Front Page Titles (by Subject) 142.: On the 18th Fructidor (September 4, 1797) - Judgments on History and Historians
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142.: On the 18th Fructidor (September 4, 1797) - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On the 18th Fructidor (September 4, 1797)
The Terror had proved useless; exile would have sufficed for the French. The absurdity of the tragic guillotining in the cities, the terrible suppression of the federalists and the Vendée in the provinces and the destruction of the best republican minds finally produced the 9th Thermidor, the overthrow of Robespierre, and the reaction which threatened to swing to royalism. So the men of the Convention were condemned to remain on top and go on ruling if they wanted to live. Thus they forced themselves upon the new Directory Constitution of 1795, and two-thirds of them had to be taken into the Council of Five Hundred and the Council of Ancients. However, the counter-revolution was in some way imminent if those whose lives would be threatened by it were not left in power. A nice Convention which had successively worn all colors and now wanted to live on notwithstanding! And later, when the Parisians refused to acquiesce, there followed the 13th Vendémiaire and the first military victory in the field of politics under the command of Bonaparte.
Thus the regicides continued to rule, arbitrarily and with proscriptions, with military campaigns designed for money-making, the furtherance of political credit, and the maintenance of internal power, and with utter assignat bankruptcy, total transfer of property, and universal insecurity.
Then it had to happen that of all the generals one became the chief object of the nation’s imagination—Bonaparte, who was just about to conclude his Italian campaign of 1796–1797. Should people have foreseen the future dictator? But they really did want an overlord, i.e., the dead-tired nation, including the revolutionary faction, was completely disillusioned. The nation with its vast number of new property owners, who had bought church and émigré lands and discharged their debts and rents by paying in assignats at face value, wanted, on the whole, not Louis XVIII by any means, nor Louis Philippe nor a Spanish infante, but any government to safeguard peace and the enjoyment of property.
If the Directory could accomplish this, it would be all right with the nation for a long time; otherwise it did veer toward rule by one individual. People were not royalist, but gradually, and in part unconsciously, became monarchist. The only apprehension was that for the time being the Bourbon royalists would exploit the situation in favor of Louis XVIII.
Participation in the new elections for the councils and officials was slack. Thus the royalists would be able to secure for men of their persuasion sudden possession of the majority of offices or gradual possession, if people did not pay attention. The regicides, who were splashing about violently and uncertainly—they had to try d’être pris au sérieux [to be taken seriously]—were concerned over the new elections. For, as soon as the constitution was permitted to function in earnest, the result was bound to destroy them. The press was already substantially royalist; many émigrés had returned home; the Club de Clichy had a royalist orientation. And in the new elections of 1797 it actually happened that the majority in the Council of Five Hundred consisted of royalists in a narrow or wider sense; in Paris and in the councils there was violent ferment in the period from May to September, 1797.
But besides those who had hitherto ruled in Paris someone else had worries: the victor of Italy who at that time was traveling among the magnificent villas around Milan. The 18th Fructidor, the 4th of September, 1797, was the wretched rescue by the soldiers of a republic which was no longer protected by the people, in favor of a man who still had to wait and was very quick to find out how little thanks people wanted to give him. On the day of the ratification of the Treaty of Campo Formio, which he had concluded rapidly so that the Directory would not make it, the Directory appointed him head of an Army of England, in order to get him away from the Italian army.