By Michael Sonenscher
Ever because the French Revolution, Madame de Pompadour's remark, "Après moi, le déluge" (after me, the deluge), has gave the look of a callous if exact prophecy of the political cataclysms that all started in 1789. yet many years earlier than the Bastille fell, French writers had used the word to explain a distinct form of egocentric recklessness--not towards the flood of revolution yet, quite, towards the flood of public debt. In sooner than the Deluge, Michael Sonenscher examines those fears and the responses to them, and the result's not anything lower than a brand new mind set in regards to the highbrow origins of the French Revolution. during this nightmare imaginative and prescient of the long run, many prerevolutionary observers anticipated that the pressures generated by means of smooth struggle finance might trigger a sequence of debt defaults that will both smash tested political orders or reason a unexpected lurch into despotic rule. Nor was once it transparent that constitutional govt may continue this chance at bay. Constitutional govt could make public credits safer, yet public credits could undermine constitutional govt itself. prior to the Deluge examines how this quandary gave upward push to a common eighteenth-century curiosity in understanding how you can determine and continue consultant governments in a position to detect the promise of public credits whereas keeping off its peril. by way of doing so, the publication throws new gentle on a ignored element of recent political suggestion and at the French Revolution.
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Extra resources for Before the Deluge: Public Debt, Inequality, and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution
It would sacriﬁce both the nobility and the clergy to the “tumultuous equality” of democracy. And if democracy were in turn to fail, France would still ﬁnd a way to ensure that she was not effaced from among the European powers. 26 This new constitution would set the true scale of society’s needs and ﬁx the true level of public contributions. Not content with the destruction of the nobility and the clergy, this “audacious leveller” would summon the citizenry to even greater liberty and prosperity.
They render deliberation a matter, not of choice, but of necessity; they make all change a subject of compromise, which naturally begets moderation; they produce temperaments preventing the sore evil of harsh, crude, unqualiﬁed reformations, and rendering all the headlong exertions of arbitrary power, in the few or in the many, for ever impracticable. 38 This failure to deal with the ﬁnancial problems of the French monarchy by building a broad variety of different interests into a decision-making system containing the kind of checks and balances to be found in the British system of government after 1688 was the basis of the most famous of all Burke’s indictments of the new French regime.
18 The American Revolution added a further dimension of uncertainty to an already problematic future. ”19 Speculation about the revolution’s possible repercussions ranged from a modern replay of the internecine warfare that had dogged the history of ancient republican confederations like the Achaean League (as the political economist and Anglican dean of Gloucester Josiah Tucker predicted), to the creation of an 17 Simon-Nicolas-Henri Linguet, “De la socie´te´ en ge´ne´ral. Re´volution singulie`re dont l’Europe est menace´e,” Annales politiques, civiles et litte´raires du dix-huitie`me sie`cle 1 (1777): 83– 103 (pp.