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Full text of "The Cambridge modern history;"




Gfornell IntttecBitg SEtbrarg 



CHARLES WILLIAM WASON 
COLLECTION 

CHINA AND THE CHINESE 



THE GIFT OF 

CHARLES WILLIAM WASON 

CLASS OF 1876 

1918 




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http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924070596832 



THE 

CAMBRIDGE 
MODERN HISTORY 



aottfioti: C. J. CLAY and SONS, 

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS WAREHOUSE, 

AVE MARIA LANE. 

(EtaiiBoiij: so, WELLINGTON STREET. 




HelUjiS: F- A. BROCKHAUS. 
aSnmliaE snS Calcutta: MACMILLAN AND CO., Ltd. 



[All rights reierved.l 



THE 

CAMBRIDGE 
MODERN HISTORY 



PLANNED BY 

THE LATE LORD ACTON LL.D. 

REGIUS PROFESSOR OF MODERN HISTORY 



EDITED BY 

A. W. WARD LiTT.D. 

G. W. PROTHERO Litt.D. 

STANLEY LEATHES M.A. 



VOLUME VIII 

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 



CAMBRIDGE 

AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 

1904 



OOIMnM 1. 
ill VfiUft 



PRINTED BY J. AND C. F. CLAY, 
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS. 



' PKEFACE. 

npHE main focus of activity for European forces shifts from age to 
-*- age. Thus in preceding volumes, under the changing play of 
national collisions, and the stimulus of new ideas, we have seen its 
position move from Italy to the Rhineland and to Switzerland. Its 
hmits are sometimes narrow, sometimes they embrace a wider field. 
But in no epoch is the centre of material and spiritual energy for 
Europe more definitely located, in none is the action proceeding from 
that centre more novel in its kind, more destructive of the old, more 
ambitious of the new, than in the period of the French Revolution. 
For this whole decade the main attention of the student of European 
history must centre in Paris. 

The present Volume traces the intellectual genesis of the revolutionary 
movement among the audacious thinkers and the philanthropic listeners 
of the eighteenth century. It shows how the institutions and the 
administration of France were unfitted to resist a violent shock, while 
her vacillating rulers hesitated to use such resources as the constitution 
placed in their hands. Benevolent enthusiasm, peaceful agitation, 
irresolute control, are succeeded by anarchy and terrorism ; society seems 
to be resolved into its elements, and the fortunes of the nation to depend 
on the caprice and idiosyncrasies of a few chance-selected men. The 
impulse spreads beyond the frontiers. Europe gathers her forces to 
resist the destructive flood. France reacts to hostile pressure; institu- 
tions are extemporised in the inidst of foreign and civil war ; the organic 
unity of the French nation reasserts itself ; order succeeds to anarchy, 
fixed aims to vague aspirations ; and wars of conquest follow wars 
of self-preservation. Separately is described the attempt of legislators 
to break loose from the bonds of custom, convention, and tradition, and 
to build up a new scheme of human relations from a purely rational 
basis. Finally, the effect of these destructive and reconstructive ideas 
is traced in action and reaction through the chief countries of Europe ; 



vi Preface. 

and the foundations of our modem political and social scheme become 
visible. The new phase of European history, which opens with the 
Consulate, is left to be treated in another volume. 

But while this main drama absorbs our main attention, and dominates 
one-half of the European continent, a secondary plot unfolds itself in the 
east. The preoccupation of the central Powers leaves room for the 
ambition and intrigue of Russia ; and the fate of Poland is decided in 
accordance with Catharine's wishes. Meanwhile the jealousy of Austria 
and Prussia and their disputes over the Polish spoils leave to France a 
breathing-space; the revolutionary government has leisure to establish 
itself; and before Poland is finally dismembered the gravest crisis has 
passed. Here and there moreover we see indications of a new and 
imperious problem, the Eastern question, which wiU occupy the energies 
and attract the ambitions of statesmen and diplomatists for more 
than a century to come. 

The regeneration of France, the extinction of Poland — these themes 
with their accessories claim all our space. From the European point 
of view, the domestic politics of England become of secondary interest, 
even to Englishmen. The European significance of British activity is 
in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. British internal struggles and 
party fortunes influence the main plot only in so far as they hamper or 
assist the efforts of William Pitt and Nelson. But the due considera- 
tion of British politics is only deferred; the period before 1793 will 
find its place in Volume VI, the period after 1793 in Volume IX; 
while Volume VI, which will natiu-ally include the story of Grattan's 
Parliament, must also follow that movement to its close in the Act 
of Union. 

