Kate Stone’s Civil War: The flower-wreathed scepter

Stone records the fall of Atlanta along with pitiful rumors of its victorious Confederate recapture. By now the ripples of great battles hardly disturb her social shores.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone records the fall of Atlanta along with pitiful rumors of its victorious Confederate recapture. By now the ripples of great battles hardly disturb her social shores.

Sept. 27, 1864

Near Oak Ridge, La.

We hear of the lamentable fall of Atlanta and rumors of its recapture, which we trust may be true. There is no further fear of a Yankee raid as there are very few troops left at Goodrich’s Landing, and everyone seems to look for peace in the spring. …

An amusing letter from Missie Morris in which she utterly repudiates the idea of our giving up as “Old Maids” for two years yet, when she will be willing to lay down the flower-wreathed scepter of girlhood and don the badge of spinsterhood.

Capt. Gillispie came in two days ago and has kept the house in an uproar ever since. He is overflowing with fun and frolic but is rather too familiar and something rude. He does not improve on acquaintance. I fear he is fast, a perfect opposite to tiny Mr. Kurrie, who came with him. We thought him at first about twelve years old, so quiet and solemn. He really is twenty. …

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Holder’s exit / Earth’s magnetic flip / Cusack’s Hollywood / The Kennedy Style / Anti-psychopaths

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This week: Holder’s exit / Earth’s magnetic flip / Cusack’s Hollywood / The Kennedy Style / Anti-psychopaths

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. America’s New War President
By Michael Hirsh | Politico Magazine | Sept. 23
“With a broad campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, Obama has a chance to remake his legacy.”

2. What to expect from the Earth’s impending magnetic flip
By Annie Sneed | Scientific American and Salon | Spet. 26
“New data suggest the poles could be reversing for the first time in 780,000 years. Here’s how it affects you.”

3. Why Holder Quit
By Glenn Thrush | Politico Magazine | Sept. 25
“The backstory of how Obama lost his ‘heat shield.’”

4. The 8 Best Pocket Parks In Manhattan
By Rebecca Fishbein | The Gothamist | Sept. 25
“[S]mall, public-accessible pocket parks that dot the city are an oft-overlooked joy, a temporary respite from the hustle and bustle of the urban artery.”

5. The Barbarians Within Our Gates
By Hisham Melhem | Politico Magazine | Sept. 18
“Arab civilization has collapsed. It won’t recover in my lifetime”

6. Bad Moon Rising
By David J. Rothkopf | Voice :: Foreign Policy | Sept. 24
“Behind the scenes at the U.N., a more unsettling story emerges of Syria, Iraq, and fighting the Islamic State.”

7. John Cusack: ‘Hollywood is a whorehouse and people go mad’
By Henry Barnes | The Guardian | Sept. 25
“After 25 years as a star, John Cusack has seen the movie industry’s dark side close up — from its misogyny to its treatment of young actors.”

8. Who Would Donate a Kidney to a Stranger? An ‘Anti-Psychopath’
By Melissa Dahl | Science of Us :: New York Magazine | Sept. 25
“If the dark, scary end of the caring continuum is inhabited by psychopaths, way down at the other end [are] ultra-do-gooders who are extraordinarily compassionate, prosocial, and empathetic.”

9. Evolution: Why don’t we have hairier faces?
By Jason G. Goldman | BBC Future | Sept. 26
“Mark Changizi … has an intriguing alternative explanation. … It’s because we’re walking, talking, breathing ‘mood rings’”

10. Nixon and Age: The Kennedy Style
American Experience :: PBS | November 2011
“The Nixon-Kennedy debates would forever change the way Americans chose their presidents.”

Videos I Love: Musical medicine

This music never failed to re-energize me.

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This music never failed to re-energize me.

I’m fighting off a cold. I haven’t been sick in more than year. I spent today pushing myself (and only occasionally succeeding) to compose a literature review so I’m not looking at an unfinished thesis in early November and wondering how I wasted six months.

I’ve dutifully taken medicine and had lots of juice and warm pho (noodle soup with chunks of eye round steak and brisket, lemon chunks, cilantro, basil leaves, and bean sprouts).

I’ve also enjoyed some oldies to keep me awake, just slightly dancing with my shoulders so no one notices. This music video has always been one of my favorites. I love how he drops in Tupac so perfectly.

Back to work.

A copyright issue required the creator of the video below to mute the sound. Fortunately, the remix survives here.

