Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Eloquence of Trotsky and Macaulay.

The comparison of these two historians and historical actors is interesting because they appear to have nothing in common except for their extraordinary eloquence. Macaulay has been accused of writing history as ratification of the present. Trotsky has been accused of roughly everything else.

Consider these examples of eloquence. Both are quoted from memory (I am the only person too lazy to respect the journalistic standards of blogging). Each is the principal example in two essays which praise the eloquence of Trotskey and Macaulay respectively. I think the essay on Trotsky is the introduction to a collection of writings of Trotsky (I think this because I can’t find it in “To the Finland Station”). The essay on Macauley is an article in The New Republic circa 1995.

“The assembly passed a resolution that there would be no negotiation with the enemy while their armies were on French soil. Danton asked ‘have you made an alliance with victory’ the assembly replied ‘we have made an alliance with death’”

A stiring line which also shows how Trotsky’s history mysticism had, by that point, driven him completely insane. Solidarity can fuse a group of individuals into a mighty historical force, but it can not make them think of the same snappy line at the same moment..

Macaulay was, of course, much more reasonable. He argued against anti semitism when arguing against legal discrimination against Jews writing “we close all honerable professions to them then denounce them for becoming money lenders.”

Again eloquent, but it seems that the two cases of eloquence have nothing in common but eloquence. One displays the beauty of reason and good sence, the other the beauty of madness.

It seems that the two cases of eloquence have nothing else in common, but they do share one other trait. They are both word for word translations of Maximilien Robespierre.

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