Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY XVI.: ON LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL FREEDOM, A PROPOS OF A COLLECTION OF MIRABEAU'S SPEECHES AND OPINIONS, PUBLISHED BY M. BARTHE. - The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era
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ESSAY XVI.: ON LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL FREEDOM, A PROPOS OF A COLLECTION OF MIRABEAU’S SPEECHES AND OPINIONS, PUBLISHED BY M. BARTHE. - Augustin Thierry, The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era 
The Historical Essays, published under the Title of “Dix Ans d’Études historiques,” and Narratives of the Merovingian Era; or, Scenes of the Sixth Century, with an Autobiographical Preface (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1845).
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ON LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL FREEDOM, A PROPOS OF A COLLECTION OF MIRABEAU’S SPEECHES AND OPINIONS, PUBLISHED BY M. BARTHE.
The collection of Mirabeau’s speeches and opinions, is but the first part of a larger collection, which is to include successively the speeches of Barnave and Vergniaud, assembled and arranged by the care of the same editor. This collection will place under the eyes of the readers almost all the social questions which have occupied France since the awakening of liberty. Mirabeau leads us from the assembly of the estates in Provence, where his reputation as an orator first began, to the constituent assembly, where this reputation became confirmed; he and Barnave make us spectators by their sometimes similar, sometimes opposite opinions, of the most important debates of this latter assembly; after them, Vergniaud, intervening in the uncertain and turbulent discussions of the legislative assembly, will show the revolution becoming corrupt in its source, and the philosophy of France darting impetuously beyond the circle of reason and justice which it had at first traced out for itself. We will not attempt to analyze the immense labours of Mirabeau; we will not reproduce the remarks which have already been made on the character of his eloquence; we will only give an account of the singular impression we experienced on reading a portion of his speeches, those pronounced in the estates of Provence. He attests in them with warmth the name of the Provençal nation, the liberties of the soil of Provence, the rights of the communes of Provence; those formulas, to which our language has been so long unaccustomed, seem at first to be only oratorical fictions; and such must be the involuntary sentiment of us Frenchmen, who for thirty years have known no rights but the rights declared at Paris, no liberties but the liberties sanctioned at Paris, no laws but the laws made in Paris. Yet these were not then words void of meaning; French patriotism increased really in a local patriotism which had its memories, its interests, and its glory. Nations really existed in the heart of the French nation: there were the Breton, the Norman, and the Béarnais nation, the nations of Bourgogne, Aquitaine, Languedoc, Franche-Comte, and Alsace. These nations distinguished without dividing their individual existence from the great common existence; they declared themselves united, not subjugated; they showed the authentic stipulations by which their union had been made; a number of cities had their charters of peculiar fianchises; and when the word constitution was pronounced, it was not used as an expression of renunciation to what was individual, that is to say, free, in that ancient French existence, but as the desire of a better, more solid, more simple security of that liberty which was too unequally, too capriciously bestowed on the various fractions of the land.
Such was the prayer which accompanied the deputies to the first national assembly; such was their mandate, at least in intention. They went further; they dismembered territories, they struck at local existences, to attain with greater certainty the unjust powers which those maintained by the side of legitimate liberties. France did not murmur; it was the time of enthusiasm; and moreover, franchises, rights, and the power of representation were uniformly given to the new circumscriptions. This new independence, rendered common to the whole territory, rejoiced the hearts of patriots; they did not perceive that it was too much dispersed, and that none of its different homes would find power in themselves to defend it. Soon, at the moment when illusion was about to vanish with the first effervescence, a new want, the necessity of resisting external force, took possession of the general mind; at the sight of the pressing danger, liberty was forgotten for the interests of defence; and French fury, always alive, treated as enemies of its country the calmer minds who refused to believe that there were more than one necessity and danger. The partisans of free confederation, a true social state, of which ancient France possessed the germ, and which was to be accomplished in modern France, were dragged to the scaffold; opinion allowed desires which had been its own to be punished by an atrocious death. Later it returned to its first opinion; it became federalist in its turn; but the central power, strengthened by its long assent, laughed at this return, and refused its demands; it still refuses them at the present day.
