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cussion in common. Now this was precisely what France considered as the superlatively general business. Who then dared to see a special business in the question of honour?
4thly. These crippled States-General, now united, now separated into three orders, at one time active, at another supine, through their triple movement, Necker balances, shackles, and neutralises still more, by provincial States, thus augmenting division, when France is thirsting for unity.
5thly. That is what he gives, and as soon as given, he takes away again. This fine legislative machine is never to be seen at work by anybody; he grudges us the sight of it; it is to work with closed doors: no publicity of its sittings. The law is thus to be made, far from daylight, in the dark, as one would make a plot against the law.
6thly. The law? What does this word mean, without personal liberty? Who can act, elect, or vote freely, when nobody is sure of sleeping at home? This first condition of
social life, anterior to, and indispensable for political action, is not yet secured by Necker. The king is to invite the Assembly to seek the means. that might permit the abolition of the lettresde-cachet. Meanwhile, he keeps them together with the arbitrary power of kidnapping, the state-prisons, and the Bastille.
Such is the extreme concession which ancient royalty makes, in its most favourable moment, and urged on by a popular minister. Moreover, it cannot go even thus far. The nominal king promises; the real king, the court-laughs at the promise. Let them die in their sin!
THE KING'S DECLARATION (JUNE 23, 1789).
The plan of the court is worth more than the bastard plan of Necker; at least it is plainer to understand. Whatever is bad in Necker is preciously preserved, nay richly augmented.
This act, which may be called the testament of despotism, is divided into two parts: 1st. The prohibition of securities: under this head, Declaration concerning the present holding of the States. 2ndly. The reforms and benefits as they say,
The style on a par with the matter; now bombastic, now flat, and strongly savouring of false valour: "Never did a king do so much!" Towards the end is a phrase of admirable impudence and awkwardness (Necker claims it accordingly, tome ix., p. 196): "Reflect, gentlemen, that none of your projects can have the force of law without my special approbation."
THE KING'S DECLARATION.
Declaration of the king's intentions, of his wishes and desires for future contingencies. The evil is sure, and the good possible. Let us see the detail.
I. The king annihilates the will of five millions of electors, declaring that their demands are only information.
The king annihilates the decisions of the deputies of the Third Estate, declaring them "null, illegal, unconstitutional." The king will have the three orders remain distinct, that one may be able to shackle the others (that two hundredths of the nation may weigh as much as the whole nation).
If they wish to meet, he permits it, but only for this time, and also only for general business; in this general business is included neither the rights of the three orders, the constitution of the future States, the feudal and seigneurial properties, nor the privileges of money or of honour. All the ancien régime is thus found to be an exception.
All this was the work of the court. Here is, according to every appearance, the king's manifesto, the one he fondly cherished, and wrote himself. The order of the clergy shall have a special veto (against the nobility and the Third Estate) for everything relating to religion, the discipline and government of the secular and regular orders. Thus, not one monk less; no reform to be made. And all those convents, every day more odious and useless, and unable any longer to be recruited, the clergy wanted to maintain. The nobility was furious. It lost its dearest hope. It had reckoned that, one day or other, that prey would fall into its hands; at the very least, it hoped that, if the king and the people pressed it too much to make some sacrifice, it would generously make that of the clergy.
Veto on veto. For what purpose? Here we have a refinement of precautions, far more sure to render every result impossible. In the common deliberations of the three orders, it is sufficient that the two-thirds of one order protest against the deliberation, for the decision to be referred to the king. Nay more, the thing being decided, it is sufficient that a hundred members protest for the decision to be referred to the king. That is to say, that the words assembly, deliberation, and decision, are only a mystification, a farce. And who could play it without laughing?
THE KING'S DECLARATION.
II. Now come the BENEFITS: publicity for finance, voting of taxes, regulation of the expenditure for which the States will indicate the means, and his Majesty "will adopt them, if they be compatible with the kingly dignity, and the despatch of the public service."
Second benefit: The king will sanction the equality of taxation, when the clergy and the nobility shall be willing to renounce their pecuniary privileges.
Third benefit: Properties shall be respected, especially tithes, feudal rights, and duties.
Fourth benefit: Individual liberty? No. The king invites the States to seek for and to propose to him means for reconciling the abolition of the lettres-de-cachet, with the precautions necessary either for protecting the honour of families, or for repressing the commencement of sedition, &c.
Fifth Liberty of the press? No. The States shall seek the means of reconciling the liberty of the press with the respect due to religion, the morals, and the honour of the citizens.
