Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taking a Leaf out of Frederick William I's Book....

Yesterday was 9 Thermidor, when the Jacobins were overthrown, the Reign of Terror ended and the White Terror began. The White Terror is an oddly unknown historical movement during the Thermidorian Reaction, where monarchists and counter-revolutionaries continued on the Terror, only focused it on a. Jacobins, b. anyone who disagreed with the new government (the quickly corrupted Directory, whose political disorganization, economic screw-ups and general inefficacy paved the way for Bonaparte's take-over), c. the peasants, and d. the government of Paris.

Frankly, it was not very funny.

However, some of the disaffected youth who joined the movement were. Gone were the ardent revolutionaries who read Rousseau and Voltaire, who debated the sources of political legitimacy and jumped up on cafe tables to proselytize. The new group, the jeunesse dorée/the Muscadins/the Incroyables, were basically a roving group of angry fops in knee-breeches, exaggerated frock coats, collars so high one would today assume they were wearing neck braces, and powdered hair cut short to emulate the haircut given to a condemned person by the executioner.

To be very basic, the Jacobins had been working to what Robespierre called "the republic of virtue", so those whom the Jacobins considered to be the enemies of France/the republic of virtue decided to reject everything that the Jacobins had proposed (except the guillotining of political opponents). Ergo, virtue of all kinds was considered rather passé so, even though France, who was still entirely without trading partners or easy access to its colonies, was in the middle of a severe famine. They also decided that actually paying attention to political issues was a waste of time, as, to top an otherwise monarchist ensemble, they also wore their powdered hair as several revolutionaries did, with most pulled back in a queue, and a lock of hair on either side of the face. Similarly, they wore cravats with prints on them, which were working-class and generally showed that one supported the sans-culottes.

Thus armed, these gentlemen ran wild in the streets of Paris, drinking very load toasts to the monarchy in front of angry, starving sans-culottes, and beating people up with sticks.

The Amateur Historian believes that the disaffected youth just wanted to beat people up with sticks. The outfits were just an excuse. That, or the collars helped when the sans-culottes, hardened from years of work, grabbed the sticks from the idle members of the aristocracy and beat them up in return.

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