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THE ASSEMBLY IN THE TENNIS-COURT.
breaking open the door; the officer commanded his soldiers to arm, thus announcing that his orders contained no reservation for inviolability.
Behold our new kings, put out, kept out of doors, like unruly scholars. Behold them wandering about in the rain, among the people, on the Paris avenue. All agree about the necessity of holding the meeting and of assembling. Some shout, Let us go to the Place d'Armes! Others, to Marly! Another, to Paris! This last was an extreme measure; it was firing the powder-magazine.
The deputy Guillotin made a less hazardous motion, to repair to Old Versailles, and take up their quarters in the Tenniscourt (Jeu-de-Paume),-a miserable, ugly, poor, and unfurnished building, but the better on that account. The Assembly also was poor, and represented the people, on that day, so much the better. They remained standing all day long, having scarcely a wooden bench. It was like the manger of the new religion,-its stable of Bethlehem!
One of those intrepid curés who had decided the union of the clergy-the illustrious Grégoire-long after, when the Empire had so cruelly effaced every trace of the Revolution, its parent, used often to go near Versailles to visit the ruins of Port-Royal; one day (doubtless on his return), he entered the Jeu-de-Paume*-the one in ruins, the other abandonedtears flowed from the eyes of that firm man, who had never shown any weakness. Two religions to weep for! this was too much for the heart of man.
We too revisited, in 1846, that cradle of Liberty, that place whose echo repeated her first words, that received, and still preserves her memorable oath. But what could we say to it? What news could we give it of the world that it brought forth? Oh! time has not flown quickly; generations have succeeded one another; but the work has not progressed. When we stepped upon its venerable pavement, we felt ashamed in our heart of what we are,—of the little we have done. We felt we were unworthy, and quitted that sacred place.
• Mémoires de Grégoire, i., p. 380.
OATH AT THE JEU-DE-PAUME.
Oath at the Jeu-de-Paume, June 20th, 1789.-The Assembly wandering.A Coup d'État; Necker's Project; the King's Declaration, June 23rd, 1789; the Assembly Refuses to Separate.-The King entreats Necker to remain, but does not revoke his Declaration.
BEHOLD them now in the Tennis-court, assembled in spite of the king. But what are they going to do?
Let us not forget that at that period the whole Assembly was royalist, without excepting a single member.*
Let us not forget that on the 17th, when it assumed the title of National Assembly, it shouted Vive le Roi! And when it attributed to itself the right of voting the impost, declaring illegal the impost collected till then, the opposition members had left the Assembly, unwilling to consecrate, by their this infringement of the royal authority.†
The king, that shadow of the past, that ancient superstition, so powerful in the hall of the States-General, grew pale in the Tennis-court. The miserable building, entirely modern, bare, and unfurnished, has not a single corner where the dreams of the past can yet find shelter. Let, therefore, the pure spirit of Reason and Justice, that king of the future, reign here!
That day there was no longer any opponent; the Assembly was one, in thought and heart. It was one of the moderate party, Mounier of Grenoble, who proposed to the Assembly the celebrated declaration: That wherever it might be forced to unite, there was ever the National Assembly; that nothing could prevent it from continuing its deliberations. And, till the com
See further, the 22nd of July, a note relating to Robespierre.
As appears to me by comparing the numbers of the votes. The illegality of the impost not consented to, &c., was voted unanimously by the four hundred and twenty-six deputies alone remaining in the hall.--Archives du Royaume, Proces-verbaux MSS. de l'Assemblée Nationale.
There was only one. The ninety opponents of the 17th of June joined the majority.
OATH AT THE JEU-DE-PAUME.
pletion and establishment of the constitution, it took an oath never to separate.
Bailly was the first who took the oath; and he pronounced it so loud and distinctly that the whole multitude of people crowding without could hear, and applauded in the excess of their enthusiasm. Shouts of Vive le Roi! arose from the Assembly and from the people. It was the shout of ancient France, in her extreme transports, and it was now added to the oath of resistance.*
In 1792, Mounier, then an emigrant, alone in a foreign land, questions and asks himself whether his motion of the 20th of June was founded on right; whether his loyalty as a royalist was consistent with his duty as a citizen. And even there, in emigration, and among all the prejudices of hatred and exile, he replies, Yes!
"Yes," says he, "the oath was just; they wanted the dissolution, and it would have taken place without the oath; the court, freed from the States, would never have convoked them; it would have been necessary to renounce the founding of that constitution claimed unanimously in the old writings of France.' That is what a royalist, the most moderate of the moderate, a jurist accustomed to find moral decisions in positive texts, pronounces on the primordial act of our Revolution.
