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CHAPTER I - Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, vol. 1 
The French Revolution, 3 vols., trans. John Durand, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002). Vol. 1.
Part of: The French Revolution, 3 vols.
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The Constituent Assembly—Conditions required for the framing of good laws—I.These conditions absent in the Assembly—Causes of disorder and irrationality—The place of meeting—The large number of deputies—Interference of the galleries—Rules of procedure wanting, defective, or disregarded—The parliamentary leaders—Susceptibility and overexcitement of the Assembly—Its paroxysms of enthusiasm—Its tendency to emotion—It encourages theatrical display—Changes which these displays introduce in its good intentions—II.Inadequacy of its information—Its composition—The social standing and culture of the larger number—Their incapacity—Their presumption—Fruitless advice of competent men—Deductive politics—Parties—The minority; its faults—The majority; its dogmatism—III.Ascendancy of the revolutionary party—Theory in its favour—The constraint thus imposed on men’s minds—Appeal to the passions—Brute force on the side of the party—It profits by this—Oppression of the minority—IV.Refusal to supply the ministry—Effects of this mistake—Misconception of the situation—The committee of investigation—Constant alarms—Effects of ignorance and fear on the work of the Constituent Assembly.
If there is any work in this world difficult to achieve it is a constitution, and especially a complete one. To replace the old forms in which a great nation has lived by others that are different, appropriate, and enduring; to fit a mould of a hundred thousand compartments to the life of twenty-six millions of men; to fashion this so harmoniously, adapt it so well, so closely, with such an exact appreciation of their needs and faculties, that they may enter it of themselves and move about in it without collisions, and that their spontaneous activity should at once find the ease of old routine—is a prodigious undertaking, and probably beyond the powers of the human mind. In any event, the mind requires all its powers to carry the undertaking out, and it cannot too carefully guard itself against all sources of disturbance and error. An Assembly, and especially a Constituent Assembly, requires, outwardly, security and independence, inwardly, silence and order, and generally, calmness, good sense, practical ability, and discipline under competent and recognised leaders. Do we find anything of all this in the Constituent Assembly?
We have only to look at it outwardly to have some doubts about it. At Versailles, and then at Paris, the sessions are held in an immense hall capable of seating 2,000 persons, in which the most powerful voice must be strained in order to be heard. It is not calculated for the moderate tone suitable for the discussion of business; the speaker is obliged to shout, and the strain on the voice communicates itself to the mind; the place itself suggests declamation; and this all the more readily because the assemblage consists of 1,200—that is to say, a crowd, and almost a mob. At the present day, in our Assemblies of five or six hundred deputies, there are constant interruptions and an incessant buzz; there is nothing so rare as self-control, and the firm resolve to give an hour’s attention to a discourse opposed to the opinions of the hearers. What can be done here to compel silence and patience? Arthur Young on different occasions sees “a hundred members on the floor at once,” shouting and gesticulating. “Gentlemen, you are killing me!” says Bailly, one day, sinking with exhaustion. Another president exclaims in despair, “Two hundred speaking at the same time cannot be heard; will you make it impossible then to restore order in the Assembly?” The rumbling, discordant din is farther increased by the uproar of the galleries.1 “In the British Parliament,” writes Mallet-Dupan, “I saw the galleries cleared in a trice because the Duchess of Gordon happened unintentionally to laugh too loud.” Here, the thronging crowd of spectators, the newsmongers of the pavement, the delegates from the Palais-Royal, the soldiers disguised as citizens, and the prostitutes who are collected and marshalled, applaud, clap their hands, stamp, and hoot, at their pleasure. This is carried to so great an extent that M. de Montlosier ironically proposes “to give the galleries a voice in the deliberations.”2 Another member wishes to know whether the representatives are so many actors, whom the nation sends there to endure the hisses of the Paris public. Interruptions, in fact, take place as in a theatre, and, frequently, if the members do not give satisfaction, they are forced to desist. On the other hand, the deputies who are popular with this energetic audience, on which they keep an eye, are actors before the footlights: they involuntarily yield to its influence, and exaggerate their ideas as well as their words to be in unison with it. Tumult and violence, under such circumstances, become a matter of course, and the chances of an Assembly acting wisely are diminished by one-half; on becoming a club of agitators, it ceases to be a conclave of legislators.
Let us enter and see how this one proceeds. Thus encumbered, thus surrounded and agitated, does it take at least those precautions without which no assembly of men can govern itself? When several hundred persons assemble together for deliberation, it is evident that some sort of an internal police is necessary; first of all, some code of accepted usages, some written precedents, by which its acts may be prepared and defined, considered in detail, and properly passed. The best of these codes is ready to hand: at the request of Mirabeau, Romilly has sent over the standing orders of the English House of Commons.3 But, with the presumption of novices, they pay no attention to this code; they imagine it is needless for them; they will borrow nothing from foreigners; they accord no authority to experience, and, not content with rejecting the forms it prescribes, “it is with difficulty they can be made to follow any rule whatever.” They leave the field open to the impulsiveness of individuals; any kind of influence, even that of a deputy, even of one elected by themselves, is suspected by them; hence their choice of a new president every fortnight. They submit to no constraint or control, neither to the legal authority of a parliamentary code, nor to the moral authority of parliamentary chiefs. They are without any such; they are not organized in parties; neither on one side nor on the other is a recognised leader found who fixes the time, arranges the debate, draws up the motion, assigns parts, and gives the rein to or restrains his supporters. Mirabeau is the only one capable of obtaining this ascendancy; but, on the opening of the Assembly, he is discredited by the notoriety of his vices, and, towards the last, is compromised by his connection with the Court. No other is of sufficient eminence to have any influence; there is too much of average and too little of superior talent. Self-esteem, moreover, is as yet too vigorous an element to allow of concessions. Each of these improvised legislators has come satisfied with his own system, and to break him in under a leader to whom he would intrust his political conscience, to make of him what three out of four of these deputies should be, a voting machine, would require an apprehension of danger, some painful experience, an enforced surrender which he is far from realising.4 For this reason, save in the violent party, each acts as his own chief, according to the impulse of the moment, and the confusion may be imagined. Strangers who witness it, lift their hands in pity and astonishment. “They discuss nothing in their Assembly,” writes Gouverneur Morris.5 “One large half of the time is spent in hallooing and bawling. . . . Each member comes to retail the result of his lucubrations” amidst this noise, taking his turn as inscribed, without replying to his predecessor, or being replied to by his successor, without ever meeting argument by argument; so that while the firing is interminable, “all their shots are fired in the air.” Before this “frightful clatter” can be reported, the papers of the day are obliged to make all sorts of excisions, to prune away “nonsense,” and reduce the “inflated and bombastic style.” Chatter and clamour, that is the whole substance of most of these famous sittings. “You would hear,” says a journalist, “more yells than speeches; the sittings seemed more likely to end in fights than in decrees. . . . Twenty times I said to myself, on leaving, that if anything could arrest and turn the tide of the Revolution, it would be a picture of these meetings traced without caution or adaptation. . . . All my efforts were therefore directed to represent the truth, without rendering it repulsive. Out of what had been merely a row, I concocted a scene. . . . I gave all the sentiments, but not always in the same words. I translated their yells into words, their furious gestures into attitudes, and when I could not inspire esteem, I endeavoured to rouse the emotions.”
