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."