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Comes Thermidor
James Howard Kunstler

“Democratic Party elites such as those on CNN are not just angry but genuinely confused by the fact that American voters don’t obey them.” — Glenn Greenwald

What’s most amazing about the fiasco that was the French Revolution is that it happened at exactly the same time that the United States successfully organized themselves into an orderly and effective government following the American Revolution. George Washington was elected and sworn-in by April of 1789, with the backing of an exemplary constitution assembled by the best minds in the land. The Bastille fell in July that same year. France then fell into a years’ long orgy of beheading and chaos that went nowhere until 1799 when an artillery officer named Bonaparte put an end to it by sheer force of personality.

Of course, France had assisted America in concluding our revolt against King George — surely you remember the Marquis de Lafayette from your high school history class (or has he been replaced by George Floyd?). There were plenty of Frenchmen still on the American scene during the years following the British surrender at Yorktown in the fall of 1781. Some of them must have kept tabs on the Constitutional Convention, May to September, 1787, out of which came our blueprint for managing national affairs, and not a few of these Frenchmen were active in their own revolution which kicked off two years later.

By the way, Thomas Jefferson was in Paris from 1784 until autumn of 1789, months after the Bastille fell. He succeeded Ben Franklin as minister there to negotiate trade agreements (Ben went to London as ambassador). John Adams was also on-the-scene in Paris as our ambassador there when Jefferson arrived. These Americans met daily and chatted endlessly with France’s political players. The American Articles of Confederation were in effect then, to be replaced by the improved US Constitution in 1787. The people of France, including the various elites involved in public life, royal, haut bourgeoise, lawyers and generals, might have taken a lesson from the American experience of how to successfully come out of a political tribulation. Alas, they simply could not get their shit together.

Rewind a little to 1793 in Paris, the revolution in full swing: King Louis XVI went to the guillotine in January. The National Convention had replaced the National Assembly as the furnace of political action. The radical Jacobin faction, led by Robespierre and Saint-Just, coalesced into a power-seizing majority there. They took their name from a political club founded by anti-royalists, but their platform became increasingly extreme as the revolution lurched toward pandemonium.

During their year in power, the Jacobins turned the life of the nation upside down in their zealous quest to create a perfectly equitable society. They abolished the church (and replaced it with their own “cult of the supreme being”). They changed the week from seven days to ten days, they changed the names of all the months of the calendar. (1792 was denoted “the Year One.”) They put in price and wage controls while churning out money (paper assignats) which triggered (voila) monetary inflation! They confiscated grain from farmers all over the country. They condemned thousands (estimate: 20,000 to 40,000) of political enemies to the guillotine in their “Reign of Terror.” In short, the Jacobins made a bloody mess of things and pissed-off a lot of their countrymen.

By the summer of 1794 (in their renamed month of Thermidor), everybody else finally had enough of the Jacobin nightmare. On July 27, Robespierre was at the rostrum once again denouncing his enemies and crying for blood when the out-group members present started throwing food at him and shouting him down. That was the magic moment when everything flipped — the shock of recognition that the Jacobins had lost power. Just like that! The chamber fell into a melee, a lot of shoving and shouting. . . Robespierre and his cronies were chased across town to the city hall (Hôtel de Ville) and barricaded themselves inside. The mob broke through and arrested them. Somewhere in the confusion a policeman shot Robespierre in the face, shattering his jaw (no more speeches for you!). . . and the very next day, Robespierre, Saint-Just, and twenty of their associates had their appointment with “the national razor.”

This event became known as the Thermidorian Reaction. The insane Jacobin program of terror and social derangement was swiftly abolished. Nothing like it was seen again until the Bolsheviks, the Maoists and the Khmer Rouge came along in the 20th century, and now, in our time, The Party of Chaos as led by “Joe Biden” (or whoever and whatever is behind him), with their open border, their lust for another world war, their drive for censorship, their sadistic lawfare, their race and sex hustles, their compulsive lying, and their sick destruction of every norm and boundary in daily life.

America is headed for its own Thermidorian Reaction. It’ll end up being called something else, of course, because it is a different time, place, and set of circumstances. But it feels close, doesn’t it? Everybody I know or correspond with mentions this feeling that something is going to blow in our country, and pretty soon. The air is alive with it, just as the air is alive with portents of spring. Are you waiting for it?




James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.


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