The cry “Liberty, equality, fraternity or death!” was much in vogue during the Revolution. Liberty ended by covering France with prisons, equality by multiplying titles and decorations, and fraternity by dividing us. Death alone prevailed.
Even after the example of France, Europe lacks one last lesson. Woe to the people destined to give it to her!
The most beautiful monuments executed in Paris under Bonaparte’s orders are the rue de Rivoli, the rue de la Paix, and la place du Carrousel. For these he had only to demolish, and he was in his element.
Revolutions have proximate and material causes that capture the attention of the less attentive. These causes are really only occasions. The true causes, the profound and efficacious causes, are moral ones, which small minds and corrupt men fail to see. A shock, they say, a sudden storm has toppled the edifice: doubtless true. Yet the walls had long since lost their stability. You believe that a financial deficit was the cause of the Revolution. Dig deeper and you will find a deficit in the very principles of the social order.
Happy England, she has preserved her old sentiments alongside, or rather in spite of, her institutions. In France, we labored to remove our sentiments before changing our institutions. The English Revolution was an accident; ours was a system.
In olden days in France, our manners were lighthearted and our minds serious. The Revolution changed all that. It made our minds superficial and our manners grave. Today we have neither reason nor joy.
Our tone of voice in conversation has become lower and our expression less frank and more studied to the point that we now have less good faith in our opinions and less strength of character. One might say that we not only fear to be understood, but even to be heard.
In a time when only graceful manners and charm are praised, one only finds strong characters, manly virtues, and steady minds by chance.
Wherever there are many machines to take the place of men, many men will be mere machines. The effect of machines, in sparing men, must be to diminish the population.
In every society there are more domestic sorrows to the extent that there are more public pleasures. In olden times, there was less pleasure and more happiness.
A mind employed to corrupt is nothing other than force employed to destroy.
It is difficult for the father of a family not to regard as a personal enemy the author of a bad book that brings corruption into the heart of his children.
A man must read many books to furnish his memory, but when he wants to form solid taste and good style, he should read few of them. The immense quantity of books makes us read more, and, among the society of the dead as among that of the living, an overextended acquaintance does not leave enough time for good friendships to form.
Fashions change ceaselessly in a people that no longer has morals, in the broadest sense of the term.