14 juillet/229e: De la Bastille au goulag (Looking back at Charles Krauthammer’s reflections on the revolution in France)

The Whore of Babylon (Hans Burgkmair the Elder, 1523)The Fireside angel (Max Ernst, 1937)

Liberty leading the people (Yue Minjun, 1996)
Puis je vis monter de la mer une bête qui avait dix cornes et sept têtes, et sur ses cornes dix diadèmes, et sur ses têtes des noms de blasphème. La bête que je vis était semblable à un léopard; ses pieds étaient comme ceux d’un ours, et sa gueule comme une gueule de lion. Le dragon lui donna sa puissance, et son trône, et une grande autorité. Et je vis l’une de ses têtes comme blessée à mort; mais sa blessure mortelle fut guérie. Et toute la terre était dans l’admiration derrière la bête. Et ils adorèrent le dragon, parce qu’il avait donné l’autorité à la bête; ils adorèrent la bête, en disant: Qui est semblable à la bête, et qui peut combattre contre elle? Et il lui fut donné une bouche qui proférait des paroles arrogantes et des blasphèmes; et il lui fut donné le pouvoir d’agir pendant quarante-deux mois. Et elle ouvrit sa bouche pour proférer des blasphèmes contre Dieu, pour blasphémer son nom, et son tabernacle, et ceux qui habitent dans le ciel. Et il lui fut donné de faire la guerre aux saints, et de les vaincre. Et il lui fut donné autorité sur toute tribu, tout peuple, toute langue, et toute nation. Et tous les habitants de la terre l’adoreront, ceux dont le nom n’a pas été écrit dès la fondation du monde dans le livre de vie de l’agneau qui a été immolé. Si quelqu’un a des oreilles, qu’il entende! Apocalypse 13: 1-7
Et je vis une femme assise sur une bête écarlate, pleine de noms de blasphème, ayant sept têtes et dix cornes. Cette femme était vêtue de pourpre et d’écarlate, et parée d’or, de pierres précieuses et de perles. Elle tenait dans sa main une coupe d’or, remplie d’abominations et des impuretés de sa prostitution. Sur son front était écrit un nom, un mystère: Babylone la grande, la mère des impudiques et des abominations de la terre. Et je vis cette femme ivre du sang des saints et du sang des témoins de Jésus. Apocalypse 17: 2-6
Une nation ne se régénère que dans un bain de sang. Saint Just
L’arbre de la liberté doit être revivifié de temps en temps par le sang des patriotes et des tyrans. Jefferson
Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons … La Marseillaise
La guillotine n’était qu’un épouvantail qui brisait la résistance active. Cela ne nous suffit pas. (…) Nous ne devons pas seulement « épouvanter » les capitalistes, c’est-à-dire leur faire sentir la toute-puissance de l’Etat prolétarien et leur faire oublier l’idée d’une résistance active contre lui. Nous devons briser aussi leur résistance passive, incontestablement plus dangereuse et plus nuisible encore. Nous ne devons pas seulement briser toute résistance, quelle qu’elle soit. Nous devons encore obliger les gens à travailler dans le cadre de la nouvelle organisation de l’Etat. Lénine
La reine appartient à plusieurs catégories victimaires préférentielles; elle n’est pas seulement reine mais étrangère. Son origine autrichienne revient sans cesse dans les accusations populaires. Le tribunal qui la condamne est très fortement influencé par la foule parisienne. Notre premier stéréotype est également présent: on retrouve dans la révolution tous les traits caractéristiques des grandes crises qui favorisent les persécutions collectives. (…) Je ne prétends pas que cette façon de penser doive se substituer partout à nos idées sur la Révolution française. Elle n’en éclaire pas moins d’un jour intéressant une accusation souvent passée sous silence mais qui figure explicitement au procès de la reine, celui d’avoir commis un inceste avec son fils. René Girard
Le communisme, c’est le nazisme, le mensonge en plus. Jean-François Revel
Il est malheureux que le Moyen-Orient ait rencontré pour la première fois la modernité occidentale à travers les échos de la Révolution française. Progressistes, égalitaristes et opposés à l’Eglise, Robespierre et les jacobins étaient des héros à même d’inspirer les radicaux arabes. Les modèles ultérieurs — Italie mussolinienne, Allemagne nazie, Union soviétique — furent encore plus désastreux. Ce qui rend l’entreprise terroriste des islamistes aussi dangereuse, ce n’est pas tant la haine religieuse qu’ils puisent dans des textes anciens — souvent au prix de distorsions grossières —, mais la synthèse qu’ils font entre fanatisme religieux et idéologie moderne. Ian Buruma et Avishai Margalit
En dépit du fait que tous les historiens sérieux, fussent-ils ardemment républicains, conviennent que la Révolution française pose un problème, l’imagerie officielle, celle des manuels scolaires du primaire et du secondaire, celle de la télévision, montre les événements de 1789 et des années suivantes comme le moment fondateur de notre société, en gommant tout ce qu’on veut cacher : la Terreur, la persécution religieuse, la dictature d’une minorité, le vandalisme artistique, etc. Aujourd’hui, on loue 1789 en reniant 1793. On veut bien de la Déclaration des Droits de l’homme, mais pas de la Loi des suspects. Mais comment démêler 1789 de 1793, quand on sait que le phénomène terroriste commence dès 1789 ? (…) L’idée de base du Livre noir de la Révolution est de montrer cette face de la réalité qui n’est jamais montrée, et rappeler qu’il y a toujours eu une opposition à la Révolution française, mais sans trahir l’Histoire. Qu’on le veuille ou non, qu’on l’aime ou non, la Révolution, c’est un pan de l’Histoire de la France et des Français. On ne l’effacera pas: au moins faut-il la comprendre. Jean Sévillia
