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CHAPTER III: Of the Different Parties Which Composed the Legislative Assembly. - 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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Of the Different Parties Which Composed the Legislative Assembly.
We cannot help feeling a sentiment of profound grief on retracing the eras of a Revolution in which a free constitution might have been established in France, and on seeing not only that hope overturned, but the most distressing events taking the place of the most salutary institutions. It is not a mere recollection that we recall; it is a keen sensation of pain which revives.
The Constituent Assembly repented, toward the end of its reign, that it should have allowed itself to be carried along by popular factions. It had grown old in two years, as much as Louis XIV in forty. It was from just apprehension, in its case also, that moderation had resumed a certain sway on it. But its successors came forward with the fever of the Revolution at a time when there was nothing more to reform or destroy. The social edifice was leaning to the democratic side, and to restore it to an upright form, it was necessary to increase the power of the throne. Yet the first decree of the Legislative Assembly was to refuse the King the title of “Majesty” and to assign him an armchair only (fauteuil), similar in all respects to that of a president. The representatives of the people thus put on the appearance of thinking that they had a king not for the public good, but for the sake of pleasing himself, and that it was consequently well to take away as much as possible from that pleasure. The decree respecting the armchair was recalled, so many complaints did it excite among men of sense; but the blow was struck, as well on the mind of the King as on that of the people; the one felt that his position was not tenable, the other conceived the desire and the hope of a republic.1
Three parties, perfectly distinct, made themselves conspicuous in the Assembly: the constitutionalists, the Jacobins, and the republicans. There were no priests, and almost no noblemen, among the constitutionalists; the cause of the privileged orders was by this time lost, but that of the throne was still under dispute, and the men of property and moderation formed a preserving party in the midst of the popular storm.
Ramond, Matthieu Dumas, Jaucourt, Beugnot, Girardin, were conspicuous among the constitutionalists:2 they possessed courage, reason, perseverance, and could not be accused of any aristocratic prejudices. Accordingly, the struggle which they supported in favor of monarchy does infinite honor to their political conduct. The same Jacobin party which existed in the Constituent Assembly under the name of the “Mountain”3 showed itself anew in the Legislative Assembly; but it was still less entitled to esteem than its predecessor. For in the Constituent Assembly there was reason to fear, at least during certain moments, that the cause of liberty was not the strongest, and that the partisans of the Old Regime who acted as deputies might still be formidable; but in the Legislative Assembly there was neither danger nor obstacle, and the factious were obliged to create phantoms that they might display their skill in wielding the weapons of argument.
A singular trio, Merlin de Thionville, Bazire, and Chabot,4 formerly a capuchin, made themselves conspicuous among the Jacobins; they were their leaders merely because, being placed in every respect in the lowest rank, they excited no envy. It was a principle with this party, which shook society to its base, to put at the head of the assailants persons possessing nothing in the edifice which they wanted to overthrow. One of the first proposals made in the Assembly by the trio of demagogues was to suppress the appellation of “honorable member,” which was introduced into use, as in England: aware, doubtless, that this epithet, when addressed to any one of them, could not fail to pass for ironical.
A second party, though of merits altogether different, added strength to these ignorant men and flattered themselves, most erroneously, with being able first, to make use of the Jacobins, and afterward to keep them within bounds. The deputies from the Gironde were composed of about twenty lawyers from Bourdeaux and other parts of the South. These men, elected almost by accident, were gifted with the greatest talents, so rich is France in those men distinguished but unknown whom a representative government calls forth. The Girondists aimed at a republic, and succeeded only in overturning monarchy; they perished soon after, when endeavoring to save France and its King. This made M. de Lally say, with his accustomed eloquence, “that their life and their death were equally disastrous to the country.”
To these deputies of the Gironde were joined Brissot,5 a writer irregular in his principles as in his style, and Condorcet,6 whose towering knowledge could not be disputed, but who, in a political sense, acted a greater part by his passion than by the powers of his mind. He was irreligious in the same way as priests are bigoted, with hatred, pertinacity, and the appearance of moderation: his death too resembled martyrdom.
To give a preference to a republic over every other form of government cannot be deemed criminal if crimes are not necessary to establish it; but at the time the Legislative Assembly declared itself inimical to the remnant of royalty that still subsisted in France, the truly republican sentiments, that is, generosity toward the weak, a horror of arbitrary measures, a respect for justice, all the virtues, in short, which the friends of liberty are proud of, prompted men to take an interest in the constitutional monarchy and its head. At another period, they might have rallied under the cause of a republic, had that form been possible in France; but when Louis XVI was still alive, when the nation had received his oath, and when it, in return, had taken oaths to him in perfect freedom, when the political ascendency of the privileged orders was entirely extinguished, what confidence was it necessary to have in the future to risk, for the sake of a name, all the real advantages already possessed!
