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CHAPTER IV - Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, vol. 2 
The French Revolution, 3 vols., trans. John Durand, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002). Vol. 2.
Part of: The French Revolution, 3 vols.
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I.Composition of the Legislative Assembly—Social rank of the Deputies. Their inexperience, incompetence, and prejudices—II.Degree and quality of their intelligence and culture—III.Aspect of their sessions—Scenes and display at the club—Co-operation of spectators—IV.Parties—The “Right”—The “Centre”—The “Left”—Opinions and sentiments of the Girondists—Their allies of the extreme “Left”—V.Their means of action—Dispersion of the Feuillants club—Pressure of the tribunes on the Assembly—Street mobs—VI.Parliamentary manoeuvres—Abuses of urgency—Vote on the principle—Call by name—Intimidation of the “Centre”—Opponents inactive—The majority finally disposed of.
If it be true that a nation should be represented by its superior men, France was singularly represented during the Revolution. From one Assembly to another we see the level steadily declining; especially is the fall very great from the Constituent to the Legislative Assembly. The actors entitled to perform withdraw just as they begin to understand their parts; and yet more, they have excluded themselves from the theatre, while the stage is surrendered to their substitutes. “The preceding Assembly,” writes an ambassador,1 “contained men of great talent, large fortune, and honorable name, a combination which had an imposing effect on the people, although violently opposed to personal distinctions. The actual Assembly is but little more than a council of lawyers, got together from every town and village in France.” Out of 745 deputies, indeed, “400 lawyers belong, for the most part, to the dregs of the profession”; there are about twenty constitutional priests, “as many poets and literary men of but little reputation, almost all without any patrimony,” the greater number being less than thirty years old, sixty being less than twenty-six, while nearly all of them are outgrowths of the clubs and the popular assemblies.2 There is not one noble or prelate belonging to the ancient régime, no great landed proprietor,3 no head of the service, no eminent specialist in diplomacy, in finance, in administrative force, or in military art. But three general officers are found there, and these are of the lowest rank,4 one of them having held his appointment but three months, and the other two being wholly unknown.—At the head of the diplomatic committee stands Brissot, a perambulating journalist, lately a rover about England and the United States, and supposed to be competent in the affairs of both worlds; in reality he is one of those presuming, threadbare, talkative fellows, who, living in a garret, lecture foreign cabinets and reconstruct all Europe; things, to them, seem as easily combined as phrases; one day,5 to entice the English into an alliance with France, Brissot proposes to place two towns, Dunkirk and Calais, in their hands as security; another day, he proposes “to make a descent on Spain, and, at the same time, to send a fleet to conquer Mexico.”—The principal personage in the committee on finances is Cambon, a merchant in Montpellier, a good book-keeper, who, at a later period, is to simplify all writings and regulate the Grand Livre of the public debt, which means public bankruptcy. Meanwhile, he hastens this on with all his might by encouraging the Assembly to undertake the ruinous and terrible war, that is to last for twenty-three years; according to him, “there is more money than is needed for it.”6 In truth, the guarantee of assignats is used up; the taxes do not come in; they live only on the paper money they issue, the assignats lose forty per centum, and the ascertained deficit for 1792 is four hundred millions;7 but this revolutionary financier relies upon the confiscations which he instigates in France, and which are to be set agoing in Belgium; here lies all his invention, a systematic robbery on a grand scale within and without the kingdom.
As to the legislators and manufacturers of constitutions, we have Condorcet, a cold-blooded fanatic and systematic leveller, satisfied that a mathematical method suits the social sciences fed on abstractions, blinded by formulae, and the most chimerical of perverted intellects. Never was a man versed in books more ignorant of mankind; never did a lover of scientific precision better succeed in changing the character of facts. It was he who, two days before the 20th of June, amidst the most brutal public excitement, admired “the calmness” and rationality of the multitude; “considering the way people interpret events, it might be supposed that they had given some hours of each day to the study of analysis.” It is he who, two days after the 20th of June, extolled the red cap in which the head of Louis XVI. had been muffled. “That crown is as good as any other. Marcus Aurelius would not have despised it.”8 —Such is the discernment and practical judgment of the leaders; from these one can form an opinion of the flock, consisting of novices arriving from the provinces and bringing with them the principles and prejudices of the newspaper. So remote from the centre, having no knowledge of general affairs or of their unity, they are two years behind their brethren of the Constituent Assembly. Most of them, says Malouet,9 “without having decided against a monarchy, had decided against the court, the aristocracy, and the clergy, ever imagining conspiracies and believing that defence consisted solely in attack. There were still many men of talent among them, but with no experience; they even lacked that which we had obtained. Our patriot deputies were, in great part, convinced of their errors; these were not so, they were ready to take a fresh start.” Moreover, they have their own political bent, for nearly all of them are upstarts of the new régime. We find in their ranks 264 department administrators, 109 district administrators, 125 justices and prosecuting-attorneys, 68 mayors and town officers, besides about twenty officers of the National Guard, constitutional bishops and curés, the whole amounting to 566 of the elected functionaries, who, for the past twenty months, have carried on the government under the direction of their electors. We have seen how this was done and under what conditions, with what compliances and with what complicity, with what deference to clamorous opinion, with what docility in the presence of rioters, with what submission to the orders of the populace, with what a deluge of sentimental phrases and commonplace abstractions. Sent to Paris as deputies, through the choice or toleration of the clubs, they bear along with them their politics and their rhetoric; the result is an assemblage of narrow, perverted, hasty, inflated and feeble minds; at each daily session, twenty word-mills turn to no purpose, the greatest of public powers at once becoming a manufactory of nonsense, a school of extravagancies, and a theatre for declamation.