There is no remedy for this evil; for, besides the absence of discipline, there is an inward and fundamental cause for the disorder. These people are too susceptible. They are Frenchmen, and Frenchmen of the eighteenth century; brought up in the amenities of the utmost refinement, accustomed to deferential manners, to constant kind attentions and mutual obligations, so thoroughly imbued with the instinct of good breeding that their conversation seems almost insipid to strangers.6 All at once they are transported to the thorny soil of politics, exposed to insulting debates, flat contradictions, venomous denunciation, constant detraction, and open invective; engaged in a battle in which every species of weapon peculiar to a parliamentary life is employed, and in which the hardiest veterans are scarcely able to keep cool. Judge of the effect of all this on inexperienced, highly strung nerves, on men of the world accustomed to the accommodations and amiabilities of universal urbanity. They are at once beside themselves.—And all the more so because they never anticipated a battle; but, on the contrary, a festival, a grand and charming idyl, in which everybody, hand in hand, would assemble in tears around the throne and save the country amid mutual embraces. Necker himself arranges, like a theatre, the chamber in which the sessions of the Assembly are to be held.7 “He was not disposed to regard the Assemblies of the States-General as anything but a peaceful, imposing, solemn, august spectacle, which the people would enjoy”; and when the idyl suddenly changes into a drama, he is so frightened that it seems to him as if a landslip had occurred that threatened, during the night, to break down the framework of the building.—At the time of the meeting of the States-General, everybody is delighted; all imagine that they are about to enter the promised land. During the procession of the 4th of May, “tears of joy,” says the Marquis de Ferrières, “filled my eyes. . . . In a state of transport . . . I beheld France supported by Religion” exhorting us all to concord. “The sacred ceremonies, the music, the incense, the priests in their sacrificial robes, that dais, that orb radiant with precious stones. . . . I called to my mind the words of the prophet. . . . My God, my country, and my countrymen, all were one with myself!” This susceptibility repeatedly breaks out in the course of the session, and carries decrees which had never been dreamt of. “Sometimes,”8 writes the American ambassador, “an orator gets up in the midst of a deliberation, makes a fine discourse on a different subject, and closes with a nice little resolution which is carried with a huzzah. Thus, in considering the plan of a national bank proposed by M. Necker, one of them took it into his head to move that every member should give his silver buckles—which was agreed to at once, and the honourable mover laid his upon the table, after which the business went on again.” Thus, overexcited, they do not know in the morning what they will do in the afternoon, and they are at the mercy of every surprise. When they are seized with these fits of enthusiasm, infatuation spreads over all the benches; prudence gives way, all foresight disappears, and every objection is stifled. During the night of the 4th of August,9 “nobody is master of himself . . . the Assembly presents the spectacle of an inebriated crowd in a shop of valuable furniture, breaking and smashing at will whatever they can lay their hands on.” “That which would have required a year of care and reflection,” says a competent foreigner, “was proposed, deliberated over, and passed by general acclamation. The abolition of feudal rights, of titles, of the privileges of the provinces, three articles which alone embraced a whole system of jurisprudence and statesmanship, were decided with ten or twelve other measures in less time than is required in the English Parliament for the first reading of an important bill.” “Such are our Frenchmen,” says Mirabeau again, “they spend a month in disputes about syllables, and overthrow, in a single night, the whole established system of the Monarchy!”10 The truth is, they display the nervousness of women, and, from one end of the Revolution to the other, this excitability keeps on increasing.
Not only are they excited, but the pitch of excitement must be maintained, and, like the drunkard who, once stimulated, has recourse again to strong waters, one would say that they carefully try to expel the last remnants of calmness and common sense from their brains. They delight in pompous phrases, in high-sounding rhetoric, in declamatory sentimental strokes of eloquence: this is the style of nearly all their speeches, and so strong is their taste, they are not satisfied with the orations made amongst themselves. Lally and Necker, having made “affecting and sublime” speeches at the Hôtel-de-Ville, the Assembly wish them to be repeated before them:11 this being the heart of France, it is proper for it to answer to the noble emotions of all Frenchmen. Let this heart throb on, and as strongly as possible, for that is its office, and day by day it receives fresh impulses. Almost all sittings begin with the reading of flattering addresses or of threatening denunciations. The petitioners frequently appear in person, and read their enthusiastic effusions, their imperious advice, their doctrines of dissolution. Today it is Danton, in the name of Paris, with his bull visage and his voice that seems a tocsin of insurrection; tomorrow, the vanquishers of the Bastille, or some other troop, with a band of music which continues playing even into the hall. The meeting is not a conference for business, but a patriotic opera, where the eclogue, the melodrama, and sometimes the masquerade, mingle with the cheers and the clappings of hands.12 —A serf of the Jura is brought to the bar of the Assembly aged one hundred and twenty years, and one of the members of the cortège, “M. Bourbon de la Crosnière, director of a patriotic school, asks permission to take charge of the august old man, that he may be waited on by the young people of all ranks, and especially by the children of those whose fathers were killed in the attack on the Bastille.”13 Great is the hubbub and excitement. The scene seems to be in imitation of Berquin,14 with the additional complication of a mercenary consideration.
But small matters are not closely looked into, and the Assembly, under the pressure of the galleries, stoops to shows, such as are held at fairs. Sixty vagabonds who are paid twelve francs a head, in the costumes of Spaniards, Dutchmen, Turks, Arabs, Tripolitans, Persians, Hindoos, Mongols, and Chinese, conducted by the Prussian Anacharsis Clootz, enter, under the title of Ambassadors of the Human Race, to declaim against tyrants, and they are admitted to the honours of the sitting. On this occasion the masquerade is a stroke devised to hasten and extort the abolition of nobility.15 At other times, there is little or no object in it; its ridiculousness is inexpressible, for the farce is played out as seriously and earnestly as in a village award of prizes. For three days, the children who have taken their first communion before the constitutional bishop have been promenaded through the streets of Paris; at the Jacobin club they recite the nonsense they have committed to memory; and, on the fourth day, admitted to the bar of the Assembly, their spokesman, a poor little thing of twelve years old, repeats the parrot-like tirade. He winds up with the accustomed oath, upon which all the others cry out in their piping, shrill voices, “We swear!” As a climax, the President, Treilhard, a sober lawyer, replies to the little gamins with perfect gravity in a similar strain, employing metaphors, personifications, and everything else belonging to the stock-in-trade of a pedant on his platform: “You merit a share in the glory of the founders of liberty, prepared as you are to shed your blood in her behalf.” Immense applause from the “left” and the galleries, and a decree ordering the speeches of both president and children to be printed. The children, probably, would rather have gone out to play; but, willingly or unwillingly, they receive or endure the honours of the sitting.16
Such are the tricks of the stage and of the platform by which the managers here move their political puppets. Emotional susceptibility, once recognised as a legitimate force, thus becomes an instrument of intrigue and constraint. The Assembly, having accepted theatrical exhibitions when these were sincere and earnest, is obliged to tolerate them when they become mere sham and buffoonery. At this vast national banquet, over which it meant to preside, and to which, throwing the doors wide open, it invited all France, its first intoxication was due to wine of a noble quality; but it has touched glasses with the populace, and by degrees, under the pressure of its associates, it has descended to adulterated and burning drinks, to a grotesque unwholesome inebriety which is all the more grotesque and unwholesome, because it persists in believing itself to be reason.