The thanks of the Editors axe due to all the contributors to this 
Volume for time and labour unsparingly devoted to the common task • 
and also to Mr C. R. L. Fletcher, of Magdalen College, Oxford, for 
advice and assistance freely given, and to Professor Maitland for his 
careful revision of the translation of the Chapter on " French Law in 
the Age of the Revolution." 

A. W. W. 
G. W. P. 

S. L. 

Cambridse, 

April, 1904. 



Til 



TABLE OF CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER I. 

PHILOSOPHY AND THE REVOLUTION. 

By P. F. WiLLERT, M.A., Honorary Fellow of 
Exeter College, Oxford. 

PAGE 

The influence of phUosophy. Views of Mallet du Pan and Mounier . 1 

The principles of 1789 and 1793 2 

The conception of the law of nature. Earlier history of these opinions. 

Boucher 3 

Mariana. Montaigne. The "Libertines." Bayle 4 

The method of Bayle's Dictionary 6 

Pascal. Bossuet. Hobbes 6 

Locke and his influence 7 

The efl^ects of the policy of Louis XIV and Orleans .... 8 

Law's scheme. The merchants and the nobility. Jansenists. Molinists . 9 

Voltaire. The Letters on the English 10 

His commonsense attitude. His conservatism 11 

His ideas of reform, on the Church, on government .... 12 

Practical proposals of reform. Criminal procedure 13 

Negative character of Voltaire's work. Boulainvilliers .... 14 

Vauban. The Dime Bm/ale. Saint-Pierre 15 

D'Argenson on the government of France . . ... 16 

Montesquieu. The Lettres Persanes 17 

L'Esprit des Lois 18 

The constitution of England and the separation of powers ... 19 

The influence of Montesquieu. Taxation 20 

Signs of the coming storm. Mirabeau the Elder 21 

The Economists. Quesnay 22 

Mercier de la Riviere. Dupont of Nemours. Doctrine of Quesnay . 23 

The Physiocrats. Virtue the best policy 24 

The Com Laws. Turgot. Necker 26 

'Pie impot unique. The Encyclopedists 26 

Rousseau. The Sentimental School 27 

J^mile. The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality 28 

The Social Contract. The views of Rousseau 29 

The General WiU 30 



viii Contents. 



PAGE 

The lawgiver. The ideal State 31 

The influence of Rousseau 32 

Communism. Morelly. Mably 33 

The Jacobins and Communism 34 

Influence of the philosophers 35 



CHAPTER II. 

THE GOVERNMENT OF FRANCE. 

By F. C. Montague, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Oriel College, 
Oxford, Professor of History in University College, London. 

The Crown. The Royal Council S6 

The Ministers. The Council. The civil service 37 

The Intendants 38 

Provincial government. The Provincial Estates 39 

Decay of the Provincial Estates 40 

The system of communes 41 

Impotence of communal government. Municipal institutions ... 42 

Town organisation. Interference of the Crown 43 

Working of the bureaucracy 44 

Formalism. Lack of criticism. Arbitrary capribe ..... 45 

Uncertainty of the Law. The Courts of Justice ..... 46 

Parlementa. Prisidiaux 47 

Extraordinary Courts. Feudal jurisdiction 48 

Multiplicity and confusion of Courts and codes 49 

The criminal law. Lettres de cachet ........ 50 

The army and the system of granting commissions 51 

The militia. The French clergy 62 

The numbers of the clergy. The religious Orders. Wealth of the Church 53 
Exemptions from taxation. Distribution of ecclesiastical revenues. 

Government of the Church . . : 64 

Condition of the higher and of the lower clergy . ; . . . 55 
The religious Houses. Dissent and repression .... .56 

The French nobility 67 

The weakness of the nobility . . 68 

Lack of union in the nobility. The middle class ... .69 

The cities and their population. The bourgeoisie 60 

Their grievances. The peasants 61 

Serfdom. Peasant proprietors. Metayers ....... 62 

Condition of the peasantry 63 

Agrarian burdens, and hardships 64 

The condition of France compared with that of other countries . , 66 



Contents. ix 



CHAPTER III. 

