Lazare Carnot: Organizer of Victory --
How the "Calculus of Enthusiasm" Saved France

By Pierre Beaudry

Published in The American Almanac July 21, 1997

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During his campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination last July, Lyndon LaRouche compared his battle to turn around the disastrous situation in the United States to the military campaign carried out by Lazare Carnot (1753-1823) in France during period of the French Revolution. He referenced Carnot in the following terms:

``Back in 1793, France, under a terrible government, was overrun by invading armies which were victorious on every front. The word in Paris was that the defeat and consequent dismemberment of France, was a military inevitability. At that point they found a `sucker' to take over the defense forces of France. His name was Lazare Carnot. He was a rather famous military genius, who had once spent time in the Bastille because of court politics; who had been a student of Gaspard Monge (1746-1818), who was the leading scientific thinker of France, and, at that point, of Europe.

``Lazare Carnot, under condition of imminent defeat, reorganized the policies, the military policies of France, and its armies--often fired major-generals to replace them with sergeants, quite successfully, if he found the major-generals keeping the troops in the barracks too long, or if they didn't cross the river that night, but rather waited for the next morning, things like that--terrible crimes.

``But, a very specific thing which he did, apart from revolutionizing modern warfare by use of development of mass mobile field artillery fire and things of that sort, was to change the policies of France; that rather than attacking the adversary on a broad front, in a kind of federated approach of mass attacks on every front simultaneously, which only a jarhead would do, was to focus the military power of France at each point, at certain specific points. And by picking a point on which to attack, to turn the flank of the enemy, and rout him.'' [fn1]

The following is a case study of how Lazare Carnot developed his strategy of flanking his enemies, and why he was able to defeat them with untrained, inferior forces and with considerably smaller numbers of trained troops. While all evidence pointed to inevitable defeat for France, in 1793, Carnot was able, in only a few months of that decisive year, to create a mass mobilization, launch major flanking blows against the enemy, and succeed in saving France from otherwise certain doom.

I. The Calculus as an Instrument of Warfare

Lazare Carnot belonged to a longstanding international Platonic faction of Republican heritage going back, in France, to King Louis XI, and the Brotherhood of the Common Life; the Colbertists, and the Royal Academy of Sciences around Huygens and Leibniz; the American Party led by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, and the Oratorian Teaching Order which produced the great scientific genius of the 18th century, Gaspard Monge, who became the director of the Artillery School of Mézière, and later the founder of the Ecole Polytechnique, providing France with the most advanced military technology in the world at that time.

The opposing Aristotelian grouping was centered around the British-Venetian Enlightenment outlook of the oligarchical faction represented by Paolo Sarpi, Isaac Newton, Abbot Antonio Conti, Réné Descartes, Giammaria Ortez, Pietro Pompanazzi, Pierre Maupertuis, François Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau; and Jeremy Bentham, the British Intelligence controller of Robespierre, Marat, and Danton; and those British-Venetian agents, the Corsican cousins Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles Andre Pozzo di Borgo, with their ``legitimist'' agents, whose role was to destroy the very soul of France, by wrecking the Ecole Polytechnique; Marquis Pierre-Simon de Laplace and Baron Augustin Cauchy.

The political motivation behind the feudalist-oligarchical faction was to put a stop, by all means, to the development of science and technology throughout the nation of France, and destroy the most powerful nation-state of that period, by turning the general population into an ignorant mob of ``enragés,'' generally identified as ``Jacobins,'' who would follow blindly Marat's dictum: ``The Republic has no use for scientists.''

On the contrary, Carnot recognized the urgent necessity for republican scientific education of the masses, and for politically orienting the enthusiasm of the revolution away from personal ambitions, and toward the well-being of the nation. This meant the resolution of the central conflict between oligarchism and republicanism: the conflict between the rule of Kantian pure reason and republican self-government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It was through the application of the Leibnizian calculus that Carnot was able to solve that dilemma, by using it as an instrument of warfare for the Good. [fn2]

For Carnot, art, science, politics, and military strategy were all one; because he knew that he was not using warfare merely as a means of defeating a military enemy, but emphatically as a means of saving civilization. Carnot had to find an instrument of problem-solving that permitted him to accomplish a higher form of generalization, an instrument that would, at the same time, lead him to both simplify and integrate.

In fact, what Carnot had to do, therefore, was nothing less than to solve the most difficult paradox of his century, better known as the Schillerian paradox of the ``aesthetic man,'' the conflict of the savage and/or the barbarian with the man of ideas. Indeed, how do you solve the false Kantian conflict opposing freedom and necessity? How do you transform the axiomatics of the human character, such that man is able to choose to go from ``I must do this,'' to ``I want to do this''? This is how Schiller defined the theorem:

``Man can, however be opposed to himself in a twofold manner: either as a savage, if his feelings rule over his principles; or as a barbarian, if his principles destroy his feelings. The savage despises art and recognizes nature as his unrestricted master; the barbarian derides and disrespects nature but, more contemptible than the savage he frequently enough continues to be the slave of his slaves. The educated man makes nature into his friend and honors its freedom, while he merely bridles its caprice.

``When reason therefore brings her moral unity into physical society, in doing so, she may not damage the multiplicity of nature. When nature strives to maintain her multiplicity in the moral structure of society, it must not thereby create a breach in moral unity; the victorious form rests equally far from uniformity and confusion. Totality of character must therefore be found in the people, which should be capable and worthy, of exchanging the state of necessity for the state of freedom.'' [fn3]

The French version of this paradox was typified by the manipulative conflict between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire, as it was reflected in the monstrous French personality form of Jacobinism created by the evil Robespierre [fn4] and Danton. It is the emergence of such a monster which made Schiller declared of the French Revolution that, ``a great moment had found a little people.'' But, how did Carnot resolve this dilemma?

