Behold our liberals! See what sort of respect they have for this public opinion upon which they pretend to found all their methods of government. Opinion is what they think, what they desire in the interest of their predominance — that is their point of departure; all the world must think, wish, and act according to their understanding of it. Make them strong and powerful like Bonaparte, and they will employ the same means of directing and governing according to what they call reason, of which they are the exclusive organs and interpreters… Everything must be sacrificed to this aim, — private affections, habits, present manners, even individual existences are counted for nothing; the present must be sacrificed to the great object in view. Robespierre, Bonaparte, and the like, have reasoned, and always will reason, as these do. But can we, in good faith, attach to such ideas of absolute good so much value? can one attribute to these fairly so much reality, or power of future realisation, that a generation, or even an individual, should be sacrificed to them? What are all our ideas, all our views of the future, all our means of realising what we have conceived? Is there not another Power which delights in putting to confusion all our combinations by events contrary to all our expectations? In this uncertainty, can we, ought we, to attempt to compel things in a direction which opposes a general tendency of which man is not the originator; and in order to attain an end, perhaps impossible and at least very uncertain, should we struggle against the most natural and deeply-rooted habits and sentiments?
(Maine de Biran; quoted in Coventry Patmore, “De Biran’s Pensées,” National Review, Vol. XI, 1860, pp. 162–163).