After the fall of the Bastille everything was chaos in France. The administration, the army, the navy; the peasants set fire to their employers’ houses and lands, thus stopping their own source of bread. The People believed themselves to be the new owners of France. They saw themselves as free to regulate the Church, the Army and the Navy, to make laws and collect taxes. No power was available to make impositions on their National Assembly. They could even change the names of the Seasons and change Dates!
Against the seductive force of this democratic logic the voices of moderation and wisdom couldn’t operate. The belief in the essential goodness of human nature which was the fount of these theories was in fact the source of the terrible disasters which now began to assault France. The desperate need for authority was drowned in enthusiasm for democratic freedom. Who could be in authority if all were equal?
For a better understanding, read this excerpt from J.I. Packer's essay "Freedom & Authority"...
"AUTHORITY" is a word that makes most people think of law and order, direction and restraint, command and control, dominance and submission, respect and obedience. How, I wonder, do you react to such ideas? Have they any place in your vision of the life that is good and sweet? If so, you are unusual. One tragedy of our time is that, having these associations, "authority" has become almost a dirty word in the Western world, while opposition to authority in schools, families and society generally is cheerfully accepted as something that is at least harmless and perhaps rather fine… What goes on here? What is happening to us?
THE QUEST FOR FREEDOM
The answer to these questions is pinpointed by the fact that "freedom" is today almost a magic word — freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of speech and freedom of religion—freedom in one form or another has been a worldwide passion, encouraged and catered to at every level.
Longings for freedom from restrictions, from the dead hand of the past, from disliked pressures, obligations, systems and what not are for many people the strongest of life’s driving forces. Freedom — "getting out from under" as we say — has become modern man’s obsession. And freedom is always seen as involving rejection of authority! Authority is equated with fixed limits, freedom with cutting loose from all that. Hence the crisis of authority which marks our time.
This way of conceiving freedom has its roots in philosophy: in dreams of the perfectibility of man… The effect is that all forms of authority are seen as cell walls, which makes the quest for freedom feel like a Great Escape from some ideological prison-camp. Undisguised contempt for restrictions and directions have become almost conventional, and anyone who respects authority stands out as odd.
The truth, paradoxical yet inescapable, is this: there is no freedom apart from external authority. To say "I am my own authority, a law to myself" is to enslave myself to myself, which is the worst bondage of all. Only as I bow to an authority which is not myself am I ever free.
Basically there are two ways of conceiving freedom, and we have pointed to the first already. It is to view freedom as secular, external and this-worldly. It is essentially a matter of breaking bonds and abolishing restrictions and hardships. It seeks freedom from or freedom not to.
The second approach to freedom is distinctively Christian. It is evangelical, personal and positive… This definition starts with freedom from and freedom not to — in this case, freedom from the guilt and power of sin, and freedom not to be dominated by tyrannical self-will — but it centers on freedom for: freedom for God and godliness, freedom to love and serve one’s Maker and fellow-creatures, freedom for the joy, hope and contentment which God gives to sinners who believe in Christ.