French Revolution was an eye-opener to the newly awakening nationalists of India


Revolution. ‘Three’ are particularly significant



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Revolution. ‘Three’ are particularly significant.

(1) ‘Individualism’, the principle that the unit of society and the basis of government is the individual person and not a corporation. Prior to the French Revolution, and from time immemorial, the pillars of society and government had always been such corporate groups as the family, the class (or “estate”), the guild, the university, the church, etc.; and liberties (or privileges) belonged to corporate groups, rather than to individuals as such. The French Revolution struck a body-blow at the historic corporations, and Napoleon did not resuscitate them. “Liberty” and “equality” were for individuals.

(2) ‘Secularism’, the principle that religion is a private matter for each individual, and only incidentally a concern of the state. Previously there had always been in every European country some sort of enforced union between church and state; and the church (whether Catholic or Protestant) had usually shared with the state important functions of government, such as conduct of schools, administration of justice, powers of taxation, etc. Both the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire served to deprive the church of historic rights and privileges, and, while forwarding religious toleration, to subordinate the interests of religion to those of secular society.

(3) “Jacobin” nationalism, the principle that the national state is the highest form of political and social organisation and rightfully commands the supreme loyalty of all its individual citizens. Some kind of national sentiment had long existed in Europe and was especially evident during the religious upheaval of the sixteenth century. But until the French Revolution it had been most often identified, at least on the Continent, with monarchical institutions; kings and princes had been the makers of national states and the central objects of popular loyalty. Now, the Jacobin revolutionaries of France invoked a democratic nationalism. With them, sovereignty becomes popular and national. National interests transcend dynastic and all other interests. Citizens are put in national armies and national schools. National flag and anthem support royal ensign and hymn. And if Napoleon lacked Jacobin conviction, he did not fail to utilize Jacobin

nationalism for his personal ends.

The three foregoing principles were communicated from France to the rest of Europe during the Napoleonic era, in several ways. In the first place, by means of French territorial expansion, the Netherlands, the Rhineland, and most of the Italian peninsula were subjected to the direct sway of Paris and the immediate jurisdiction of the Code Napoleon. In these areas Dutchmen and Belgians, Germans and Italians became accustomed to a centralised state and an individualist society.

Secondly, the construction of a string of dependent states involved revolutionary changes in southern and central Germany, in Naples, and in Spain. In these countries, feudalism and serfdom were abolished, religious toleration guaranteed, and ideas of democratic government and social equality implanted. Though the dependence of such countries on Napoleonic France was brief, it was long enough to communicate to their populations a taste for the new order.

Thirdly, the meteoric flash of Napoleon’s success awed even his most consistent enemies; and the more thoughtful among them, such as the Baron von Stein in Prussia, paid him the high tribute of imitation. The social and political “regeneration” of Prussia (and, to a lesser extent, that of Austria) represented a conscious attempt of the absolute monarchies of central Europe to win the enthusiastic support of their peoples by according them some of the reforms which inspired the French.

Of all the lessons which Europe learnt from France during the Napoleonic era, the most common and impressive was nationalism. Frenchmen who paved the way for Napoleon’s amazing career and Frenchmen who militantly bore his banners at Lodi and Marengo, at Austerlitz and Jena, at Madrid and Lisbon, at Friedland and Moscow, were effective messengers of the novel principle of Jacobin nationalism. And they evoked a fairly quick response. In part, this was the result of independent agitation of intellectuals in various countries, who, like the French revolutionaries themselves, had been given a nationalist turn of mind by their reading of eighteenth-century philosophy and literature. In part, it was the result of sympthy with the




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