In honor of Bastille Day, we offer an amusing reflection on French character and a salutary reminder about the nature of popularity in international affairs, courtesy of John Adams:
[The French] consider nobody but themselves. Their apparent respect and real contempt for all men and all nations but Frenchmen, are proverbial among themselves. They think it is in their power to give characters and destroy characters as they please, and they have no other rule but to give reputation to their tools, and to destroy the reputation of all who will not be their tools. Their efforts to ’populariser’ Jefferson, and to ’depopulariser’ Washington, are all upon this principle. To a Frenchman the most important man in the world is himself, and the most important nation is France. He thinks that France ought to govern all nations, and that he ought to govern France. Every man and nation that agrees to this, he is willing to ’populariser’; every man or nation that disputes or doubts it, he will ’depopulariser,’ if he can.