Carnot made the discovery of a small margin of difference between two different states of affairs in his mind, with respect to a third. [fn5] That infinitely small margin marked the difference between spending long hours, late at night, tiring himself out over how to solve the problem of turning the weaknesses of the population into strength, and spending that extra hour pondering his maps in search of the solution for this high density of singularities, by means of which he could change the axiomatics of war-fighting. Carnot kept turning over in his mind, on the one hand, the problem posed by the blind Jacobin fear and guilt manipulation that Robespierre and Danton were instilling, by terrorizing the population, and, on the other hand, the necessity of catalyzing and directing the revolutionary enthusiasm into a winning situation. [fn6]

Carnot found the solution to the problem and expressed it quite beautifully in a poem called ``Ode to Enthusiasm,'' in which he stated his principle of agapë:

``Enthusiasm, love of beauty!/Principle of noble flames,.../You are not raving drunkenness,/You are not cold reason;/ You go further than wisdom,/ Without exceeding its region./ Delicate instinct which anticipates,/ Both the council of prudence/And the calculations of judgment....''

It was this agapic calculus, this calculus of enthusiasm that permitted Carnot to come full circle, find closure, and solve that impossible military problem. ``I will not rest until this dissonance is resolved,'' he probably kept telling himself, as a great musical composer would say. ``I will not settle for anything less than total victory.''

In making this breakthrough, Carnot became the ``ideal man'' of Schiller, that is, wherein the ``individual becomes the state, that the man of time ennobles himself to become the man of idea.'' [fn7]

It is this enduring sentiment of love of the fatherland, and love of free human beings, that prevented France from being eradicated, as a nation-state, by the first Anglo-Venetian coalition, during the first years of the war. [fn8]

It was because Carnot succeeded in transmitting this most noble sentiment of ``love of public virtue'' throughout the armies that he was able to save France, for a short period, in spite of Robespierre and his reign of terror.

II. The Carnot Principle: `Attack, Attack, Always Attack'

In 1792, there was no central High Command that could unify the armies of France and establish a functional revolutionary control to secure the nation-state. When Claude-Antoine Prieur de la Côte d'Or, a deputy of the Convention with Carnot, was asked to take charge of the armies by Bertrand Barère of the Committee of Public Safety, he replied : ``There is only one suitable man in the Convention--that is Carnot. I have a few special qualifications which can be used; I will be his assistant.'' [fn9]

Prieur also chose Lindet to administer military transport services, clothing, and food. And so, all three, Carnot, Prieur, and Lindet, became the command structure of the 12 armies of France and succeeded in realizing one of the most unbelievable feats of all of military history. They transformed the most disastrous state of any national army into the most feared war machine in Europe, and that within a period of only four years.

Prieur de la Côte d'Or, the creator of the decimal system of weights and measures, was also one of the founders of the Ecole Polytechnique with Monge and Carnot. He contributed to the war effort as a chemist and a military engineer, who saw to it that the application of Gaspard Monge's projective geometry would be used to develop industrial machine tools for new artillery technology, where all military hardware, and all of the cannons would have interchangeable parts (see illustration page 7).

Both Carnot and Prieur enlisted the patriotic scientists to organize a national manufacturing and distribution network of everything that was necessary for the ordinance and equipment of the troops. They recruited from the Mèzière school of Monge, the chemists and saltpeter experts Jean-Antoine Chaptal and Claude Bertholet, and ``bells for cannons'' Antoine-Francois Fourcroy, the metallurgist Jean-Claude Perrier, the small-arms manufacturer/mathematician, Alexandre Vandermonde, Guyton de Morveau, gun factory commissary Hassenfratz, among others, to create factories for gunpowder, muskets, and cannons in Paris and its surroundings. Monge wrote a small booklet on the ``Art of Manufacturing Cannons,'' which served as a manual for the 258 forges which, in Paris alone, were producing 1,000 cannons a day. A gunpowder factory at Grenelle, near Paris, was producing 30,000 pounds a day. [fn10] Very rapidly, under the leadership of Carnot, Prieur organized equipment, arms, and munitions, thus transforming the French armament industry into the most formidable military force in the world.

With the Mongolfier brothers, Carnot defied the phenomenon of gravity by helping to create air reconnaissance balloons. Later, Carnot collaborated with the American inventor of naval steam propulsion, Robert Fulton, with whom he was planning the construction of a steam-powered navy. Carnot was considering, with the assistance of Monge, realizing the project of Homond for the invasion of England with 100 hot-air balloons of 100 meters diameter each. This first Air Force was supposed to transport 1,000 men, with food, guns, 25 horses with carriages, and enough fuel for propulsion during a fortnight. [fn11]

But, in October of 1793, all across the national territory, the state of the French armies was a disaster, and the presence of seven foreign invading armies, all professionals, showed the utter disadvantage in which Carnot found himself, at the time he took his command. During his first visit to the northern front, which was to become in his mind the most vital flank of his entire strategy, Carnot wrote these dispiriting lines: ``I have found everything in such great disorder that I cannot yet discover for certain the number of troops I have to command, nor the general officers who are under my orders.'' [fn12]

The first decisive action that Carnot took, as director of military operations, was to dismiss the commanders whom he considered incompetent, or untrustworthy. He stripped of his command, the aristocratic General Dumouriez. Lafayette refused to take the new oath of the Convention and fled to the enemy side; neither would abandon his allegiance to the oligarchy which was threatening a restoration of the ancien regime. Other older officers were outright incompetent, and would not ``cross the river''; would not change their old ways, and take the offensive, as in the cases of Generals Houchard and Landremont. Carnot chose his new generals from among the younger and more enthusiastic officers, because they were willing to develop new ideas and new tactics and strategies, and risk the unknown.