The desire of power in the republicans of 1792 was mixed with an enthusiasm for principles, and some of them offered to support royalty, if all the places in the ministry were given to their friends. In that case only, they said, shall we be sure that the opinions of the patriots will be triumphant. The choice of ministers in a constitutional monarchy is doubtless an affair of the highest importance, and the King frequently committed the fault of nominating persons that were very suspicious to the party of liberty; however, it was then but too easy to obtain their removal, and the responsibility for political events must rest, in all its weight, on the Legislative Assembly. No argument, no source of disquietude, was listened to by its leaders; to the observations of wisdom, of disinterested wisdom, they replied by a disdainful smile indicative of that emptiness which results from vanity. Repeated efforts were made to recall to them circumstances, and to deduce general views from the past: transitions were made from theory to experience, and from experience to theory, to show them the identity of the two: yet, if they consented to reply, it was by denying the most authentic facts and contesting the most evident observations, opposing to them a few maxims that were common, although expressed in eloquent language. They looked round among themselves as if they alone had been worthy of understanding each other, and took fresh courage from the idea that all that opposed their manner of thinking was pusillanimity. These are the tokens of party spirit among Frenchmen: disdain for their adversaries forms its basis, and disdain is always adverse to the knowledge of truth. The Girondists despised the constitutionalists until they had, without intending it, made popularity descend and fix itself in the lowest ranks of society: they then saw the reproach of weakness cast on them in their turn by ferocious characters; the throne which they were attacking served them as a shelter, and it was not till after they had triumphed over it that they found themselves unprotected in front of the people. In a revolution, men have often more to dread from their successes than from their failures.
[1. ] The decision of the Assembly to refuse the King the title of “Majesty” and to grant him an armchair rather than a proper throne followed the declaration of Louis XVI’s reservations toward the Constitution of 1791, a document that he had hesitated to sign at the outset. The symbolic connotations of the Assembly’s decision were far-reaching; it amounted, among other things, to an attack on the monarch’s role as an inviolable “neutral” power. As Benjamin Constant pointed out, this legal fiction (inviolability) was necessary in the interest of order and liberty itself: “Your concerns, your suspicions, must never touch him. He has no intentions, no weaknesses, no connivance with his ministers, because he is not really a man but an abstract and neutral power above the storms.” (Constant, Principles of Politics, 237)
[2. ] Ramond de Carbonnières (1755–1827), deputy of Paris; Mathieu Dumas (1753–1837), deputy from Seine-et-Oise. Jaucourt (1757–1852) became a member of the Tribunate in 1800 and later a peer of France during the Bourbon Restoration. Beugnot (1761–1835), deputy from Aube, was minister of the interior during the first Bourbon Restoration (1814–15) and played an important role in drafting the Charter of 1814. Stanislas de Girardin (1762–1827), after serving in the Legislative Assembly, had a long career in administration under the Empire and the Restoration.
[3. ] See A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, 380–92, 458–73.
[4. ] Merlin de Thionville (1762–1833), deputy from Moselle and member of the extreme left. After the fall of Robespierre in July 1794, he persecuted the Jacobins and became a member of the Council of Five Hundred. Bazire (1761–94), deputy from Côte-d’Or and enemy of the Girondins, was executed on April 5, 1794. Chabot (1756–94), deputy from Lois-et-Cher, voted for the death of Louis XVI. He was arrested in November 1793 and executed the same day as Bazire.
[5. ] Jacques-Pierre Brissot (1754–93), important journalist, deputy from Paris, and a leading member of the Girondins. He visited the United States in 1788 and later distinguished himself through his participation in the declarations of war against England and Austria and his opposition to the Mountain and Robespierre. He was arrested in June 1793 as he was trying to flee for Switzerland and was executed four months later.
[6. ] Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (1743–94); prominent philosopher and mathematician; deputy from Paris; cofounder (with Sieyès) of the Society of 1789; and author of, among many writings, Esquisse d’un tableau des progrès de l’esprit humain and Sur le nécessité d’établir en France une Constitution nouvelle (1793). He was arrested in March 1794 and died in prison a few months later. He defended a liberal agenda that included free public education and equal rights for women. On his political thought, see Baker, Condorcet: From Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics.