Dino De Paoli, "Lazare Carnot's Grand Strategy for Political Victory" (excerpt)
Carnot, the Leibnizian
Benjamin Franklin, whose efforts to secure French support for the American Revolution are well known, fought against such nostalgic defenders of feudalism in America and in Europe. Less well known, is that he reorganized the French Leibnizians, and trained Lazare Carnot. Carnot, the "moralist," was a happy man. His wine cellar full of Burgundy wine, his poetry, his jokes, all show that in him, morality did not rhyme with morosity. Carnot studied at a school run by the Oratorian Fathers, where he was taught the work of Leibniz, before pursuing his studies under the direction of another pupil of the Oratorians, Gaspard Monge. The latter was the pedagogical director of the school of military engineering at Mézière. His educational method deeply influenced a whole generation of European scientists.
In 1783-84, Carnot came into contact with Franklin's Parisian circles, and began the fundamental political endeavor which was to determine his later activities. In his "Essay on Machines," Carnot defined himself as a Leibnizian, in the broadest sense of the term. Society can only progress through the scientific study of technological innovation, he maintained. It was from that standpoint that Carnot would establish the new bases for a study of mechanics, defined as the search for the best possible way for a machine to transform the energy flux. This conception is opposite to fixed Cartesian analysis. The true science of thermodynamics was born.
At about the same time, Carnot helped his friends the Montgolfier brothers, in their experiments on the first aerostatic balloons, the development of which inflicted a terrible defeat on those who claimed that man would never achieve mastery over nature and vanquish its laws, notably that of gravity. Carnot went even further, and, the following year, after the launching and ascent of a montgolfière, in 1784, he presented to the Academy of Sciences a memorandum on the ways in which balloons could be directed with engines, and perhaps even a steam engine:"It is heat which, producing systolic and diastolic expansion in the balloon, must give the impulsion to the wheels.... You must note, in passing, gentlemen, how many arms will be spared in manufacturing, when the mechanics of fire are better known.... Within ten years, this will produce astonishing revolutions in the [mechanical] arts."Carnot later collaborated with inventor Robert Fulton on naval propulsion with steam engines, and on the use of submarines to beat the British fleet. "It is a newborn child!" Franklin exclaimed, when he saw the experiments. It is from these beginnings, that hydrodynamics and aerodynamics were developed, proceeding from a conception of man fundamentally opposed to that of Voltaire and Rousseau.
In 1806, Carnot wrote in a report to the Academy of Sciences on the work of the physicist Nicéphore Niepce on a combustion engine:"The discovery of a new motor force in nature is always a precious thing, when we can succeed in regularizing its effects, and use it to spare man's efforts.... Antiquity knew little of those motor forces; they only employed living human beings, weights, waterfalls, or wind. Those forces all being developed by nature itself, it was necessary, in order to apply them, to know only the effect of the lever.... But those assemblies of levers are only inert masses, merely able to transmit the action of moving forces without ever increasing them:If man wants to progress, he must create new forms of energy of greater and greater densities. This implies precise social and political considerations which Carnot was to elaborate in his first writings, "Eloge de Vauban" ("In Praise of Vauban") (1784) and "Memoire sur les Places Fortes" ("Memorandum on Fortifications") (1788)."It is the motor force which is everything. Modern man has discovered several motor forces, or rather has created them: because, though their elements be necessarily pre-existing, in nature, their dissemination nullifies them in this respect; they only acquire the quality of moving forces through artificial means, such as the expansive force of water reduced to steam, as the upward force which launches the aerostatic balloon."" This notion fundamentally refutes the mechanical interpretation of the laws of thermodynamics, as well as the simplistic interpretation of the principle of conservation of energy attributed to Carnot. It also destroys the stupid arguments of today's ecology movement for solar energy, for new "diffuse" sources of energy.
In those two works, Carnot for the first time clearly presents his idea of a republican nation-state, and that idea is very different from simple anti-monarchism. Republicanism can take diverse institutional forms, among them, the American model of parliamentary democracy. Carnot used the work of French military engineer Sébastian Le Prestre de Vauban, to present his own credo on the necessity for the spiritual and material progress of the labor force.