The fundamental principle underlying all of Carnot's decisions in directing operations was to ``Attack, Attack, Always Attack!'' He wrote, ``It is the national characteristic of a Frenchman to attack all the time. His courage rises as he advances towards the enemy, but fades away if he is kept waiting; a passive role never suits him.'' [fn13] Carnot knew that the imperative of the offensive was the key to victory, especially when you are surrounded by enemy forces of greater number. Carnot's doctrine was both simple and effective. ``Soyez attaquants, sans cesse attaquants!'' He would urge his generals:

``Be quick as lightning.... March on; no deadly rest.... Strike and strike swiftly!''

``All of the armies of the Republic must act offensively, but not everywhere with the same extension of their means. Decisive blows must be delivered at two or three points only; otherwise, we would have to spread out our forces rather uniformly on all borders, and the campaign would end, on each, with a few advantages that would not be enough to prevent the enemy from starting up again next year, while the resources of the Republic would be totally drained.... To the system laid out above, we need to add several general rules, which had been taken as basic in all of the ordinances of the Committee of Public Safety on military operations.

``These general rules are to always act en masse and offensively, to maintain in the armies a discipline that is severe, but not nit-picking; to always leave the troops out of breath, without exhausting them; to leave behind no more than is absolutely indispensable to guard a place; to make frequent changes in the garrisons and residences of the general staff and temporary commanders, so as to break up the plots which proliferate as a result of staying too long in the same place, and which give rise to the treachery that hands the defenders over to the enemy; to exercise the greatest vigilance at the guard posts; to obligate general officers to visit these very often; to engage in bayonet combat on every occasion; and to constantly pursue the enemy to his complete destruction....'' [fn14]

III. Mass Recruitment and Mobilization

Besieged on all sides, Carnot knew that he had to act quickly and decisively. At the end of September 1793, the strategy of the Anglo-Venetian Alliance was to capture Paris as soon as possible. The Austrian Duke of Coburg, in the north, was commanding the forward position of Maubeuge which was only 80 kilometers from Paris. Coburg could count on the reinforcement of the English forces led by the Duke of York, in Brittany, and the Dutch Army led by the Prince of Orange. On the northeastern front, General Brunswick was the commander of the Prussian army, while the Austro-Sardinian forces were threatening to recapture the city of Nice in the southeast. The city of Dunkirk was controlled by the British, Valenciennes had capitulated, Toulon was besieged, and Marseilles and Lyons were rife with insurrections. Meanwhile, the Spanish Army was already deployed and moving across the Pyrenees into Gascony. The entire situation was disastrous (see map of France, 1793).

However, Carnot had no intention of letting this Alliance take the offensive. He wrote: ``It is time to think about striking decisive blows, and for this purpose it is necessary to act en masse.'' So, with the power invested in him, as a member of the Committee of Public Safety, which was acting as the ruling body of the Revolution, Carnot proposed to Robespierre and Danton a levée en masse (mass mobilization) where every French citizen was to be mobilized against the enemy in a nonstop offensive. The Committee agreed to publish Carnot's Decree for Mass Recruitment.

All unmarried able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 25 would immediately take up arms. All men aged 25 to 30 would form a reserve. The married men and the middle-aged men would be involved in making weapons and munitions. The women would be involved in making uniforms, tents, or tending to the wounded, while the children would help make bandages. The elderly and the crippled would help recruit at public meetings. Every public building would be converted into a recruitment and organizing center. All castles, all horses and carriages, were summoned for the war effort.

Such a mobilization had to become effective immediately, and had to be accompanied by the impact of an immediate victory somewhere, on the territory of France, where a grand coup (a great blow) had to be struck against the enemy's armies, in order to wrest the initiative from them, and strengthen the morale of the French troops. For this, Carnot had to choose a weak military flank, close to Paris, and against which he could concentrated everything he had. His secret weapon: enthusiasm.

The strategically crucial Northern Army would be entrusted to a veteran of the American Revolution, General Jourdan, 31 years old, who would be reinforced with the addition of the Rhine Army commander, General Pichegru, 32, and by the Moselle Army led by General Hoche, 25. Troops from as far as Lyons were brought up for reinforcement.

IV. Strength is Weakness and Weakness is Strength

Carnot assessed the gravity of the moment in the following terms. ``The situation is summed up in three words by the fédérés [resistance volunteers]--`We have nothing.' Nothing is plainer than this utter nakedness. The majority have neither stockings nor shoes nor shirts, but their courage and patience make up for a lot. In short they are vrais sansculottes. A great number of them, hardly grown up, are hopefully presenting themselves almost naked to bear arms when they are scarcely capable of doing so.'' [fn15] On Oct. 7, he wrote to the Committee that three-forths of the men were barefoot and needed shoes, and ``We need at least 15,000 bayonets; we cannot charge the enemy à la francaise, if we do not have them.'' [fn16]

During the first months of the conscription, (September and October 1793) under Carnot's Decree, the French troops--if you could call them that--had no uniforms, no armaments; they were poorly equipped and poorly trained, and had virtually no horses, no wagons to travel with, and no tents to sleep in. This is what the term sansculottes really came to mean: enthusiastic, but poorly equipped troops. But this equipment shortfall was offset by improvisation in the field, tremendous initiatives, and a lot of courage. Carnot had to turn this weakness into strength. The lack of discipline and training was compensated for by tactical inventiveness.