What were they doing all this time at Marly? On Saturday and Sunday, Necker was contending with the Parliament people, to whom the king had abandoned him, and who, with the coolness sometimes possessed by madmen, were overthrowing his project, abridging it of what might have caused it to pass, and took from it its bastard character, in order to convert it into a simple but brutal coup d'état, in the manner of Louis XV., a simple lit de justice, as the Parliament had suffered so many times. The discussion lasted till the evening. It was not till midnight that the president, then in bed, was informed that the royal meeting could not take place in the morning,that it was postponed till Tuesday.
The Assembly went no further. It rejected the strong, but true motion of Chapelier, who was bold enough to speak out plainly what was in the minds of all. He proposed an address: "To inform His Majesty that the enemies of the country were besieging the throne, and that their counsels tended to place the monarch at the head of a PARTY."
The nobility had come to Marly on the Sunday in great numbers and with much turbulence. They had again showed to the king, in an address, that the question now concerned him much more than the nobility. The court was animated with a chivalrous daring; these swordsmen seemed to wait only for a signal to resist the champions of the pen. The Count D'Artois, amid these bravadoes, became so intoxicated with insolence, as to send word to the Tennis-court that he would play on the morrow.
On the Monday morning, therefore, the Assembly found itself once more in the open streets of Versailles, wandering about, without house or home. Fine amusement for the court! The master of the hall was afraid; he feared the princes. The Assembly does not succeed better at the door of the Récollets where it next knocks; the monks dare not compromise themselves. Who then are these vagrants, this dangerous band, before whom every door is shut? Nothing less than the Nation itself.
But why not deliberate in the open air? What more noble canopy than the sky? But on that day the majority of the clergy wish to come and sit with the commons. Where are they to receive them? Luckily, the hundred and thirty-four curés, with a few prelates at their head, had already taken up their quarters, in the morning, in the church of Saint-Louis. The Assembly was introduced there into the nave; and the ecclesiastics, at first assembled in the choir, then came forth, and took their places among its members. A grand moment, and one of sincere joy! "The temple of religion," says an orator, with emotion, "became the temple of the native land!"
On that very day, Monday the 22nd, Necker was still contending, but in vain. His project, fatal to liberty because he preserved in it a shadow of moderation, had to give way to another more liberal and better calculated to place things in their proper light. Necker was now nothing more than a guilty mediator between good and evil, preserving a semblance of equilibrium between the just and the unjust,—a courtier, at the same time, of the people and the enemies of the people. At the last council held on Monday at Versailles, the princes, who were invited to it, did liberty the essential service of
removing this equivocal mediator, who prevented reason and unreasonableness from seeing each other plainly face to face. Before the sitting begins, I wish to examine both projects,Necker's and the court's. In what concerns the former, I will believe none but Necker himself.
In his book of 1796, written at a time of decided reaction, Necker avows to us confidentially what his project was; he shows that that project was, bold, very bold-in favour of the privileged. This confession is rather painful for him, and he makes it by an effort. "The defect of my project was its being too bold; I risked all that it was possible for me to risk. Explain yourself. I will, and I ought. Deign to listen to me.
He is speaking to the emigrants, to whom this apology is addressed. A vain undertaking! How will they ever forgive him for having called the people to political life, and made five millions of electors?
1st. Those necessary, inevitable reforms, which the court had so long refused, and which they accepted only by force, he promulgated by the king. He, who knew, to his cost, that the king was the puppet of the queen and the court, a mere cipher, nothing more, even he became a party for the continuing of that sad comedy.
Liberty, that sacred right which exists of itself, he made a present from the king, a granted charter, as was the charter of the invasion in 1814. But it required thirty years of war, and all Europe at Paris, for France to accept that constitution of falsehood.
2ndly. No legislative unity,-two Chambers, at least. This was like a timid advice to France to become English; in which there were two advantages: to strengthen the privileged, priests and nobles, henceforth concentrated in one upper Chamber; next, to make it easier for the king to amuse the people, to refuse by the upper Chamber, instead of refusing by himself, and of having (as we see to-day) two vetos for one.
3rdly. The king was to permit the three orders to deliberate in common on general affairs; but as to privileges of personal distinction, of honour, and as to rights attached to fiefs, no dis
* Euvres de Necker, vi., p. 191.