If reason could only resume its empire during the lucid intervals! But reason must exist before it can govern, and in no French Assembly, except the two following this, have there ever been fewer political intellects. Strictly speaking, with careful search, there could undoubtedly be found in France, in 1789, five or six hundred experienced men, such as the intendants and military commanders of every province; next to these the prelates, administrators of large dioceses, the members of the local “parlements,” whose courts gave them influence, and who, besides judicial functions, possessed a portion of administrative power; and finally, the principal members of the Provincial Assemblies, all of them influential and sensible people who had exercised control over men and affairs, at once humane, liberal, moderate, and capable of understanding the difficulty, as well as the necessity, of a great reform; indeed, their correspondence, full of facts, stated with precision and judgment, when compared with the doctrinaire rubbish of the Assembly, presents the strongest possible contrast. But most of these lights remain under a bushel; only a few of them get into the Assembly; these burn without illuminating, and are soon extinguished in the tempest. The venerable Machault is not there, nor Malesherbes; there are none of the old ministers or the marshals of France. Not one of the intendants is there, except Malouet—and by the superiority of this man, the most judicious of the Assembly, one can judge the services which his colleagues would have rendered. Out of two hundred and ninety-one members of the clergy,17 there are indeed forty-eight bishops or archbishops and thirty-five abbots or canons, but, being prelates and with large endowments, they excite the envy of their order, and are generals without any soldiers. We have the same spectacle among the nobles. Most of them, the gentry of the provinces, have been elected in opposition to the grandees of the Court. Moreover, neither the grandees of the Court, devoted to worldly pursuits, nor the gentry of the provinces, confined to private life, are practically familiar with public affairs. A small group among them, twenty-eight magistrates and about thirty superior officials who have held command or have been connected with the administration, probably have some idea of the peril of society; but it is precisely for this reason that they seem to be behind the age and remain without influence. In the Third-Estate, out of five hundred and seventy-seven members, only ten have exercised any important functions, those of intendant, councillor of state, receiver-general, lieutenant of police, director of the mint, and others of the same category. The great majority is composed of unknown lawyers and people occupying inferior positions in the profession, notaries, royal attorneys, register-commissaries, judges and assessors of the présidial, bailiffs and lieutenants of the bailiwick, simple practitioners confined from their youth to the narrow circle of an inferior jurisdiction or to a routine of scribbling, with no escape but philosophical excursions in imaginary space under the guidance of Rousseau and Raynal. There are three hundred and seventy-three of this class, to whom may be added thirty-eight farmers and husbandmen, fifteen physicians, and, among the manufacturers, merchants, and capitalists, some fifty or sixty who are their equals in education and in political capacity. Scarcely one hundred and fifty proprietors are here from the middle class.18 To these four hundred and fifty deputies, whose condition, education, instruction, and mental range qualified them for being good clerks, prominent men in a commune, honourable fathers of a family, or, at best, provincial academicians, add two hundred and eight curés, their equals; this makes six hundred and fifty out of eleven hundred and eighteen deputies, forming a positive majority, which, again, is augmented by about fifty philosophical nobles, leaving out the weak who follow the current, and the ambitious who range themselves on the strong side. We may divine what a chamber thus made up can do, and those who are familiar with such matters prophesy what it will do.19 “There are some able men in the National Assembly,” writes the American minister, “yet the best heads among them would not be injured by experience, and, unfortunately, there are great numbers who, with much imagination, have little knowledge, judgment, or reflection.” It would be just as sensible to select eleven hundred notables from an inland province and intrust to them the repair of an old frigate. They would conscientiously break the vessel up, and the frigate they would construct in its place would founder before it left port.
If they would only consult the pilots and professional ship-builders! There are several of such to be found around them, whom they cannot suspect, for most of them are foreigners, born in free countries, impartial, sympathetic, and, what is more, unanimous. The Minister of the United States writes, two months before the convocation of the States-General:20 “I, a republican, and just, as it were, emerged from that Assembly which has formed one of the most republican of republican constitutions—I preach incessantly respect for the prince, attention to the rights of the nobility, and moderation, not only in the object, but also in the pursuit of it.” Jefferson, a democrat and radical, expresses himself no differently. At the time of the oath of the Tennis Court, he redoubles his efforts to induce Lafayette and other patriots to make some arrangement with the King to secure freedom of the press, religious liberty, trial by jury, the habeas corpus, and a national legislature—things which he could certainly be made to adopt—and then to retire into private life, and let these institutions act upon the condition of the people until they had rendered it capable of further progress, with the assurance that there would be no lack of opportunity for them to obtain still more. “This was all,” he continues, “that I thought your countrymen able to bear soberly and usefully.” Arthur Young, who studies the moral life of France so conscientiously, and who is so severe in depicting old abuses, cannot comprehend the conduct of the Commons. “To set aside practice for theory . . . in establishing the interests of a great kingdom, in securing freedom to 25,000,000 of people, seems to me the very acme of imprudence, the very quintessence of insanity.” Undoubtedly, now that the Assembly is all-powerful, it is to be hoped that it will be reasonable: “I will not allow myself to believe for a moment that the representatives of the people can ever so far forget their duty to the French nation, to humanity, and their own fame, as to suffer any inordinate and impracticable views—any visionary or theoretic systems— . . . to turn aside their exertions from that security which is in their hands, to place on the chance and hazard of public commotion and civil war the invaluable blessings which are certainly in their power. I will not conceive it possible that men who have eternal fame within their grasp will place the rich inheritance on the cast of a die, and, losing the venture, be damned among the worst and most profligate adventurers that ever disgraced humanity.” As their plan becomes more definite the remonstrances become more decided, and all the expert judges point out to them the importance of the wheels which they are wilfully breaking. “As they have21 hitherto felt severely the authority exercised over them in the name of their princes, every limitation of that authority seems to them desirable. Never having felt the evils of too weak an executive, the disorders to be apprehended from anarchy make as yet no impression. . . . They want an American Constitution,22 with the exception of a King instead of a President, without reflecting that they have not American citizens to support that Constitution. . . . If they have the good sense to give the nobles, as nobles, some portion of the national power, this free constitution will probably last. But otherwise it will degenerate either into a pure monarchy, or a vast republic, or a democracy. Will the latter last? I doubt it. I am sure that it will not, unless the whole nation is changed.” A little later, when they renounce a parliamentary monarchy to put in its place “a royal democracy,” it is at once explained to them that such an institution applied to France can produce nothing but anarchy, and finally end in despotism. “Nowhere23 has liberty proved to be stable without a sacrifice of its excesses, without some barrier to its own omnipotence. . . . Under this miserable government . . . the people, soon weary of storms, and abandoned without legal protection to their seducers or to their oppressors, will shatter the helm, or hand it over to some audacious hand that stands ready to seize it.” Events occur from month to month in fulfilment of these predictions, and the predictions grow gloomier and more gloomy. It is a flock of wild birds:24 “It is very difficult to guess whereabouts the flock will settle when it flies so wild. . . . This unhappy country, bewildered in the pursuit of metaphysical whims, presents to our moral view a mighty ruin. The Assembly, at once master and slave, new in power, wild in theory, raw in practice, engrossing all functions without being able to exercise any, has taken from that fierce, ferocious people every restraint of religion and respect. . . . Such a state of things cannot last. . . . The glorious opportunity is lost, and for this time, at least, the Revolution has failed.”