The minimum of equipment gave the French forces a lot of speed and mobility, while the well-disciplined and well-equipped enemy forces were encumbered with a lot of service baggage, and were bogged down by linear tactics which gave them virtually no flexibility at all. Consider that the Prussian infantry regiment of 2,200 men required 2,400 service people, while the cavalry of 900 mounted men had to be serviced by 1,100 non-combattants. This is a lot of dead weight to carry into the battlefields of a foreign land. Carnot recognized the anomaly and used the enemy's ``strength'' as its greatest weakness. He estimated that the only way to win against better trained and more experienced troops was to transform the method of fighting: The French troops must always be on the offensive. History has proven Carnot right: The apparent strength of the enemy coalition became its greatest weakness, and the perceived weakness of the sansculottes became their greatest strength. Carnot was quite explicit about it:

``To crush tyranny, every method is fair; for this purpose we shall put up with any financial sacrifices that may be necessary.... It is certainly not necessary to put oneself to the trouble of fighting the enemy with equal or inferior forces. That is a chivalrous notion which does not apply to our system at all, and such a mistaken idea would prolong the war indefinitely. It is necessary, on the contrary, to learn the art of always attacking the enemy where he is weak, using such a superiority of force that victory can never be in doubt.'' [fn17]

This Carnot principle totally revolutionized warfare: If you want to win a war, never pit strength against strength, always pit strength against weakness. Among other directives, Carnot advocated, on a flank, a superiority of as much as 6:1. With the idea of a constant offensive, Carnot was able to constantly confuse the enemy. In fact, his enemy never knew where he was going to strike next. Mobility, speed, and surprise became the decisive tactical factors of victories. But, above all, Carnot made it clear that the question of victory was not determined by objective circumstances. It is a subjective question. Later in the war, he wrote the following recommendation to General Scherer:

``Let your resources grow of themselves. We are going to reinforce you with what remains of our troops and resources in the Pyrenees; but this help will be slow and slender. It is in your daring, it is in the intrepidity of the defenders of our country, that the solution to that problem lies.

``I commend to you in your operations, speed and secrecy. Do you wish to attack Milan? Make it known that you are planning to invade Piedmont. If it is Piedmont, threaten Milan. Above all draw an impenetrable veil over your project against Leghorn. Exaggerate the strength of your forces and always strike where the enemy does not expect you.'' [fn18]

The era of open-field face-off between two professional armies had come to an end. Carnot had completely changed the rules of the game.

V. The Flanking Principle: The Victory of Wattingnies

The Duke of Coburg, who commanded the Allied forces in the north, had an open road to Paris from Maubeuge, where he commanded 25,000 troops, and had another 45,000 troops along a line of villages that included Wattignies, 10 miles to the south. Carnot's plan was to relieve Maubeuge and secure Paris at all costs.

After his command and troops were put into a state of readiness in the north, Carnot's choice of flank was decided. The ``grand coup'' that he needed was going to be Wattignies Ridge. The crest of Wattignies was an elevated ridge of about 650 feet above the Grande Helpe River, except an entrenched position that Coburg considered impregnable from its central route from Avesne to Doulers (see map).

In all objective considerations, Carnot's general staff also considered the difficulty insurmountable. But the question was not a matter of objective conditions. The French troops knew that the outcome of the battle was going to be decided from the standpoint of a subjective determination; not a question of blind faith, but rather of personal conviction and commitment. Were they totally determined to win, no matter what? The new generals had espoused the cause of enthusiasm, as exemplified by Carnot himself, but what about the troops? There was no doubt in the minds of the troops that Carnot's offensive tactics could lead them to victory, but did they have the same passion to win, the same generous devotion? Were they filled with total audacity, and with what Carnot called un jugement raisonné (a reasoned judgement) to accomplish their common national purpose? On Oct. 11, Carnot addressed his troops: ``Victory belongs to courage. It is yours. Strike, exterminate the satellites of the tyrants.... The nation is watching you, the Convention seconds your generous devotion. In a few days the tyrants will be no more, and the Republic will owe its happiness and its glory to you. Vive la République!'' [fn19]

The lines of battle were drawn. The enemy Coalition of Coburg, who held back in Maubeuge, included a corps d'observation under the command of General Clairfayt, his right wing commanded by General Bellegarde at Berlaimont, with about 5,000 troops; on his left wing, General Benjowsky commanded 5,000 troops in the vicinity of Beaumont. In the center, at Doulers and Wattignies, General Terzy commanded 21,000 troops covering the trenches of the ridge elevation. Further to the west of the River Sambre, the Duke of York had 3,500 men, and the Prince of Orange had 16,000 troops. All 50,500 troops were well-equipped professional soldiers. [fn20]

The French forces, on the south side of the Grande Helpe River, were led by General Jourdan. In the center, facing Doulers, were the troops of General Balland. On the east flank General Dusquesnoy and General Beauregard deployed their troops in the direction of Wattignies. General Fromentain's forces were to move to the west in the direction of Berlaimont. The French had slightly fewer troops than the Coalition, a total of 44,276 fighting men.

Carnot's idea was to create a first breach in the center, and then move into a right flank encirclement. Jourdain feared that his left would be weak; but Carnot convinced him that his left would be secured by the troops of General Balland in the center, and on the western flank with General Fromentin. The plan was agreed upon and, at 9:00 o'clock in the morning of Oct. 15, the French began their advance on a broad front, attacking on every front simultaneously, as the usual war manual would recommend. By noon, General Fromentin had pushed the Austrians out of Monceau, on the west side, while Dusquesnoy was pressing toward Wattignies on the east, and General Elie was coming from the east front in the neighborhood of Beaumont. The entire front, stretching from Beaumont in the east to Englefontaine in the west, was about 25 miles wide. At the same time, Carnot launched the main attack, in the most obvious location, along the main center road, advancing from Avesnes across the Grande Helpe River toward Doulers. Carnot's objective was to create an opening in the enemy ranks by sending the newest recruits, without experience but with total enthusiasm, into the center, while the experienced troops would remain on the flanks.

The new recruits took the side of the ridge, using the cover of the trees. Making as much noise as they possibly could, they filled the woods with revolutionary songs like the Marseillaise, and ``Ça ira,'' and ``Carmagnole.'' For several hours, every ravine was echoing with hundreds of drums and with the revolutionary fervor and cries of ``Vive la République!'' In front of Doulers, there were three charges, where the French troops were met with devastating fire from the Austrians, who stood their ground. After five hours of constant attack, the sansculottes were forced back into the woods, where they retired under the cover of darkness.

