The revolution for happiness, by 1799, had memorized the shape of its own ashy shadow. After 1793, the Italian intellectuals of the era must have thought, never such innocence.
But innocence is an ever renewed political quality. It never ceases to flow.
The importance of Cuoco’s meditations about the passive and active revolution derive from their relation to two revolutions: the French and the Neapolitan. The Neapolitan intelligentsia had seemingly understood the French, and recognized its errors. Or so such people as Mario Pagano thought. In his memoirs, Count Orlov, a sympathetic observer, wrote: “ The scond edition of his Saggi Politici (Essais Politiques) appeared during that fatal period  and made a sensation in a city where one almost didn’t read, where meditation is a form of fatigue. The system that he developed there, I will confess, discovered many contradictors, and had few partisans. One reproached him, with some reason, to have given himself up too much to his imagination, to have taken his authorities in inconclusive passages from ancient authors. ‘In quest’opera,’ one of his friends wrote me, ‘la fantasia supera il Giudizio.’
To bleed the trace of fantasia from politics is, perhaps, the greatest fantasy of all.
There is no reason to think that Orlov’s correspondent is Vincenzo Cuoco. But certainly the balance between fantasia and judgment is a theme that obsessed him – that followed him like the sounds of the waterfall in the glenn followed Wordsworth - in his observations on the revolution in action, which, he understood, was also the reaction, too, in action. In Chapter 7 of his essay on the revolution in Naples, he stops the plot after having portrayed the royal court, in the sway of the Bourbon queen Maria-Caroline and her sinister advisors, exerting itself to extinguish ‘revolutionary’ forces in Naples in a prevision of the white terror to come. The fact, Cuoco says, is that the revolutionary forces existed as mere salon opinion, or the casual remarks of the young bucks down at the race track. What was once merely the skeptical banter of 18th century rococo suddenly found itself transformed into deep politics.
In this chapter, Cuoco asks why the French revolution crystallized reaction in Europe, for, as he rightly points out, it is surely not the first time a kingdom has been shaken by an internal revolution in Europe. The reaction of the European kingdoms must itself be seen as different – that is, there were two distinctly novel phenomenon that emerged in the 1790s – the revolution and the reaction.