Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Revolutionary Mayor of Paris

Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Revolutionary Mayor of Paris

Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Revolutionary Mayor of Paris

Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Revolutionary Mayor of Paris

Excerpt

It is characteristic of great revolutions that they are initiated by moderate men, who desire only limited reforms and who are most reluctant to resort to violence to obtain their ends. So began the French Revolution, and such a moderate was Jean-Sylvain Bailly, who, as mayor of Paris during the years 1789-91, struggled to maintain a balance between the two extremes of radicalism and reaction. He failed and paid for his failure on the guillotine. A study of his mayoral regime throws interesting light on these moderates in the early days of the Revolution, their character and aims, the problems which faced them and their attempts to solve them, the manner in which they strived to keep themselves in power, and how they failed. The question of why they failed is an open one, and perhaps cannot be answered. Bailly and his colleagues were not men of superior ability, but had they been giants instead of men, one is tempted to believe that the great storm which they had unleashed would have overwhelmed them.

I must acknowledge the great debt which I owe to Professor Raymond P. Stearns, who supervised this manuscript when it was being prepared as a thesis for a master's degree at the University of Illinois, and who for nearly a decade has been an inspiring teacher, a helpful counselor, and a true friend.

GENE A. BRUCKER

Oxford, England . . .

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