We see, from the replies of Washington, that he is of the same opinion. On the other side of the Channel, Pitt, the ablest practician, and Burke, the ablest theorist, of political liberty, express the same judgment. Pitt, after 1789, declares that the French have overleaped freedom. After 1790, Burke, in a work which is a prophecy as well as a masterpiece, points to military dictation as the termination of the Revolution, “the most completely arbitrary power that has ever appeared on earth.”
Nothing is of any effect. With the exception of the small powerless group around Malouet and Mounier, the warnings of Morris, Jefferson, Romilly, Dumont, Mallet-Dupan, Arthur Young, Pitt, and Burke, all of them men who have experience of free institutions, are received with indifference or repelled with disdain. Not only are our new politicians incapable, but they think themselves the contrary, and their incompetence is aggravated by their infatuation. “I often used to say,” writes Dumont,25 “that if a hundred persons were stopped at haphazard in the streets of London, and a hundred in the streets of Paris, and a proposal were made to them to take charge of the Government, ninety-nine would accept it in Paris and ninety-nine would refuse it in London. . . . The Frenchman thinks that all difficulties can be overcome by a little quickness of wit. Mirabeau accepted the post of reporter to the Committee on Mines without having the slightest tincture of knowledge on the subject.” In short, most of them enter on politics “like the gentleman who, on being asked if he knew how to play on the harpsichord, replied, ‘I cannot tell, I never tried, but I will see.’ ” “The Assembly had so high an opinion of itself, especially the left side of it, that it would willingly have undertaken the framing of the Code of Laws for all nations. . . . Never had so many men been seen together, fancying that they were all legislators, and that they were there to correct all the errors of the past, to remedy all mistakes of the human mind, and ensure the happiness of all ages to come. Doubt had no place in their minds, and infallibility always presided over their contradictory decrees.”—This is because they have a theory, and because, according to their notion, this theory renders special knowledge unnecessary. Herein they are thoroughly sincere, and it is of set purpose that they reverse all ordinary modes of procedure. Up to this time a constitution used to be organized or repaired like a ship. Experiments were made from time to time, or a model was taken from vessels in the neighbourhood; the first aim was to make the ship sail; its construction was subordinated to its work; it was fashioned in this or that way according to the materials on hand; a beginning was made by examining these materials, and trying to estimate their rigidity, weight, and strength.—All this is behind the age; the Assembly is too enlightened to follow in a rut. In conformity with the fashion of the time it works by deduction, after the method of Rousseau, according to an abstract notion of right, of the State, and of the social compact.26
According to this process, by virtue of political geometry alone, the ship is to be ideal, and since it is ideal it is certain that it will sail, and much better than any empirical craft. They carry out their legislative hobbies according to this principle, and it is easy to divine the nature of their discussions. There are no convincing facts, no pointed arguments; nobody would ever imagine that the speakers were gathered together to conduct real business. Through speech after speech, strings of hollow abstractions are endlessly renewed as in a meeting of students in rhetoric for the purpose of practice, or in a society of old bookworms for their own amusement. On the question of the veto “each orator in turn, armed with his portfolio, reads a dissertation which has no bearing whatever” on the preceding one, which makes “a sort of academical session,” a succession of pamphlets27 fresh every morning for several days. On the question of the Rights of Man fifty-four orators are placed on the list. “I remember,” says Dumont, “that long discussion, which lasted for weeks, as a period of mortal ennui—vain disputes over words, a metaphysical jumble, and most tedious babble; the Assembly was turned into a Sorbonne lecture-room,” and this while chateaux were burning, while town-halls were being sacked, and courts dared no longer hold assize, while the distribution of wheat was stopped, and while society was in course of dissolution. In the same manner the theologians of the Lower Empire kept up their wrangles about the uncreated light of Mount Tabor while Mahomet II was battering the walls of Constantinople with his cannon.—Ours, of course, are another sort of men, juvenile in feeling, sincere, enthusiastic, even generous, and further, more devoted, laborious, and in some cases endowed with rare talent. But neither zeal, nor labour, nor talent are of any use when not employed in the service of a sound idea; and if in the service of a false one, the greater they are the more mischief they do.
Towards the end of the year 1789, there can be no doubt of this; and the parties now formed reveal the measure of their presumption, improvidence, incapacity, and obstinacy. “This Assembly,” writes the American ambassador, “may be divided into three parties: one, called the aristocrats, consists of the high clergy, the parliamentary judges, and such of the nobility as think they ought to form a separate order.” This is the party which offers resistance to follies and errors, but with follies and errors almost equally great. In the beginning “the prelates,28 instead of conciliating the curés, kept them at a humiliating distance, affecting distinctions, exacting respect,” and, in their own chamber, “ranging themselves apart on separate benches.” The nobles, on the other hand, the more to alienate the commons, began by charging these with “revolt, treachery, and treason,” and by demanding the use of military force against them. Now that the victorious Third-Estate has again overcome them and overwhelms them with numbers, they become still more maladroit, and conduct the defence much less efficiently than the attack. “In the Assembly,” says one of them, “they do not listen, but laugh and talk aloud”; they take pains to embitter their adversaries and the galleries by their impertinence. “They leave the chamber when the President puts the question and invite the deputies of their party to follow them, or cry out to them not to take part in the deliberation: through this desertion, the clubbists become the majority, and decree whatever they please.” It is in this way that the appointment of judges and bishops is withdrawn from the King and assigned to the people. Again, after the return from Varennes, when the Assembly finding out that the result of its labours is impracticable is disposed to render it less democratic, the whole of the right side will refuse to share in the debates, and, what is worse, will vote with the revolutionists to exclude members of the Constituent from the Legislative Assembly. Thus, not only does it abandon its own cause, but it commits self-destruction, and its desertion ends in suicide.—A second party remains, “the middle party,”29 which consists of well-intentioned people from every class, sincere partisans of a good government; but, unfortunately, they have acquired their ideas of government from books, and are admirable on paper. But as it happens that the men who live in the world are very different from imaginary men who dwell in the heads of philosophers, it is not to be wondered at if the systems taken out of books are fit for nothing but to be upset by another book. Intellects of this stamp are the natural prey of utopians. Lacking the ballast of experience they are carried away by pure logic and serve to enlarge the flock of theorists.—The latter form the third party, which is called the “enragés” (the wild men), and who, at the expiration of six months, find themselves “the most numerous of all.” “It is composed,” says Morris, “of that class which in America is known by the name of pettifogging lawyers, together with a host of curates and many of those persons who in all revolutions throng to the standard of change because they are not satisfied with their present situation. This last party is in close alliance with the populace, and derives from this circumstance very great authority.” All powerful passions are on its side, not merely the irritation of the people tormented by misery and suspicion, not merely the ambition and self-esteem of the bourgeois, in revolt against the ancient régime, but also the inveterate bitterness and fixed ideas of so many suffering minds and so many factious intellects, Protestants, Jansenists, economists, philosophers, men who, like Fréteau, Rabout Saint-Etienne, Volney, Sieyès, are hatching out a long arrear of resentments or hopes, and who only await the opportunity to impose their system with all the intolerance of dogmatism and of faith. To minds of this stamp the past is a dead letter; example is no authority; realities are of no account; they live in their own Utopia. Sieyès, the most important of them all, judges that “the whole English constitution is charlatanism, designed for imposing on the people;”30 he regards the English “as children in the matter of a constitution,” and thinks that he is capable of giving France a much better one. Dumont, who sees the first committees at the houses of Brissot and Clavières, goes away with as much anxiety as “disgust.” “It is impossible,” he says, “to depict the confusion of ideas, the license of the imagination, the burlesque of popular notions. One would think that they saw before them the world on the day after the creation.” They seem to think, indeed, that human society does not exist, and that they are appointed to create it. Just as well might ambassadors “of hostile tribes, and of diverse interests, set themselves to arrange their common lot as if nothing had previously existed.” There is no hesitation. They are satisfied that the thing can be easily done, and that, with two or three axioms of political philosophy, the first man that comes may make himself master of it. Overweening conceit of this kind among men of experience would seem ridiculous; in this assembly of novices it is a power. A flock which has lost its way follows those who go in front; they are the most irrational but they are the most confident, and in the Chamber as in the nation it is the breakneck-riders who become its leaders.
