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CHAPTER III - 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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Construction—The Constitution of 1791—I.Powers of the Central Government—The Assembly on the partition of power—Rupture of every tie between the Legislature and the King—The Assembly on the subordination of the executive power—How this is nullified—Certainty of a conflict—The deposition of the King inevitable—II.Administrative powers—The Assembly on the hierarchy—Grades abolished—Collective powers—Election introduced, and the influence of subordinates in all branches of the service—Certainty of disorganization—Power in the hands of municipal bodies—III.The Municipal bodies—Their great task—Their incapacity—Their feeble authority—Insufficiency of their means of action—The rôle of the National Guard—IV.The National Guard as electors—Its great power—Its important task—The work imposed on active citizens—They avoid it—V.The restless minority—Its elements—The clubs—Their ascendency—How they interpret the Rights of Man—Their usurpations and violence—VI.Summary of the work of the Constituent Assembly.
That which is called a Government is a concert of powers, each with a distinct function, and all working towards a final and complete end. The merit of a Government consists in the attainment of this end; the worth of a machine depends upon the work it accomplishes. The important thing is not to produce a good mechanical design on paper, but to see that the machine works well when set up on the ground. In vain might its conductors allege the beauty of their plan and the logical connection of their theorems; they are not required to furnish either plan or theorems, but an implement.—Two conditions are requisite to render this implement serviceable and effective. In the first place, the public powers must harmonize with each other, or one neutralises the other; in the second place they must be obeyed, or they are null. The Constituent Assembly made no provision for securing this harmony or this obedience. In the machine which it constructed the motions all counteract each other; the impulse is not transmitted; the gearing is not complete between the centre and the extremities; the large central and upper wheels turn to no purpose; the innumerable small wheels near the ground break or get out of order: the machine, by virtue of its own mechanism, remains useless, overheated, under clouds of waste steam, creaking and thumping in such a manner as to show clearly that it must explode.
Let us first consider the two central powers, the Assembly and the King.—Ordinarily when distinct powers of different origin are established by a Constitution, it makes provision for an umpire, in case of conflict between them, in the institution of an Upper Chamber. Each of these powers, at least, has a hold on the other. The Assembly must have one on the King, which is the right to refuse taxation; the King must have one on the Assembly, which is the right of dissolving it. Otherwise, one of the two being disarmed, the other becomes omnipotent, and, consequently, insane. The peril here is as great for an omnipotent Assembly as it is for an absolute King. If the former is desirous of remaining in its right mind, it needs repression and control as much as the latter, and, if it be wise for the Assembly to restrain the King by refusing him subsidies, it is wise for him to be able to defend himself by appealing to the electors.—But, besides these extreme measures, which are dangerous and rarely resorted to, there is another which is ordinarily employed and is safe, that is, the right of the King to take his ministers from the Chamber. Generally, the leaders of the majority become the ministry, their nomination being the means of restoring harmony between the King and the Assembly; they are at once men belonging to the Assembly and men belonging to the King. Through this expedient not only is the confidence of the Assembly assured, since the Government remains in the hands of its leaders, but also it is under restraint because these become simultaneously both powerful and responsible. Placed at the head of all branches of the service, they are in a position to judge whether a law is useful and practicable; obliged to put it into execution, they can calculate its effects before proposing it or accepting it. Nothing is so healthy for a majority as a ministry composed of its own chiefs; nothing is so effective in repressing rashness or intemperance. A railway conductor is not willing that his locomotive should be deprived of coal, nor to have the rails he is about to run on broken up.—This arrangement, with all its drawbacks and inconveniences, is the best one yet arrived at by human experience for the security of societies against despotism and anarchy. For the absolute power which founds or rescues them, but which oppresses or exhausts them, there is a gradual substitution of differentiated powers, held together through the mediation of a third party (tiers-arbitre), by reciprocal dependence and an organ which is common to both.
Experience, however, is of no avail with the members of the Constituent Assembly; under the banner of principles they sunder one after another all the ties which should keep the two powers together harmoniously.—There must not be an Upper Chamber, because this would be an asylum or a nursery for aristocrats. Moreover, “the nation being of one mind,” it is averse to “the creation of different organs.” So they go on with theoretical definitions and distinctions, in the application of ready-made formulas and metaphors. The King must not have a hold on the legislative body: the executive is an arm, whose business it is to obey; it is absurd for the arm to constrain or direct the head. Scarcely is the monarch allowed a suspensive veto. Sieyès here enters with his protest declaring that this is a “lettre de cachet launched against the universal will,” and there is excluded from the action of the veto the articles of the Constitution, all money-bills, and some other laws.—Neither the monarch nor the electors of the Assembly are to convoke the Assembly; he has no voice in or oversight of the details of its formation; the electors are to meet together and vote without his summons or supervision. Once the Assembly is elected he can neither adjourn nor dissolve it. He cannot even propose a law;1 permission is only granted to him “to invite it to take a subject into consideration.” He is limited to his executive duties; and still more, a sort of wall is built up between him and the Assembly, and the opening in it, by which each could take the other’s hand, is carefully closed up. The deputies are forbidden to become ministers throughout the term of their service and for two years afterwards: fears are entertained that they might be corrupted through contact with the Court, and, again, whoever the ministers might be, there is no disposition to accept their ascendency.2 If one of them is admitted into the Assembly it is not for the purpose of giving advice, but to furnish information, reply to interrogatories, and make protestations of his zeal in humble terms and in a dubious position.3 By virtue of being a royal agent he is under suspicion like the King himself, and he is sequestered in his bureau as the King is sequestered in his palace.—Such is the spirit of the Constitution: by force of the theory, and the better to secure a separation of the powers,4 a common understanding between them is for ever rendered impossible, and to make up for this impossibility there remains nothing but to make one the master and the other the clerk.
This they did not fail to do, and for greater security, the latter is made an honorary clerk. The executive power is conferred on him nominally and in appearance; he does not possess it in fact, care having been taken to place it in other hands.—In effect, all executive agents and all secondary and local powers are elective. The King has no voice, directly or indirectly, in the choice of judges, public prosecutors, bishops, curés, collectors and assessors of the taxes, commissaries of police, district and departmental administrators, mayors, and municipal officers. At most, should an administrator violate a law, he may annul his acts and suspend him; but the Assembly, the superior power, has the right to cancel this suspension.—As to the armed force, of which he is supposed to be the commander-in-chief, this escapes from him entirely: the National Guard is not to receive orders from him; the gendarmerie and the troops are bound to respond to the requisitions of the municipal authorities, whom the King can neither select nor displace: in short, local action of any kind—that is to say, all effective action—is denied to him.—The executive instrument is purposely destroyed. The connection which existed between the wheels of the extremities and the central shaft is broken, and henceforth, incapable of distributing its energy, this shaft, in the hands of the monarch, stands still or else turns to no purpose. The King, “supreme head of the general administration, of the army, and of the navy, guardian of public peace and order, hereditary representative of the nation,” is without the means, in spite of his lofty titles, of directly applying his pretended powers, of causing a schedule of assessments to be drawn up in a refractory commune, of compelling payment by a delinquent tax-payer, of enforcing the free circulation of a convoy of grain, of executing the judgment of a court, of suppressing an outbreak, or of securing protection to persons and property. For he can bring no constraint to bear on the agents who are declared to be subordinate to him; he has no resources but those of warning and persuasion. He sends to each Departmental Assembly the decrees which he has sanctioned, requesting it to transmit them and cause them to be carried out; he receives its correspondence and bestows his censure or approval—and that is all. He is merely a powerless medium of communication, a herald or public advertiser, a sort of central echo, sonorous and empty, to which news is brought, and from which laws depart, to spread abroad like a common rumour.