Let us then remember with all the strength of our memory, that absolute centralization, a system of conquests and not of society, a system which the authority against which the revolution took place had been unable to reach, was not the object of this revolution. Undertaken for liberty, obliged to abjure liberty to resist war, the revolution would one day, under penalty of contradicting itself, return to liberty, and give an account to individuals of their rights which had been suspended for the common defence. Thirty years have been unable to proscribe these rights; they must be claimed as a voluntarily alienated deposit, which cannot be withheld without fraud.
The various portions of ancient France enjoyed social existence by right of the various titles of united nation, free city, enfranchised communes, or municipal city; everywhere were seen traces of judgment by peers, election of magistrates, voluntary contributions, deliberating assemblies, and decisions made in common; but the portions of actual France are inanimate, and the whole has but an abstract, and in some measure, nominal life, like that of a body of which all the limbs are paralyzed. Why should not those formerly living fractions be now represented in the eyes of power, under the various standards of their ancient individuality, to demand as the legitimate return of that lost individuality, not separation, but existence? France, it may be said, has movement and action by its national representation; national representation is all the life of societies. We agree in the axiom; the reply would be a just one, if France were represented. France is not represented. The meaning of our words contains nothing which attacks the legality of the actual chamber of deputies; we acknowledge that its powers are legitimate, yet we repeat, that France is not represented. A central chamber, sitting at Paris, is not the representative of France; it is in truth an essential part of it; it is the head of the representation; it is not representation entirely. To be represented, France should be so in all its ranks, in all its interests, and under all its aspects; to be represented, France should be covered with representative assemblies; we ought to find there the representation of the communes, of the cities, and of the small as well as of the large portions of the territory; and above all, this for the completion of the edifice, the only representation which exists at the present day, that of the entire country, of the great and sovereign interests of the nation, more general, but not more sacred than the interests of the provinces, departments, cities, and communes.
The local representations of France would constitute the individualities of France. But this demand, in order to appear before authority in all its dignity and power, must come, not from the centre of the country, but from every various point; it must be expressed in a language appropriate to the interests, the character, the anterior existence of each part of the population; in a language of sincerity and even of pride, which shall not permit the men of the central authority to erect themselves as supreme judges of right and necessity. It is the duty of the free newspapers of the provinces to remind their fellow-citizens that they have those appeals to make. It is for them to make them previously, not by invoking in a vague manner the enlightenment of the century or the authority of anterior legislatures, but by attesting what was from time immemorial rooted in the soil of France, the franchises of cities and provinces; by dragging out of the dust of libraries the ancient titles of our local liberties; by presenting these titles before the eyes of patriots who are no longer aware of them, and whom a long habit of individual nullity lulls in the expectation of the laws of Paris. Let us not fear to bring to light the ancient histories of our native land: liberty was not born in it yesterday. Let us not fear to blush in looking at our fathers; their times were difficult, but their minds were not cowardly. Let us not authorize the maintainers of oppression to boast that fifteen centuries of France belong unreservedly to them. Men of liberty, we also have ancestors.
We recommend to the public the new collection of Mirabeau’s, Barnave’s, and Vergniaud’s speeches. The greatest care has been bestowed on this edition, the only complete one of the works of the three orators. The editor, M. Barthe, is a young lawyer, whose talent has already displayed itself. His notice of the life of Mirabeau is written with elegance, and full of patriotic sentiments, the expression of which, always noble, is mingled without effort in the narrative of facts. The analysis of the various works by which Mirabeau prepared his immense fame, is made there with a variety of style appropriate to their different characters. The political career of the orator is traced in a true and grand manner. M. Barthe has a great comprehension of liberty; he praises Mirabeau for having never been any thing but the organ of the rights of all, and for having protested against the first violences which opened the gulf of misfortunes in which the revolution was swallowed up. Mirabeau has loudly maintained that emigration was an individual right, one of the rights of liberty, a right of justice, and that consequently no power whatever had a right to forbid emigration. “He was right,” says M. Barthe; “justice is placed above all constituent assemblies as well as above kings.” M. Barthe likewise praises Mirabeau’s fine language upon municipalities: “They are,” said that great orator, “the basis of the social state, the safety of every day, the security of every fire side, the only possible way of interesting the entire people in the government, and of securing all rights.”