Two advantages give this party the ascendancy, and these advantages are of such importance that henceforth whoever possesses them is sure of being master.—In the first place the prevailing theory is on the side of the revolutionists, and they alone are determined thoroughly to apply it. This party, therefore, is the only one which is consistent and popular in the face of adversaries who are unpopular and inconsequent. Nearly all of the latter, indeed, defenders of the ancient régime, or partisans of a limited monarchy, are likewise imbued with abstract principles and philosophical speculation. The most refractory nobles have advocated the rights of man in their memorials. Mounier, the principal opponent of the demagogues, was the leader of the commons when they proclaimed themselves to be the National Assembly.31 That is enough: they have entered the narrow defile which leads to the abyss. They had no idea of it at the first start, but one step leads to another, and, willing or unwilling, they march on, or are pushed on. When the abyss comes in sight it is too late; they have been driven there by the logical results of their own concessions; they can do nothing but wax eloquent and indignant; having abandoned their vantage-ground, they find no halting-place remaining.—There is an enormous power in general ideas, especially if they are simple, and appeal to the passions. None are simpler than these, since they are reducible to the axiom which assumes the rights of man, and subordinate to them every institution, old or new. None are better calculated to inflame the sentiments, since the doctrine enlists human pride in its service, and, in the name of justice, consecrates all the demands of independence and domination. Consider three-fourths of the deputies, immature and prejudiced, possessing no information but a few formulas of the current philosophy, with no thread to guide them but pure logic, abandoned to the declamation of lawyers, to the wild utterances of the newspapers, to the promptings of self-esteem, to the hundred thousand tongues which, on all sides, at the bar of the Assembly, at the tribune, in the clubs, in the streets, in their own breasts, repeat unanimously to them, and every day, the same flattery: “You are sovereign and omnipotent. Right is vested in you alone. The King exists only to execute your will. Every order, every corporation, every power, every civil or ecclesiastical association is illegitimate and null the moment you declare it to be so. You may even transform religion. You are the fathers of the country. You have saved France, you will regenerate humanity. The whole world looks on you in admiration; finish your glorious work—forward, always forward.” Superior good sense and rooted convictions could alone stand firm against this flood of seductions and solicitations; but vacillating and ordinary men are carried away by it. In the harmony of applause which rises, they do not hear the crash of the ruins they produce. In any case, they stop their ears, and shun the cries of the oppressed; they refuse to admit that their work could possibly bring about evil results; they accept the sophisms and untruths which justify it; they allow the assassinated to be calumniated in order to excuse the assassins; they listen to Merlin de Douay, who, after three or four jacqueries, when pillaging, incendiarism, and murder are going on in all the provinces, has just declared in the name of the Committee on Feudalism32 that “a law must be presented to the people, the justice of which may enforce silence on the feudatory egotists who, for the past six months, so indecently protest against spoliation; the wisdom of which may restore to a sense of duty the peasant who has been led astray for a moment by his resentment of a long oppression.” And when Raynal, the surviving patriarch of the philosophic party, one day, for a wonder, takes the plain truth with him into their tribune, they resent his straightforwardness as an outrage, and excuse it solely on the ground of his imbecility. An omnipotent legislator cannot depreciate himself; like a king he is condemned to self-admiration in his public capacity. “There were not thirty deputies amongst us,” says a witness, “who thought differently from Raynal,” but “in each other’s presence the credit of the Revolution, the perspective of its blessings, was an article of faith which had to be believed in”; and, against their own reason, against their conscience, the moderates, caught in the net of their own acts, join the revolutionists to complete the Revolution.
Had they refused, they would have been compelled; for, to obtain the power, the Assembly has, from the very first, either tolerated or solicited the violence of the streets. But, in accepting insurrectionists for its allies, it makes them masters, and henceforth, in Paris as in the provinces, illegal and brutal force becomes the principal power of the State. “The triumph was accomplished through the people; it was impossible to be severe with them”;33 hence, when insurrections were to be put down, the Assembly had neither the courage nor the force necessary. “They blame for the sake of decency; they frame their deeds by expediency,” and in turn justly undergo the pressure which they themselves have sanctioned against others. Only three or four times do the majority, when the insurrection becomes too daring—after the murder of the baker François, the insurrection of the Swiss Guard at Nancy, and the outbreak of the Champ de Mars—feel that they themselves are menaced, vote for and apply martial law, and repel force with force. But, in general, when the despotism of the people is exercised only against the royalist minority, they allow their adversaries to be oppressed, and do not consider themselves affected by the violence which assails the party of the “right”: they are enemies, and may be given up to the wild beasts. In accordance with this, the “left” has made its arrangements; its fanaticism has no scruples; it is principle, it is absolute truth that is at stake; this must triumph at any cost. Besides, can there be any hesitation in having recourse to the people in the people’s own cause? A little compulsion will help along the good cause, and hence the siege of the Assembly is continually renewed. This was the practice already at Versailles before the 6th of October, while now, at Paris, it is kept up more actively and with less disguise.
At the beginning of the year 1790,34 the band under pay comprises seven hundred and fifty effective men, most of them deserters or soldiers drummed out of their regiments, who are at first paid five francs and then forty sous a day. It is their business to make or support motions in the coffee-houses and in the streets, to mix with the spectators at the sittings of the sections, with the groups at the Palais-Royal, and especially in the galleries of the National Assembly, where they are to hoot or applaud at a given signal. Their leader is a Chevalier de Saint-Louis, to whom they swear obedience, and who receives his orders from the Committee of Jacobins. His first lieutenant at the Assembly is a M. Saule, “a stout, small, stunted old fellow, formerly an upholsterer, then a charlatan hawker of fourpenny boxes of grease—made from the fat of those that had been hung—for the cure of diseases of the kidneys, and all his life a sot . . . who, by means of a tolerably shrill voice, which was always well moistened, has acquired some reputation in the galleries of the Assembly.” In fact, he has forged admission tickets; he has been turned out; he has been obliged to resume “the box of ointment, and travel for one or two months in the provinces with a man of letters for his companion.” But on his return, “through the protection of a groom of the Court, he obtained a piece of ground for a coffee-house against the wall of the Tuileries garden, almost alongside of the National Assembly,” and now it is at home in his coffee-shop behind his counter that the hirelings of the galleries “come to him to know what they must say, and to be told the order of the day in regard to applause.” Besides this, he is there himself; “it is he who for three years is to regulate public sentiment in the galleries confided to his care, and, for his useful and satisfactory services, the Constituent Assembly will award him a recompense,” to which the Legislative Assembly will add “a pension of six hundred livres, besides a lodging in an apartment of the Feuillants.”