Such as he is, and thus diminished, he is still considered to be too strong. He is deprived of the right of pardon, “which severs the last artery of monarchical government.”5 All sorts of precautions are taken against him. He cannot declare war without a decree of the Assembly; he is obliged to bring war to an end on the decree of the Assembly; he cannot make a treaty of peace, an alliance, or a commercial treaty, without the ratification of these by the Assembly. It is expressly declared that he is to nominate but two-thirds of the rear-admirals, one-half of the lieutenant-generals, field-marshals, captains of vessels, and colonels of the gendarmerie, one-third of the colonels and lieutenant-colonels of the line, and a sixth of the naval lieutenants. He must not allow troops to stay or pass within 30,000 yards of the Assembly. His guard must not consist of more than 1,800 men, duly verified, and protected against his seductions by the civil oath. The heir-presumptive must not leave the country without the Assembly’s assent. It is the Assembly which is to regulate by law the education of his son during minority.—All these precautions are accompanied with threats. There are against him five possible causes of dethronement; against his responsible Ministers, eight causes for condemnation to from twelve to twenty years of constraint, and eight grounds for condemnations to death.6 Everywhere between the lines of the Constitution, we read the constant disposition to assume an attitude of defence, the secret dread of treachery, the conviction that executive power, of whatever kind, is in its nature inimical to the public welfare.—For withholding the nomination of judges, the reason alleged is that “the Court and the Ministers are the most contemptible portion of the nation.”7 If the nomination of Ministers is conceded, it is on the ground that “Ministers appointed by the people would necessarily be too highly esteemed.” The principle is that “the legislative body alone must possess the confidence of the people,” that royal authority corrupts its depository, and that executive power is always tempted to commit abuses and to engage in conspiracies. If it is provided for in the Constitution it is with regret, through the necessity of the case, and on the condition of its being trammelled by impediments; it will prove so much the less baneful in proportion as it is restrained, guarded, threatened, and denounced.—A position of this kind is manifestly intolerable; and only a man as passive as Louis XVI. could have put up with it. Do what he will, however, he cannot make it a tenable one. In vain does he scrupulously adhere to the Constitution, and fulfil it to the letter. Because he is powerless the Assembly regards him as lukewarm, and imputes to him the jarrings of the machine which is not under his control. If he presumes once to exercise his veto it is rebellion, and the rebellion of an official against his superior, which is the Assembly; the rebellion of a subject against his Sovereign, which is the people. In this case dethronement is proper, and the Assembly has only to pass the decree; the people have simply to execute the act, and the Constitution ends in a Revolution.—A piece of machinery of this stamp breaks down through its own movement. In conformity with the philosophic theory the two wheels of government must be separated, and to do this they have to be disconnected and isolated one from the other. In conformity with the popular creed, the driving-wheel must be subordinated and its influence neutralised: to do this it is necessary to reduce its energy to a minimum, break up its connections, and raise it up in the air to turn round like a top, or to remain there as an obstacle to something else. It is certain that, after much ill-usage as a plaything, it will finally be removed as a hindrance.
Let us leave the centre for the extremities, and observe the various administrations in working operation.8 —For any service to work well and with precision, there must first be one head, and, next, this head should have the appointment of his subordinates and be empowered to pay, punish, or dismiss them. For, on the one hand, he stands alone and feels his responsibility; he brings to bear on the management of affairs a degree of attention and consistency, a tact and a power of initiation of which a set of commissioners are incapable; corporate follies or defects do not involve any one in particular, and authority is efficacious only when it is in one hand. On the other hand, being master, he can rely on the subalterns whom he has himself selected, whom he controls through their hopes or fears, and whom he discharges if they do not perform their duties; otherwise he has no hold on them and they are not instruments to be depended on. Only on these conditions can a railway manager be sure that his pointsmen are at their posts. Only on these conditions can the foreman of a foundry engage to execute work by a given day. In every public or private enterprise, direct, immediate authority is the only known, the only human and possible way to ensure the obedience and punctuality of agents.—Administration is thus carried on in all countries, by one or several series of functionaries, each under some central manager who holds the reins in his single grasp.
This is all reversed in the new Constitution. In the eyes of our legislators obedience must be spontaneous and never compulsory, and, in the suppression of despotism, they suppress government. The general rule in the hierarchy which they establish is that the subordinates should be independent of their superior, for he must neither appoint nor displace them: the only right he has is to give them advice and remonstrate with them. At best, in certain cases, he can annul their acts and inflict on them a provisional suspension of their functions, which can be contested and is revocable. We see, thus, that none of the local powers are delegated by the central power; the latter is simply like a man without either hands or arms, seated in a gilt chair. The Minister of the Finances cannot appoint or dismiss either an assessor or a collector; the Minister of the Interior, not one of the departmental, district, or communal administrators; the Minister of Justice, not one judge or public prosecutor. The King, in these three branches of the service, has but one officer of his own, the commissioner whose duty it is to advocate the observance of the laws in the courts, and, on sentence being given, to enforce its execution.—All the muscles of the central power are paralyzed by this stroke, and henceforth each department is a State apart, living by itself.
A like amputation, however, in the department itself, has cut away all the ties by which the superior could control and direct his subordinate.—If the administrators of the department are suffered to act on those of the district, and those of the district on those of the municipality, it is only, again, in the way of council and solicitation. Nowhere is the superior a commander who orders and constrains, but everywhere a censor who gives warning and scolds. To render this already feeble authority still more feeble at each step of the hierarchy, it is divided among several bodies. These consist of superposed councils, which administer the department, the district, and the commune. There is no directing head in any of these councils. Permanency and executive functions throughout are vested in directories of four or eight members, or in bureaux of two, three, four, six, and seven members whose elected chief, a president or mayor,9 has simply an honorary primacy. Decision and action, everywhere blunted, delayed, or curtailed by talk and the processes of discussion, are brought forth only after the difficult, tumultuous assent of several discordant wills. Elective and collective as these powers are, measures are still taken to guard against them. Not only are they subject to the control of an elected council, one-half renewable every two years, but, again, the mayor and public prosecutor of the commune after serving four years, and the procureur-syndic of the department or district after eight years’ service, and the district collector after six years’ service, are not reelected. Should these officials have deserved and won the confidence of the electors, should familiarity with affairs have made them specially competent and valuable, so much the worse for affairs and the public; they are not to be anchored to their post. Should their continuance in office introduce into the service a spirit of order and economy, that is of no consequence; there is danger of their acquiring too much influence, and the law sends them off as soon as they become expert and entitled to rule.—Never has jealousy and suspicion been more on the alert against power, even legal and legitimate. Sapping and mining goes on even in services which are recognised as essential, as the army and the gendarmerie.10 In the army, on the appointment of a noncommissioned officer, the other noncommissioned officers make up a list of candidates, and the captain selects three, one of whom is chosen by the colonel. In the choice of a sublieutenant, all the officers of the regiment vote, and he who receives a majority is appointed. In the gendarmerie, for the appointment of a gendarme, the directory of the department forms a list; the colonel designates five names on it, and the directory selects one of them. For the choice of a brigadier, quartermaster, or lieutenant, there is, besides the directory and the colonel, another intervention, that of the officers, both commissioned and noncommissioned. It is a system of elective complications and lot-drawings; one which, giving a voice in the choice of officers to the civil authorities and to military subordinates, leaves the colonel with only a third or one-quarter of his former ascendancy. In relation to the National Guard, the new principle is applied without any reservation. All the officers and underofficers up to the grade of captain are elected by their own men. All the superior officers are elected by the inferior officers. All underofficers and all inferior and superior officers are elected for one year only, and are not eligible for reelection until after an interval of a year, during which they must serve in the ranks.11 —The result is manifest: command, in every civil and in every military order, becomes enervated; subalterns are no longer precise and trustworthy instruments; the chief no longer has any practical hold on them; his orders, consequently, encounter only tame obedience, doubtful deference, sometimes even open resistance; their execution remains dilatory, uncertain, incomplete, and at length is utterly neglected; a latent and soon flagrant system of disorganization is instituted by the law.
Step by step, in the hierarchy of Government, power has slipped downwards, and henceforth belongs by virtue of the Constitution to the authorities who sit at the bottom of the ladder. It is not the King, or the minister, or the directory of the department or of the district who rules, but its municipal officers; and their sway is as omnipotent as it can be in a small independent republic. They alone have the “strong hand” with which to search the pockets of refractory tax-payers, and ensure the collection of the revenue; to seize the rioter by the throat, and protect life and property; in short, to convert the promises and menaces of the law into acts. Every armed force, the National Guard, the regulars, and the gendarmerie, must march on their requisition. They alone, among the body of administrators, are endowed with this sovereign right; all that the department or the district can do is to invite them to exercise it. It is they who proclaim martial law. Accordingly, the sword is in their hands.12 Assisted by commissioners who are appointed by the council-general of the commune, they prepare the schedule of taxation of real and personal property, fix the quota of each tax-payer, adjust assessments, verify the registers and the collector’s receipts, audit his accounts, discharge insolvents, answer for returns, and authorise prosecutions.13 Private purses are, in this way, at their mercy, and they take from them whatever they determine to belong to the public.—With the purse and the sword in their hands they lack nothing that is necessary to make them masters, and all the more because the application of every law belongs to them; because no orders of the Assembly to the King, of the King to the ministers, of ministers to the departments, of departments to the districts, of the districts to the communes, brings about any real local result except through them; because each measure of general application undergoes their special interpretation, and can always be optionally disfigured, softened, or exaggerated according to their timidity, inertia, violence, or partiality. Moreover, they are not long in discovering their strength. We see them on all sides arguing with their superiors against district, departmental, and ministerial orders, and even against the Assembly itself, alleging circumstances, lack of means, their own danger, and the public safety, failing to obey, acting for themselves, openly disobeying and glorying in the act,14 and claiming, as a right, the omnipotence which they exercise in point of fact. Those of Troyes, at the festival of the Federation, refuse to submit to the precedence of the department and claim it for themselves, as “immediate representatives of the people.” Those of Brest, notwithstanding the reiterated prohibitions of their district, dispatch four hundred men and two cannon to force the submission of a neighbouring commune to a curé who has taken the oath. Those of Arnay-le-Duc arrest Mesdames (the King’s aunts), in spite of their passport signed by the ministers, hold them in spite of departmental and district orders, persist in barring the way to them in spite of a special decree of the National Assembly, and send two deputies to Paris to obtain the sanction of their decision. What with arsenals pillaged, citadels invaded, convoys arrested, couriers stopped, letters intercepted, constant and increasing insubordination, usurpations without truce or measure, the municipalities arrogate to themselves every species of license on their own territory and frequently outside of it. Henceforth, forty thousand sovereign bodies exist in the kingdom. Force is placed in their hands, and they make good use of it. They make such good use of it that one of them, the commune of Paris, taking advantage of its proximity, lays siege to, mutilates, and rules the National Convention, and through it France.
Let us follow these municipal kings into their own domain: the burden on their shoulders is immense, and much beyond what human strength can support. All the details of executive duty are confided to them; they have not to busy themselves with a petty routine, but with a complete social system which is being taken to pieces, while another is reconstructed in its place.—They are in possession of four milliards of ecclesiastical property, real and personal, and soon there will be two and a half milliards of property belonging to the emigrants, which must be sequestered, valued, managed, inventoried, divided, sold, and the proceeds received. They have seven or eight thousand monks and thirty thousand nuns to displace, install, sanction, and provide for. They have forty-six thousand ecclesiastics, bishops, canons, curés, and vicars, to dispossess, replace, often by force, and later on to expel, intern, imprison, and support. They are obliged to discuss, trace out, teach, and make public new territorial boundaries, those of the commune, of the district, and of the department. They have to convoke, lodge, and protect the numerous primary and secondary Assemblies, to supervise their operations, which sometimes last for weeks; to install those elected by them, justices of the peace, officers of the National Guard, judges, public prosecutors, curés, bishops, district and departmental administrators. They are to form new lists of tax-payers, apportion amongst themselves, according to a new system of impost, entirely new real and personal taxes, decide on claims, appoint an assessor, regularly audit his accounts and verify his books, aid him with force, use force in the collection of the excise and salt duties, which being reduced, equalised, and transformed in vain by the National Assembly, afford no returns in spite of its decrees. They are obliged to find the funds for dressing, equipping, and arming the National Guard, to step in between it and the military commanders, and to maintain concord between its diverse battalions. They have to protect forests from pillage, communal land from being invaded, to maintain the octroi, to protect former functionaries, ecclesiastics, and nobles, suspected and threatened, and, above all, to provide, no matter how, provisions for the commune which lacks food, and consequently, to raise subscriptions, negotiate purchases at a distance and even abroad, organize escorts, indemnify bakers, supply the market every week notwithstanding the dearth, the insecurity of roads, and the resistance of cultivators.—Even an absolute chief, sent from a distance and from high place, the most energetic and expert possible, supported by the best-disciplined and most obedient troops, would scarcely succeed in such an undertaking; and there is instead only a municipality which has neither the authority, the means, the experience, the capacity, nor the will.