Is it possible that serious men could have listened to and sat through this rigmarole? “I am a ploughman,”10 says one deputy, “I now dare boast of the antique nobility of my plough. A yoke of oxen once constituted the pure, incorruptible conveyancers before whom my worthy ancestors executed their contracts, the authenticity of which, far better recorded on the soil than on flimsy parchment, is protected from any species of revolution whatever.” Is it conceivable that the reporter of a law, that is about to exile or imprison forty thousand priests, should employ in an argument such silly bombast as the following?11 “I have seen in the rural districts the hymeneal torch diffusing only pale and sombre rays, or, transformed into the flambeaux of furies, the hideous skeleton of superstition seated even on the nuptial couch, placed between nature and the wedded, and arresting, etc.… Oh Rome, art thou satisfied? Art thou then like Saturn, to whom fresh holocausts were daily imperative?… Depart, ye creators of discord! The soil of liberty is weary of bearing you. Would ye breathe the atmosphere of the Aventine mount? The national ship is already prepared for you. I hear on the shore the impatient cries of the crew; I see the breezes of liberty swelling its sails. Like Telemachus, ye will go forth on the waters to seek your father; but never will you have to dread the Sicilian rocks, nor the seductions of a Eucharis.” Vulgar conceits, rhetorical personifications, and the invective of maniacs is the prevailing tone. The same defect characterises the best discourses, namely, an over-excited brain, a passion for high-sounding terms, the constant use of stilts and an incapacity for seeing things as they are and of so describing them. Men of talent, Isnard, Guadet, Vergniaud himself, are carried away by hollow sonorous phrases like a ship with too much canvas for its ballast. Their minds are stimulated by souvenirs of their school lessons, the modern world revealing itself to them only through their Latin reminiscences.—François de Nantes is exasperated at the pope “who holds in servitude the posterity of Cato and of Scaevola.” Isnard proposes to follow the example of the Roman senate which, to allay discord at home, got up an outside war; between old Rome and France, indeed, there is a striking resemblance.—Roux insists that the Emperor (of Austria) should give satisfaction before the 1st of March; “in a case like this the Roman people would have fixed the term of delay—why shouldn’t the French people fix one.… The circle of Popilius” should be drawn around those petty, hesitating German princes. When money is needed to establish camps around Paris and the large towns, Lasource proposes to alienate the national forests and is amazed at any objection to the measure. “Caesar’s soldiers,” he exclaims, “believing that an ancient forest in Gaul was sacred, dared not lay the axe to it; are we to participate in this superstitious respect?”12 —Add to this collegiate lore the philosophic dregs deposited in all minds by the great sophist then in vogue. Larivière reads in the tribune13 that page of the “Contrat Social,” where Rousseau declares that the sovereign may banish members “of an unsocial religion,” and punish with death “one who, having publicly recognised the dogmas of civil religion, acts as if he did not believe in them.” On which, another hissing parrot, M. Filassier, exclaims, “I put J. J. Rousseau’s proposition into the form of a motion and demand a vote on it.”—In like manner it is proposed to grant very young girls the right of marrying in spite of their parents by stating, according to the “Nouvelle Héloise” “that a girl thirteen or fourteen years old begins to sigh for an union which nature dictates, that she struggles between passion and duty, that, if she triumphs she is a martyr, that nature is rarely imposed upon, that it may happen that a young person prefers the tranquil disgrace of defeat to a wearisome struggle of eight years.”—Divorce is inaugurated to “preserve in matrimony that happy quietude which renders the sentiments livelier.”14 Henceforth this is to be no longer a chain but “the acquittance of an agreeable debt which every citizen owes to his country.… Divorce is the tutelary divinity of Hymen.”15 Obscenities and mythological veilings, a background of classic pedantry, the vague and narrow notions of ordinary instruction, no exact and substantial information, the empty flowing commonplaces of the amplifier spinning out maxims from his revolutionary manual in long tirades, in short, superficial culture and verbal argumentation form the vulgar and dangerous ingredients out of which the intelligence of the new legislators is formed.16
From this we can imagine what their sessions were. “More incoherent and especially more passionate than those of the Constituent Assembly”17 they present the same characteristics, but largely exaggerated. Argument is much weaker, invective more violent, and dogmatism more intemperate. Inflexibility degenerates into insolence, prejudice into fanaticism, and near-sightedness into blindness. Disorder becomes a tumult and constant din an uproar. “Figure to yourself,” says an attendant eye-witness, “a collegiate chamber with hundreds of pupils quarrelling and every instant on the point of seizing each other by the hair. Their dress worse than neglected, their furious actions, and transitions from cries to hootings … is a sight not to be depicted and to which nothing can be compared.” It lacks nothing for making it a club of the lowest species. Here, in advance, we contemplate the ways of the future revolutionary inquisition; they welcome burlesque denunciations; they enter into petty police investigations; they weigh the tittle-tattle of porters and the gossip of servant-girls; they devote an all-night session to the secrets of a drunkard.18 They enter on their official report and without any disapproval, the petition of M. Huré, “living at Pont-sur-Yonne, who, over his own signature, offers one hundred francs and his arm to become a tyrannicide.” Repeated and multiplied hurrahs and applause with the felicitations of the president is the sanction of scandalous or ridiculous private misconduct seeking to display itself under the cover of public authority. Anacharsis Clootz, “a Mascarille officially stamped,” who proposes a general war and who