We can divine how men of this stamp, thus compensated, do their work. From the top of the galleries35 they drown the demands of the “right” by the force of their lungs; this or that decree, as, for instance, the abolition of titles of nobility, is carried, “not by shouts, but by terrific howls.”36 On the arrival of the news of the sacking of the Hôtel de Castries by the populace, they applaud. On the question coming up as to the decision whether the Catholic faith shall be dominant, “they shout out that the aristocrats must all be hung, and then things will go on well.” Their outrages not only remain unpunished, but are encouraged: this or that noble who complains of their hooting is called to order, while their interference and vociferations, their insults and their menaces, are from this time introduced as one of the regular wheels of legislative operations. Their pressure is still worse outside the Chamber.37 The Assembly is obliged several times to double its guard. On the 27th of September, 1790, there are 40,000 men around the building to extort the dismissal of the Ministers, and “motions for assassination” are made under the windows. On the 4th of January, 1791, whilst on a call of the house the ecclesiastical deputies pass in turn to the tribune, to take or refuse the oath to the civil constitution of the clergy, a furious clamour ascends in the Tuileries, and even penetrates into the Chamber. “To the lantern with all those who refuse!” On the 27th of September, 1790, M. Dupont, economist, having spoken against the assignats, is surrounded on leaving the Chamber and hooted at, hustled, pushed against the basin of the Tuileries, into which he was being thrown when the guard rescued him. On the 21st of June, 1790, M. de Cazalès just misses “being torn to pieces by the people.”38 Deputies of the “right” are threatened over and over again by gestures in the streets and in the coffee-houses; effigies of them with ropes about the neck are publicly displayed. The Abbé Maury is several times on the point of being hung: he saves himself once by presenting a pistol. Another time the Vicomte de Mirabeau is obliged to draw his sword. M. de Clermont-Tonnerre, having voted against the annexation of the Comtat to France, is assailed with chairs and clubs in the Palais-Royal, pursued into a porter’s room and from thence to his dwelling; the howling crowd break in the doors, and are only repelled with great difficulty. It is impossible for the members of the “right” to assemble together; they are “stoned” in the church of the Capucins, then in the Salon Français in the Rue Royale, and then, to crown the whole, an ordinance of the new judges shuts up their hall, and punishes them for the violence which they have to suffer.39 In short, they are at the mercy of the mob. The most moderate, the most liberal, and the most manly both in heart and head, Malouet, declares that “in going to the Assembly he rarely forgot to carry his pistols with him.”40 “For two years,” he says, “after the King’s flight, we never enjoyed one moment of freedom and security.” “On going into a slaughter-house,” writes another deputy, “you see some animals at the entrance which still have a short time to live, until the hour comes to despatch them. Such was the impression which the assemblage of nobles, bishops, and parliamentarians41 on the right side made on my mind every time I entered the Assembly, the executioners of the left side permitting them to breathe a little longer.” They are insulted and outraged even upon their benches; “placed between peril within and peril without, between the hostility of the galleries”42 and that of the howlers at the entrance, “between personal insults and the abbey of Saint-Germain, between shouts of laughter celebrating the burning of their chateaux and the clamours which, thirty times in a quarter of an hour, cry down their opinions,” they are given over and denounced “to the ten thousand Cerberuses” of the journals and of the streets, who pursue them with their yells and “cover them with their slaver.” Any expedient is good enough for putting down their opposition, and, at the end of the session, in full Assembly, they are threatened with “a recommendation to the departments,” which means the excitement of riots and of the permanent jacquerie of the provinces against them in their own houses.—Parliamentary strategy of this sort, employed uninterruptedly for twenty-nine months, finally produces its effect. Many of the weak are gained over;43 even on characters of firm temper fear has a hold; he who would march under fire with head erect shuddered at the idea of being dragged in the gutter by the rabble; the brutality of the populace always exercises a material ascendancy over finely strung nerves. On the 12th of July, 1791,44 the call of the house decreed against the absentees proves that one hundred and thirty-two deputies no longer appear in their places. Eleven days before, among those who still attend, two hundred and seventy announced that they would take no further part in the proceedings. Thus, before the completion of the Constitution, the whole of the opposition, more than four hundred members, over one-third of the Assembly, is reduced to flight or to silence. By dint of oppression, the revolutionary party has got rid of all resistance, while the violence which gave to it ascendancy in the streets, now gives to it equal ascendancy within the walls of Parliament.
Generally in an omnipotent assembly, when a party takes the lead and forms a majority, it furnishes the Ministry; and this fact suffices to give, or to bring back to it, some glimpse of common sense. For its leaders, with the Government in their own hands, become responsible for it, and when they propose or pass a law, they are obliged to anticipate its effect. Rarely will a Secretary of War or of the Navy adopt a military code which goes to establish permanent disobedience in the army or in the navy. Rarely will a Secretary of the Treasury propose an expenditure for which there is not a sufficient revenue, or a system of taxation that provides no returns. Placed where full information can be procured, daily advised of every detail, surrounded by skilful counsellors and expert clerks, the chiefs of the majority, who thus become heads of the administration, immediately drop theory for practice; and the fumes of political speculation must be pretty dense in their minds if they exclude the multiplied rays of light which experience constantly sheds upon them. Let the stubbornest of theorists take his stand at the helm of a ship, and, whatever be the obstinacy of his principles or his prejudices, he will never, unless he is blind or led by the blind, persist in steering always to the right or always to the left. Just so after the flight to Varennes, when the Assembly, in full possession of the executive power, directly controls the Ministry, it comes to recognise for itself that its constitutional machine will not work, except in the way of destruction; and it is the principal revolutionists, Barnave, Duport, the Lameths, Chapelier, and Thouret,45 who undertake to make alterations in the mechanism so as to lessen its friction. This source of knowledge and judgment, however, to which they are induced to resort for a moment, in spite of themselves and too late, has been closed up by themselves from the very beginning. On the 6th of November, 1789, in deference to principle and in dread of corruption, the Assembly had declared that none of its members should hold ministerial office. We see it in consequence deprived of all the instruction which comes from direct contact with affairs, surrendered without any counterpoise to the seductions of theory, reduced by its own decision to a mere academy of legislation.