In the country, says an orator in the tribune,15 “the municipal officers, in twenty thousand out of forty thousand municipalities, do not know how to read or write.” The curé, in effect, is excluded from such offices by law, and, save in La Vendée, the noble is excluded by public opinion. Besides, in many of the provinces, nothing but patois is spoken;16 the French tongue, especially the philosophic and abstract phraseology of the new laws and proclamations, remains gibberish to their inhabitants. They cannot possibly understand and apply the complicated decrees and fine-spun instructions which reach them from Paris. They hurry off to the towns, get the duties of the office imposed on them explained and commented on in detail, try to comprehend, imagine they do, and then, the following week, come back again without having understood anything, either the mode of keeping state registers, the distinction between feudal rights which are abolished and those retained, the regulations they should enforce in cases of election, the limits which the law imposes as to their powers and subordination. Nothing of all this finds its way into their rude, untrained brains; instead of a peasant who has just left his oxen, there is needed here a legal adept aided by a trained clerk.—Prudential considerations must be added to their ignorance. They do not wish to make enemies for themselves in their commune, and they abstain from any positive action, especially in all tax matters. Nine months after the decree on the patriotic contribution, “twenty-eight thousand municipalities are behindhand, not having (yet) returned either rolls or estimates.”17 At the end of January, 1792, “out of forty thousand nine hundred and eleven municipalities, only five thousand four hundred and forty-eight have deposited their registers; two thousand five hundred and eighty rolls only are definitive and in process of collection. A large number have not even begun their sectional statements.”18 —It is much worse when, thinking that they do understand it, they undertake to do their work. In their minds, incapable of abstraction, the law is transformed and deformed by extraordinary interpretations. We shall see what it becomes when it is brought to bear on feudal dues, on the forests, on communal rights, on the circulation of corn, on the taxes on provisions, on the supervision of the aristocrats, and on the protection of persons and property. According to them, it authorises and invites them to do by force, and at once, whatever they need or desire for the time being.—The municipal officers of the large boroughs and towns, more acute and often able to comprehend the decrees, are scarcely in a better condition to carry them out effectually. They are undoubtedly intelligent, inspired by the best disposition, and zealous for the public welfare. During the first two years of the Revolution it is, on the whole, the best informed and most liberal portion of the bourgeoisie which, in the department as in the district, undertakes the management of affairs. Almost all are men of the law, advocates, notaries, and attorneys, with a small number of the old privileged class imbued with the same spirit, a canon at Besançon, a gentleman at Nismes. Their intentions are of the very best; they love order and liberty, they give their time and their money, they hold permanent sessions and accomplish an incredible amount of work, and they often voluntarily expose themselves to great danger.—But they are bourgeois philosophers, and, in this latter particular, similar to their deputies in the National Assembly, and, with this twofold character, as incapable as their deputies of governing a disintegrated nation. In this twofold character they are ill-disposed towards the ancient régime, hostile to Catholicism and feudal rights, unfavourable to the clergy and the nobility, inclined to extend the bearing and exaggerate the rigour of recent decrees, partisans of the rights of man, and, therefore, humanitarians and optimists, disposed to excuse the misdoings of the people, hesitating, tardy and often timid in the face of an outbreak—in short, admirable writers, exhorters, and reformers, but good for nothing when it comes to breaking heads and risking their own bones. They have not been brought up in such a way as to become men of action in a single day. Up to this time they have always lived as passive administrators, as quiet individuals, as studious men and clerks, domesticated, conversational, and polished, to whom words concealed facts, and who, on their evening promenade, warmly discussed important principles of government, without any consciousness of the practical machinery which, with a police-system for its ultimate wheel, rendered themselves, their promenade, and their conversation perfectly secure. They are not imbued with that sentiment of social danger which produces the veritable chief, the man who subordinates the emotions of pity to the exigences of the public service. They are not aware that it is better to mow down a hundred conscientious citizens rather than let them hang a culprit without a trial. Repression, in their hands, is neither prompt, rigid, nor constant. They continue to be in the Hôtel-de-Ville what they were when they went into it, so many legists and scribes, fruitful in proclamations, reports, and correspondence. Such is wholly their rôle, and, if any amongst them, with more energy, desires to depart from it, he has no hold on the commune which, according to the Constitution, he has to direct, and on that armed force which is intrusted to him with a view to ensure the observance of the laws.
To ensure respect for authority, indeed, it must not spring up on the spot and under the hands of its subordinates. It loses its prestige and independence when those who create it are precisely those who have to submit to it. For, in submitting to it, they remember that they have created it. This or that candidate among them who has but lately solicited their suffrages is now a magistrate who issues orders, and this sudden transformation is their work. It is with difficulty that they pass from the rôle of sovereign electors to that of docile subjects of the administration, and recognise a commander in one of their own creatures. On the contrary, they will submit to his control only in their own fashion, reserving to themselves in practice the powers the right to which they have conferred on him. “We gave him his place, and he must do as we want him to do”—which popular reasoning is the most natural in the world. It is as applicable to the municipal officer wearing his scarf as to the officer in the National Guard wearing his epaulettes; the former as well as the latter being conferred by the arbitrary voice of the electors, and always seeming to them a gift which is revocable at their pleasure. The superior always, and more particularly in times of danger or of great public excitement, seems, if directly appointed by those whom he commands, to be their clerk.—Such is municipal authority at this epoch, intermittent, uncertain, and weak; and all the weaker because the sword, whose hilt the men of the Hôtel-de-Ville seem to hold, does not always leave its scabbard at their bidding. They alone are empowered to summon the National Guard, but it does not depend on them, and it is not at their disposal. To obtain its support it is needful that its independent chiefs should be willing to respond to their requisition; that the men should willingly obey their elected officers; that these improvised soldiers should consent to quit their ploughs, their stores, their workshops and offices, to lose their day, to patrol the streets at night, to be pelted with stones, to fire on a riotous crowd whose enmities and prejudices they often share. Undoubtedly, they will fire on some occasions, but generally they will remain quiet, with their arms at rest; and, at last, they will grow weary of a trying, dangerous, and constant service, which is disagreeable to them, and for which they are not fitted. They will not answer the summons, or, if they do, they will come too late, and in too small a number. In this event, the regulars who are sent for, will do as they do and remain quiet, following their example, while the municipal magistrate, into whose hands the sword has glided, will be able to do no more than make grievous reports, to his superiors of the department or district, concerning the popular violence of which he is a powerless witness.—In other cases, and especially in the country, his condition is worse. The National Guard, preceded by its drums, will come and take him off to the town hall to authorise by his presence, and to legalise by his orders, the outrages that it is about to commit. He marches along seized by the collar, and affixes his signature at the point of the bayonet. In this case not only is his instrument taken away from him, but it is turned against himself. Instead of holding it by the hilt, he feels the point: the armed force which he ought to make use of makes use of him.
