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Now if we study carefully the course of the revolutionary movement we shall find that the role of the people is in the main passive ; only on these great days of tumult do they play an active part. Between these outbreaks the fire of revolution smoulders, at moments almost flickers out, then suddenly for no apparent reason bursts again into flame, and it is only by long and patient search amongst contemporary documents that we can begin to understand the causes of these conflagrations. *' The popular Revolution, *' said St. Just, " was the surface of a volcano of extraneous conspiracies/' and consequently the actions of the people seen from the surface only can never be understood. Thus the story of the Revolution, as it is usually told us, with its pointless crimes, its unreasoning violence, and its hideous waste of life, is simply unintelligible — " a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing."
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