Nay, still worse, through another effect of the same error, it condemns itself by its own act to constant fits of panic. For, having allowed the power which it was not willing to assume to slip into lukewarm or suspicious hands, it is always uneasy, and all its decrees bear an uniform stamp, not only of the wilful ignorance to which it shuts itself up, but also of the exaggerated or chimerical fears in which its life is passed.—Imagine a ship conveying a company of lawyers, literary men, and other passengers, who, supported by a mutinous and poorly fed crew, take full command, but refuse to select one of their own number for a pilot or for the officer of the watch. The former captain continues to nominate them; through very shame, and because he is a good sort of man, his title is left to him, and he is retained for the transmission of orders. If these orders are absurd, so much the worse for him; if he resists them, a fresh mutiny forces him to yield; and even when they cannot be executed, he has to answer for their being carried out. In the meantime, in a room between decks, far away from the helm and the compass, our club of amateurs discuss the equilibrium of floating bodies, decree a new system of navigation, have the ballast thrown overboard, crowd on all sail, and are astonished to find that the ship heels over on its side. The officer of the watch and the pilot must, evidently, have managed the manoeuvre badly. They are accordingly dismissed and others put in their place, while the ship heels over farther yet and begins to leak in every joint. Enough: it is the fault of the captain and the old staff of officers. They are not well-disposed; for a beautiful system of navigation like this ought to work well; and if it fails to do so, it is because some one interferes with it. It is positively certain that some of those people belonging to the former régime must be traitors, who would rather have the ship go down than submit; they are public enemies and monsters. They must be seized, disarmed, put under surveillance, and punished.—Such is the reasoning of the Assembly. Evidently, to reassure it, a message from the Minister of the Interior chosen by the Assembly, to the lieutenant of police whom he had appointed, to come to his hotel every morning, would be all that was necessary. But it is deprived of this simple resource by its own act, and has no other expedient than to appoint a committee of investigation to discover crimes of “treason against the nation.”46 What could be more vague than such a term? What could be more mischievous than such an institution? Renewed every month, deprived of special agents, composed of credulous and inexperienced deputies, this committee, set to perform the work of a Lenoir or a Fouché, makes up for its incapacity by violence, and its proceedings anticipate those of the Jacobin inquisition.47 Alarmist and suspicious, it encourages accusations, and, for lack of plots to discover, it invents them. Inclinations, in its eyes, stand for actions, and floating projects become accomplished outrages. On the denunciation of a domestic who has listened at a door, on the gossip of a washerwoman who has found a scrap of paper in a dressing-gown, on the false interpretation of a letter, on vague indications which it completes and patches together by the strength of its imagination, it forges a coup d’état, makes examinations, domiciliary visits, nocturnal surprises, and arrests;48 it exaggerates, blackens, and comes in public session to denounce the whole affair to the National Assembly. First comes the plot of the Breton nobles to deliver Brest to the English;49 then the plot for hiring brigands to destroy the crops; then the plot of the 14th of July to burn Paris; then the plot of Favras to murder Lafayette, Necker, and Bailly; then the plot of Augeard to carry off the King—with others from week to week, not counting those which swarm in the brains of the journalists, and which Desmoulins, Fréron, and Marat reveal with a flourish of trumpets in each of their publications. “All these alarms are cried daily in the streets like cabbages and turnips, the good people of Paris inhaling them along with the pestilential vapours of our mud.”50
Now, in this aspect, as well as in a good many others, the Assembly is the people; satisfied that it is in danger,51 it makes laws as the former make their insurrections, and protects itself by strokes of legislation as the former protects itself by blows with pikes. Failing to take hold of the motor spring by which it might direct the machine, it distrusts all the old and all the new wheels. The old ones seem to it an obstacle, and, instead of utilising them, it breaks them one by one—parliaments, provincial states, religious orders, the church, the nobles, and royalty. The new ones are suspicious, and instead of harmonizing them, it puts them out of gear in advance—the executive power, administrative powers, judicial powers, the police, the gendarmerie, and the army.52 Thanks to these precautions it is impossible for any of them to be turned against itself; but, also, thanks to these precautions, none of them can perform their functions.
In building, as well as in destroying, the Assembly had two bad counsellors, on the one hand fear, on the other hand theory; and on the ruins of the old machine which it has demolished without discernment, the new machine, which it has constructed without forecast, will work only to its own ruin.
[1. ]Arthur Young, June 15, 1789.—Bailly, passim.—Moniteur, iv. 522 (June 2, 1790).—Mercure de France (Feb. 11, 1792).
[2. ]Moniteur, v. 631 (Sep. 12, 1790), and September 8th (what is said by the Abbé Maury).—Marmontel, book xiii. 237.—Malouet, i. 261.—Bailly, i. 227.
[3. ]Sir Samuel Romilly, “Mémoires,” i. 102, 354.—Dumont, 158. (The official rules bear date July 29, 1789.)
[4. ]Cf. Ferrières, i. 3. His repentance is affecting.
[5. ]Letter to Washington, January 24, 1790.—Dumont, 125.—Garat, letter to Condorcet.
[6. ]Arthur Young, i. 46. “Tame and elegant, uninteresting and polite, the mingled mass of communicated ideas has power neither to offend nor instruct. . . . All vigour of thought seems excluded from expression. . . . Where there is much polish of character there is little argument.”—Cabinet des Estampes. See engravings of the day by Moreau, Prieur, Monet, representing the opening of the States-General. All the figures have a graceful, elegant, and genteel air.
[7. ]Marmontel, book xiii. 237.—Malouet, i. 261.—Ferrières, i. 19.
[8. ]Gouverneur Morris, January 24, 1790.—Likewise (De Ferrières, i. 71) the decree on the abolition of nobility was not the order of the day, and was carried by surprise.
[ 9. ]Ferrières, i. 189.—Dumont, 146.
[10. ]Letter of Mirabeau to Sieyès, June 11, 1790. “Our nation of monkeys with the throats of parrots.”—Dumont, 146.—“Sieyès and Mirabeau always entertained a contemptible opinion of the Constituent Assembly.”
[11. ]Moniteur, 256, 431 (July 16 and 31, 1789).—Journal des Débats et Décrets, i. 105, July 16th. “A member demands that M. de Lally repeats his discourse, which is seconded by the whole Assembly.”
[12. ]Moniteur (March 11, 1790). “A nun of St. Mandé, brought to the bar of the house, thanks the Assembly for the decree by which the cloisters are opened, and denounces the tricks, intrigues, and even violence exercised in the convents to prevent the execution of the decree.”—Ibid. March 29, 1790. See the various addresses which are read. “At Lagnon, the mother of a family assembled her ten children, and swore with them and for them to be loyal to the nation and to the King.”—Ibid. June 5, 1790. “M. Chambroud reads the letter of the collector of customs of Lannion, in Brittany, to a priest, a member of the National Assembly. He implores his influence to secure the acceptance of his civic oath and that of all his family, ready to wield either the censer, the cart, the scales, the sword, or the pen.” On reading a number of these addresses the Assembly appears to be a supplement of the Petites Affiches (a small advertising journal in Paris).
[13. ]Moniteur, October 23, 1789.
[14. ]A well-known writer of children’s stories.—[Tr.]
[15. ]Ferrières, ii. 65 (June 10, 1790).—De Montlosier, i. 402. “One of these masqueraders came the following day to get his money of the Comte de Billancourt, mistaking him for the Duc de Liancourt. ‘Monsieur,’ says he, ‘I am the man who played the Chaldean yesterday.’ ”
[16. ]Roux and Buchez, x. 118 (June 16, 1791).
[17. ]See the printed list of deputies, with the indication of their baillage or sénéchaussée, quality, condition, and profession.