Behold, accordingly, the true sovereign, the elector, both National Guard and voter. This is the King desired by the Constitution; there he is, in every hierarchical stage, with his suffrage, with which to delegate authority, and his gun to assure its exercise.—Through his free choice he creates all local powers, intermediary, central, legislative, administrative, ecclesiastical, and judiciary. He appoints directly, and in the primary assemblies, the mayor, the municipal board, the public prosecutor and council of the commune, the justice of the peace and his assessors, and the electors of second degree. Indirectly, and through these elected electors, he appoints the administrators and procureurs-syndics of both district and department, the civil and criminal judges, the public prosecutor, bishops, and curés, the members of the National Assembly, and jurors of the higher National Court.19 All these commissions which he issues are of short date, the principal ones, those of municipal officer, elector, and deputy, having but two years to run; at the end of this brief term their recipients are again subject to his vote, in order that, if he is displeased with them, he may replace them by others. He must not be fettered in his choice; in every well-conducted establishment the legitimate proprietor must be free easily and frequently to renew his staff of clerks. He is the only one in whom confidence can be placed, and, for greater security, all arms are given up to him. When his clerks wish to employ force he is the one to place it at their disposal. Whatever he desired as elector he executes as National Guard. On two occasions he interferes, both times in a decisive manner; and his control over the legal powers is irresistible because these are born out of his vote and are obeyed only through his support.—But these rights are, at the same time, burdens. The Constitution describes him as an “active citizen,” and this he eminently is or should be, since public action begins and ends with him, since everything depends on his zeal and capacity, since the machine is good and only works well in proportion to his discernment, punctuality, calmness, firmness, discipline at the polls, and in the ranks. The law requires his services incessantly day and night, in body and mind, as gendarme and as elector.—How burdensome this service of gendarme must be, can be judged of by the number of riots. How burdensome that of elector must be, the list of elections will show.
In February, March, April, and May, 1789, there are prolonged parish meetings, for the purpose of choosing electors and writing out grievances, also bailiwick meetings of still longer duration to choose deputies and draw up the memorial. During the months of July and August, 1789, there are spontaneous gatherings to elect or confirm the municipal bodies; other spontaneous meetings by which the militia is formed and officered; and then, following these, constant meetings of this same militia to fuse themselves into a National Guard, to renew officers and appoint deputies to the federative assemblies. In December, 1789, and January, 1790, there are primary meetings, to elect municipal officers and their councils. In May, 1790, there are primary and secondary meetings, to appoint district and departmental administrators. In October, 1790, there are primary meetings, to elect the justice of the peace and his assessors, also secondary meetings, to elect the district courts. In November, 1790, there are primary meetings, to renew one-half of the municipal bodies. In February and March, 1791, there are secondary meetings, to nominate the bishop and curés. In June, July, August, September, 1791, there are primary and secondary meetings, to renew one-half of the district and departmental administrators, to nominate the president, the public prosecutor, and the clerk of the criminal court, and to choose deputies. In November, 1791, there are primary meetings to renew one-half of the municipal council. Observe that many of these elections drag along because the voters lack experience, because the formalities are complicated, and because opinions are divided. In August and September, 1791, at Tours, they are prolonged for thirteen days;20 at Troyes, in January, 1790, instead of three days they last for three weeks; at Paris, in September and October, 1791, only for the purpose of choosing deputies, they last for thirty-seven days; in many places their proceedings are contested, annulled, and begun over again. To these universal gatherings, which put all France in motion, we must add the local gatherings by which a commune approves or gainsays its municipal officers, makes claims on the department, on the King, or on the Assembly, demands the maintenance of its curé, the provisioning of its market, the arrival or dispatch of a military detachment—and think of all that these meetings, petitions, and nominations presuppose in the way of preparatory committees and preliminary meetings and debates! Every public representation begins with rehearsals in secret session. In the choice of a candidate, and, above all, of a list of candidates; in the appointment in each commune of from three to twenty-one municipal officers, and from six to forty-two notables; in the selection of twelve district administrators and thirty-six departmental administrators, especially as the list must be of a double length and contain twice as many officers as there are places to fill, immediate agreement is impossible. In every important election the electors are sure to be in a state of agitation a month beforehand, while four weeks of discussion and caucus is not too much to give to inquiries about candidates, and to canvassing voters. Let us add, accordingly, this long preface to each of the elections, so long and so often repeated, and now sum up the mass of these disarrangements and disturbances, all this loss of time, all the labour which the process demands. Each convocation of the primary assemblies summons to the town-hall or principal town of the canton, for one or for several days, about three million five hundred thousand electors of the first degree. Each convocation of the assemblies of the second class compels the attendance and sojourn at the principal town of the department, and again in the principal town of the district, of about three hundred and fifty thousand elected electors. Each revision or reelection in the National Guard gathers together on the public square, or subjects to roll-call at the town-hall, three or four millions of National Guards. Each federation, after exacting the same gathering or the same roll-call, sends delegates by hundreds of thousands to the principal towns of the districts and departments, and tens of thousands to Paris.—The powers thus instituted at the cost of so great an effort, require an equal effort to make them work; one branch alone of the administration21 keeps two thousand nine hundred and eighty-eight officials busy in the departments, six thousand nine hundred and fifty in the districts, one million one hundred and seventy-five thousand in the communes—in all, nearly one million two hundred thousand administrators, whose places, as we have seen above, are no sinecures. Never did a political machine require so prodigious an expenditure of force to set it up and keep it in motion. In the United States, where it is now deranged by its own action, it has been estimated that, to meet the intentions of the law and keep each wheel in its proper place, it would be necessary for each citizen to give one whole day in each week, or one-sixth of his time, to public business. In France, under the newly adopted system, where disorder is universal, where the duty of National Guard is added to and complicates that of elector and administrator, I estimate that two days would be necessary. This is what the Constitution comes to, this is its essential and supreme requirement: each active citizen has to give up one-third of his time to public affairs.
