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CHAPTER XII: The Constituent Assembly at Paris. - Germaine de Staël, Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.) 
Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution, newly revised translation of the 1818 English edition, edited, with an introduction and notes by Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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The Constituent Assembly at Paris.
The Constituent Assembly, removed to Paris by an armed force, found itself, in several respects, in the same situation as the King: it no longer enjoyed complete liberty. The 5th and 6th of October were, if one may say so, the first days of the accession of the Jacobins; the Revolution then changed its object and its sphere; equality, not liberty, was henceforth its mark, and the lower order of society began from that day to assume an ascendency over that class which is called to govern by virtue of its knowledge and education. Mounier and Lally abandoned the Assembly and France.1 A just indignation made them commit this error; the result was that the moderate party was without strength. The virtuous Malouet and an orator at once brilliant and serious, M. de Clermont Tonnerre, endeavored to support it; but there were henceforth few debates except between the extreme opinions.
The Constituent Assembly had been mistress of the fate of France from the 14th of July to the 5th of October, 1789; but from the latter date forward, popular force was predominant. We cannot too often repeat that for individuals, as for political bodies, there is but one moment of happiness and power; that moment should be embraced, for the chance of prosperity does not occur twice in the course of the same destiny, and he who has not turned it to account receives in the sequel only the gloomy lesson of adversity. The Revolution naturally descended lower and lower each time that the upper classes allowed the reins to slip from their hands, whether by their want of wisdom or their want of address.
The rumor was circulated that Mirabeau and some other deputies were about to be appointed ministers. Those of the Mountain,2 who were well assured that the choice would not fall on them, proposed to declare the functions of deputy and minister incompatible, an absurd decree which transformed the balance of power into mutual hostility. Mirabeau, on this occasion, proposed very ingeniously that they should confine the exclusion from ministerial employment to him by name, in order that the personal injustice of which he was, as he said, the object, might not lead to the adoption of a measure at variance with the public welfare.3 He required that the ministers should at least be present at the deliberations of the Assembly if, in contradiction to his opinion, they were prevented from being members of it. The Jacobins exclaimed that the presence of ministers would be enough to influence the opinion of the representatives, and assertions of this nature never failed to be received with enthusiasm by the galleries. One would have said that nobody in France could look at a powerful man, that no member of the Third Estate could approach a person belonging to the court, without feeling himself in subjection. Such are the melancholy effects of arbitrary government and of too exclusive distinctions of rank! The hostility of the lower orders toward the aristocratic class does not destroy its ascendency, even over those by whom it is hated; the inferior classes, in the sequel, inflicted death on their former masters as the only method of ceasing to obey them.
The minority of the nobility, that is, the noblemen who had gone over to the popular party, were infinitely superior, in purity of sentiment, to the extravagant part of the deputies of the Third Estate. These nobles were disinterested in the cause which they supported; and, what is still more honorable, they preferred the generous principles of liberty to the personal advantages which they enjoyed. In all countries where aristocracy prevails, that which lowers the nation gives a proportional elevation to certain individuals who unite the habits of high rank to the information acquired by study and reflection. But it is too costly to limit the range of so many men in order that a minority of the nobility, such as MM. de Clermont-Tonnerre, de Crillon, de Castellane, de la Rochefoucauld, de Toulongeon, de la Fayette, de Montmorency,4 etc. should be considered the elite of France; for, in spite of their virtues and talents, they found themselves without strength on account of the smallness of their number. From the time that the Assembly held its deliberations in Paris, the people exercised their tumultuous power in all directions; clubs began to be established; the denunciations of the journals, the vociferations from the tribunes, misled the public mind; fear was the gloomy muse of most of the speakers, and every day new modes of reasoning and new forms of oratory were invented to obtain the applause of the multitude. The Duke of Orléans was accused of having tampered in the conspiracy of the 6th of October. The tribunal directed to examine the documents relative to the charge discovered no proofs against him; but M. de la Fayette could not bear the idea that even popular violence should be attributed to anything that could be called a conspiracy. He required of the Duke to go to England; and that prince, whose deplorable weakness admits of no qualification, accepted without resistance a mission which was a mere pretext to remove him. After this singular act of condescension, I do not believe that even the Jacobins ever had a notion that such a man was capable of at all influencing the fate of France: the virtues of his family make it incumbent on us to mention him no more.
The country participated in the agitation of the capital, and a zeal for equality put France in motion, in the same way as hatred of popery kindled the passions of the English in the seventeenth century. The Constituent Assembly was beaten by the waves in the midst of which it seemed to hold its course. The most conspicuous man among the deputies, Mirabeau, now, for the first time, inspired some esteem; and one could not avoid a sentiment of pity at the constraint imposed on his natural superiority. He was seen incessantly taking in the same speech the side of popularity and that of reason, endeavoring to obtain from the Assembly a monarchical decree in the language of a demagogue, and often venting sarcasms against the royalist party at the very time that he labored at the adoption of some of their opinions; in short, one saw clearly that he kept up a continued struggle between his judgment and his want of popularity. He received money in secret from the ministers for defending the interests of the throne: yet, after he rose to speak, he often forgot the engagements he had taken, and yielded to those peals of applause of which the fascination is almost irresistible. Had he been a conscientious character, he possessed perhaps talents enough to create in the Assembly a party independent of the court and people; but his genius was too much warped by personal interest to allow him its free use. His passions, like the serpents of Laocoön, enveloped him in all directions, and we witnessed his strength in the struggle without venturing to expect his triumph.
[1. ] After the events of October 5–6, 1789, Mounier (who had been elected president of the Constituent Assembly in late September) gave up his mandate and returned to Dauphiny on November 15. A month later, he wrote Exposé de ma conduite dans l’Assemblée Nationale (in Orateurs de la Révolution française, vol. I, 908–97). Lally also presented his resignation in October and withdrew to Lausanne, where he wrote his Mémoire de M. le comte de Lally-Tollendal, which recounts his political career during the first phases of the Revolution. He returned to France under the Consulate and became a peer during the Bourbon Restoration.
[2. ] The Mountain designated the Jacobin club, whose leaders were called Montagnards (mountain men) from the high benches they occupied in the Assembly.
[3. ] The debate took place on November 6–7, 1789.
[4. ] The Marquis de Crillon (1742–1806) was a member of the liberal nobility and a distinguished army officer. The Count de Castellane-Novejean (1758–1837) was also a prominent army officer and was elected deputy to the Estates General. The Duke de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt (1747–1827), famous for his philanthropy, immigrated to America in 1792 and returned to France in 1799. The Viscount of Toulongeon (1748–1812) was the author of Histoire de la France depuis la Révolution de 1789, published under the Consulate. The Duke de Montmorency-Laval (1767–1826) also represented the liberal nobility and was a close friend of Madame de Staël’s. He served as minister of foreign affairs in 1821–22.