The painting which I did after the defeat of the Republicans was L’ange du foyer (Fireside angel). This is, of course, an ironic title for a clumsy figure devastating everything that gets in its way. At the time, this was my impression of what was happening in the world, and I think I was right. Max Ernst (1948)
The war began in July 1936, when General Francisco- Franco led a revolt against the Spanish Republic. The Spanish Left had won a parliamentary majority but was unable to restrain those among them who were deter-mined that their turn in power should be used to destroy the Right. Franco’s revolt became a civil war, and Franco received the support of Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, which went so far as to send troops — using the Spanish war to try out new weapons and tactics. The Republicans were supported by volunteers from all over the world, as well as by Stalin’s Soviet Union. Horrifying and sadistic atrocities were committed by both sides After Franco’s victory the German painter Max Ernst created his spectral L’ange du foyer (Fireside angel), an apocalyptic monster bursting with destructive energy, a King-Kong-like Angel of Death spreading fear and terror. All art
The people now armed themselves with such weapons as they could find in armourer shops & privated houses, and with bludgeons, & were roaming all night through all parts of the city without any decided & practicable object. The next day the states press on the King to send away the troops, to permit the Bourgeois of Paris to arm for the preservation of order in the city, & offer to send a deputation from their body to tranquilize them. He refuses all their propositions. A committee of magistrates & electors of the city are appointed, by their bodies, to take upon them its government. The mob, now openly joined by the French guards, force the prisons of St. Lazare, release all the prisoners, & take a great store of corn, which they carry to the corn market. Here they get some arms, & the French guards begin to to form & train them. The City committee determine to raise 48,000 Bourgeois, or rather to restrain their numbers to 48,000, On the 16th they send one of their numbers (Monsieur de Corny whom we knew in America) to the Hotel des Invalides to ask arms for their Garde Bourgeoise. He was followed by, or he found there, a great mob. The Governor of the Invalids came out & represented the impossibility of his delivering arms without the orders of those from whom he received them. De Corny advised the people then to retire, retired himself, & the people took possession of the arms. It was remarkable that not only the invalids themselves made no opposition, but that a body of 5000 foreign troops, encamped with 400 yards, never stirred. Monsieur De Corny and five others were then sent to ask arms of Monsieur de Launai, Governor of the Bastille. They found a great collection of people already before the place, & they immediately planted a flag of truce, which was answered by a like flag hoisted on the parapet. The depositition prevailed on the people to fall back a little, advanced themselves to make their demand of the Governor. & in that instant a discharge from the Bastille killed 4 people of those nearest to the deputies. The deputies retired, the people rushed against the place, and almost in an instant were in possession of a fortification, defended by 100 men, of infinite strength, which in other times had stood several regular sieges & had never been taken. How they got in, has as yet been impossible to discover. Those, who pretend to have been of the party tell so many different stories as to destroy the credit of them all. They took all the arms, discharged the prisoners & such of the garrison as were not killed in the first moment of fury, carried the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to the Greve (the place of public execution) cut off their heads, & sent them through the city in triumph to the Palais royal… I have the honor to be with great esteem & respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant. Thomas Jefferson (lettre à John Jay, 19 juillet 1789)
Les journées les plus décisives de la Révolution française sont contenues, sont impliquées dans ce premier fait qui les enveloppe : le 14 juillet 1789. Et voilà pourquoi aussi c’est la vraie date révolutionnaire, celle qui fait tressaillir la France ! On comprend que ce jour-là notre Nouveau Testament nous a été donné et que tout doit en découler. Léon Gambetta (14 juillet 1872)
Les légitimistes s’évertuent alors à démonter le mythe du 14 Juillet, à le réduire à l’expression violente d’une foule (pas du peuple) assoiffée de sang (les meurtres des derniers défenseurs de la Bastille malgré la promesse de protection) allant jusqu’au sacrilège du cadavre (des têtes dont celle du gouverneur Launay parcourant Paris plantée au bout d’une pique) (…) la Bastille n’était pas un bagne, occupée qu’elle était par quelques prisonniers sans envergure, elle n’était pas la forteresse du pouvoir royal absolu tourné contre le peuple à travers l’instrumentalisation des canons, elle n’était pas la forteresse à partir de laquelle la reconquête de la ville pouvait être envisagée puisqu’elle n’était défendue que par quelques soldats qui du reste se sont rendus en fin d’après-midi. Le mythe de la prise de la Bastille tombe de lui-même pour les monarchistes et même plus il est une création politique construisant artificiellement le mythe du peuple s’émancipant, plus encore il apparaît comme annonciateur de la Terreur, justifiant les surnoms de « saturnales républicaines », de « fête de l’assassinat »… Pierrick Hervé