This was the cornerstone of the reforms Carnot later introduced, notably when he reorganized the army. Like Vauban, Carnot was not attacking the king, so much as he was attacking the court, that gathering of lazy and parasitical aristocrats who ruined the French economy.
Led by the Orléans family, the court sabotaged the attempts of the Marquis de Lafayette to build the French republic in the image of the American republic. Thus Carnot wrote in his "In Praise of Vauban":"May the triumph of reason be regarded as the most sublime effort of virtue.... If victory over our passions elevates us above human nature, the natural inclination to do good makes us divine.... Vauban did a special study of [the peasant's] labor, of his way of life. He researched the value of land, the way to cultivate it.... According to his calculations, for every 24 inhabitants in the kingdom, only one cultivates the land; thus, it is he who will feed the 23 others. What a difference between that father nourishing the fatherland and the man of leisure (the courtier)! The latter only begins to be useful when he dies.... He replenishes the earth only when he returns to it; however, it is that man of leisure who enjoys the fruits of all.... Vauban looked for the cause of disorder and found it in the excessive inequality of fortunes, in a revolting multitude of useless jobs, in a barbaric tax distribution system.... "The population was always regarded as the cause, the sign of prosperity of empires, but the number of citizens is proportional to the sum of their useful labor altogether."Carnot goes on to describe how activity can be promoted by correctly orienting the redistribution of wealth. Then he warns:"When the hard-earned bread which the poor farmer produced, and which he was going to share with his children, is pitilessly stolen from him, what can be expected of that monstrous system, except depopulation of the countryside, sowing jealousy and hatred among the citizenry, the spread of apathy, the crushing of trust and happiness in the hearts of men, and making them all indifferent to the success of the state and the destiny of the fatherland, by breaking all the ties which united men to it?|... "Vauban believed that any right which is damaging to society, is unjust, that those who have labored equally for it, have the same rights to its benefits.... "The government must prevent that odious multiplicity of prerogatives which condemn the most valuable class of men to indigence and scorn."
Today, that concept is forgotten, thrown away as "Marxist." How stupid! The Marxist apostles of those times, Gracchus Babeuf, the socialist Jacques-René Hébert, were guillotined, with Carnot assenting. Fabian socialists despise the labor force.
Carnot also details Vauban's economic reform proposals, adding his own view of what it means to be a wise man:"How rare it is that the wise man is able to obtain the fruits of his labor! He is ahead of his century, and his language can only be heard by posterity, but that is enough to sustain him.... He is a friend of those yet to be born; he converses with them in his profound reflections. As a citizen, he watches over the fatherland, he takes part in its triumphs; as a philosopher, he has already overcome the barriers which separate empires; he is the citizen of every land, contemporary of all ages; he follows man from his fragile origin to the final perfection of his being. From the moment when, weak and alone, he is the plaything of all that surrounds him, up to the times when, reunited with all his fellow men in a unanimous concert of all the means allocated to his species, he commands the universe as a master: What an immense gap between these two extremities! ... When, through those very convulsions, man has come to know the sum of his capabilities, the immense scope of his power.... Then, I say, will anything remain impossible for him? Ah! If in spite of the dissipation and difficulty of his individual efforts, he has learned to master thunder, to force gravity itself to reach the regions of the thunderbolt.... "What will he not do, when he brings together so many forces antagonized and broken by innumerable shocks, when private interest will have become general interest and virtue, the enlightened desire for happiness? Then the elements will be tamed, man will be respected by the entirety of nature; he will penetrate into the sanctuary of its laws; he will know its interconnections and causality."Such is the true spirit of the American Revolution, that of Franklin, so profoundly antagonistic to that of Voltaire, Rousseau, and, later, to the Jesuits associated with Augustin Cauchy under the reign of Charles X. The thoughts cited above are the life-force, the vis viva of Monge, Carnot, Franklin, and the republican movement of the nineteenth century.