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UNANIMITY OF THE PEOPLE.
found that little remained to be taught them. In that prodigious movement of five or six millions of men, there was some sort of hesitation, through their ignorance of forms, and especially, because the majority knew not how to read. But they knew how to speak; they knew how, in presence of their lords, without infringing upon their respectful habits, or laying aside their humble demeanour, to select worthy electors, who all nominated safe and certain deputies.
The admission of the country districts to election had the unexpected result of placing even among the deputies of the privileged orders a numerous democracy, of whom they had never thought, two hundred curés and more, very hostile to their bishops. In Brittany, and in the South, the peasant willingly nominated his curé, who, moreover, alone knowing how to write, received the votes, and directed all the election.* *
The people of the towns, rather better prepared, having been somewhat enlightened by the philosophy of the age, evinced an admirable eagerness, a lively consciousness of their rights. This appeared plain at the elections, by the rapidity, the certainty with which crowds of inexperienced men took this their first political step. It appeared evident in the uniformity of the memorials (cahiers) in which they recorded their complaints, an unexpected, powerful combination, which imparted irresistible strength to the will of the people. How long had those complaints existed in every heart! It was but too easy to write them. Many a memorial of our districts, containing almost a code, was begun at midnight, and finished at three in the morning.†
A movement so vast, so varied, so wholly unprepared, and yet so unanimous, is most wonderful! All took part in it, and (except an insignificant number) they all desired the same thing.
Unanimous! There was a complete and unreserved concord, a perfectly simple state of things,-the nation on one side and privilege on the other. Yet, there was no possible
* However, in several communes, sworn scriveners were appointed to write down the votes.-Duchatellier, La Revolution en Bretagne, i., 281. Mémoires de Bailly, i., 12.
The same thing in every essential point. To which every corporation every town added something special.
THE CONVOCATION OF THE STATES DELAYED.
distinction then in the nation between the people and the citizens;* only one distinction appeared,—the instructed and the ignorant; the educated alone spoke and wrote; but they wrote the thoughts of all. They drew up into a formula the general demands; and they were the demands of the mute masses as much as, and more than their own.
Oh! who would not be touched by the remembrance of that unrivalled moment, when we started into life? It was shortlived; but it remains for us the ideal whereunto we shall ever tend, the hope of the future! O sublime Concord, in which the rising liberties of classes, subsequently in opposition, embraced so tenderly, like brothers in the cradle,-shall we never more see thee return upon our earth?
This union of the different classes, this grand appearance of the people in their formidable unity, struck terror to the court which used every effort with the king to prevail on him to break his word. The Polignac faction had contrived, in order to place him in an uncomfortable position, to get the princes to write and sign an audacious letter in which they menaced the king, assumed to be the chiefs of the privileged classes, spoke of refusing taxes, of divisions, almost of civil war.
And yet, how could the king elude the States? Recommended by the Court of Aides, demanded by the Parliaments, and by the Notables, promised by Brienne, and again by Necker, they were at length to open on the 27th of April. They were further prorogued till the 4th of May. A perilous delay! To so many voices then arising another was added, alas! one often heard in the eighteenth century,—the voice of the earth— the desolate, sterile earth refusing food to man! The winter had been terrible; the summer was dry and gave nothing: and famine began. The bakers being uneasy, and always in peril before the starving riotous crowd, themselves denounced companies who were monopolising the corn. Only one thing restrained the people, and made them fast patiently and wait,
their hope in the States-General. A vague hope; but it
* It was a vital error of the authors of the Histoire Parlementaire, to mark this distinction at that important moment when nobody saw it. It will come but too soon; we must wait. Thus to be blind to the real consequence of facts, and to drag them forcibly forward before their time by a sort of systematic pre-arrangement, is precisely contrary to history.
FIRST ACT OF SOVEREIGNTY OF THE NATION.
supported them; the forthcoming assembly was a Messiah; it had only to speak, and the stones were to change into bread.
The elections, so long delayed, were still longer postponed at Paris. They were not convoked till the eve of the assembling of the States. It was hoped that the deputies would not be present at the first sittings, and that before their arrival, they would secure the separation of the three orders, which gave a majority to the privileged.
There was another cause for discontent, and one most serious for Paris. In that city, the most enlightened in the kingdom, election was subjected to more severe conditions. A special regulation, made after the convocation, called, as primary electors, not all who were taxed, but those only who paid a rate of six francs.
Paris was filled with troops, every street with patrols, and every place of election surrounded with soldiers. Arms were loaded in the street, in face of the crowd.
In presence of these vain demonstrations, the electors were very firm. Scarcely had they met, when they rejected the presidents given to them by the king. Out of sixty districts, three only re-appointed the president named by the monarch, making him declare that he presided by election. A serious measure,- -the first act of the national sovereignty. And it was indeed that which it was necessary to acquire,—it was Right that it was necessary to found. Questions of finance and reform would come afterwards. Without Right, what guarantee was there, or what serious reform?