hawks about maps of Europe cut up in advance into departments beginning with Savoy, Belgium and Holland “and thus onward to the Polar Sea,” is thanked and given a seat on the benches of the Assembly.19 Compliments are bestowed on the Vicar of Sainte-Marguerite and his wife is given a seat in the Assembly and who, introducing “his new family,” thunders against clerical celibacy.20 Mobs of men and women are permitted to traverse the hall shouting political cries. Every sort of indecent, childish and seditious parade is admitted to the bar of the house.21 To-day it consists of “citoyennes of Paris,” desirous of being drilled in military exercises and of having for their commandants “former French guardsmen”; to-morrow children come and express their patriotism with “touching simplicity,” regretting that “their trembling feet do not permit them to march, no, fly against the tyrants”; next to these come convicts of the Château-Vieux escorted by a vociferous crowd; at another time the artillerymen of Paris, a thousand in number, with drums beating; delegates from the provinces, the faubourgs and the clubs come constantly, with their furious harangues, and imperious remonstrances, their exactions, their threats and their summonses.—In the intervals of this louder racket a continuous hubbub is heard in the clatter of the tribunes;22 at each session “the representatives are chaffed by the spectators; the nation in the gallery is judge of the nation on the floor”; it interferes in the debates, silences the speakers, insults the president and orders the reporter of a bill to quit the tribune. One interruption, or a simple murmur, is not all; there are twenty, thirty, fifty in an hour, clamourings, stamping, yells and personal abuse. After countless useless entreaties, after repeated calls to order, “received with hootings,” after a dozen “regulations that are made, revised, countermanded and posted up” as if better to prove the impotence of the law, of the authorities and of the Assembly itself, the usurpations of these intruders keep on increasing. They have shouted for ten months “Down with the civil list! Down with the ministerials! Down with those curs! Silence, slaves!” On the 26th of July, Brissot himself is to appear lukewarm and be struck on the face with two plums. “Three or four hundred individuals without either property, title, or means of subsistence … have become the auxiliaries, petitioners and umpires of the legislature,” their paid violence completely destroying whatever is still left of the Assembly’s reason.23
In an assembly thus composed and surrounded, it is easy to foresee on which side the balance will turn.—Through the meshes of the electoral net which the Jacobins have spread over the whole country, about one hundred well-meaning individuals of the common run, tolerably sensible and sufficiently resolute, Mathieu Dumas, Dumolard, Becquet, Gorguereau, Vaublanc, Beugnot, Girardin, Ramond, Jaucourt, were able to pass and form the party of the “Right.”24 They resist to as great an extent as possible, and seem to have obtained a majority.—For, of the four hundred deputies who have their seats in the centre, one hundred and sixty-four are inscribed on the rolls with them at the Feuillants club, while the rest, under the title of “Independents,” pretend to be of no party;25 besides, the whole of these four hundred, through monarchical traditions, respect the King; timid and sensible, violence is repugnant to them; they distrust the Jacobins, dread what is unknown, desire to be loyal to the Constitution and to live in peace. Nevertheless the pompous dogmas of the revolutionary catechism still have their prestige with them; they cannot comprehend how the Constitution which they like produces the anarchy which they detest; they are “foolish enough to bemoan the effects while swearing to maintain their causes; totally deficient in spirit, in union and in boldness,” they float backwards and forwards between contradictory desires, while their predisposition to order merely awaits the steady impulsion of a vigorous will to turn it in the opposite direction.—On such docile material the “Left” can work effectively. It comprises, indeed, but one hundred and thirty-six registered Jacobins and about a hundred others who, in almost all cases, vote with the party;26 rigidity of opinion, however, more than compensates for lack of numbers. In the front row are Guadet, Brissot, Gensonné, Vergniaud, Ducos, and Condorcet, the future chiefs of the Girondists, all of them lawyers or writers captivated by deductive politics, absolute in their convictions and proud of their faith. According to them principles are true and must be applied without reservation;27 whoever would stop half-way is wanting in courage or intelligence. As for themselves their minds are made up to push through. With the self-confidence of youth and of theorists they draw their own conclusions and hug themselves with their strong belief in them. “These gentlemen,” says a keen observer,28 “professed great disdain for their predecessors, the Constituents, treating them as short-sighted and prejudiced people incapable of profiting by circumstances.” “To the observations of wisdom, and disinterested wisdom,29 they replied with a scornful smile, indicative of the aridity proceeding from self-conceit. One exhausted himself in reminding them of events and in deducing causes from these; one passed in turn from theory to experience and from experience to theory to show them their identity and, when they condescended to reply it was to deny the best authenticated facts and contest the plainest observations by opposing to these a few trite maxims although eloquently expressed. Each regarded the other as if they alone were worthy of being heard, each encouraging the other with the idea that all resistance to their way of looking at things was pusillanimity.” In their own eyes they alone are capable and they alone are patriotic. Because they have read Rousseau and Mably, because their tongue is united and their pen flowing, because they know how to handle the formulae of books and reason out an abstract proposition, they fancy that they are statesmen.30 Because they have read Plutarch and “Le Jeune Anacharsis,” because they aim to construct a perfect society out of metaphysical conceptions, because they are in a ferment about the coming