I just finished reading Will Durant’s The Age of Napoleon last week.
When the French Revolution began, all the intellectuals welcomed it. The goal of the the revolutionists was “liberty, equality, fraternity”. Well! Who could be against that?
The eminent British philosopher and political commentator Edmund Burke wrote an essay titled “Reflections on the French Revolution” in which he started off praising the Revolution.
But in time things started going wrong. King Louis XVI and his wife were guillotined. The French Terror followed. Danton, a Revolution leader who had sent many people to the guillotine was himself sent to the guillotine by his political rival Robispierre who later was also sent to the guillotine. As Danton went to his death he said, “Better to be a fisherman than a governor of men”.
Where was liberty? Equality? Fraternity? Forget it. Social order was wrecked. Nobody was safe from criminals anywhere anytime. The constantly evolving government became a dictatorship. There was nobody to stop it until Napoleon came along, and he became a dictator.
The final form of Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the French Revolution” were condemnatory.
The English are well aware of history and know that the French Revolutions showed mob rule is lawlessness. Chesterton apparently saw no need to mention it in that quote.