Now, these twelve hundred thousand administrators and three or four million electors and National Guards, are just the men in France who have the least leisure. The class of active citizens, indeed, comprises about all the men who labour with their hands or with their heads. The law exempts only domestics devoted to personal service or common labourers who, possessing no property or income, earn less than twenty-one sous a day. Every journeyman-miller, the smallest farmer, every village proprietor of a cottage or of a vegetable-garden, any ordinary workman, votes at the primary meetings, and may become a municipal officer. Again, if he pays ten francs a year direct tax, if he is a farmer or yeoman on any property which brings him in four hundred francs, if his rent is one hundred and fifty francs, he may become an elected elector and an administrator of the district or department. According to this standard the eligible are innumerable; in Doubs, in 1780,22 they form two-thirds of the active citizens. Thus, the way to office is open to all, or almost all, and the law has taken no precaution whatever to reserve or provide places for the élite, who could best fill them. On the contrary, the nobles, the ecclesiastical dignitaries, the members of the parliaments, the grand functionaries of the ancient régime, the upper class of the bourgeoisie, almost all the rich who possess leisure, are practically excluded from the elections by violence, and from the various offices by public opinion: they soon retire into private life, and, through discouragement or disgust, through monarchical or religious scruples, abandon entirely a public career.—The burden of the new system falls, accordingly, on the most occupied portion of the community: on merchants, manufacturers, agents of the law, employés, shopkeepers, artisans, and cultivators. They are the people who must give up one-third of their time already appropriated, neglect private for public business, leave their harvests, their bench, their shop, or their briefs to escort convoys and patrol the highways, to run off to the principal town of the canton, district, or department, and stay and sit there in the town-hall,23 subject to a deluge of phrases and papers, conscious that they are forced to gratuitous drudgery, and that this drudgery is of little advantage to the public.—For the first six months they do it with a good grace; their zeal in penning memorials, in providing themselves with arms against “brigands,” and in suppressing taxes, rents, and tithes, is active enough. But now that this much is obtained or extorted, decreed as a right, or accomplished in fact, they must not be further disturbed. They need the whole of their time: they have their crops to get in, their customers to serve, their orders to give, their books to make up, their credits to adjust, all which are urgent matters, and neither ought to be neglected or interrupted. Under the lash of necessity and of the crisis they have done a heavy piece of collar-work, and, if we take their word for it, they hauled the public cart out of the mud; but they had no idea of putting themselves permanently in harness to drag it along themselves. Confined as this class has been for centuries to private life, each has his own wheelbarrow to trundle along, and it is for this, before all and above all, that he holds himself responsible. From the beginning of the year 1790 the returns of the votes taken show that as many are absent as present; at Besançon there are only nine hundred and fifty-nine voters out of thirty-two hundred inscribed; four months after this more than one-half of the electors fail to come to the polls;24 and throughout France, even at Paris, the indifference to voting keeps on increasing. Puppets of such an administration as that of Louis XV. and Louis XVI. do not become Florentine or Athenian citizens in a single night. The hearts and heads of three or four millions of men are not suddenly endowed with faculties and habits which render them capable of diverting one-third of their energies to work which is new, disproportionate, gratuitous, and supererogatory.—A fallacy of measureless falsehood lies at the basis of the political combinations of the day and those of the next ten years. Arbitrarily, and without examining it, a certain weight and a certain power of resistance are attributed to the human metal employed. It is found on trial to have ten times less resistance and twenty times more weight than was supposed.
In default of the majority, who shirk their responsibilities, it is the minority which does the work and assumes the power. The majority having resigned, the minority becomes sovereign, and public business, abandoned by the hesitating, weak, and absent multitude, falls into the hands of the resolute, energetic, ever-present few who find the leisure and the disposition to assume the responsibility. In a system in which all offices are elective, and in which elections are frequent, politics becomes a profession for those who subordinate their private interests to it, and who find it of personal advantage; every village contains five or six men of this class, every borough twenty or thirty, every town its hundreds, and Paris its many thousands.25 These are the veritable active citizens. They alone give all their time and attention to public matters, correspond with the newspapers and with the deputies at Paris, receive and spread abroad the party-cry on every important question, hold caucuses, get up meetings, make motions, draw up addresses, overlook, rebuke, or denounce the local magistrates, form themselves into committees, publish and push candidates, and go into the suburbs and the country to canvass for votes. They hold the power in recompense for their labour, for they manage the elections, and are elected to office or provided with places by the successful candidates. There is a prodigious number of these offices and places, not only those of officers of the National Guard and the administrators of the commune, the district, and the department, whose duties are gratuitous, or little short of it, but a quantity of others which are paid26 —eighty-three bishops, seven hundred and fifty deputies, four hundred criminal judges, three thousand and seven civil judges, five thousand justices of the peace, twenty thousand assessors, forty thousand communal collectors, forty-six thousand curés, without counting the accessory or insignificant places which exist by tens and hundreds of thousands, from secretaries, clerks, bailiffs, and notaries, to gendarmes, constables, office-clerks, beadles, grave-diggers, and keepers of sequestered goods. The pasture is vast for the ambitious; it is not small for the needy, and they seize upon it.—Such is the rule in pure democracies: hence the swarm of politicians in the United States. When the law incessantly calls all citizens to political action, there are only a few who devote themselves to it; these become experts in this particular work, and, consequently, preponderant. But they must be paid for their trouble, and the election secures to them their places because they manage the elections.
Two sorts of men furnish the recruits for this dominant minority: on the one hand the enthusiasts, and on the other those who have no social position. Towards the end of 1789, moderate people, who are minding their own business, retire into privacy, and are daily less disposed to show themselves. The public square is occupied by others who, through zeal and political passion, abandon their pursuits, and by those who, finding themselves hampered in their social sphere, or repelled from ordinary circles, were merely awaiting a new opening to take a fresh start. In these utopian and revolutionary times, there is no lack of either class. Flung out by handfuls, the dogma of popular sovereignty falls around like so much seed scattered broadcast, vegetating in the heated brains, in the narrow and rash minds which, once possessed by an idea, adhere to it and are mastered by it. It falls amongst a class of reasoners who, starting from a principle, dash forward like a horse who has had blinders put on; and this is especially the case with the legal class, whose profession accustoms them to deductions; nor less with the village attorney, the unfrocked monk, the “intruding” and excommunicated curé, and above all, the journalist and the local orator, who, for the first time in his life, finds that he has an audience, applause, influence, and a future before him. These are the only people who can do the complicated and constant work which the new Constitution calls for; for they are the only men whose desires are unlimited, whose dreams are coherent, whose doctrine is explicit, whose enthusiasm is contagious, who cherish no scruples, and whose presumption is unbounded. Thus has the rigid will been wrought and tempered within them, the inward spring of energy which, being daily more tightly wound up, urges them on to propagandism and to action.—During the second half of the year 1790 we see them everywhere following the example of the Paris Jacobins, styling themselves friends of the Constitution, and grouping themselves together in popular associations. Each town and village gives birth to a club of patriots who regularly every evening, or several times a week, meet “for the purpose of cooperating for the safety of the commonwealth.”27 This is a new and spontaneous organ, an excrescence and a parasite, which develops itself in the social body alongside of its legal organizations. Its growth insensibly increases, attracting to itself the substance of the others, employing them for its own ends, substituting itself for them, acting by and for itself alone, a sort of omnivorous outgrowth the encroachment of which is irresistible, not only because circumstances and the working of the Constitution nourish it, but also because its germ, deposited at a great depth, is a living portion of the Constitution itself.
For, placed at the head of the Constitution, as well as of the decrees which are attached to it, stands the Declaration of the Rights of Man.—According to this, and by the avowal of the legislators themselves, there are two parts to be distinguished in the law, the one superior, eternal, inviolable, which is the self-evident principle, and the other inferior, temporary, and open to discussion, which comprehends more or less exact or erroneous applications of this principle. No application of the law is valid if it derogates from the principle. No institution or authority is entitled to obedience if it is opposed to the rights which it aims to guarantee. These sacred rights, anterior to all society, take precedence of every social convention, and whenever we would know if a legal order is legitimate, we have merely to ascertain if it is in conformity with natural right. Let us, accordingly, in every doubtful or difficult case, refer to this philosophic gospel, to this incontestable catechism, this primordial creed proclaimed by the National Assembly.—The National Assembly itself invites us to do so. For it announces that “ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole causes of public misfortune, and of the corruption of governments.” It declares that “the object of every political association is the preservation of natural and imprescriptible rights.” It enunciates them, “in order that the acts of legislative power and the acts of executive power may at once be compared with the purpose of every political institution.” It desires “that every member of the social body should have its declaration constantly in mind.”—Thus we are told to control all acts of application by the principle, and also we are provided with the rule by which we may and should accord, measure, or even refuse our submission to, deference for, and toleration of established institutions and legal authority.