That night, Carnot and his General staff assembled to discuss the strategy for the next day. Carnot's plan was very simple, but totally unexpected from the enemy's side. Because the ridge was considered impregnable, and the route straight up to Maubeuge was deemed the only likely pathway, the Austrians were now expecting a central attack on Doulers for the next day. Indeed, up to that time, it was customary warfare to attack the enemy on a broad front, and engage every unit simultaneously with a concentration of forces, in one obvious funnel opening, that would need to be breached with repeated assaults. That was the expectation of Coburg's general staff.

The Wattignies crest was entrenched with General Tracy's troops facing Doulers toward the west. More reinforcement was brought in by Coburg in order to cover the center and western flank from Doulers to Monceau and Berlaimont. Coburg estimated that the eastern area of Wattignies village was an unlikely point of a strong French offensive. Coburg summoned the Prince of Orange and the Duke of York to cover the western flank with their combined 19,500 men.

But Carnot did not follow the manual, and instead decided to put his mobile ``portable'' field artillery and most experienced troops on the weak flank of the enemy; that is, on the flank where Coburg least expected Carnot to engage his main attack, the right flank of Wattignies village. This was going to be a very difficult and very early morning deployment for the French troops. Carnot took 6,000 troops from the central force of General Balland and added them to Jourdan's right flank under General Dusquesnoy.

At 4:00 o'clock in the morning of Oct. 16, both Jourdan and Carnot mounted their horses and went on a reconnaissance tour of the terrain. At 6:00 o'clock, the troops started a seven-hour march in total silence, walking along a 10-mile arc around the ridge, to the east. In the center, Balland's sansculottes were making their expected noise and singing in the woods south of Doulers, all morning, but without attacking. Meanwhile, General Fromentin was firing his guns on the left flank, with the aim of reassuring Coburg's generals that they had made the right decision in reinforcing their center-west positions.

By 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon, the fog lifted above the trees, and Jourdan's 22,000-man army came out of the woods on the eastern side of Wattignies village. The surprise was total. The enemy put up a tremendous defense, but the French troops attacked with total passion. The offensive was so difficult, that after the second assault, Carnot had to arrest and replace Brigadier General Gratien, on the battlefield, for refusing to execute the orders to engage the enemy a third time, and for wanting to retreat instead. Twice the fire from Austrian muskets swept back the republican forces; the third time, Carnot, himself, led the charge of Gratien's troops, with Dusquesnoy. They got off their horses and put themselves at the head of the column to set the example and encourage the troops in leading the final assault. The village was taken, and the pursuit followed immediately along the slopes of the ridge, clearing them of the enemy.

Carnot made it very clear that it was not enough to win a battle and rout the enemy. The enemy had to be pursued and utterly destroyed to the last soldier. As Carnot put it: ``Only the dead do not come back.'' Wattignies was won with 3,000 casualties for the French. Coburg lost 2,500, killed, wounded, or missing in action.

The next day, Oct. 17, Carnot and Jourdan rode to Maubeuge with an advanced party only to discover that Coburg and his troops had fled during the night, and had abandoned the city without a fight. The lifting of the siege of Maubeuge ``turned the fortunes of war in favor of France,'' reported Jourdan to the Ministry of war that night. He noted that,

``this village [Wattignies] was taken and retaken three times; the representatives of the people, Carnot and Dusquesnoy, were at the head of the troops; by their example they inspired in our soldiers the courage worthy of French republicans. Nothing could resist them.... Citizen Carnot ... rendered the highest services.'' [fn21]

The same day, without mentioning his own physical intervention, Carnot wrote to the Committee of Public Safety, reporting about the people of Maubeuge:

``We are going to work to electrify this region a little and to restore the public spirit ... the Army is worthy of the highest praise. Jourdan is worthy of the command confided in him. He is a brave and honest sansculotte, this Jourdan.... I shall determine further operations with Jourdan.'' [fn22]

The Carnot victory had definitely foiled Coburg's plan to reach Paris before Christmas. It also had the major tactical advantage of cutting off all links between the armies of the Prince of Orange and the Duke of York, in the west, from General Brunswick, in the east.

The news travelled rapidly throughout the country that Carnot had saved France. This is the victory that even Napoleon was forced to admit was ``The finest feat of arms of the Revolution.''

Later, at the height of the Terror, and after Robespierre had been condemned for treason and beheaded, in 1795, the rightwing reactionaries brought the mob to the floor of the Convention and began a systematic extermination of the Jacobin government. Watson reports on the dramatic event:

``The reactionaries then resolved to crush the last remnants of the Jacobins. More than 60 Montagnard deputies were sentenced to die or to be transported, though some succeeded in escaping, and others including Ernest Dusquesnoy--Carnot's companion at Wattignies--committed suicide. In the Convention itself, on 29 May, the arrests of Lindet and Saint-André were decreed. Suddenly a voice demanded the arrest of Carnot too. There was a dramatic silence. Then the deputy Lanjuinais cried out in protest: `Will you dare to lay hands on one who has organized the victory of the French armies?' The tension broke. The words ``L'Organisateur de la Victoire'' were taken up by the whole assembly, and the indictment was lost in an outburst of acclamation.'' [fn23]
From that moment on, Carnot became known as ``The Organizer of Victory.'' By 1797, Carnot would barely escape the Fructidor Coup led by Barras and Napoleon, and will be forced go to into exile in Switzerland.

So ended the most crucial period in the fight to save France. When Carnot first took the responsibility for France at the Committee for Public Safety, in 1793, the Austrian troops were about 80 miles outside Paris; when he left his command, in 1797, French troops were about 100 miles from Vienna.

What Carnot had accomplished was much more than to simply secure, in four years, the physical borders of France; he demonstrated that the security of the nation-state could only be guaranteed by enthusiasm (agapë). He proved that saving the nation required to being more concerned with preserving the safety of the state, than with preserving for himself the glory that the state had brought upon him. Indeed, Carnot had exerted and spent himself for the benefit of saving his country and civilization. With that small ``margin of enthusiasm,'' he truly accomplished the impossible.