Dans les grandes démocraties du monde, la Grande-Bretagne, l’Allemagne, les Etats-unis, le Canada, les fêtes nationales se fêtent sans défilé militaire. Ce sont les dictatures qui font les défilés militaires. C’est l’URSS, c’est la Chine, c’est l’Iran; ce sont des pays non démocratiques. Et la France est l’une des seules démocraties à organiser sa fête nationale autour d’un défilé militaire: ça n’a aucune justification même historique. Sylvain Garel (élu vert de Paris, 02.07.10)
Le défilé du 14 Juillet tel que nous le connaissons aujourd’hui n’a été instauré qu’en 1880, grâce à un vote de l’Assemblée nationale faisant du 14 juillet le jour de la Fête nationale française. La jeune IIIe République cherche à créer un imaginaire républicain commun pour souder le régime, après des décennies d’instabilité (Directoire, Consulat, premier et second Empire, IIe République …). C’est dans la même période que la Marseillaise sera adoptée comme hymne national. La date a pourtant fait polémique au sein de l’hémicycle. Pouvait-on adopter comme acte fondateur de la Nation la sanglante prise de la Bastille? Les conservateurs s’y opposent. Le rapporteur de la loi, Benjamin Raspail, propose alors une autre date : le 14 juillet 1790, jour de la Fête de la Fédération. Le premier anniversaire de la prise de la Bastille avait été célébré à Paris par le défilé sur le Champ-de-Mars de milliers de «fédérés», députés et délégués venus de toute la France. Louis XVI avait prêté serment à la Nation, et avait juré de protéger la Constitution. (…) Convaincue, l’Assemblée nationale a donc adopté le 14 Juillet comme Fête nationale, mais sans préciser si elle se réfèrait à 1789 ou 1790. (…) La IIIe République est née en 1870 après la défaite de l’Empereur Napoléon III à Sedan contre la Prusse. La France y a perdu l’Alsace et la Lorraine, ce qui sera vécu comme un traumatisme national. Dix ans après la défaite, le régime veut montrer que le pays s’est redressé. Jules Ferry, Léon Gambetta et Léon Say remettent aux militaires défilant à Longchamp de nouveaux drapeaux et étendards, remplaçant ceux de 1870. L’armée est valorisée comme protectrice de la Nation et de la République. Hautement symbolique, ce premier défilé du 14 Juillet permet également de montrer à l’opinion nationale et internationale le redressement militaire de la France, qui compte bien reconquérir les territoires perdus. Le caractère militaire du 14 Juillet est définitivement acquis lors du «Défilé de la victoire» de 1919 sur les Champs-Elysées. Le Figaro (16.07.11)
The line from from the Bastille to the gulag is not straight, but the connection is unmistakable. Modern totalitarianism has its roots in 1789. Indeed, the French Revolution was such a model for future revolutions that it redefined the word. That is why 1776 has long been treated as a kind of pseudo-revolution, as Irving Kristol pointed out in a prescient essay written during America’s confused and embarrassed bicentennial celebration of 1776. The American Revolution was utterly lacking in the messianic, bloody-minded idealism of the French. It rearranged the constitutional furniture. Its revolutionary leaders died in their own beds. What kind of a revolution was that?” The French Revolution failed …. because it tried to create the impossible: a regime both of liberty and of “patriotic” state power. The history of the revolution is proof that these goals are incompatible. The American Revolution succeeded because it chose one, liberty. The Russian Revolution became deranged when it chose the other, state power. The French Revolution, to its credit and sorrow, wanted both. (T)heir revolution, with its glamour and influence, did not only popularize, it deified revolution. There are large parts of the world where even today the worst brutality and arbitrariness are justified by the mere invocation of the word revolution – without reference to any other human value. For the Chinese authorities to shoot a dissident in the back of the head, they have only to show that he is a “counterrevolutionary.” The fate then, of all messianic revolution – revolution, that is, on the French model – is that in the end it can justify itself and its crimes only by reference to itself. In Saint-Just’s famous formulation: “The Republic consists in the extermination of everything that opposes it.” This brutal circularity of logic is properly called not revolution but nihilism. Charles Krauthammer (1989)
Attention: une fête peut en cacher une autre !
En ces temps désormais dits post-modernes et post-historiques …
Où sous le poids du progressisme le plus échevelé et d’une réalité migratoire proprement apocalyptique …
Les idées de nation et de patriotisme sont passés de gros mots à fictions objectives …
Et en ce jour où entre défilé militaire soviétique et débauche de drapeaux nationaux en d’autres temps proscrits …
Nous Français ne savons plus très bien ce que nous sommes censés fêter …
Comment ne pas repenser …
A ces fortes paroles du chroniqueur américain qui vient tout juste de disparaitre Charles Krauthammer
Rappelant lors du bicentenaire de la Révolution française …
La longue filiation pressentie dès 1937 par le peintre allemand Marx Ernst
Mais déjà prophétisée 2 000 ans plus tôt par l’Apocalypse …
Et hélas bien confirmée par l’histoire depuis …
Entre la Bastille et le goulag ?