FINANCE. 
By Henry Higgs, M.A., of H.M. Treasury. 

PAGE 

Necessity of a financial revolution 66 

The domaine. The taille 67 

The capitation. The don gratuit 68 

Vingtiemes. Aides. Traites 69 

The gabelle. Local burdens 70 

Collection of revenue. Farming of taxes 71 

Defects and confusions of the financial system 72 

Pensions. The progressive deficit ........ 73 

Necker's Oompte Rendu (1781). Other financial statements and estimates 74 

The Compte Rendu of 1788 75 

Statement of gross receipts 76 

The defects of French finance 77 

Lack of economy. The burdens of the nation 78 



CHAPTER IV. 

LOUIS XVI. 
By Professor F. C. Montague, M.A. 

Personal ciaracteristics of Louis XVI 79 

Marie-Antoinette • , 80 

The King's brothers. Effects of personal influences .... 81 

The King's Ministers. Recall of the Parlements 82 

Turgot as Controller-General 83 

Administration of Turgot 84 

Reforms and removal of trade restrictions ...... 85 

The Caisse d^Escompte. Provincial government 86 

Opposition to Turgot. The Parlement of Paris 87 

Turgot dismissed. Other reformers. Malesherbes. Saint-Germain . . 88 

Necker Finance Minister 89 

His qualities. His task. His policy 90 

Provincial Assemblies. The serfs 91 

War between England and France. Its effect on French finances and on 

French ideas • 92 

Necker's financial expedients 93 

Publication of the Compte Rendu. Necker dismissed .... 94 

Joly de Fleury. Projects of the Parlements 96 

A CouncU of Finance. Resignation of Fleury. Lefevre d'Ormesson. Peace 

with England 96 

Calonne Controller-General. State of the Treasury 97 

Loans and expenditure. The Parlement demurs 98 

Increasing deficit. Schemes for taxation of the clergy and other privileged 

persons. Treaty with England 99 



Contents. 



page: 

Loan from the City of Paris. Calonne's proposals for reform . . . 100 
Loan from the Gaigse d'Eaeompte. The Notables summoned. Composition 

of the Assembly 101 

Death of Vergennes. The Notables assemble. Proposals of Calonne . 102 

Opposition of the Notables. Calonne's manifesto. Ministerial chang^es. . 103 

Calonne dismissed. Lomdnie de Brienne chief of the Council of Finance 104 
The Notables dissolved. Lomenie's edicts. The Parlement opposes the 

stamp-tax 105 

Demand for States General. Lit de justice. The Parlement goes into exile 106 

Frederick William and Holland. The Parlement returns to Paris . . 107 

Brienne proposes fresh loans. Royal Session 108 

The new Provincial Assemblies. Lambert's Oompte Rendu . . . 109 
Arrest of d'Espremenil and Goislard. lit de justice at Versailles. New 

Cour PUniere 110 

Resistance of the provincial Parlements Ill 

Tumults in Britanny and Dauphine ........ 112 

The clergy and taxation. The meeting of Vizille 113 

The States General summoned 114 

Lomenie gives place to Necker 115 

The Notables again. Assembly at Romans ...... 116 

Question of the representation of the Third Estate 117 

Scarcity and disorder 118 



CHAPTER V. 

THE ELECTIONS TO THE STATES GENERAL. 
By Professor F. C. Montague, M.A. 

The States General of France 119 

Their history. The cahiers des doUances. The deputies petitioners . 120 

The language of the royal summons. Hopes of the public . . . 121 

The press. Pamphlets and treatises. Sieyes. Mounier .... 122 

Libels and caricatures 123 

Inaction of Ministers. Organisation of the electors 124 

The franchise in the several Estates 125 

The modes of election. Substitutes 126 

Censures on the proceedings of the Government 127 

Defects and anomalies in the elections 128 

Question of manner of election in Britanny, Dauphine, and other Provinces ] 29 

The elections in Paris 130 

The several Estates in Paris 131 

The deputies of the Third Estate in Paris. Malouet and the Ministers . 132 

Composition of the States General 133 

The cahiers des doUances 134 

The manner of their compilation 135 

The cahiers as evidence of public sentiment 136 

The political reforms demanded ........ 137 

Specific demands for rights and reforms 138 

The several demands of the Three Estates I39 



Contents. xi 



PAO£ 

The financial reforms demanded 140 

The affairs of the Church. The clergy 141 

The Church and the other Estates 142 

Feudal and manorial rights. The militia 143 

Miscellaneous demands. Their general character 144 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, AND THE SPREAD OF ANARCHY. 

