oppression. When the specific generation of "peasants" that revolted, revolted, they did so because during the Enlightenment thought had progressed to the point that they were able to entertain the idea of forcibly removing the nobility (yes, that's highly simplified, but no matter). They did a fine job of destroying the parasitic classes of church and state. They also destroyed the competent bureaucrats required to keep the state running, but in retrospect that seems like a more than fair trade. There may well be cleaner ways of dealing with unjust societies from the inside; but revolution and decimation of the oppressors is certainly, and rightly, part of society's toolkit."

Yeah, but hopefully without the bit where the revolutionaries set up their own terror apparatus, show trials, and so on.

Posted by: Ken | Jul 15, 2004 12:26:57 PM

Britain & Scandinavia achieved all that the French Revolution achieved much more peacefully. Whether they would have done so without the threat of the French bad example is a matter of conjecture.

I don't think it is right to blame the French Revolution for the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon was an egomaniac who did not mind sacrificing millions for his greater glory, and the blame for the wars falls on him.

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