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I’m occasionally sharing some thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

Hurricane Beulah and Dr. Mario E. Ramirez

As some of you may already know, I’m a graduate student in UTSA’s history department. I’m writing a masters thesis on 1967 Hurricane Beulah and Dr. Mario E. Ramirez. Please write me if you’d like to share memories/stories of the hurricane or of the fascinating physician from the Rio Grande Valley. I’d love to hear them.

Fernando Ortiz Jr.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Too disgraceful if true

An operation to capture a Union gunboat turns into a Confederate disaster.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

An operation to capture a Union gunboat turns into a Confederate disaster.

Sept. 10, 1864

Near Oak Ridge, La.

The famed Brigade is back again after its hurried trip to Tensas, during which it managed to capture sixteen Yankees, kill three, and kill five of its own men by a badly placed ambuscade. The object of the march was to take possession of a gunboat that was to be given up by treachery, but it proved a fiasco.

Our opinion is that the officers all got on a grand spree and so failed at the critical time. Too disgraceful if true. Jimmy and Joe were two who volunteered to board the boat when volunteers were called for. I think there were eighty in all, but it proved they were not to board the gunboat but to form an ambuscade.

How near death they were when they stood firing within fifteen paces of each other. It makes one shudder to think of it. What unnecessary risk and such culpable ignorance in the man who placed the ambuscade.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: One grand holocaust

A furious Stone employs amazing language to accuse the Federal government of using former slaves to wipe Southern civilization off the face of the earth.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

After false rumors of a Union raid, a furious Stone employs amazing language to accuse the Federal government of using former slaves to wipe Southern civilization off the face of the earth.

Sept. 5, 1864

Near Oak Ridge, La.

Intense excitement in the neighborhood. Yankees reported advancing in large force destroying, burning, and murdering as they come!! Capt. Lea with his small band of guerrillas contesting every mile of the way but being steadily forced back by superior numbers! Praying Col. Parsons, who has the only troops near, for reinforcements, but who refuses to send them as he is under stringent orders and making forced marches! Blank consternation among the citizens who hear that the Federals have vowed vengeance against this section on account of Capt. Lea and his guerrillas. Everyone is preparing to flee the wrath to come.

Such were the startling reports brought to Col. Templeton by terrified Mr. Philips this morning, frightening us nearly to death, for great is our horror of the vandal hordes since their ruthless destruction of Floyd and Pin Hook and their outrageous conduct at those doomed places. Mrs. Templeton soon had everything arranged for our rapid flight through the swamp across the Ouachita to the safe haven of Col. Wadley’s home, should the reports prove true, leaving Mrs. Templeton and Mrs. Savage here to brave the storm, Col. Templeton going with us. We were on the qui vive all day looking for a mounted messenger galloping up through the wooded lawn shouting, “Flee, Flee.” But about sunset the tension relaxed. We heard that the Yankees came out only as far as Floyd on a reconnaissance and are retiring to the river, and so we breathe freely once more.

The Yankee raids are no joke, though we laugh at each other for being frightened. Last week 200 of the Corps D’Afrique, officered by six big white men (wretches they are), came out and laid the two little villages of Floyd and Pin Hook in ashes, not allowing the people to remove any of their possessions from their houses and thus leaving them utterly destitute. They were very rough and insulting in their language to the ladies, tore the pockets from their dresses and the rings from their fingers, cursing and swearing, and frightening the helpless folks nearly into fits.

This was done in revenge for a guerrilla raid a few days before, in which a good many government stores were destroyed and eighty or ninety Negroes brought out. The Yankees know they make it ten times worse for us by sending Negroes to commit these atrocities. The Paternal Government at Washington has done all in its power to incite a general insurrection throughout the South, in the hopes of thus getting rid of the women and children in one grand holocaust. We would be practically helpless should the Negroes rise, since there are so few men left at home. It is only because the Negroes do not want to kill us that we are still alive. The Negroes have behaved well, far better than anyone anticipated. They have not shown themselves revengeful, have been most biddable, and in many cases have been the only mainstay of their owners.

Five or six citizens, unarmed, were murdered by the Yankees in that Floyd raid. How thankful I am we left home when we did. To lose everything is bad, but constant terror and insult are worse.

