My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Man is born free but is everywhere in chains,” wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract in 1762.
Slavery was one thing for the empire, however, and another thing entirely within France itself.
Everything is free in a Kingdom where liberty is seated at the foot of the throne, where the least subject finds in the heart of his king the feelings of a father.… No one is [a] slave in France.”
The problem was not slaves in France. The problem was blacks in France.
In late-eighteenth-century France, the term “American” was usually used synonymously with “man of color.”
Louis XVI’s government supported the Americans to get back at England for France’s humiliating defeat in the Seven Years’ War— for the loss of French North America and humiliation in French India.
The Estates-General got its name from the traditional division of France into three “estates”: clergy, nobility, and commoners.
Yet on July 14, instead of doing their job and defending the Bastille, the French Guards joined the rioters, and would soon declare themselves the National Guard.
It is said that when the mayor first presented the cockade to the king, it was only red and blue. Then Lafayette stepped in to propose adding the Bourbon color white to acknowledge the king’s gesture of accepting the Revolution.
These words were written by Lafayette, with the help of Thomas Jefferson, then serving as American ambassador in Paris, and formed the preamble to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, approved by the National Assembly in that tumultuous month.
The hall’s strange, narrow design, with tiered seating on both sides, caused the deputies to divide themselves according to their political opinions: radicals to the left of the Assembly’s president, conservatives to his right, the origin of the political terms “left” and “right.”
For the first time Louis used his new title, “King of the French”— not “King of France”— thus symbolizing his duty to the people.
The government had already begun experimenting with a new system for recruiting fighting men based on an archaic French model dating back hundreds of years: the “free legions,” units independent of the regular army that could be called up in war and disbanded during times of peace.
He was disturbed by the generals’ growing idealization of General Bonaparte.
The man the Austrians called the Black Devil continued to rout them out of the Adige River Valley.
Napoleon also gave Dumas a new nom de guerre, hailing him as “the Horatius Cocles of the Tyrol”— high praise indeed in that era.
He (Napoleon) was a dictator, a destroyer, and a harbinger of totalitarian leaders to come; he was also a liberator from a tyranny that had stalked Europe for a thousand years.
France had a new government, with Napoleon appointed first consul at the head of a ruling body of three consuls.
The decade of French republicanism and democracy— the age of seemingly infinite emancipation, with all its expansive horrors and hopes— was over.
Citizens! The Revolution is made fast to the principles which began it; it is finished.”*
And of course Napoleon is ultimately the man behind Edmond Dantès’s suffering and imprisonment;
This is a splendid historical research work performed by Tom Reiss revealing the military career of Dumas’ father – the Black Count.
- What are you reading this weekend? (fortheloveofbookshops.com)
- Arts & Entertainment (entertainment.time.com)
- The Black Count By Tom Reiss (radioalice.cbslocal.com)
- TIME’s 2012 Top 10 Everything in Arts & Entertainment (entertainment.time.com)