The electors, created by these district assemblies, acted in precisely the same manner. They elected as president the advocate Target; Camus, the advocate of the clergy, as vicepresident, and the academician Bailly and Doctor Guillotin, a philanthropical physician, as secretaries.*
The court was astonished at the decision, firmness, and re
This assembly, so firm in its first proceedings, was nevertheless composed of notables, functionaries, merchants, or advocates. The latter led the assembly; they were Camus, Target, Treilhard, the advocate of the Ferme Générale, Lacretelle Senior, and Desèze. In the second rank came the academicians,-Bailly, Thouin, and Cadet, Gaillard, Suard, Marmontel. Next, the bankers, such as Lecouteulx, and the printers, librarians, and stationers, Pankoucke, Baudouin, Réveillon, &c.
THE ELECTORS TROUBLED BY RIOT.
gularity, with which twenty-five thousand primary electors, so new to political life, then proceeded. There was no disturbance. Assembled in the churches, they transferred thither the emotion of the great and holy task they were accomplishing. The boldest measure, the destitution of the presidents named by the king, was effected without any noise or exclamation, with the forcible simplicity imparted by a consciousness of right.
The electors, under a president of their choice, were sitting at the Archbishop's Palace, and about to make a total of the district polls, and to draw up one common resolution; they were already agreed on one point, which Sieyes had recommended, the utility of prefacing with a declaration of the rights of man. In the middle of this delicate and difficult metaphysical task, they were interrupted by a terrible uproar. A ragged multitude had come to demand the head of one of their colleagues, of Réveillon, an elector, a paper-manufacturer in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Réveillon was concealed; but the riot was not less dangerous on that account. It was now the 28th of April; the States-General, promised for the 27th, and then postponed again till the 4th of May, ran a great risk, if the riots lasted, of being adjourned once more.
The riot broke out precisely on the 27th, and it was but too easy to spread, entertain, and increase it, among a starving population. A report had been spread in the Faubourg SaintAntoine, that Réveillon, the paper-manufacturer,-a workman grown rich, had said unfeelingly that it was necessary to lower wages to fifteen sous a day; and, it was added, that he was to receive the decoration of the cordon-noir. That report was followed by a great commotion. First, a band, in front of Réveillon's door, take his effigy, decorated with the cordon, carry it in procession to La Grève, and burn it with much ceremony beneath the windows of the Hôtel-de-Ville, before the eyes of the municipal authority, who remain perfectly unmoved. This authority and the others, so vigilant just before, seemed fast asleep. The lieutenant of police, the prevost Flesselles, and Berthier the intendant,-all those court-agents, who lately surrounded the elections with soldiers, had lost their activity.
The band exclaimed aloud that it would go, on the morrow, to do justice at Réveillon's. It kept its word. The police, though so well warned, used no precaution. The colonel of the
French Guards sends, of his own accord, some thirty men,a ridiculous force; in a compact crowd of a thousand or two thousand pillagers and a hundred thousand idle spectators, the soldiers will not, cannot, act. The house is broken open, and everything demolished, shattered to pieces, and burnt. Nothing was carried away, except five hundred louis d'or.* Many took up their quarters in the cellars, drank the wine, and the colours of the manufactory, mistaking them for wine.
What seems incredible is, that this shameful scene lasted all day. It took place too at the very entrance of the faubourg, under the cannon of the Bastille, at the gate of the fort. Réveillon, who was concealed there, saw all from the towers.
A few companies of the French Guards were sent from time to time, who fired, first with powder, and next with ball. The pillagers paid no attention to them, though they had only stones to throw in return. Late, very late, the commandant, Besenval, sent some Swiss; the pillagers still resisted, and killed a few men; the soldiers replied by some destructive discharges, which left a number of dead and wounded on the pavement. Many of these bodies in rags had money about them.
If, during those two long days, when the magistrates were asleep and Besenval abstained from sending troops, the faubourg Saint-Antoine had allowed itself to be seduced to follow the band that was sacking Réveillon's house,-if fifty thousand workmen, without either work or bread, had, on that example, set about pillaging the rich mansions, everything would have changed its aspect; the court would then have an excellent
According to the statement of Réveillon himself: Exposé justificatif, p. 422, (printed at the end of Ferrières). The Histoire Parlementaire is again inexact here. It makes of all this, without the least proof, a war of the people against the citizens. It exaggerates the extent of the riot, the number of the dead, &c. Bailly, on the contrary, and no less wrongfully, in p. 28 of his Memoirs, reduces it to nothing: " Nobody perished, as far as I know." A very important testimony, on the Réveillon riot, is that of the illustrious surgeon Desault, who received several of the wounded at the Hôtel-Dieu : "Ils n'avaient l'air que du crime foudroyé; au contraire, les blessés de la Bastille," &c. See l'Euvre des sept Jours, p. 411. What showed plainly that the people did not consider the pillage of Réveillon's house as a patriotic act is, that they were near hanging, on the 16th of July, a man whom they mistook for the abbé Roy, accused of having excited this riot (Bailly, ii., p. 51), and of having subsequently offered to the court a means of slaughtering Paris.—(Procès-verbal des Electeurs, ii., p. 46.)