The following quotations are from:

Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, pp. 223-240. Penguin, 1977.

“The failure of post-revolutionary thought to remember the revolutionary spirit and to understand it conceptually was preceded by the failure of the revolution to provide it with a lasting institution. The revolution, unless it ended in the disaster of terror, had come to an end with the establishment of a republic which, according to the men of the revolutions, was ‘the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind’. But in this republic, as it presently turned out, there was no space reserved, no room left for the exercise of precisely those qualities which had been instrumental in building it. And this was clearly no mere oversight, as though those who knew so well how to provide for power of the commonwealth and the liberties of its citizens, for judgement and opinion, for interests and rights, had simply forgotten what actually they cherished above everything else, the potentialities for action and the proud privilege of being beginners of something altogether new. Certainly, they did not want to deny this privilege to their successors, but they also could not very well wish to deny their own work, although Jefferson, more concerned with this perplexity than anybody else, almost went to this extremity. The perplexity was very simple and, stated in logical terms, it seemed unsolvable: if foundation was the aim and the end of revolution, then the revolutionary spirit was not merely the spirit of beginning something new but of starting something permanent and enduring; a lasting institution, embodying this spirit and encouraging it to new achievements, would be self-defeating. From which it unfortunately seems to follow that nothing threatens the very achievements of revolution more dangerously and more acutely than the spirit which has brought them about. Should freedom in its most exalted sense as freedom to act be the price to be paid for foundation?” 224

“[Jefferson] knew, however dimly, that the Revolution, while it had given freedom to the people, had failed to provide a space where this freedom could be exercised. Only the representatives of the people, not the people themselves, had an opportunity to engage in those activities of ‘expressing, discussing, and deciding’ which in a positive sense are the activities of freedom. And since the state and federal governments, the proudest results of revolution, through sheer weight of their proper business were bound to overshadow in political importance the townships and their meeting halls—until what Emerson still considered to be ‘the unit of the Republic’ and ‘the school of the people’ in political matters had withered away—one might even come to the conclusion that there was less opportunity for the exercise of public freedom and the enjoyment of public happiness in the republic of the United States than there had existed in the colonies of British America. Lewis Mumford recently pointed out how the political importance of the township was never grasped by the founders, and that the failure to incorporate it into either the federal or the state constitutions was ‘one of the tragic oversights of post-revolutionary political development.’ Only Jefferson among the founders had a clear premonition of this tragedy, for his greatest fear was ineded lest ‘the abstract political system of democracy lacked concrete organs.” 227

Quoting Benjamin Rush: although “all power is derived from the people, they possess it only on the days of their elections. After this it is the property of their rulers.” 228

“’All power resides in the people,’ is true only for the day of election… government has degenerated into mere administration, the public realm has vanished; there is no space either for seeing and being seen in action, John Adams’ spectemur agendo, or for discussion and decision, Jefferson’s pride of being ‘a participator in government’; political matters are those that are dictated by necessity to be decided by experts, but not open to opinions and genuine choice… the age-old… distinction between ruler and ruled which the Revolution had set out to abolish through the establishment of a republic has asserted itself again; once more the people are not admitted to the public realm, once more the business of government has become the privilege of the few, who alone may ‘exercise [their] various dispositions.’” 229

Quoting Jefferson: “‘If once [our people] become inattentive to public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves.’”

“The famous forty-eight sections of the Parisian Commune had their origin in the lack of duly constituted popular bodies to elect representatives and to send delegates to the National Assembly. These sections, however, constituted themselves immediately as self-governing bodies, and they elected from their midst no delegates to the National Assembly, but formed the revolutionary municipal council, the Commune of Paris, which was to play such a decisive role in the course of the Revolution. Moreover, side by side with these municipal bodies, and without being influenced by them, we find a great number of spontaneously formed clubs and societies—the sociétés populaires—whose origin cannot be traced at all to the task of representation, of sending duly accredited delegates to the National Assembly, but whose sole aims were, in the words of Robespierre, ‘to instruct, to enlighten their fellow citizens on the true principles of the constitution, and to spread a light without which the constitution will not be able to survive’;  for the survival of the constitution depended upon ‘the public spirit’, which, in its turn, existed only in ‘assemblies where citizens [could] occupy themselves in common with these [public] matters…To Robespierre, speaking in September 1791 before the National Assembly, to prevent the delegates from curtailing the political power of clubs and societies, this public spirit was identical with the revolutionary spirit.” 231-232

“In the bylaws of one of the Parisian sections we hear, for instance, how the people organized themselves into a society—with president and vice-president, four secretaries, eight censors, a treasurer, and an archivist; with regular meetings, three in every ten days; with rotation in office, once a month for the president; how they defined its main task: ‘The society will deal with everything that concerns freedom, equality, unity, indivisibility of the republic; [its members] will mutually enlighten themselves…” 234