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where my path has been marked out by the emotions of my heart and not by private interest, nor by any thought of this sublunar world. Thou wilt be just towards me, and I will be so towards all. For whom then have I written this, but for thee, Eternal Justice?
JANUARY 31ST, 1847.
APRIL TO JULY, 1789.
ELECTIONS OF 1789.
The whole People called to choose the Electors, and send in their Complaints and Requests. The Ministry had relied on the Incapacity of the People. -Certainty of the Popular Instinct; Firmness of the People; their Unanimity. The Convocation of the States, and the Elections of Paris delayed.-First Act of the Sovereignty of the Nation.-The Electors troubled by a Riot.-The Réveillon Riot and the Persons interested in it. The Elections completed.-(January to April, 1789.)
THE Convocation of the States-General, in 1789, is the true era of the birth of the people. It called the whole nation to the exercise of their rights.
They could at least write their complaints, their wishes, and choose the electors.
Small republican states had already admitted all their members to a participation of political rights; but never had a great kingdom,- —an empire like France. The thing was new, not only in French annals, but even in those of the world.
Accordingly, when, for the first time, in the course of ages, these words were heard: All shall assemble to elect,* all
See the Actes in the first vol. of the Moniteur. The tax-payers of more than twenty-five years of age were to choose the electors, who were to name the deputies, and concur in the drawing-up of the returns. As taxation affected everybody, at least by poll-tox, the whole of the population, excepting servants, was thus called upon.
THE PEOPLE ARE TO ELECT THE ELECTORS.
shall send in their complaints, there was an immense, profound commotion, like an earthquake; the mass felt the shock even in obscure and mute regions, where movement would have been least expected.
All the towns elected, and not the good towns only, as in the ancient States-General; country districts also elected, and not the towns alone.
It is affirmed that five millions of men took part in the election.
Grand, strange, surprising scene! To see a whole people emerging, at once, from nonentity to existence, who, till then silent, suddenly found a voice.
The same appeal of equality was addressed to populations, prodigiously unequal, not only by position, but by worship, by their moral state and ideas. How would that people That was a great question. The exchequer on feudality on the other,* seemed striving to brutalise them under the weight of miseries. Royalty had deprived them of their municipal rights, of that education which they derived from business connected with the commune. The clergy, the teachers thrust upon them, had not taught them for a long time past. They seemed to have done everything to render them dull, dumb, speechless, and senseless, and then they said to them, "Arise now, walk, and speak!"
They had relied, too much relied, upon that incapacity; otherwise they would never have ventured to make this grand move. The first who pronounced the name of the States-General, -the parliaments which demanded them, the ministers who promised them,-Necker who convoked them,-all, believed the people incapable of taking any serious part therein hey only thought, by this solemn convocation of a grea Heless mass, to frighten the privileged classes. The court, which was itself the privilege of privileges, the abuse of abuses, had no desire to make war on them. It merely hoped, by the forced contributions of the clergy and nobility, to fill the public coffers, from which they filled their own.
And what did the queen desire? Given up to parvenus, *This expression is not ill-employed. Feudality was very oppressive in 1789, more fiscal than ever, being entirely in the hands of intendants, attorneys, &c. Names and forms had changed,—nothing more.
AND WRITE THEIR COMPLAINTS.
lampooned by the nobility, gradually despised, and alone, she wanted to have a slight revenge on those revilers, to intimidate them, and oblige them to rally round the king. She saw her brother Joseph attempting, in the Netherlands, to oppose the smaller towns to the larger, to the prelates and grandees.* That example, doubtless, rendered her less adverse to Necker's ideas; she consented to give to the Tiers (or Third Estate) as many deputies as the nobility and clergy had together.
And what did Necker desire? Two things at once,-to pretend much and do little.
For ostentation, for glory,-to be celebrated and extolled by the saloons and the immense body of the public, it was necessary to double generously the number of the deputies of the Third Estate.
Inality, they wanted to be generous at a cheap rate. † The Third Estate, more or less numerous, would never be anything but one of three orders, would have but one vote against two; Necker reckoned surely on maintaining the voting by orders, which had so often before paralysed the ancient States-General. The Third Estate, moreover, had at all times been very modest, very respectful, too well-bred to wish to be represented by men of its own class. It had often named nobles for deputies, mostly newly-created nobles, parliament people and others, who prided themselves on voting with the
See, for the revolution in Brabant, so different from ours, the documents collected by Gachard (1834), Gerard (1842), and the histories by GrossHoffinger (1837), Borgnet (1844), and Ramshorn (1845). That revolution of abbés, of which the Capuchin-friars were the terrorists, deceived everybody here in France), both the court and our Jacobins. Dumouriez alone comprehended and said, that it was primitively the work of the powerful abbés of the Netherlands. M. Mercy d'Argenteau, the Austrian ambassador, believed at first, and doubtless made Marie-Antoinette believe, that in France, as in Belgium, the peril was on the side of the aristocracy. Hence, many false steps.
For all this, one must see Necker's curious confessions, his pleading for the Third Estate. (Euvres, vi., 419, 443, &c.) Therein, as in all his works, one always perceives the foreigner anything but esteemed in France, a clerk ever clerk-like, who stands bowing before the nobility,-a Protestant who wants to find grace with the clergy. To reassure the privileged classes about the poor Third Estate, he presents it to them feeble, timid, and subservient; he seems to be telegraphing secretly with them. He, moreover, gives them to understand that his client is an easy sort of person,-easily duped.
CERTAINTY OF THE POPULAR INSTINCT.
nobility, against the interests of the Third Estate which had named them.
A strange circumstance, but a proof that they had no real intention, that they merely wanted by this grand phantasmagoria, to overcome the selfishness of the privileged classes, and open their purses, is, that in these States, called against them, they managed nevertheless to secure them a predominant influence.* The popular assemblies were to elect by acclamation (à haute voix). They did not suppose that inferior people, in such a mode of election, in presence of the nobles and notables, would possess sufficient firmness to oppose them,enough assurance to pronounce other names than those which were dictated to them.
In calling the people of the country, of the villages, to the election, Necker, no doubt, expected to do something very political; in proportion as the democratical spirit was aroused in the towns, in such proportion the country-places were influenced by the nobles and the clergy, the possessors of two thirds of the lands. Millions of men arrived thus at election, who were dependent on the privileged classes, as tenants, cultivators, &c., or who indirectly would be influenced, or intimidated, by their agents, stewards, attorneys, and men of business. Necker knew, from the experience of Switzerland and the history of the petty cantons, that universal suffrage may be, with certain conditions, the stay of the aristocracy. The notables whom he consulted, so completely adopted this idea, that they wanted to make even their servants electors. Necker would not consent to it, as then the election would have fallen entirely into the hands of the large proprietors.
The result deceived all their calculations.† This people, though wholly unprepared, showed a very sure instinct. When they were called to election and informed of their rights, it was
* The privileged orders were doubly favoured: 1st. They were not subjected to the two degrees of election; they elected their deputies in a direct manner. 2dly. The nobles were all electors, and not the nobles who had fiefs exclusively, as in the ancient states; the privilege was the more odious still, as being extended to a whole generation of nobles; the pretensions were the more ridiculous.
Very uncertain calculations. The king confesses, in the convocation of Paris, that he does not know the number of the inhabitants of the best-known town in the kingdom, that he cannot guess the number of the electors, &c.