millenium, they imagine themselves so many exalted spirits. They have no doubt whatever on these two points even after everything has fallen in through their blunders, even after their obliging hands are sullied by the foul grasp of robbers whom they were the first to instigate, and by that of executioners of which they are partners in complicity.31 To this extent is self-conceit the worst of sophists. Convinced of their superior enlightenment and of the purity of their sentiments, they put forth the theory that the government should be in their hands. Consequently they lay hold of it in the Legislative body in ways that are going to turn against them in the Convention. They accept for allies the worst demagogues of the extreme “Left,” Chabot, Couthon, Merlin, Bazière, Thuriot, Lecointre, and outside of it, Danton, Robespierre, Marat himself, all the levellers and destroyers whom they think of use to them, but of whom they themselves are the instruments. The motions they make must pass at any cost and, to ensure this, they let loose against their adversaries the low, yelping populace which others, still more factious, will to-morrow let loose on them.
Thus, for the second time, the pretended zealots for liberty attain power by boldly employing force.—They begin by suppressing the meetings of the Feuillants club. The customary riot is instigated against these, whereupon ensue tumult, violent outcries and scuffles; mayor Pétion complains of his position “between opinion and law,” and lets things take their course; finally, the Feuillants are obliged to evacuate their place of meeting.—Inside the Assembly they are abandoned to the insolence of the galleries. In vain do they get exasperated and protest. Ducastel, referring to the decree of the Constituent Assembly, which forbids any manifestation of approbation or disapprobation, is greeted with murmurs. He insists on the decree being read at the opening of each session, and “the murmurs begin again.”32 “Is it not scandalous,” says Vaublanc, “that the nation’s representatives speaking from the tribune are subject to hootings like those bestowed upon an actor on the stage!” whereupon the galleries give him three rounds more. “Will posterity believe,” says Quatremère, “that acts concerning the honor, the lives, and the fortunes of citizens should be subject, like games in the arena, to the applause and hisses of the spectators!” “Come to the point!” shout the galleries. “If ever,” resumes Quatremère, “the most important of judicial acts (an act of capital indictment) can be exposed to this scandalous prostitution of applause and menaces. …” “The murmurs break out afresh.”—Every time that a sanguinary or incendiary measure is to be carried, the most furious and prolonged clamor stops the utterance of its opponents: “Down with the speaker! Send the reporter of that bill to the Abbaye! Down! Down!” Sometimes only about twenty of the deputies will applaud or hoot with the galleries, and then it is the entire Assembly which is insulted. Fists are thrust in the president’s face. All that now remains is “to call down the galleries on the floor to pass decrees,” which proposition is ironically made by one of the “Right.”33
Great, however, as this usurpation may be, the minority, in order to suppress the majority, accommodate themselves to it, the Jacobins in the chamber making common cause with the Jacobins in the galleries. The disturbers should not be put out; “it would be excluding from our deliberations,” says Grangeneuve, “that which belongs essentially to the people.” On one of the deputies demanding measures to enforce silence, “Torné demands that the proposition be referred to the Portugal inquisition.” Choudieu “declares that it can only emanate from deputies who forget that respect which is due to the people, their sovereign judge.”34 “The action of the galleries,” says Lecointe-Puyraiveaux, “is an outburst of patriotism.” Finally, this same Choudieu, twisting and turning all rights about with incomparable audacity, wishes to confer legislative privileges on the audience, and demands a decree against the deputies who, guilty of popular lèse-majesté, presume to complain of those who insult them.—Another piece of oppressive machinery, still more energetic, operates outside on the approaches to the Assembly. Like their predecessors of the Constituent Assembly, the members of the “Right” “cannot leave the building without encountering the threats and imprecations of enraged crowds. Cries of ‘to the lantern!’ greet the ears of Dumolard, Vaublanc, Raucourd, and Lacretelle as often as those of the Abbé Maury and Montlosier.”35 After having apostrophised the president, Mathieu Dumas, they insult his wife who has been recognised in a reserved gallery.36 In the Tuileries, crowds are always standing there listening to the brawlers who denounce suspected deputies by name, and woe to any among them who takes that path on his way to the chamber! A broadside of insults greets him as he passes along. If the deputy happens to be a farmer, they exclaim: “Look at that queer old aristocrat—an old peasant dog that used to watch cows!” One day Hua, on going up the steps of the Tuileries terrace, is seized by the hair by an old vixen who bids him “Bow your head to your sovereigns, the people, you —— —— of a deputy!” On the 20th of June one of the patriots, who is crossing the Assembly room, whispers in his ear, “You scamp of a deputy, you’ll never die but by my hand!” Another time, having defended the juge-de-paix Larivière, there awaits him at the door, in the middle of the night “a set of blackguards, who crowd around him and thrust their fists and cudgels in his face”; happily, his friends Dumas and Daverhoult, two military officers, foreseeing the danger, present their pistols and set him free “although with some difficulty.”—As the 10th of August draws near there is more open aggression. Vaublanc, for having defended Lafayette, just misses being cut to pieces three times on leaving the Assembly; sixty of the deputies are treated in the same fashion, being struck, covered with mud, and threatened with death if they dare go back.37 —With such allies a minority is very strong. Thanks to its two agencies of constraint it will detach the votes it needs from the majority and, either through terror or craft, secure the passage of all the decrees it needs.