By Professor F. C. Montague, M.A. 

The meeting place of the States General. Conduct of the King and his 

Ministers . . 145 

The meeting of the States General 146 

Necker's statement to the Assembly . 147 

Verification of powers 148 

Mounier. Malouet. Mirabeau 149 

Miraheau's qualities. His assistants 150 

Aims of Mirabeau. His Journals 161 

Separation or united session of the Orders 162 

The Third Estate declares itself to be the National Assembly . . . 153 

Aspects of this action. First resolutions of the Assembly . . . 154 

The King determines to hold a Royal Session. Oath of the Tennis-court 165 

The Royal Session. The Royal Declarations 166 

The Assembly holds to its resolutions 157 

The union of the Three Estates 158 

Movement to get rid of Necker 169 

Outbreaks of disorder 160 

Paris. The Clubs. The Duke of Orleans 161 

Mutiny in the Gardes Frarifaises. Meeting of the Electors of Paris . 162 

Necker ordered to leave the kingdom. Riots 163 

Fall of the Bastille 164 

Necker recalled. The first emigration. Bailly Mayor . . . 166 

Lafayette as Commandant of the National Guard 166 

Progress of anarchy . 167 

The state of Paris, llie Journals 168 

Position of the Assembly 169 

Disorder in the Assembly 170 

Bureaux and Committees. Style of speaking . ' 171 

Foi-mation of groups in the Assembly 172 

The Right Centre 173 

The Left and its divisions. Robespierre . 174 

Position of Mirabeau 175 



xii Contents. 



CHAPTER Vn. 

THE CONSTITUTION OP 1791. 
By Professor F. C. Montague, M.A. 

PAGE 

Weakness of the old institutions 176 

Lack of experience and practical wisdom in the Assemhly . . 177 

Declaration of the Rights of Man 178 

The sitting of August 4 179 

Discussion of the draft Constitution 180 

The Assembly declares for a Single Chamber 181 

The suspensive veto adopted 182 

New Constitutional Committee. The banquet at Versailles . . . 183 

The march to VersaUles, October 6 184 

The King and the Assembly removed to Paris ■ ..... 185 

The Jacobin Club. Mirabeau and the Court 186 

Mirabeau proposes that the Ministers should have seats in the Assembly 187 

Nootka Sound. The treaty-making power 188 

Spain and the Family Compact 189 

The new system of Departments 190 

ITxe fidires. The feast of the Federation 191 

Dissolution of military discipline. Mutiny of the Swiss regiment of 

Chateau-Vieux 192 

Naval mutinies. The Colonies. San Domingo 193 

The relations of Church and State 194 

Suppression of tithe, of the religious Orders, etc 195 

The civil constitution of the clergy ........ 196 

Ileligious insuiTBction 197 

Oath to the civil constitution exacted of the clergy .... 198 

Death of Mirabeau. The King meditates flight . . . . . 199 

The flight to Varennes. The massacre of the Champ de Mars . . 200 

The Constitution of 1791 voted 201 

The Legislature. Methods of election . 202 

The Ministers. The King 203 

Powers and limitations of the royal oflice 204 

Local government. The Municipalities 205 

The Courts of Justice. Elective judges ....... 206 

The Army. The Navy. The National Guards 207 

Flaws in the Constitution . . 208 

Elaborate elective system of local administration 209 

The members of the Constituent Assembly excluded from the Legislative 210 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY. 

By J. R. MoRETON Macdonald, M.A., Magdalen College, Oxford. 