What are these superior rights, and, in case of dispute, who will decide as arbitrator? There is nothing here like the precise declarations of the American Constitution,28 those positive prescriptions which serve to sustain a judicial appeal, those express prohibitions which prevent beforehand certain species of laws from being passed, which prescribe limits to public powers, which mark out the province not to be invaded by the State because it is reserved to the individual.
On the contrary, in the declaration of the National Assembly, most of the articles are abstract dogmas, metaphysical definitions, more or less literary axioms, that is to say, more or less false, now vague and now contradictory, open to various interpretations and to opposite constructions, good for platform display but bad in practice, mere stage effect, a sort of pompous standard, useless and heavy, which, hoisted in front of the Constitutional house and shaken every day by violent hands, cannot fail soon to tumble on the heads of the passers-by.29 Nothing is done to ward off this visible danger. There is nothing here like that Supreme Court which, in the United States, guards the Constitution even against its Congress, and which, in the name of the Constitution, actually invalidates a law, even when it has passed through all formalities and been voted on by all the powers; which listens to the complaints of the individual affected by an unconstitutional law; which stays the sheriff’s or collector’s hand raised against him, and which above their heads gives judgment on his interests and wrongs. Ill-defined and discordant laws are proclaimed without any provision being made for their interpretation, application, or sanction. No means are taken to have them specially expounded. No district tribunal is assigned to consider the claims which grow out of them, to put an end to litigation legally, peacefully, on a last appeal, and through a final decision which becomes a precedent and fixes the loose sense of the text. All this is made the duty of everybody, that is to say of those who are disposed to charge themselves with it—in other words, the active minority in council assembled.—Thus, in each town or village it is the local club which, by the authorisation of the legislator himself, becomes the champion, judge, interpreter, and administrator of the rights of man, and which, in the name of these superior rights, may protest or rebel, as it seems best, not only against the legitimate acts of legal powers, but also against the authentic text of the Constitution and the Laws.
Consider, indeed, these rights as they are proclaimed, along with the commentary of the haranguer who expounds them at the club before an audience of heated and daring spirits, or in the street to the rude and fanatical multitude. Every article in the Declaration is a dagger pointed at human society, and the handle has only to be pressed to make the blade enter the flesh.30 Among “these natural and imprescriptible rights” the legislator has placed “resistance to oppression.” We are oppressed: let us resist and take up arms. According to this legislator, “society has the right to bring every public agent of the Administration to account.” Let us away to the Hôtel-de-Ville, and interrogate our lukewarm or suspected magistrates, and watch their sessions to see if they prosecute priests and disarm the aristocrats; let us stop their intrigues against the people; let us force these slow clerks to hasten their steps.—According to this legislator “all citizens have the right to take part in person, or through their representatives, in the formation of the law.” There must thus be no more electors privileged by their payment of a three-franc tax. Down with the new aristocracy of active citizens! Let us restore to the two millions of proletaires the right of suffrage, of which the Constitution has unjustly defrauded them!—According to this legislator, “men are born and remain free, and equal in their rights.” Consequently, let no one be excluded from the National Guard; let everybody, even the pauper, have some kind of weapon, a pike or gun, to defend his freedom!—In the very terms of the Declaration “there is no longer hereditary right to any public office.” Hereditary royalty is therefore illegitimate; let us go to the Tuileries and overthrow the throne! In the very terms of the Declaration “the law is the expression of the universal will.” Listen to these clamours in the open streets, to these petitions flowing in from the towns on all sides; behold the universal will, the living law which abolishes the written law! On the strength of this the leaders of a few clubs in Paris are to depose the King, to violate the Legislative Assembly and decimate the National Convention.—In other terms, the turbulent, factious minority is to supplant the sovereign nation, and henceforth there is nothing to hinder it from doing what it pleases just when it pleases. The operation of the Constitution has given to it the reality of power, while the preamble of the Constitution clothes it with the semblance of right.
Such is the work of the Constituent Assembly. In several of its laws, especially those which relate to private interests, in the institution of civil regulations, in the penal and rural codes,31 in the first attempts at, and the promise of, a uniform civil code, in the enunciation of a few simple regulations regarding taxation, procedure, and administration, it planted good seed. But in all that relates to political institutions and social organization its proceedings are those of an academy of Utopians, and not those of practical legislators.—On the sick body intrusted to it, it performed amputations which were as useless as they were excessive, and applied bandages as inadequate as they were injurious. With the exception of two or three restrictions admitted inadvertently, and the maintenance of the show of royalty, also the obligation of a small electoral qualification, it carried out its principle to the end, the principle of Rousseau. It deliberately refused to consider man as he really was under its own eyes, and persisted in seeing nothing in him but the abstract being created in books. Consequently, with the blindness and obstinacy characteristic of a speculative surgeon, it destroyed, in the society submitted to its scalpel and to its theories, not only the tumours, the enlargements, and the inflamed parts of the organs, but also the organs themselves, and even the vital governing centres around which the cells arrange themselves to recompose an injured organ. That is, the Assembly destroyed on the one hand the time-honoured, spontaneous, and lasting societies formed by geographical position, history, common occupations, and interests, and on the other, those natural chiefs whose name, repute, education, independence, and earnestness designated them as the best qualified to occupy high positions. In one direction it despoils and permits the ruin and proscription of the superior class, the nobles, the members of Parliament, and the upper middle class. In another it dispossesses and breaks up all historic or natural corporations, religious congregations, clerical bodies, provinces, parliaments, societies of art and of all other professions and pursuits. This done, every tie or bond which holds men together is found to be severed; all subordination and every graduated scale of rank have disappeared. There is no longer rank and file, or commander-in-chief. Nothing remains but individual particles, twenty-six millions of equal and disconnected atoms. Never was so much disintegrated matter, less capable of resistance, offered to hands undertaking to mould it. Harshness and violence will be sufficient to ensure success. These brutal hands are ready for the work, and the Assembly which has reduced the material to powder has likewise provided the mortar and pestle. As awkward in destruction as it is in construction, it invents for the restoration of order in a society which is turned upside down a machine which would, of itself, create disorder in a tranquil society. The most absolute and most concentrated government would not be strong enough to effect without disturbance a similar equalization of ranks, the same dismemberment of associations, and the same displacement of property. No social transformation can be peacefully accomplished without a well-commanded army, obedient and everywhere present, as was the case in the emancipation of the Russian serfs by the Emperor Alexander. The new Constitution,32 on the contrary, reduces the King to the position of an honorary president, suspected and called in question by a disorganized State. Between him and the legislative body it interposes nothing but sources of conflict, and suppresses all means of concord. The monarch has no hold whatever on the administrative departments which he must direct; and the mutual independence of the powers, from the centre to the extremities of the State, everywhere produces indifference, negligence, and disobedience between the injunctions issued and their execution. France is a federation of forty thousand municipal sovereignties, in which the authority of legal magistrates varies according to the caprice of active citizens; in which active citizens, overtasked, avoid the performance of public duty; in which a minority of fanatics and of the ambitious monopolize all organs of communication, all influence, all rights of suffrage, all power, and all action, and sanction their multiplied usurpations, their unbridled despotism, their increasing encroachments by the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The masterpiece of ideal abstractions and of practical absurdities is perfected; spontaneous anarchy, by means of the Constitution, becomes legalised anarchy. The latter is more perfect; nothing finer of the kind has been seen since the ninth century.