Sometimes it succeeds surreptitiously by rushing them through. As “there is no order of the day circulated beforehand, and, in any event, none which anybody is obliged to adhere to,”38 the Assembly is captured by surprise. “The first knave amongst the ‘Left,’ (which expression, says Hua, I do not strike out, because there were many among those gentlemen), brought up a ready-made resolution, prepared the evening before by a clique. We were not prepared for it and demanded that it should be referred to a committee. Instead of doing this, however, the resolution was declared urgent, and, whether we would or not, discussion had to take place forthwith.”39 —“There were other tactics equally perfidious, which Thuriot, especially, made use of. This great rogue got up and proposed, not the draft of a law, but what he called a principle; for instance, a decree should be passed confiscating the property of the émigrés, … or that unsworn priests should be subject to special oversight.… In reply, he was told that in his principle was found the essence of the law, the whole law; let debate go on and the question be referred to a committee to make a report on it.—Not at all—the matter is urgent; the committee may fix the articles as it pleases; they are worthless if the principle is not common sense.” Through this expeditious method discussion is stifled. The Jacobins purposely prevent the Assembly from giving the matter any consideration. They count on its bewilderment. In the name of reason, they discard reason as far as they can, and hasten a vote because their decrees do not support examination.—At other times, and especially on grand occasions, they compel a vote. In general, votes are taken sitting or standing, and, for the four hundred deputies of the “Centre,” subject to the scolding of the exasperated galleries, it is a tolerably hard trial. “Part of them do not arise, or they rise with the ‘Left’”;40 if the “Right” happens to have a majority, “this is contested in bad faith and a call of the house is demanded.” Now, “the calls of the house, through an intolerable abuse, are always published, the Jacobins declaring that it is well for the people to know their friends from their enemies.” The meaning of this is that the list of the opposition will soon answer as a list of the proscribed, on which the timid are not disposed to inscribe themselves; the result is an immediate defection in the heavy battalion of the “Centre”; “this is a positive fact,” says Hua, “of which we were all witnesses; we always lost a hundred votes on the call of the house.”—Towards the end they give up, and protest no more, except by staying away; on the 14th of June, on the whole system of feudal credit being abolished without indemnity, “no part of the house was occupied except the extreme left; the rest of it was empty”; out of 497 deputies present, 200 left the room.41 Encouraged for a moment by the appearance of some possible protection, they twice exonerate General Lafayette, behind whom they see an army,42 and brave the despots of the Assembly, the clubs, and the streets. But, for lack of a military chief and vantage ground, the visible majority is twice obliged to yield, to keep silent, and fly or retreat under the dictation of the victorious faction, which has strained and forced the legislative machine until it has become disjointed and broken down.
[1. ]“Correspondence (manuscript) of Baron de Staël,” with his court, Oct. 6, 1791.
[2. ]“Souvenirs” (manuscript) of M. X——. Dumouriez, “Mémoires,” III. ch. v. “The Jacobin Club, everywhere extending its numerous ramifications, availed itself of the provincial clubs to obtain control of the elections. Every crackbrain, every seditious scribbler, all the agitators were elected.… Very few enlightened or prudent men, and still fewer of the nobles, were chosen.”—Moniteur, XII. 199 (meeting of April 23, 1792). Speech of M. Lecointe-Puyravaux. “We need not dissimulate; indeed, we are proud to say, that this legislature is composed of persons who are not rich.”
[3. ]Mathieu Dumas, “Mémoires,” I. 521. “The excitement in the electoral assemblages was very great; the aristocrats and large land-owners abstained from coming there.”—“Correspondance de Mirabeau et du Comte de la Mark,” III. 246, Oct. 10, 1791. “Nineteen-twentieths of this legislature have no other turn-out than galoshes and umbrellas. It has been estimated, that all these deputies put together do not possess 300,000 livres solid income. The generality of those who compose this Assembly have received no education whatever.”
