French Revolution

Liberty Leading the People, Delacroix, 1830.

If Marine Le Pen becomes the next French President and she implements her espoused policies, the effect on Europe will be as disasterous as the French Revolution. It seems an unlikely outcome but there have been a few of those recently. In 1792 our politicians were complacent and maybe we are all doing this in 2017. 
If the year 1792 has come to be remembered for political crises which made it one of the turning-points in English history, it has been famous also for the auspiciousness of its commencement, the optimism and the promise that characterized its earliest months. In January and February Pitt repeatedly drew the attention of parliament to the increasing prosperity of the country and the flourishing state of the public revenue; and opposition did not pretend to deny this, but merely said that the prosperity ‘was no feather in the minister’s cap’, since it was due to circumstances independent of government. Even that aggressive admirer of the French Revolution, Earl Stanhope, wrote to a Frenchman: ‘We are already free… and England is now the richest, the most prosperous and—climate apart—the happiest country in Europe.’ Even that determined reformer, the Rev. Christopher Wyvill, joined the crowd of witnesses to the country’s good fortune, though he speculated that if a great European war should break out, ‘the English people would probably then renew, but in a louder tone’, the cry for parliamentary reform. Pitt attributed the prosperity to the rise of machinery, the credit facilities, the ‘exploring and enterprising spirit of our merchants’, and the mode in which money was continually being fed back into industry. He claimed that something was due, however, to the internal tranquillity of the nation and ‘the natural effects of a free but well regulated government’. The correspondence of the year 1792 often gives evidence of the sense of rising prosperity; and to this would be attributed on the one hand the general attachment to the constitution, and on the other hand the indifference of the nation to matters of foreign policy. (Butterfield, H. (1949). III. Charles James Fox and the Whig Opposition in 1792. Cambridge Historical Journal, 9(3), 293-330. doi:10.1017/S1474691300003188.)

If France leaves the Euro, Schengen and ultimately the EU, all of Europe will be vulnerable to further Russian territorial ambitions, economic melt-down and inter-state tensions. We can set the clock back more than 100 years to 1914. The outcome of the French Presidential Election has a great deal more significance for us in the UK than our own General Election in June.

Our stock market is strong, we are (nearly) free of the EU, the climate hasn’t improved but the economy has, in large part due to the rise of the Internet, and we are fortunate to have a free but well regulated government. What can possibly go wrong?

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