The guerrillas report that the cotton crop on the river is a complete failure, entirely eaten up by the worms. The fields are swept of every vestige of green and there is hardly a matured boll to a stalk. This news rejoices our very hearts. Those are true “Confederate worms,” working for the good of the Cause. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Lazy and languid

As Stone continues her brief stay with friends in Louisiana, she savors the old sights and sounds of her beloved home state.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

As Stone continues her brief stay with friends in Louisiana, she savors the old sights and sounds of her beloved home state.

Sept. 2, 1864

Near Oak Ridge, La.

Mrs. and Col. Templeton are entertaining a Mr. Massengale, just from Texas with news of Capt. Jack Wylie. We may look for him any day now. He will bring three beautiful horses, which we three girls have already appropriated in imagination and expect to race over the whole countryside.

I am too used up by my ride, or rather run, of yesterday to do anything. We have been very busy for the last ten days, riding, sewing, singing, receiving visitors, and playing, but now that the Brigade has gone out to Tensas Parish, we will be quiet for a time. Even Walker’s division is passing through en route to Arkansas, and so for the present we are left defenseless. …

Unfortunately for my pleasure, the report is abroad that I am engaged. There is no truth in it, and it deprives me of much fun. …

I have finished all of Jimmy’s clothes and two dresses for myself, and I feel a real Louisianian once more in the very heart of the swamp, suffocating with the heat, fighting mosquitoes, lazy and languid, little appetite, but luxuriating on fruit for breakfast, dinner, and supper and enjoying curds and cream. The swamp is my own dear land most natural, most restful.

Mamma’s trip to Yankeeland did much good to all of us. The carriage, and such a delightful one, is a great triumph. The dry goods are the greatest comfort, relieving our present necessities, and the books and papers are great entertainment. …

From a flame into a firestorm

Why the French Revolution devoured its own people.

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Why the French Revolution devoured its own people
An essay by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

Hope inspires nations to improve their societies, challenge their citizens’ capabilities, and face down seemingly invincible enemies. In revolutionary France, citizens and their leaders tasted the sweet fresh air of liberty, equality, and nationalist unity. They sensed their hopes for a brighter national and social future might be realized, and they determined that nothing would interfere with that grand realization. But how did those hopes lead France into the horrific era of the Terror? The tragic evolution from revolution to republic to Terror was not a linear nor an inevitable process. Challenges to the Revolution mounted, as did the Revolution’s responses to them. The key elements of the Revolution – the people who embraced that revolution, their political leadership, and the counterrevolutionary threats that haunted all of them – ground against each other, setting off sparks that ignited the rise of a new form of government and an era of bloodshed that still stains the shadowed passages of tormented human memory.

The French Revolution reordered the political mindsets of many eighteenth-century French people. The preceding era of the Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters nurtured not only an intellectual renaissance but also demanded and inspired challenges to the way the French regarded the Catholic Church, their places in a monarchy, and their social, economic, and creative potential as liberated people.1 That intimate revolution in self-image was furthered in 1763 and 1764 when the Parlement of Paris argued that “the king held his throne and legitimacy” from “fundamental” French laws, deflating the inherently supreme majesty of monarchy and subordinating it to the French polity’s larger legal authority.2

As economic crisis paralyzed France, the Old Regime’s political leadership failed to live up to the people’s “almost-millenarian hope” that those leaders could improve commoners’ impoverished lives, convincing many of those commoners that they had to take control of their own existence.3 The privileges the upper classes enjoyed angered the middle classes, already irritated with “paternalism of government” and dismissive of the Church as a “corporation which had ceased to perform its functions efficiently.”4 A new era was about to dawn over France.

The Revolution retained the king but stripped privileges from the Church and demanded from the clergy oaths of loyalty to the new Civil Constitution. The new national representatives asked the people to share their concerns and ideas. It was intimately revolutionary. The people were asked to review their lives and look at elements of their government and society that they themselves deemed could “be changed or improved or abolished.”5 The new Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens promised a better future for an “imagined community” of equal citizens. The new October constitution formalized ideals of liberty and equality under a representative government, spiritually freed from Catholic doctrine, and under the paternalistic gaze of a weak and devoted monarch. While the reforms seemed to favor oppressed and voiceless lower classes, the Revolution did not have “a natural constituency.”6 Each citizen had their own self-interested reason for support or opposing the new era of liberty and equality.