[4. ]They rank as Maréchaux de camp, a grade corresponding to that of brigadier-general. They are Dupuy-Montbrun (deceased in March, 1792), Descrots-d’Estrée, a weak and worn old man whom his children forced into the Legislative Assembly, and, lastly, Mathieu Dumas, a conservative, and the only prominent one.
[5. ]“Correspondance du Baron de Staël,” Jan. 19, 1792.—Gouverneur Morris (II. 162, Feb. 4, 1792) writes to Washington that M. de Warville, on the diplomatic committee, proposed to cede Dunkirk and Calais to England, as a pledge of fidelity by France, in any engagement which she might enter into. You can judge, by this, of the wisdom and virtue of the faction to which he belongs.—Buchez et Roux, XXX, 89 (defence of Brissot, Jan. 5, 1793). “Brissot, like all noisy, reckless, ambitious men, started in full blast with the strangest paradoxes. In 1780, in his ‘Recherches philosophiques sur le droit de propriété,’ he wrote as follows: ‘If 40 crowns suffice to maintain existence, the possession of 200,000 crowns is plainly unjust and a robbery.… Exclusive ownership is a veritable crime against nature.… The punishment of robbery in our institutions is an act of virtue which nature herself commands.’ ”
[6. ]Moniteur, speech by Cambon, sittings of Feb. 2 and April 20, 1792.
[7. ]Ibid., (sitting of April 3). Speech by M. Cailhasson. The property belonging to the nation, sold and to be sold, is valued at 2,195 millions, while the assignats already issued amount to 2,100 millions. Cf. Mercure de France, Dec. 17, 1791, p. 201; Jan. 28, 1792, p. 215; May 19, 1792, p. 205.—Dumouriez, “Mémoires,” III. 296, and 339, 340, 344, 346.—“Cambon, a raving lunatic, without education, humane principle, or integrity (public) a meddler, an ignoramus, and very giddy. He tells me that one resource remained to him, which is, to seize all the coin in Belgium, all the plate belonging to the churches, and all the cash deposits … that, on ruining the Belgians, on reducing them to the same state of suffering as the French, they would necessarily share their fate with them; that they would then be admitted members of the Republic, with the prospect of always making headway, through the same line of policy; that the decree of Dec. 15, 1792, admirably favored this and, because it tended to a complete disorganisation, and that the luckiest thing that could happen to France was to disorganise all its neighbors and reduce them to the same state of anarchy.” (This conversation between Cambon and Dumouriez occurs in the middle of January, 1793.)—Moniteur, XIV. 758 (sitting of Dec. 15, 1792). Report by Cambon.
[8. ]Chronique de Paris, Sept. 4, 1792. “What a sad and terrible situation! that in which the character of a people, naturally amiable and generous, is constrained to take such vengeance!”—Cf. the very acute article, by St. Beuve, on Condorcet, in “Causeries du Lundi,” III. 245.—Hua (a colleague of Condorcet, in the Legislative Assembly), “Mémoires,” 89. “Condorcet, in his journal, regularly falsified things, with an audacity which is unparalleled. The opinions of the ‘Right’ were so mutilated and travestied the next day in his journal, that we, who had uttered them, could scarcely recognise them. On complaining of this to him and on charging him with perfidy, the philosopher only smiled.”
[9. ]Malouet, II. 115.—Dumouriez, III. ch. v. “They were elected to represent the nation, to defend, they say, its interests against a perfidious court.”
[10. ]Moniteur, X. 223 (session of Oct. 26, 1791). Speech by M. François Duval. Grandiloquence is the order of the day at the very first meeting. On the 1st of October, 1791, twelve old men, marching in procession, go out to fetch the constitutional act. “M. Camus, keeper of the records, with a composed air and downcast eyes, enters with measured steps,” bearing in both hands the sacred document which he holds against his breast, while the deputies stand up and bare their heads. “People of France,” says an orator, “citizens of Paris, all generous Frenchmen, and you, our fellow-citizens—virtuous, intelligent women, bringing your gentle influence into the sanctuary of the law—behold the guarantee of peace which the legislature presents to you!” We seem to be witnessing the last act of an opera.
[11. ]Ibid., XII. 230 (sessions of April 26 and May 5). Report and speech by François de Nantes. The whole speech, a comic budget throughout, should be read: “Tell me, pontiff of Rome, what your sentiments will be when you welcome your worthy and faithful co-operators?… I behold your sacred hands, ready to launch those pontifical thunderbolts, which, etc.… Let the brasier of Scaevola be brought in, and, with our outstretched palms above the burning coals, we will show that there is no species of torture, no torment which can excite a frown on the brow of him whom the love of country exalts above humanity!” Suppose that, just at this moment, a lighted candle had been placed under his hand!
[12. ]Moniteur, XI. 179 (session of Jan. 20, 1792).—Ibid. 216 (session of Jan. 24).—XII. 426 (May 9).
[13. ]Ibid., XII. 479 (session of May 24).—XIII. 71 (session of July 7, speech by Lasource).—Cf. XIV. 301 (session of July 31) a quotation from Voltaire brought in for the suppression of the convents.
[14. ]Moniteur. Speech by Aubert Dubayer, session of Aug. 30.