A FAILED REVOLUTION
Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
July 14, 1989

Two hundred years ago today a mob stormed the Bastille and freed its seven prisoners: four forgers, two lunatics and an aristocrat imprisoned at his family’s request for « libertinism. » It might have been eight had not the Marquis de Sade — whose cell contained a desk, a wardrobe, a dressing table, tapestries, mattresses, velvet cushions, a collection of hats, three kinds of fragrances, night lamps and 133 books — left a week earlier.

When the battle was lost, the governor of the Bastille, a minor functionary named Bernard-Rene’ de Launay, could have detonated a mountain of gunpowder, destroying himself, the mob, and much of the surrounding faubourg Saint-Antoine. He chose instead to surrender. His reward was to be paraded through the street and cut down with knives and pistol shots. A pastry cook named Desnot, declining a sword, sawed off his head with a pocket knife. For the French Revolution, it was downhill from there on.

Now, after 200 years, the French themselves seem finally to be coming to terms with that reality. There is a tentativeness to this week’s bicentennial celebration that suggests that French enthusiasm for the revolution has tempered. This circumspection stems from two decades of revisionist scholarship that stresses the reformist impulses of the ancien regime and the murderous impulses of the revolutionary regime that followed.

Simon Schama’s « Citizens » is but the culmination of this trend. But the receptivity to such revisionism stems from something deeper: the death of doctrinaire socialism, which in France had long claimed direct descent from the revolution. Disillusion at the savage failure of the revolutions in our time — Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese — has allowed reconsideration of the event that was father to them all. One might say that romance with revolution died with Solzhenitsyn.

The line from the Bastille to the gulag is not straight, but the connection is unmistakable. Modern totalitarianism has its roots in 1789. « The spirit of the French Revolution has always been present in the social life of our country, » said Gorbachev during his visit to France last week. Few attempts at ingratiation have been more true or more damning.

