The Course of German History: A Survey of the Development of German History since 1815

By A. J. P. Taylor | Go to book overview

2

THE ASCENDANCY OF FRANCE, 1792-1814

The French Revolution altered Germany only less profoundly than it altered France: the old political order and in some parts of Germany the old social order were changed beyond recognition. But these great changes were brought about in fundamentally different ways. In France the revolution was the work of the French people: their sufferings and their efforts taught them the basic lesson of politics, the lesson of power. Not the moral or intellectual superiority of its ideas, but the levée en masse and the organizing genius of the Jacobins, caused the revolution to triumph; above all the need for mass support compelled the middle-class liberals to form with the peasants and town workers a united radical front, never thereafter totally dissolved. In Germany those who desired liberal reforms did nothing to promote their own cause; they waited passively, though querulously, to be liberated by the French, and the force which gave Germany the career open to the talents was not the force of the German peasants, but the force of the French peasants in its organized form of the French Army. The German liberals had no agrarian programme and no sympathy with the propertyless masses, whom they despised as obscurantist and reactionary; nor had they any feeling that liberal institutions needed to be fought for and

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