VI. Carnot: Universal Legislator

It was during that same intense year of 1793 that Carnot also developed his ``Declaration of the Natural, Civil, and Political Rights of Man,'' which was introduced at the Convention as a basis for a new Constitution. Carnot made it clear that he was totally opposed to the oligarchical conception of man as a beast of burden, just as he was opposed to the Rousseauvian conception of man in a state of nature, where ``might makes right.'' On the contrary, Carnot based his concept of the rights of man on the compassion of the Good Samaritan, on agapë--love of mankind--as expressed in the simple idea that ``each should help his fellow man ... and seek to elevate to the dignity of man, all of the individuals of the human species.''

Carnot proposed 22 articles for a ``Declaration of the Rights of Citizens,'' which was used to establish the ``Declaration of Human Rights'' adopted by the Convention on June 23, 1793. Carnot had based his Declaration on the American Constitutional principle of pursuit of happiness, but, unfortunately for the world, the following three articles were not adopted by the Convention:

``ARTICLE VII: Every citizen is born a soldier....

``ARTICLE VIII: Society has the right to demand that any citizen be instructed in a useful profession.... It also has the right to establish a mode of national education to prevent the evils which could be inflicted upon it by ignorance or the corruption of morals.

``ARTICLE IX: Each citizen has the reciprocal right to expect from society the means of acquiring the knowledge and instruction which can contribute to his happiness in his particular profession and to public usefulness in the employment his fellow citizens may wish him to fulfill.'' [fn24]

Carnot also stressed that unless a national economic reconstruction and a national educational system were to be established as soon as the war was over, there would be no rights for anyone, the nation would self-destruct, and its people would return to the barbarity of ignorant savages.
``A generation is succeeding us whose education has been abandoned for three years and, if there is any further delay, this generation will be able to do nothing useful for the cause of freedom. Already new prejudices seem to be taking the place of those which have been destroyed. One sees well-intentioned citizens who have come to consider intolerance and harshness as attributes of a true republican, who would treat as enemies of the Revolution all those that delight in kindness and homeliness, who make a point of being aggressive and who teach their children to assess the patriotism of other citizens solely by the fear which they inspire.

``It is only national education which can destroy these harmful ideas, which will soon turn France into a collection of savages. It alone can develop in young people the true principles of happiness, an ardent love for their country, filial piety, simple tastes, a kindly outlook, and respect for morality. These are the principles of natural equality....'' [fn25]

On economic matters, Carnot was also concerned with what was required for a civil administration to eliminate the abuses of the ancien regime and make sure not to fall in similar abuse. He declared to the Convention in January 1793:

``After the war, some thousands of hands will be idle. You cannot keep an army of 6,000 or 7,000 men mobilized indefinitely. They must be assured of the means of livelihood when the time comes for them to return home. It is impossible to abandon to poverty, the citizens who have courageously served their country; but their immense need will end by swallowing up all of our resources unless some method be found for providing proper work for them. Now it would be hard to find a more suitable means to this great end than the repair and building of roads and the digging of canals....

``Among the objects which have been drawn to your attention, none are more deserving than roads and navigation canals; without them ... it is impossible for agriculture and the [mechanical] arts to prosper ... Everywhere it is easy to do, instruction spreads, industry awakens.... Citizens, we have rarely written to you without mentioning the need for public instruction; it is because everywhere those needs are manifest that we express the liveliest impatience....

``The lack of communications causes neighboring districts to be, so to speak, strangers to one another; dialects, customs, dress are all different. Such separation fosters ignorance, selfishness and indifference to the affairs of the Republic...

``The Republic will never be `one, indivisible and prosperous,' so long as the many do not help the few. It is hateful and against all principles that certain municipalities should be rich and others be poor.... If you want men to be equal together, the first thing to do is to make quite certain that the municipalities are also equal--that is to say that their means are proportional to their needs...'' [fn26]

Carnot kept intervening in the Convention, constantly educating the deputies, always advocating enthusiasm and the use of reason as the preferred instruments for governing the citizens, as opposed to force and deceit. Even during his own defense, when his character was put into question, Carnot used the occasion to educate his fellow deputies on the necessity to use the power of reason:

"My object was to attach people to the Republic by founding it on real liberty and not by basing it on light-hearted expressions. I wanted the people's national representation to preserve the status ordained by the natural order of things and designed by the Constitution. I wished the citizens' conduct to be governed by force of habit rather than by the rigors of law. Finally, I thought it preferable to let prejudices be dissipated gradually by the light of reason rather than be stamped out by violence. I undoubtedly made many mistakes in a career for which I had not been trained, but at no time have I departed from these principles which have served as my compass in the storms of revolution. If I have profited by the general enthusiasm to prosecute the war with unprecedented vigor, it was to hasten the end of the crisis into which this very enthusiasm had thrown the nation....

``At no time have I used the long tenure of power entrusted to me for enriching myself or for promoting my relations to lucrative posts. My hands are clean and my heart is pure....

``My sole crime--and I repeat that I have committed no other--is that I wanted to save the French people from tyranny.'' [fn27]

Carnot was a man who carried in his heart and mind, an ideal of beauty, and that ideal of beauty was the idea of a pure man, who does not let himself be dependent upon the vicissitudes of everyday life, nor does he escape into some ivory tower. He rather espouses the identity of the ``savant,'' that is, a man who is able to unify the everyday man, the man in time and multiplicity, with the noble man, beyond time, the isochronic unity of the universal man, created in the image of God. This is the aesthetic man of Friedrich Schiller that Carnot is addressing in his ``éloge de Vauban,'' the man who is capable of changing the laws of the universe, the man whose state of freedom could be exchanged for necessary causes.