By the early 1790s, the empowered and self-confident French people, no longer “docile followers” of the Old Regime’s well-trod paths through life, stood on the threshold of an undiscovered country, determined to face down the empires and kingdoms that besieged them, the political and economic differences that divided them, and, most importantly, the internal forces that conspired to undermine their Revolution’s promise of a new and better world.7

Revolutionary changes did not unfold without resistance, particularly from French sectors directly diminished by progressive policies, and the manner with which some changes were enacted inspired counterrevolutionary sentiments, conspiracies, and actions. Other counterrevolutionary actors feared further social disorder, insolvency, and unemployment, disagreed over food distribution policies, or simply suffered from bruised egos.8 Economic equality for the lower classes meant nothing if standards of living steadily fell.9

The nobles saw their privileges, including light tax burdens or exemptions from an incomprehensible financial system, stripped away “by violence and chicanery,” inspiring even elites who disliked each other to temporarily unite, thereby “creating one of the strands of the counterrevolution.”10 Some elites found a promising alliance with the other major French sector the Revolution diminished: the Catholic Church. Revolution policies expropriated church property, determined that embrace of a “Supreme Being” instead of God “eliminated the Church’s monopoly of public worship as well as its claim to special status,” issued a Civil Constitution of the Clergy in July 1790, and required the clergy to swear their allegiance to that constitution or resign their posts.11 The oath was meant to assert the people’s sovereignty over the church just as the Revolution asserted popular sovereignty over the government, class hierarchies, and the monarchy. The revolutionary government expected the Church to “proselytize for it and to keep order for it” among the masses.12

But that oath also became a rallying point for the Revolution’s leading enemies, who used it to break off sections of popular sentiment bristling over the Revolution’s treatment of their sacred religious institutions or feeling discontent over a multitude of other consequences of revolutionary policies. Counterrevolutionary elites focused disruptive energies on Catholic-rich regions of France and manipulated Catholic-Protestant divisions. The oath provided the counterrevolution a group from which to draw support that might have otherwise embraced the new era. Resistance to the Civil Constitution “took on the characteristics of a mass movement.”13

The oath also stressed the fragile loyalties of clerical deputies participating in revolutionary government. The faith they shared with most other deputies in the unifying symbol of the King Louis XVI bolstered the Revolution’s fragile coalition. His attempt to escape the Revolution sent devastating shockwaves through the delicate political networks and contributed to the people’s eventual capacity to wage the Terror against the threats he represented.14

The king publicly swore loyalty and support for the new constitution. But he secretly despised everything it represented. The Civil Constitution of Clergy disgusted him. In letters he raged against his loss of traditional monarchical authority.15 His escape in June 1791, his capture, and his discovered letters – including one he left behind explaining his reasons for his flight — exposed to his subjects what he truly felt about their aspirations and ambitions.

Louis warped the monarchy’s moral authority and stained any politician subsequently willing to deal with it or defend it. Opinion and justification over his actions split the political accord in the Assembly.16 The flight shattered for provincial citizens and officials any belief in the revolutionary government’s credibility, effectiveness, and stability. Who would help them? A government that accomplished nothing? A divided church only half-heartedly embracing a new era of social justice? A king that lied to their faces? The king’s flight and his sentiments convinced “the urban masses and the national guards” that they had to deal with incidents of counterrevolutionary unrest with degrees of force that they themselves deemed appropriate — with “their own solutions” — and Paris could do little to stop them.17 Perhaps, a few thought, France did not need a king. It was a key moment “in the emergence of French nationalism.” Some letter-writers even referred to the deputies as the new fathers of a new country.18

The king’s actions sharpened in the politicians and citizens’ minds their suspicions and fears of looming counterrevolutionary forces conspiring to destroy the Revolution. Priests refused to take their oaths of loyalty. Provincials fought amongst themselves. Émigré armies massed in the borderlands. And the king confessed his disgust for his own subjects’ hopes and attempted to leave them to the mercy of what might have been a foreign invasion — that might still take place.19 Even the most paranoid revolutionaries eventually appeared prescient to commoners who had no idea what the next day might bring. That fear justified the new forms of justice, suspension of personal liberties, lethal brutality, and outright murder throughout France.