Indeed, the French Revolution was such a model for future revolutions that it redefined the word. That is why 1776 has long been treated as a kind of pseudo-revolution, as Irving Kristol pointed out in a prescient essay written during America’s confused and embarrassed bicentennial celebration of 1976. The American Revolution was utterly lacking in the messianic, bloody-minded idealism of the French. It rearranged the constitutional furniture. Its revolutionary leaders died in their own beds. What kind of revolution was that? Thirteen years later, Kristol’s answer has become conventional wisdom: a successful revolution, perhaps the only successful revolution of our time.

The French Revolution failed, argues Schama, because it tried to create the impossible: a regime both of liberty and of « patriotic » state power. The history of the revolution is proof that these goals are incompatible. The American Revolution succeeded because it chose one, liberty. The Russian Revolution became deranged when it chose the other, state power. The French Revolution, to its credit and sorrow, wanted both.

Its great virtue was to have loosed the idea of liberty upon Europe. Its great vice was to have created the model, the monster, of the mobilized militarized state — revolutionary France invented universal conscription, that scourge of the 20th century only now beginning to wither away.

The French cannot be blamed for everything, alas, but their revolution, with its glamour and influence, did not only popularize, it deified revolution. There are large parts of the world where even today the worst brutality and arbitrariness are justified by the mere invocation of the word revolution — without reference to any other human value. For the Chinese authorities to shoot a dissident in the back of the head, they have only to show that he is a « counterrevolutionary. » In Cuba, Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, erstwhile hero of the revolution, is condemned to death in a show trial and upon receiving his sentence confesses his sins and declares that at his execution his « last thought would be of Fidel and of the great revolution. »

The fate, then, of all messianic revolution — revolution, that is, on the French model — is that in the end it can justify itself and its crimes only by reference to itself. In Saint-Just’s famous formulation: « The Republic consists in the extermination of everything that opposes it. » This brutal circularity of logic is properly called not revolution but nihilism.

Voir par ailleurs:

The French Revolution

Quartz

July 14, 2018

Bloody beginnings and a long legacy


July 14 marks the 229th anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille and the symbolic start of the French Revolution. The bloody revolt toppled the 200-year-old Bourbon dynasty, and ushered in a radical new government, reshaping European history forever.

The French Revolution brought the world the terror of the guillotine and the ravages of the Napoleonic Wars. But in its radical reimagining of society, it swept away the conventions and structures that had governed France since the end of the Roman era, and introduced systems based on the enlightenment principles of reason and science.

Some of those ideas persist to this day—like the metric system, which emerged from the National Assembly’s desire to standardize weights and measures. Other, equally ambitious ideas, like the Republican calendar—with 10 months and 10-day weeks—somehow failed to catch on. More enduring were the radical concepts of the innate rights of men and women that run throughout western systems of law, philosophy, and political theory.

So on this Bastille Day, pop open the champagne, spread the brie thick, and run a kilometer or deux to celebrate two centuries of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.

By the digits

693: Deputies, out of the 745 in the National Assembly, who voted to convict King Louis XVI of treason on January 15, 1793. None voted to acquit. He was beheaded six days later.

16,594: Death sentences given to counter-revolutionaries during the Reign of Terror of 1793-94.

300,000: Estimated total number of French aristocrats, or 1% of the population, in 1789.

800: Estimated different standards for weights and measures in France before the introduction of the metric system.

100: Seconds in the metric minute, used for 17 months during the French Revolution.

7: Countries that don’t use the metric system as the official system of weights and measures. (Myanmar, Liberia, Palau, Micronesia, Samoa, the Marshall Islands, and the United States.)

fun fact!

Interstate 19 in Arizona is the only stretch of federal highway in the US to use kilometers exclusively. The signs, initially part of a pilot program by the Carter Administration to introduce the metric system, have been kept in place in part because the local tourism industry wants them to greet visitors from Mexico.

Brief history

The metric system


1215: The Magna Carta declares that there should be national standards for the measurement of wine, beer, and cloth.

1678: Anglican clergyman and philosopher John Wilkins publishes An Essay towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language, which proposes a universal language and system of measurement, based on units of 10.

1790: The National Assembly of France drafts a committee to establish a new standard for weights and measures that would be valid “for all people, for all time,” in the words of mathematician (and revolutionary) Marquis de Condorcet.