The Application of the Constitution
[1. ]The initiative rests with the King on one point: war cannot be decreed by the Assembly except on his formal and preliminary proposition. This exception was secured only after a violent struggle and a supreme effort by Mirabeau.
[2. ]Speech by Lanjuinais, November 7, 1789. “We determined on the separation of the powers. Why, then, should the proposal be made to us to unite the legislative power with the executive power in the persons of the ministers?”
[3. ]See the attendance of the Ministers before the Legislative Assembly.
[4. ]“Any society in which the separation of the powers is not clearly defined has no constitution.” (Declaration of Rights, article xvi.)—This principle is borrowed from a text by Montesquieu, also from the American Constitution. In the rest the theory of Rousseau is followed.
[5. ]Mercure de France, an expression by Mallet-Dupan.
[6. ]Constitution of 1791, ch. ii. articles 5, 6, 7.—Decree of September 25–October 6, 1791, section iii. articles 8 to 25.
[7. ]Speeches by Barnave and Roederer in the Constituent Assembly.—Speeches by Barnave and Duport in the Jacobin Club.
[8. ]Principal texts. (Duvergier, “Collection des Lois et Décrets.”)—Laws on municipal and administrative organization, December 14 and 22, 1789; August 12–20, 1790; March 15, 1791. On the municipal organization of Paris, May 21st, June 27, 1790.—Laws on the organization of the Judiciary, August 16–24, 1790; September 16–29, 1791; September 29, October 21, 1791.—Laws on military organization, September 23, October 29, 1790; January 16, 1791; July 27, 28, 1791.—Laws on the financial organization, November 14–24, 1790; November 23, 1790; March 17, 1791; September 26, October 2, 1791.
[9. ]Decrees of December 14 and December 22, 1789: “In municipalities reduced to three members (communes below five hundred inhabitants), all executive functions shall belong to the mayor alone.”
[10. ]Laws of September 23–October 29, 1790; January 16, 1791. (Titles ii. and vii.)—Cf. the legal prescriptions in relation to the military tribunals. In every prosecuting or judicial jury one-seventh of the sworn members are taken from the noncommissioned officers, and one-seventh from the soldiers, and again, according to the rank of the accused, the number of those of the same rank is doubled.
[11. ]Law of July 28th, August 12, 1791.
[12. ]Laws of November 14, 1789 (article 52), August 10–14, 1789.—Instruction of August 10–20, 1790; § 8.—Law of October 21, November 21, 1789.
[13. ]Laws of November 14, 23, 1790; January 13th, September 26th, October 9, 1791.
[14. ]Albert Babeau, i. 327 (Fête of the Federation, July 14, 1790).—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,215 (May 17, 1791, Deliberation of the council-general of the commune of Brest. May 17 and 19, Letters of the directory of the district).—Mercure, March 5, 1791. “Mesdames are stopped until the return of the two deputies, whom the Republic of Arnay-le-Duc has sent to the representatives of the nation to demonstrate to them the necessity of keeping the king’s aunts in the kingdom.”
[15. ]Moniteur, x. 132. Speech by M. Labergerie, November 8, 1791.
[16. ]At Montauban, in the intendant’s salon, the ladies of the place spoke patois only, the grandmother of the gentleman who gives me this fact not understanding any other language.
[17. ]Moniteur, v. 163, sitting of July 18, 1791. Speech by M. Lecoulteux, reporter.
[18. ]Moniteur, xi. 283, sitting of February 2, 1792. Speech by Cambon: “They go away thinking that they understand what is explained to them, but return the following day to obtain fresh explanations. The attorneys refuse to give the municipalities any assistance, stating that they know nothing about these matters.”
[19. ]Law of May 11–15, 1791.
[20. ]Procès-verbal of the Electoral Assembly of the Department of Indre-et-Loire (1791, printed).
[21. ]De Ferrières, i. 367.
[22. ]Sauzay, i. 191 (21,711 are eligible out of 32,288 inscribed citizens).
[23. ]Official report of the Electoral Assembly of the Department of Indre-et-Loire, Aug. 27, 1791. “A member of the Assembly made a motion that all the members composing it should be indemnified for the expenses which would be incurred by their absence from home and the long sojourn they had to make in the town where the Assembly was held. He remarked that the inhabitants of the country were those who suffered the most, their labour being their sole riches; that if no attention was paid to this demand, they would be obliged, in spite of their patriotism, to withdraw and abandon their important mission; that the electoral assemblies would then be deserted, or would be composed of those whose resources permitted them to make this sacrifice.”
[24. ]Sauzay, i. 147, 192.
[25. ]For the detail of these figures, see vol. ii. book iv.
[26. ]De Ferrières, i. 367. Cf. the various laws above mentioned.
[27. ]Constant, “Histoire d’un Club Jacobin en Provence” (Fontainebleau), p. 15. (Procès-verbaux of the founding of the clubs of Moret, Thomery, Nemours, and Montereau.)
[28. ]Cf. the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 (except the first phrase, which is a catchword thrown out for the European philosophers).—Jefferson proposed a Declaration of Rights for the Constitution of March 4, 1789, but it was refused. They were content to add to it the eleven amendments which set forth the fundamental rights of the citizen.
[29. ]Article 1. “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights common to all. Social distinctions are founded solely on public utility.” The first phrase condemns the hereditary royalty which is sanctioned by the Constitution. The second phrase can be used to legitimate hereditary monarchy and an aristocracy.—Articles 10 and 11 bear upon the manifestations of religious conviction; and on freedom of speech and of the press. By virtue of these two articles worship, speech, and the press may be made subject to the most repressive restrictions, &c.
[30. ]Roux and Buchez, xi. 237. (Speech by Malouet in relation to the revision, August 5, 1791.) “You constantly tempt the people with sovereignty without giving them the immediate use of it.”
[31. ]Decrees of September 25–October 6, 1791; September 28–October 6, 1791.
[32. ]Impartial contemporaries, those well qualified to judge, agree as to the absurdity of the Constitution. “The Constitution was a veritable monster. There was too much of monarchy in it for a republic, and too much of a republic for a monarchy. The King was a side-dish, un hors d’oeuvre, everywhere present in appearance but without any actual power.” (Dumont, 339.) “It is a general and almost universal conviction that this Constitution is inexecutable. The makers of it to a man condemn it.” (G. Morris, September 30, 1791.) “Every day proves more clearly that their new Constitution is good for nothing.” (Ibid., December 27, 1791.) Cf. the sensible and prophetic speech made by Malouet (August 5, 1791, Roux and Buchez, xi. 237).