[15. ]Speech by Chaumette, procureur of the Commune, to the newly married (Mortimer-Ternaux, IV. 408).
[16. ]The class to which they belonged has been portrayed, to the life, by M.Royer-Collard (Ste. Beuve, “Nouveaux Lundis,” IV. 263). “A young lawyer at Paris, at first received in a few houses on the Ile St. Louis, he soon withdrew from this inferior world of attorneys and limbs of the law, whose tone oppressed him. The very thought of the impression this gallant and intensely vulgar mediocrity made upon him, still inspired disgust. He much preferred to talk with longshoremen, if need be, than with these scented limbs of the law.”
[17. ]Etienne Dumont, “Mémoires,” 40.—Mercure de France, Nov. 19, 1791; Feb. 11 and March 3, 1792 (articles by Mallet-Dupan).
[18. ]Moniteur, Dec. 17 (examination at the bar of the house of Rauch, a pretended kidnapper, whom they are obliged to send off acquitted). Rauch tells them: “I have no money, and cannot find a bed at less than 6 sous, because I defile it.”—Moniteur, XII. 574 (session of June 4), report by Chabot. “A peddler, belonging to Mortagne, says that a domestic coming from Coblentz told him that there was a troop about to carry off the king and poison him, so as to throw the odium of it on the National Assembly.” Bernassais de Poitiers writes: “A brave citizen told me last evening: ‘I have been to see a servant-girl, living with a noble. She assured me that her master was going to-night to Paris, to join the 30,000, who, in about a month, meant to cut the throats of the National Assembly and set fire to every corner of Paris!’ ”—M. Gérard, a saddler at Amiens, writes to us that “Louis XVI. is to be aided in his flight by 5,000 relays, and that afterwards they are going to fire red-hot bullets on the National Assembly.”
[19. ]Mercure de France, Nov. 5, 1791 (session of Oct. 25).—Ibid., Dec. 23.—Moniteur, XII. 192 (session of April 21, 1792).—XII. 447 (address to the French, by Clootz): “God brought order out of primitive chaos; the French will bring order out of feudal chaos. God is mighty, and manifested his will; we are mighty, and we will manifest our will.… The more extensive the seat of war the sooner, and more fortunately, will the suit of plebeians against the nobles be decided.… We require enemies… Savoy, Tuscany, and quickly, quickly!”
[20. ]Cf. Moniteur, XI. 192 (sitting of Jan. 22, 1792). “M. Burnet, chaplain of the national guard, presents himself at the bar of the house with an English woman, named Lydia Kirkham, and three small children, one of which is in her arms. M. Burnet announces that she is his wife and that the child in her arms is the fruit of their affection. After referring to the force of natural sentiments which he could not resist, the petitioner thus continues: ‘One day, I met one of those sacred questioners. Unfortunate man, said he, of what are you guilty? Of this child, sir; and I have married this woman, who is a Protestant, and her religion has nothing to do with mine. … Death or my wife! Such is the cry that nature now, and always will, inspire me with.’”—Ibid., XII. 369.
[21. ]The grotesque is often that of a farce. “M. Piorry, in the name of poor, but virtuous citizens, tenders two pairs of buckles, with this motto: ‘They have served to hold my tirants (shoe-straps) on my feet; they will serve to reduce under them, with the imprint and character of truth, all tyrants leagued against the constitution’ (Moniteur, XII. 457, session of May 21).”—Ibid., XIII. 249 (session of July 25). “A young citoyenne offers to combat, in person, against the enemies of her country”; and the president, with a gallant air, replies: “Made rather to soothe, than to combat tyrants, you offer, etc.”
[22. ]Moniteur, XI. 576 (session of March 6); XII. 237, 314, 368 (sessions of April 27, May 5, and May 14).
[23. ]Mercure de France. Sept. 19, 1791, Feb. 11, and March 3, 1792.—Buchez et Roux, XVI. 185 (session of July 26, 1792).
[24. ]“Mémoires de Mallet-Dupan,” 1433 (tableau of the three parties, with special information).
[25. ]Buchez et Roux, XII. 348 (letter by the deputy Chéron, president of the Feuillants Club). The deputies of the Legislative Assembly, registered at the Feuillants Club, number 264, besides a large number of deputies in the Constituent Assembly.—According to Mallet-Dupan the so-called Independents number 250.
[26. ]These figures are verified by decisive ballottings (Mortimer-Ternaux, II. 205, 248).
[27. ]Moniteur, XII. 393 (session of May 15, speech by Isnard): “The Constituent Assembly only half dared do what it had the power to do. It has left in the field of liberty, even around the very roots of the young constitutional tree, the old roots of despotism and of the aristocracy.… It has bound us to the trunk of the constitutional tree, like powerless victims given up to the rage of their enemies.”—Etienne Dumont saw truly the educational defects peculiar to the party. He says, apropos of Madame Roland: “I found in her too much of that distrustful despotism which belongs to ignorance of the world.… What her intellectual development lacked was a greater knowledge of the world and intercourse with men of superior judgment to her own. Roland himself had little intellectual breadth, while all those who frequented her house never rose above the prejudices of the vulgar.”
