General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century
In every revolutionary history three things are to be observed:
The preceding state of affairs, which the revolution aims at overthrowing, and which becomes counter-revolution through its desire to maintain its existence.
The various parties which take different views of the revolution, according to their prejudices and interests, yet are compelled to embrace it and to use it for their advantage.
The revolution itself, which constitutes the solution.
The parliamentary, philosophical, and dramatic history of the Revolution of 1848 can already furnish material for volumes. I shall confine myself to discussing disinterestedly certain questions which may illuminate our present knowledge. What I shall say will suffice, I hope, to explain the progress of the Revolution of the Nineteenth Century, and to enable us to conjecture its future.
This is not a statement of facts: it is a speculative plan, an intellectual picture of the Revolution.
Fill it in with data of space and time, with dates, names, manifestoes, episodes, harangues, panics, battles, proclamations, manipulations, parliamentary manoeuvres, assassinations, duels, &c. &c., and you will have a flesh and blood Revolution, as described in the pages of Buchez and Michelet.
For the first time the public will be able to judge of the spirit and form of a revolution before it is accomplished: who knows whether our fathers might not have avoided disaster, if they had been able to read in advance their destiny, in a general abstract account of the dangers, the parties and the men.
In this account I shall endeavour as far as possible to adduce facts as proofs. And among facts I shall always choose the simplest and best known: this is the only method by which the Revolution, hitherto a prophetic vision, can become at last a reality.