Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXII: Two Singular Predictions Drawn from the History of the Revolution, by M. Necker. - Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.)
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CHAPTER XXII: Two Singular Predictions Drawn from the History of the Revolution, by M. Necker. - 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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Two Singular Predictions Drawn from the History of the Revolution, by M. Necker.
M. Necker never published a political book without braving some danger, either to his fortune or to himself. The circumstances in which he published his history of the Revolution1 might have exposed him to such a variety of fatal accidents that I made many efforts to restrain him from that proceeding. He was put upon the list of emigrants, that is to say, subjected to the penalty of death, according to the French laws; and it was already rumored on every side that the Directory intended to invade Switzerland. Nevertheless, he published, about the end of 1796, a work on the Revolution in four volumes, in which he advanced the boldest truths. No other precaution was taken in it than that of placing himself at the distance of posterity, in order to decide upon men and things. To this history full of warmth, of sarcasm, and of reasoning, he joined an analysis of the principal free constitutions of Europe; and in reading this book, where every question is sifted to the bottom, we should be discouraged from writing if we did not console ourselves with the reflection that eighteen additional years, and an individual mode of thinking, may still add some ideas to the same system.
Two very extraordinary predictions ought to be distinguished in that work; the one announces the struggle of the Directory with the Representative Body, which occurred some time afterward and was occasioned, as M. Necker had foretold, by the want of the constitutional prerogatives which were withheld from the executive power.
“The essential arrangement in the republican constitution given to France in 1795,” said he,
the arrangement of prime importance, and which may bring order or freedom into danger, is the complete and absolute separation of the two principal authorities; the one, that which enacts the laws, the other, that which directs and superintends their execution. Every kind of power has been united and confounded in the monstrous organization of the National Convention; and now by another extreme, less dangerous without doubt, not one of the connections between the two authorities, which the welfare of the state requires, has been preserved. Once again they have resorted to written maxims; and upon the faith of a small number of political theorists, a belief has been adopted that it is impossible to establish too strong a barrier between the legislative power and the executive. Let us first recollect that the lessons drawn from example give us a very different result. We know no republic in which the two powers, of which I have just spoken, were not to a certain extent blended together; and ancient times, as well as modern, present us with the same picture. Sometimes a senate, the depository of the executive authority, proposes the laws to a more numerous council, or to the mass of the citizens at large; and sometimes, likewise, this senate, exercising in an inverse direction its right of participation in the legislative power, suspends or reverses the decrees of the many. Upon the same principles is founded the free government of England, where the monarch concurs in the laws which are enacted, both by his own assent and by the presence of his ministers in the two houses of Parliament. Last of all, America has given a modified right of rejection to the President of the Congress, to that head of the state whom she has invested with executive authority; and she has at the same time admitted one of the two divisions of the legislative body to a share of this prerogative.
The republican constitution of France is the first model of a total separation between the two supreme powers, or rather the first attempt at such a separation.
The executive authority will always act alone, and without any habitual inspection on the part of the legislative authority; and in return no assent of the executive authority will be requisite to the complete enactment of laws. Finally, the two powers will have no political tie except hortatory addresses, nor any channel of communication except envoys ordinary and extraordinary.
Must not so new an organization bring inconveniences along with it? Must it not, at some future day, expose the kingdom to great danger? Let us suppose that the choice of five directors should fall, in whole or in part, upon men of a feeble or wavering character; what consideration will they be able to preserve when they appear quite separate from the legislative body, and mere obedient machines?
But if, on the contrary, the five who are chosen directors should be men of vigor, bold, enterprising, and completely united with one another, the moment might arrive when we should perhaps regret the isolation of these executive chiefs, when we should wish that the constitution had put them under the necessity of acting in presence of, or in concert with, a branch of the legislative body. The moment might perhaps arrive when we should repent of having left by the constitution itself an open field to the first suggestions of their ambition, to the first attempts of their despotism.
These bold and enterprising Directors were found; and as they were not allowed to dissolve the legislative body, they employed grenadiers,2 instead of the legal right which the constitution should have given them. Nothing as yet presaged this crisis when M. Necker foretold it; but what is more astonishing is that he foresaw the military tyranny which was to result from the very crisis which he announced in 1796.
In another part of his work, M. Necker renders political philosophy popular by constantly mingling eloquence with reasoning. He feigns a speech of St. Louis, addressed to the French nation and truly admirable; it should be read entire, for there is a charm and a sentiment in every word. The principal object, however, of this fiction is to represent a prince, who in his illustrious life showed himself capable of a heroic devotion, declaring to the nation which had long been subjected to his ancestors that he wishes not to interfere by civil war with the efforts which they are now making to obtain liberty, even though that liberty should be republican, but that at the moment when circumstances would deceive their hopes and deliver them to despotism, he would come to aid his ancient subjects in freeing themselves from the oppression of a tyrant.
What a piercing view into futurity, and into the connection of causes and effects, must he have had, who, twenty years ago, under the Directory, formed such a conjecture!
[1. ] For more information on the reaction to Necker’s De la Révolution française, see Grange, Les idées de Necker, 400–494.
[2. ] Allusion to the coup d’état of 18 Fructidor (September 4, 1797). In 1797 Letourneur retired from the Directory and was succeeded by Barthélemy (1747–1830), a career diplomat, who allied himself with Carnot, Barras, Reubell, and La Révellière-Lépeaux and then sought help from the armies, fearing that they were losing power in the country. They called on Napoléon Bonaparte to send a general to command troops guarding the legislature at the Tuileries on 18 Fructidor, Year V. Barthélemy and Carnot were arrested and replaced by Merlin de Douai and Nicholas-Louis François de Neufchâteau. Barthélemy managed to flee to London and returned later to France after 18 Brumaire.