[28. ]“Souvenirs” (manuscript) of M. X——.
[29. ]Madame de Staël, “Considérations sur la Révolution Française.” 3d part, ch. iii. Madame de Staël conversed with them and judges them according to the shrewd perceptions of a woman of the world.
[30. ]Louvet, “Mémoires,” 32. “I belonged to the bold philosophers who, before the end of 1791, lamented the fate of a great nation, compelled to stop half-way in the career of freedom,” and, on page 38—“A minister of justice was needed. The four ministers (Roland, Servane, etc.) “cast their eyes on me.… Duranthon was preferred to me. This was the first mistake of the republican party. It paid dear for it. That mistake cost my country a good deal of blood and many tears.” Later on, he thinks that he has the qualifications for ambassador to Constantinople.
[31. ]Buzot, “Mémoires” (Ed. Dauban), pp. 31, 39. “Born with a proud and independent spirit which never bowed at any one’s command, how could I accept the idea of a man being held sacred? With my heart and head possessed by the great beings of the ancient republics, who are the greatest honor to the human species, I practiced their maxims from my earliest years, and nourished myself on a study of their virtues.… The pretended necessity of a monarchy … could not amalgamate, in my mind, with the grand and noble conceptions formed by me, of the dignity of the human species. Hope deceived me, it is true, but my error was too glorious to allow me to repent of it.”—Self-admiration is likewise the mental substratum of Madame Roland, Roland, Pétion, Barbaroux, Louvet, etc., (see their writings). Mallet-Dupan well says: “On reading the memoirs of Madame Roland, one detects the actress, rehearsing for the stage.”—Roland is an administrative puppet and would-be orator, whose wife pulls the strings. There is an odd, dull streak in him, peculiarly his own. For example, in 1787 (Guillon de Montléon, “Histoire de la Ville de Lyon, pendant la Révolution,” I. 58), he proposes to utilise the dead, by converting them into oil and phosphoric acid. In 1788, he proposes to the Villefranche Academy to inquire “whether it would not be to the public advantage to institute tribunals for trying the dead?” in imitation of the Egyptians. In his report of Jan. 5, 1792, he gives a plan for establishing public festivals, “in imitation of the Spartans,” and takes for a motto, Non omnis moriar. (Baron de Girardot, “Roland et Madame Roland,” 183, 185.)
[32. ]Moniteur, XI. 61 (session of Jan. 7, 1792).—Ibid., 204 (Jan. 25); 281 (Feb. 1); 310 (Feb. 4); 318 (Feb. 6); 343 (Feb. 9); 487 (Feb. 26).—XII. 22 (April 2). Reports of all the sessions must be read to appreciate the force of the pressure. See, especially, the sessions of April 9 and 16, May 15 and 29, June 8, 9, 15, 24, and 25, July 1, 2, 5, 9, 11, 17, 18, and 21, and, after this date, all the sessions.—Lacretelle, “Dix Ans d’Epreuves,” p. 78–81. “The Legislative Assembly served under the Jacobin Club while keeping up a counterfeit air of independence. The progress which fear had made in the French character was very great, at a time when everything was pitched in the haughtiest key.… The majority, as far as intentions go, was for the conservatives; the actual majority was for the republicans.”
[33. ]Moniteur, XIII. 212, session of July 22.
[34. ]Moniteur, XII. 22, session of April 2.—Mortimer-Ternaux, II. 95.—Moniteur, XIII. 222, session of July 22.
[35. ]Lacretelle, “Dix Ans d’Epreuves,” 80.
[36. ]Mathieu Dumas, “Mémoires,” II. 88 (Feb. 23).—Hua, “Mémoires d’un Avocat au Parliament de Paris,” 106, 121, 134, 154. Moniteur, XIII. 212 (session of July 21), speech by M. ——. “The avenues to this building are daily beset with a horde of people who insult the representatives of the nation.”
[37. ]De Vaublanc, “Mémoires,” 344.—Moniteur, XIII. 368 (letters and speeches of deputies, session of Aug. 9).
[38. ]Hua, 115.—Ibid., 90. 3 out of 4 deputies of Seine-et-Oise were Jacobins. “We met once a week to talk over the affairs of the department. We were obliged to drive out the vagabonds who, even at the table, talked of nothing but killing.”
[39. ]Moniteur, XII. 702. For example, on the 19th of June, 1792, on a motion unexpectedly proposed by Condorcet, that the departments be authorised to burn all titles (to nobility) found in the various depots.—Adopted at once, and unanimously.
[40. ]Hua, 114.
[41. ]Moniteur, XII. 664.—Mercure de France, June 23, 1792.
[42. ]Hua, 141.—Mathieu Dumas, II. 399. “It is remarkable that Lafond-Ladébat, one of our trustiest friends, was elected president on the 23d of July, 1792. This shows that the majority of the Assembly was still sound; but it was only brought about by a secret vote in the choice of candidates. The same men who obeyed their consciences, through a sentiment of justice and of propriety, could not face the danger which surrounded them in the threats of the factions when they were called upon to vote by rising or sitting.”