The Pathos of Politics (40-1) French Revolution continued


The French Revolution accented the political divisions within Europe: democrats became more radical, conservatives more reactionary. Reform in England was delayed for a generation, but the war with France did not staunch the spread of liberalism, which had its vital roots in the parliamentary victories in the English Civil War and Glorious Revolution, capped by the Bill of Rights in 1689, which established Britain’s modern constitutional monarchy, and served as an inspiration for the United States Bill of Rights.

By contrast, the political philosophy emanating from the French Revolution seemed to threaten the foundation of established order on the continent. Napoléon perversely solidified the autocratic inclinations of the Germans.

Enthusiasm for liberal French ideals had been strong among the middle classes and peasants in Germany. If the victorious Napoleonic armies had followed up demolishing a millennium of German feudalism with creating a German republic, European history would have been much different. Instead, the French, having entered Germany as torchbearers of liberty, left as enemies of the German people. The German ruling classes were thus able to discredit democracy and its liberal ideals. This left the orthodoxy of German authoritarianism intact. Whence came Hegel.