1799: The distance of the meter—named after metron, the Greek word for measure—is fixed at 1/10,000,000 of the length between the North Pole and the Equator, arrived at after two French surveyors spent six years measuring the distance between Dunkirk and Barcelona, which was used to calculate the longer distance. A platinum bar officially one meter long is cast.

1840: The metric system becomes compulsory in France.

1875: Seventeen nations (including the US) sign the Treaty of the Meter, creating international bodies to standardize weights and measurements worldwide, according to the metric system.

1975: US president Gerald Ford signs the Metric Conversion Act, declaring the metric system the preferred (but voluntary) system and establishing the US Metric Board, to speed America’s conversion.

1982: US president Ronald Reagan dismantles the Metric Board.

1999: Mars Climate Orbiter, a $328 million satellite, disintegrates over Mars because software produced by Lockheed Martin, the contractor, generated numbers in the English system instead of the metric system, as specified by its agreement with NASA.

The rights of women


When the revolutionaries of France wrote about égalité, few, if any, extended that right to women. One observer across the English Channel, however, saw that the principles of the revolution applied to women as well as men.

Mary Wollstonecraft—a British author who established herself when few women earned a living by writing—wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1791 in response to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution. While Burke argued the revolution would fail because society was inherently traditional and hierarchical, Wollstonecraft made the case not only for the rights of men, but for women as well—a radical position at the end of the 18th century.

In his book Emile, or On Education, Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote that women should be educated only to the extent they could serve men. But Wollstonecraft argued that women “ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect.” Women, she wrote, deserved the same opportunities as men, and should be able to earn a living and support themselves with dignity.

Wollstonecraft, the mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, had a messy personal life, which was used to discredit her ideas in the 19th century. But her ideas inspired writers from Jane Austen to Virginia Woolf, and suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. By the 20th century, Wollstonecraft was rightly regarded as a pioneering feminist.

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How to make time


The Republican Calendar was one of the more radical innovations of the revolution. Born out of a desire to wipe the slate of clean of aristocratic and religious references and start history afresh, the new calendar began on the autumn solstice of September 22, 1792, or 1 Vendemiaire I, the day the new Republic was proclaimed.

Instead of the seven-day week of the Bible, the Republican Calendar was based on the 10-day week, with the tenth day, decadi, devoted to rest and play. There were 10 months, each three weeks long, with five special days (or six, in a leap year) devoted to celebrations used to round out the year to 365 days. Those days bore names such as the Fête de la Vertu (Celebration of Virtues) and Fête de l’Opinion (Celebration of Convictions).

The calendar was designed by a committee that included mathematicians, astronomers, and poets, who based the naming of days and months after the agricultural cycle, and borrowed heavily from Latin. The winter months, for example, became Nivôse (snowy), Pluviôse (rainy), and Ventôse (windy). Each day also got a name—360 in all—replacing the Catholic convention of each day bearing the name of a saint. The fifth, 15th, and 25th days of each month were named after farm animals (bull, ram, duck), the 10th and 20th were named after farm implements (rakes, spades), while the rest were named after trees, fruits, vegetables and herbs. According to one modern calculation, today is 25 Messidor CCXXVI, named for the Guinea hen. (There’s a Twitter account that will help you keep up.)

As you might expect, there were problems. Starting each year on the autumnal equinox proved tricky, since the timing of astronomical events can vary and leap days had to be inserted to even things up, confusing everyone. Farm workers, the ostensible heroes the calendar celebrated, hated having a day off every 10 days instead of every seven. So 12 years after its introduction, it was abolished by Napoleon in 1806.

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Quotable

“Long usage of the Gregorian calendar has filled the people’s memory with a considerable number of images that they have long revered, and which today remain the source of their religious errors. It is therefore necessary to replace these visions of ignorance with the realities of reason, and this sacerdotal prestige with nature’s truth.”

— Committee to draft a new calendar

Watch this!

The French Revolution’s decimal time wasn’t the last attempt to rationalize timekeeping. A more recent effort was Swatch Internet Time in 1998. Part of a (not very successful) marketing campaign for a new line of watches, the system divided the 24-hour day into 1,000 “.beats” (yes, with a period—trés moderne).

The time, which was displayed on Swatches alongside boring old Gregorian time, was given as @416, which would be read as 416 beats after midnight, or 4am. Since it was the same all over the world, it was touted as being a new way of telling time that negated the need for translating pesky time zones.

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