``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 of 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! 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 has 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.'' [fn28]

Such are the multiple crises, discontinuities, and discoveries, that Carnot lived through, and addressed to us today, the future generations. Now, when the entire planet finds itself, again, 200 years after the American and French Revolutions, in the deadly clutches of the same British-Venetian enemy of mankind, is there some beautiful lesson that we can learn from such a man, ``that therefore his instincts are sufficiently harmonious with his reason, in order to be of use as universal legislation''? [fn29]


  1. Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., EIR seminar, Leesburg, Va., July 17, 1996, quoted in Dino de Paoli, ``Lazare Carnot's grand strategy for political victory,'' EIR, September 1996, p.14.

  2. The fundamental issues raised by the Leibnizian calculus, were the basis of the education system of the Oratorian Order, founded by Cardinal Berulle, which had educated Carnot, Monge, and Prieur de la Côte d'Or. This teaching, however, was systematically destroyed at the Ecole Polytechnique, under the guise of ``accepted classroom mathematics,'' by the perverted form of Jeremy Bentham's hedonistic calculus introduced by Cauchy, starting in 1814. See Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. ``How Cauchy ruined France,'' and Pierre Beaudry, ``The Bourbon conspiracy that wrecked France's Ecole Polytechnique,'' EIR, June 20, 1997.

  3. Based on a translation in Friederich Schiller, Poet of Freedom, New Benjamin Franklin House, Vol. 1, N.Y., 1985.,``Over the Aesthetical Education of Man,'' Letter IV, p. 230.

  4. There existed no two characters more opposite to one another than Maximilian Robespierre and Lazare Carnot. Carnot was humble, unambitious, rather quiet in manner, broad-minded, but unwavering and uncompromising in his commitment to elevating the human condition to the Age of Reason. He was an humble and honest patriot. ``I have worshipped my Fatherland,'' he wrote after the Revolution.

    On the other hand, Robespierre had no interest in the people's good; he was a guilt-ridden enragé, ambitious and power hungry, who sent to the guillotine anyone who disagreed with him. Always suspicious, and fearful of losing control of any situation, he had a coterie of favorites who spied on everyone, and who were paid to report back to him every move that Carnot made. He preferred to manipulate people into agreement, rather than to make use of ``reasoned judgment,'' and inspire them with passion for the just cause. In fact, Robespierre feared Carnot and hated him immensely.

    It is reported by the financier Cambon, that one day, Robespierre was, for hours, pondering military maps in Carnot's office, and in a fit of rage and desperation, exclaimed, ``I shall never understand any of this.'' On another occasion, he told Carnot: ``We need your service and therefore we tolerate you on the Committee; but remember, at the very first military disaster, you will loose your head.'' See S.J. Watson, ``Carnot,'' The Bodley Head, London, 1954, p.10.

    Carnot's position vis-à-vis Robespierre was in no way ambiguous: ``I had the same aversion for Danton and Robespierre, but as a member of the Committee of Public Safety, I was alleged to belong to the latter's faction, without it being known that I denounced it ceaselessly for its cruelty and its tyranny.'' (Lazare Carnot, ``Réponse à Bailleul,'' Paris, 1798, p.166.)

  5. Some of Carnot's contributions to the calculus can be found in Dissertation sur la théorie de l'infini mathÉmatique'' (Dissertation on the Theory of Mathematical Infinity), Lazare Carnot Savant, by Charles Coulston Gillispie, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1971. This is an early work that Carnot submitted to a contest organized by the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Berlin, in 1786. Carnot stresses the paradoxical nature of the infinitesimal as a mathematical discontinuity, a crucial singularity:

    ``There exists no discovery which has produced such a quick and wonderful revolution in the mathematical sciences, as that of infinitesimal analysis; none has given us more simple and efficient means for penetrating the knowledge of the laws of nature, by decomposing, so to speak, all bodies and quantities, down to their elements, it seems to have pointed to the internal structure and organization, but like everything that is extreme, it goes beyond our senses and our imagination. We have never been able to form anything but an imperfect idea of these elements, those singular types of beings, which sometimes play a real quantitative role, sometimes have to be treated like absolutely nothing, and seem by these equivocal properties, to be holding the middle ground between a magnitude and zero, between existence and non-existence.... What is an infinitely small quantity? It is nothing else but the difference between two magnitudes which have their limit in a third magnitude, and by magnitude, I mean here an actual quantity, that is neither 0 (zero) nor 1/0 (one over zero).'' p. 2.

    Carnot understood that perfect equality was never possible in this world; therefore, the calculus could not be the means of generating perfect equations. He wrote: ``The theory of the infinite is nothing else but a calculus of compensated errors, and the advantage it has, lies in the fact that, since the conditions of certain questions are often very hard to express exactly with rigorous equations, it should be easier to express them with imperfect equations.'' p. 45.

    By relating, in the mind, the difference between two numbers with respect to a third, as its limit, Carnot is showing the direction that Gauss will later take in establishing, in Disquisitiones Mathematicae, the principle of congruence where A = B (mod) C, (A is congruent to B with respect to modulo C), whereby the difference between two numbers A and B is always divisible by a third, C. For a penetrating understanding of the concept of ``congruence,'' see Bruce Director, ``Mind Over Mathematics: How Gauss Determined The Date of His Birth,'' New Federalist, April 7, 1997.

  6. Some people have made the claim that Carnot used the stratagem of fear and guilt advocated by Robespierre, to entice his troops into action. Nothing is further from the truth.

    When you mobilize people for a just war, and want to elicit from your troops, moral outrage about the killing of innocent people, especially women and children, your aim is not to induce, in them, a sense of guilt, but to compel them to summon agapë and enthusiasm against the enemy; that is, to bring them to a state where there exists no difference between love of justice and hatred of injustice. So the difference must be made between ``feeling bad'' about not doing anything about injustice in the world, and ``feeling bad'' about the fact that no one else is doing anything about it. The first case is dominated by guilt, while the other is dominated by enthusiasm. However, the point is that the two cannot coexist in the same universe; they are as far apart as the polygon and its circumscribing circle.