To deal with perceived threats, in August 1792, the Paris government authorized the disarming of any suspected counterrevolutionaries and searches of any suspected counterrevolutionary homes. Betraying the Revolution was something bad but taking oppositional action against it was even worse. Arresting people for throwing stones or shouting at guards, shutting down political clubs and newspapers, listening to private conversations, or simply looking for anything or anyone that seemed suspicious – these were the actions of a terrified government willing to fight imagined terrorism with repression of almost any degree.20 In September, rumors of prisoners planning to revolt when foreign armies invaded France inspired revolutionaries to massacre them, leaving up to 1,400 dead. On Sept. 21 “the [national] Convention abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the Republic.”21

Recent battlefield victories against foreign counterrevolutionary forces and the war’s expanded scope inspired the republic to call up 300,000 men, which sparked “an unprecedented wave of riots.” More importantly, the riots – and fresh battlefield defeats — sparked an official response: the centralization of national authority, new judicial tribunals to persecute suspected treason, and state-directed repression of domestic unrest and disloyalty with a “supreme police”22 The Revolution was threatened, and the government took the repressive torches from the people and transformed them into fireballs with which to incinerate the elites, the price-gougers, and traitors of any section of the endangered French Republic. Terror was not a new horror — what was new was that the Terror was systemic, “a deliberate policy of government,” so it was wide-reaching, simultaneous, and steady in its murderous hunger for victims.23

The war machine was a ravenous hurricane at the Terror’s core, hungry for materiel from churches, loyalty from the populace, and legions of soldiers to be thrown against foreign armies. Churches became “barracks, arsenals, or stables,” and anything of value was put to military use. But the mobilization campaign quickly became a dechristianization campaign, in which signs of any kind containing Christian references were torn down. The new man of the Republic would be spared the old superstitions of the failed Church. Church defenders were killed. Nothing better symbolized the Terror for many citizens than the dechristianization efforts.24

The campaign drew deep divisions between commoners who believed they commanded the government and the political leadership, some in power without popular mandates, which was prepared to brutally suppress any resistance or wavering acquiescence to their absolute wartime authority. These two elements, increasingly at odds with each other, intensified the Terror’s murderous chaos.25 Real and imagined fears inspired both the French people and their provisional government — particularly members of the Committee of Public Safety like Robespierre — to use fear to repress it. Fighting fire with fire simply intensified the fire.26

Robespierre’s campaign to purify the Revolution, first by invalidating any sense of guilt or culpability for the atrocities he felt were necessary, was aimed at the building the new society the Revolution’s earliest aspirations aspired to achieve. The Terror’s own monstrous judicial liberties were realized on local levels as committees expressed the persecutorial zealotry required to achieve the sanctioned purifications.27 The Terror was sustained by “a strange compound of reason, desperation, and fear,” and it redefined what was revolutionary – not ideology, not a new vision, not a new government. The Terror’s revolution was one of efficient execution of “effective measures” — slicing through opposition and bringing centralized order to counterrevolutionary chaos in order to ensure the Revolution’s permanence.28

The Revolution’s supporters at first marched proudly into a new era, their self-image evolving from royal subjects to free citizens and optimistic that they would find a balance between better lives and the embrace of a king’s paternalistic gaze. But the Revolution’s real and imagined enemies inspired powerful figures who cared less about revolutionary aspirations than the measures necessary to defeat those enemies. French leaders became the bloodstained dictatorial oppressors from which they desperately fought to save their countrymen. Step by step, revolutionaries and their leaders became the firestorm they tried to extinguish.


1. Dena Goodman, The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994); D.M.G. Sutherland, France 1789-1815: Revolution and Counterrevolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 37.
2. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 22.
3. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 59.
4. R.R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989), 18-19.
5. Timothy Tackett, When the King Took Flight (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 10.
6. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 80, 114.
7. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 49; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 87.
8. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 112.
9. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 159-160.
10. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 19-22.
11. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 21, 80-81, 95, 97.
12. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 99.
13. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 97, 116; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 13.
14. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 122; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 184.
15. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 124; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 183, 189.
16. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 124.
17. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 124-125; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 168.
18. Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 157-158, 189-190.
19. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 127; Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 166, 167.
20. Tackett, When the King Took Flight, 203.
21. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 154-155.
22. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 167, 170.
23. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled, 56.
24. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 208-210, 212, 217.
25. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 192, 202, 208.
26. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled, 39. 74-77.
27. Sutherland, France 1789-1815, 224, 226, 228.
28. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled, 28, 39. 58.


BOOKS CONSULTED FOR THIS ESSAY

Goodman, Dena. The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Palmer, R.R. Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Sutherland, D.M.G. France 1789-1815: Revolution and Counterrevolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Tackett, Timothy. When the King Took Flight. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.