Quotations – perceptions of the revolution

This selection of French Revolution quotations contain perceptions of the revolution from significant leaders, political figures, philosophes and observers. It has been selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. New quotations are regularly added. If you would like to submit a relevant and interesting quotation, please contact Alpha History.

“It was more complete, more entire than [the American Revolution]. It was attended with greater convulsions in the interior of the nation because the Americans were satisfied with the code of civil and criminal legislation which they had derived from England. They had no corrupt system of finance to reform, no feudal tyrannies, no hereditary distinctions, no privileges of rich and powerful corporations, no system of religious intolerance to destroy. They had only to direct their attention to the establishment of new powers, to be substituted in the place of those exercised over them by the British government.”
Marquis de Condorcet, comparing the American and French Revolutions, 1794

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us. We were all going to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way in.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“In my view the French Revolution and the doings of Napoleon opened the eyes of the world. Nations knew nothing before and people thought that kings were gods upon the earth.”
Theodoros Kolokotronis, 1840

“From the social point of view, the Revolution consisted of the suppression of what was called the feudal system, in the emancipation of the individual, in greater division of landed property, the abolition of the privileges of noble birth, the establishment of equality, the simplification of life… The French Revolution differed from other revolutions in being not merely national, for it aimed at benefiting all humanity.”
Alphonse Aulard, 1922

“The French Revolution gave birth to no great artists, only a great journalist, Desmoulins, and a seedy writer, Sade. The only poet of the times was the guillotine.”
Albert Camus, 1957

“It’s too early to say.”
Zhou Enlai, when asked about the impact of the French Revolution in 1972

“You can lie or distort the story of the French Revolution as long as you like, and nothing will happen. Propose a false theory in chemistry and it’ll be refuted tomorrow.”
Noam Chomsky, 1992

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