    Thus, Carnot's aim was to work from the latter, not the former. That is the key to victory. The apparently small difference between the two is the ``infinitesimal'' of Carnot's agapic calculus or his calculus of enthusiasm.In point of fact, guilt is not only the opposite of enthusiasm, but it is its mortal enemy. Guilt is that which kills the soul. As Schiller put at the end of his drama, ``The Bride of Messina'': ``Of all possessions, life is not the highest; the worst of evils is, however, guilt.'' And, one might add, ``Worse than death is to go on living with a dead soul.''

  7. Schiller, op. cit., p. 228.

  8. There were, successively, three coalitions of foreign nations declaring war against France during the Revolution. The first Coalition, formed in 1793, included England, Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Holland, and Spain. The second, the coalition of 1799, included England, Austria, Russia, Portugal, Naples, and the Ottoman Empire. The third Coalition, formed in 1804, lasted until the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and included England, Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Sweden.

  9. H. Carnot, Memoires sur Carnot, 1861, Vol.1. p. 345.

  10. Huntley Dupré, Lazare Carnot Republican Patriot, Mississipi Press, 1940.

  11. Idem., pp. 116-17.

  12. ``Correspondance générale de Carnot,'' E. Charavay, editor; Hachette, Paris, 1897, Vol III, p.210.

  13. S.J. Watson, op. cit., pp. 89, 118, and 121.

  14. Lazare Carnot, ``General System for Military Operations in the Next Campaign,'' Jan. 30 1794.

  15. ``Correspondance générale,'' p. 17.

  16. Ibid., p. 271.

  17. Ibid, p. 304 and p. 423.

  18. Ibid., Letter to General Scherer, Jan. 22, 1796.

  19. Ibid., p. 283.

  20. S.J.Watson, Op. Cit. pp. 71-84.

  21. ``Correspondance générale,'' vol. III, pp. 332-333.

  22. Ibid., vol. III pp. 328-330.

  23. S.J. Watson, op. cit., p. 113.

  24. Quoted by Dino de Paoli, in op. cit., p. 22

  25. ``Correspondance générale de Carnot,'' vol. I, p. 323.

  26. Idem., pp. 324-348.

  27. Lazare Carnot, ``éloge de M. le Maréchal de Vauban,'' p. 26.

  28. Lazare Carnot, ``Réponse à Bailleul,'' 1789, p. 166. ``Réponse à Bailleul'' is an extensive refutation by Carnot of the calumnies, and libellous charges of treason against him by C. Bailleul, 1798.

  29. Schiller, op cit. p. 228.

  30. ``Sublime essor des grandes âmes,
    Enthousiasme, amour de beau!
    Principes des nobles flammes.
    Eclaire-moi de ton flambeau.
    O rayon d'essence divine!
    C'est à ta céleste origine
    Que je vourdrais puiser mes chants:
    Déjà ma voix s'est élancé.
    Epure, agrandis ma pensée.
    Donne la vie à mes accents.

    Tu n'es point la froide raison:
    Tu vas plus loin que la sagesse,
    Sans sortir de sa région.
    Instinct délicat qui devance
    Et les conseils de la prudence

    Et les calculs du jugement
    Instruit par la simple nature,
    Ta marche est toujours prompte et sûre,
    Et ton guide est le sentiment.''

Captions and Illustrations Described:

Statue of Carnot (at his birthplace in Nolay) with "Winged Victory" at his right arm.

Carnot achieved one of the most extraordinary military feats in history by transforming the army of France--the most disastrous in Europe--into the most feared war machine on the Continent, within a period of only four years. His secret weapon: Enthusiasm!

France in 1793, surrounded by enemy armies.

The fundamental principle underlying all of Carnot's decisions in directing operations was to "Attack, Attack, Always Attack!" He wrote, "It is the national characteristic of a Frenchman to attack all the time. His courage rises as he advances towards the enemy, but fades away if he is kept waiting; a passive role never suits him."

The Battle of Wattignies

Carnot made it very clear that it was not enough to win a battle and rout the enemy. The enemy had to be pursued and utterly destroyed to the last soldier. As Carnot put it: "Only the dead do not come back."

Depiction of Carnot at Wattignies

The news travelled rapidly throughout the country that Carnot had saved France. This is the victory that even Napoleon, himself, was forced to admit was "the finest feat of arms of the Revolution."

Maximilien Robespiere

Jean-Paul Marat

The monstrous evil known as the "Jacobin Terror," unleashed on France by Robespierre and Danton, aimed at destroying the most powerful nation-state of the time. "The Republic has no use for science," declared Marat. The poet Friedrich Schiller observed that "a great moment had found a little people."

Gaspard Monge

A page from an early West Point artillery manual, demonstrating interchangeable parts.

Logo of the Ecole Polytechnique

Monge's projective geometry was used to develop industrial machine tools for new artillery technology, where all hardware, and all of the cannons would have interchangeable parts. His founding of the Ecole Polytechnique, provided France with the most advanced military technology in the world at that time.

Ode to Enthusiasm
Sublime soaring of generous souls,
Enthusiasm, love of Beauty!
Principle of noble flames.
Enlighten me with your torch.
Oh ray of divine essence!
It is from your celestial origin
That I wish to derive my songs:
Already my voice has sprung forth,
Purify, expand my thoughts;
Give life to my accents.

You are not raving drunkenness,
You are not cold reason:
You go further than wisdom,
Without exceeding its region. Delicate instinct which anticipates
Both the council of prudence

And the calculations of judgment
Instructed by simple nature,
Your course is always quick and sure,
And your guide is sentiment. [fn30]
--Lazare Carnot

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