Sixth Admission to every employment? No. Refused expressly for the army. The king declares, in the most decided manner, that he will preserve entire, and without the slightest alteration, the institution of the army. That is to say, that the plebeian shall never attain any grade, &c. Thus does the idiotic legislator subject everything to violence, force, and the sword: and this is the very moment he chooses to break hi own. Let him now call soldiers, surround the assembly with them, and urge them towards Paris; they are so many defenders that he gives to the Revolution.
On the eve of the grand day, three deputies of the nobility, MM. d'Aiguillon, de Menou, and de Montmorency, came at midnight to inform the president of the results of the last council, held the same evening at Versailles: "M. Necker will not countenance, by his presence, a project contrary to his own; he will not come to the meeting; and will doubtless depart." The meeting opened at ten o'clock; and Bailly was able to tell the deputies, and the latter many others, the grand secret of the day. Opinions might have been divided and duped, had the popular minister been seen sitting beside the king; he being absent, the king remained discovered, and forsaken by public opinion. The court had hoped to play their
THE KING'S DECLARATION.
game at Necker's expense, and to be sheltered by him; they have never forgiven him for not having allowed himself to be abused and dishonoured by them.
What proves that everything was known is, that on his very exit from the castle, the king found the crowd sullenly silent.* The affair had got abroad, and the grand scene, so highly wrought, had not the least effect.
The miserable petty spirit of insolence which swayed the court, had suggested the idea of causing the two superior orders to enter in front, by the grand entrance, and the commons behind, and to keep them under a shed, half in the rain. The Third Estate, thus humbled, wet and dirty, was to have entered crest-fallen, to receive its lesson.
Nobody to introduce them; the door shut; and the guard within. Mirabeau to the president: "Sir, conduct the nation into the presence of the king!" The president knocks at the door. The body-guards from within: "Presently. The president: Gentlemen, where is then the master of the ceremonies?" The body-guards: "We know nothing about it." The deputies: "Well then, let us go; come away!" At last the president succeeds in bringing forth the captain of the guards, who goes in quest of Brézé.
The deputies, filing in one by one, find, in the hall, the clergy and the nobility, who, already in their places, and holding the meeting, seem to be awaiting them, like judges. In other respects, the hall was empty. Nothing could be more desolate than that hall, from which the people were excluded.
The king read, with his usual plainness of manner, the speech composed for him,-that despotic language so strange from his lips. He perceived but little its provoking violence, for he appeared surprised at the aspect of the Assembly. The nobles having applauded the article consecrating feudal rights, loud distinct voices were heard to utter : Silence there!
The king, after a moment's pause and astonishment, concluded with a grave, intolerable sentence, which flung down the gauntlet to the Assembly, and began the war: "If you abandon me in so excellent an enterprise, I will, alone, effect
* Dumont (an eye-witness), p. 91.
THE KING'S DECLARATION.
the welfare of my people; alone, I shall consider myself as their true representative!"
And at the end: "I order you, gentlemen, to disperse immediately, and to repair to-morrow morning to the chambers appropriated to your order, there to resume your sitting.'
The king departed, followed by the nobility and the clergy. The commons remained seated, calm, and silent.* The master of the ceremonies then entered, and said to the president in a low.tone: 66 Sir, you heard the king's order!" He replied: The Assembly adjourned after the royal meeting; I cannot dismiss it till it has deliberated." Then turning towards his colleagues near him: "It seems to me that the assembled nation cannot receive any orders.'
That sentence was admirably taken up by Mirabeau, who addressed it to the master of the ceremonies. With his powerful and imposing voice, and with terrible dignity, he hurled back these words: "We have heard the intentions suggested to the king; and you, sir, who can never be his organ to the National Assembly, you, who have here neither place, voice, nor right to speak, you are not a man to remind us of his discourse. Go and tell those who send you, that we are here by the will of the people, and are to be driven hence only by the power of bayonets."t
Brézé was disconcerted, thunderstruck; he felt the power of that new royalty, and, rendering.to the one what etiquette commanded for the other, he retired walking backwards, as was the custom before the king.‡
The court had imagined another way to disperse the com‚—a brutal means formerly employed with success in the
*There was neither hesitation, nor consternation, notwithstanding what Dumont says, who was not there. The ardent, like Grégoire (Mém., i., 381), and the moderate, like Malouet, were perfectly agreed. The latter says, on this head, these fine and simple words: "We had no other course to take. We owed France a constitution."-Malouet, Compte-rendu à mes Commettants.
This version is the only one likely. Mirabeau was a royalist; he would never have said: "Go and tell your master," nor the other words that have been added.
Related by M. Frochot, an eye-witness, to the son of Mirabeau. (Mém., vi, p. 39). That family has thought proper to contest a few details of this wellknown scene, forty-four years after the event.