[18. ]De Bouillé, 75. When the King first saw the list of the deputies, he exclaimed, “What would the nation have said if I had made up my council or the Notables in this way?” (Roux and Buchez, iv. 39.)
[19. ]Gouverneur Morris, July 31, 1789.
[20. ]Gouverneur Morris, February 25, 1789.—Lafayette, “Mémoires,” v. 492. Letter of Jefferson, February 14, 1815.—Arthur Young, June 27 and 29, 1789.
[21. ]Morris, July 1, 1789.
[22. ]July 4, 1789.
[23. ]Mallet-Dupan, Mercure, September 26, 1789.
[24. ]Gouverneur Morris, January 24, 1790; November 22, 1790.
[25. ]Dumont, 33, 58, 62.
[26. ]S. Romilly, “Memoirs,” i. 102. “It was their constant course first, décréter le principe, and leave the drawing up of what they had so resolved (or, as they called it, la rédaction) for a subsequent operation. It is astonishing how great an influence it had on their debates and measures.”—Ibid. i. 354. Letter by Dumont, June 2, 1789. “They prefer their own folly to all the results of British experience. They revolt at the idea of borrowing anything from your government, which is scoffed at here as one of the iniquities of human reason; although they admit that you have two or three good laws; but that you should presume to have a Constitution is not to be sustained.”
[27. ]Dumont, 138, 151.
[28. ]Marmontel, xii. 265.—Ferrières, i. 48; ii. 50, 58, 126.—Dumont, 74.
[29. ]Gouverneur Morris, January 24, 1790. According to Ferrières this party comprised about three hundred members.
[30. ]Dumont, 33, 58, 62.
[31. ]De Lavergne, “Les Assemblées Provinciales,” 384. Deliberations of the States of Dauphiny, drawn up by Mounier and signed by two hundred gentlemen (July, 1788). “The rights of man are derived from nature alone, and are independent of human conventions.”
[32. ]“Rapport de Merlin de Douay,” February 8, 1790, p. 2. Malouet, ii. 51.
[33. ]Dumont, 133. De Monblosier, i. 355, 361.
[34. ]Bertrand de Molleville, ii. 221 (according to a police report).—Schmidt, “Tableaux de la Révolution,” i. 215. (Report of the agent Dutard, May 13, 1793.)—Lacretelle, “Dix Ans d’Épreuves,” p. 35. “It was about midnight when we went out in the rain, sleet, and snow, in the piercing cold, to the church of the Feuillants, to secure places for the galleries of the Assembly, which we were not to occupy till noon on the following day. We were obliged, moreover, to contend for them with a crowd animated by passions, and even by interests, very different from our own. We were not long in perceiving that a considerable part of the galleries was under pay, and that the scenes of cruelty which gave pain to us were joy to them. I cannot express the horror I felt on hearing those women, since called tricoteuses, take a delight in the already homicidal doctrines of Robespierre, enjoying his sharp voice and feasting their eyes on his ugly face, the living type of envy.” (The first months of 1790.)
[35. ]Moniteur, v. 237 (July 26, 1790); v. 594 (September 8, 1790); v. 631 (September 12, 1790); vi. 310 (October 6, 1790). (Letter of the Abbé Peretti.)
[36. ]De Ferrières, ii. 75.—Moniteur, vi. 373, 374 (September 6, 1790).—M. de Virieu. “Those who insult certain members and hinder the freedom of debate by hooting or applause must be silenced. Is it the three hundred spectators who are to be our judges, or the nation?” M. Chasset, President: “Monsieur the Deputy voting, I call you to order. You speak of hindrances to a free vote; there has never been anything of the kind in this Assembly.”
[37. ]Sauzay, i. 140. Letter of M. Lompré, liberal deputy, to M. Séguin, chanoine (towards the 2nd of November, 1789). “The service becomes more difficult every day; we have become objects of popular fury, and, when no other resource was left to us to avoid the tempest but to get rid of the endowments of the clergy, we yielded to force. It had become a pressing necessity, and I should have been sorry to have had you still here, exposed to the outrages and violence with which I have been repeatedly threatened.”
[38. ]Mercure de France, Nos. of January 15, 1791; October 2, 1790; May 14, 1791. Roux and Buchez, v. 343 (April 13, 1790); vii. 76 (September 2, 1790); x. 225 (June 21, 1791).—De Montlosier, i. 357.—Moniteur, iv. 427.
[39. ]Archives of the Police, exposed by the Committee of the district of Saint-Roch. Judgment of the Police Tribunal, May 15, 1790.
[40. ]Malouet, ii. 68.—De Montlosier, ii. 217, 257 (Speech of M. Lavie, September 18, 1791).
[41. ]I.e., members of the old local parlements.
[42. ]Mercure, October 1, 1791. (Article by Mallet-Dupan.)
[43. ]Malouet, ii. 66. “Those only who were not intimidated by insults or threats, nor by actual blows could come forward as opponents.”
[44. ]Roux and Buchez, x. 432, 465.
[45. ]Malouet, ii. 153.
[46. ]Decrees of July 23rd and 28th, 1789.—“Archives Nationales.” Papers of the Committee of Investigation, passim. Among other affairs see that of Madame de Persan (Moniteur, v. 611, sitting of September 9, 1790), and that of Malouet (“Mémoires,” ii. 12).
[47. ]Roux and Buchez, iv. 56 (Report of Garan de Coulon); v. 49 (Decision of the Committee of Investigation, December 28, 1789).
[48. ]The arrests of M. de Riolles, M. de Bussy, &c., of Madame de Jumilhac, of two other ladies, one at Bar-le-Duc and the other at Nancy, &c.
[49. ]Sitting of July 28, 1789, the speeches of Duport and Rewbell, &c.—Mercure, No. of January 1, 1791 (article by Mallet-Dupan).—Roux and Buchez, v. 146. “Behold five or six successive conspiracies—that of the sacks of flour, that of the sacks of money, &c.” (Article by Camille Desmoulins.)
[50. ]“Archives de la Préfecture de Police.” Extract from the registers of the deliberations of the Conseil-Général of the district of Saint-Roch, October 10, 1789: Arrêté: to request Messieurs de la Commune to devote themselves, with all the prudence, activity, and force of which they are capable, to the discovery, exposure, and publication of the horrible plots and infernal treachery which are constantly meditated against the inhabitants of the capital; to denounce to the public the authors, abettors, and adherents of the said plots, whatever their rank may be; to secure their persons and ensure their punishment with all the rigour which outrages of this kind call for.” The commandant of the battalion and the district captains come daily to consult with the committee. “While the alarm lasts, the first story of each house is to be lighted with lamps during the night: all citizens of the district are requested to be at home by ten o’clock in the evening at the latest, unless they should be on duty. . . . All citizens are invited to communicate whatever they may learn or discover in relation to the abominable plots which are secretly going on in the capital.”
[51. ]Letter of M. de Guillermy, July 31, 1790 (“Actes des Apôtres,” v. 56). “During these two nights (July 13th and 14th, 1789) that we remained in session I heard one deputy try to get it believed that an artillery corps had been ordered to point its guns against our hall; another, that it was undermined, and that it was to be blown up; another went so far as to declare that he smelt powder, upon which M. le Comte de Virieu replied that powder had no odour until it was burnt.”
[52. ]Dumont, 351. “Each constitutional law was a party triumph.”