Jacobin supremacy ........... 211 

Influence on the electors and the elected 212 

Parties in the Legislative. Brissot 213 



Contents. xiii 



PAGE 

Madame Boland. Sieyes. Public sessions 214 

Attitude of the Court and the King . 215 

The Feuillant Ministry 216 

San Domingo. Avignon 217 

Decree against imigr^s and priests 218 

The King vetoes the decree against the imigrii 219 

Steps towards war 220 

The policy of Narbonne. The property of the imigris confiscated . . 221 

Proposals for the escape of the King 222 

The FemllanU replaced by Brissotius 223 

Dumouriez 224 

War dechired. State of France and of Paris. Petion, Mayor of Paris . 225 
The Commune of Paris and the Department of the Seine. Fete in honour 

of the Swiss of Chateau- Vieux 226 

The Brissotins dismissed. Dumouriez in power 227 

The Insurrection of June 20 228 

The mob invades the Tuileries 229 

Action and defeat of the Department of the Seine 230 

Lafayette. Fete of the Federation 231 

Danton. The Marseillais 232 

ITie Sections. The National Guard 233 

Brunswick's manifesto. The Sections take action 234 

Preparations at the Tuileries 235 

Louis leaves the Tuileries 236 

Massacre of the Swiss. The King suspended 237 

New Brissotm Ministry. Vacillation of Lafayette 238 

Flight of Lafayette. Maximilien Robespierre 239 

The Commune and the Assembly 240 

Preparations for the election to the Convention 241 

The September massacres .......... 242 

The circular to the Departments 243 

Petion, Danton, and Roland 244 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE NATIONAL CONVENTION TO THE FALL OF THE GIRONDE. 

By J. R. MoRETON Macdonald, M.A. 

Arrangement for elections to the Convention 245 

The elections 246 

The deputies for Paris. The Departments 247 

Last measures of the Legislative 248 

Parties in the Convention 249 

Struggle between the Gironde and the Mountain 250 

The Garde Departementah. The Camp 251 

Election of a Mayor. The new fidAr6s 262 

Louvet attacks Robespierre. Weakness of the Gironde .... 253 

Causes of their weakness. The Mountain 254 

Preliminaries of the King's trial 255 

Trial decreed. Louis at the bar 266 

c. M. H. vm. h 



^v Contents. 



PAGB 

The decrees of November 19 and December 16 257 

Debates upon the King's case in the Convention 268 

Question of his guilt, of the referendum 259 

The death sentence. No respite allowed 260 

Execution of the King. The responsibility 261 

Parties after the King's death 262 

The formation of a Central Committee 263 

Danton, the Gironde, and the Jacobins 264 

The Vendee 266 

The insurrection breal^s out and spreads 266 

The conspiracy of March 9 267 

Neerwinden. Defection of Dumouriez 268 

The first Committee of Public Safety 269 

Bepr^sentanta en mission 270 

Decree of the mammum ', , 271 

Last struggle of the Gironde and the Mountain . . . . . 272 

The Commune and the Committee of Twelve 273 

The insurrection of May 31 274 

The fall of the Gironde 276 



CHAPTER X. 

THE FOREIGN POLICY OF PITT TO THE OUTBREAK OF WAR 
WITH FRANCE. 

By OscAE Browning, M.A., Senior Fellow and Lecturer in History 
of King's College, University Lectm-er in History. 

Pitt's accession to power 276 

'The Marquis of Cai-marthen. Joseph II 277 

•Catharine II. France 278 

Change of policy in Denmark 279 

Austria and Russia ........... 280 

The opening of the Scheldt. The Bavarian Exchange .... 281 

Sir James Harris' recommendation. The Furstenbrund .... 282 

Woronzoff. The Treaty of Fontainebleau 283 

The treaty of commerce with France 284 

Provisions of the treaty 285 

England and Holland 286 

The Stadholder and the patriots in Holland 287 

Alliance of England, Holland, and Prussia 288 

The results of the 'Triple Alliance. Nootka Sound 289 

Spain and England in strained relations 290 

Miles and Hugh Elliot on mission in France 291 

The Nootka Convention. Austria, Russia, the Porte, Prussia . . , 292 

The Convention of Reichenbach 293 

The Russian Armament 294 

Resignation of the Duke of Leeds. Effects of Pitt's policy . . , 295 

Relations between England and France. Chauvelin .... 296 

Lord Gower recalled from Paris 297 

Chauvelin remains in London 298 



Contents. xv 



PAGE 

The Battle of Jemappes. Maret in London 299 

The decree of November 19 300 

The opening of the Scheldt 301 

Maret and Pitt 302 

Negotiations between England and France 303^ 

Pitt's remonstrance against French aggression .... . 304 

The outbreak of war 305 



CHAPTER XI. 

THE EUROPEAN POWERS AND THE EASTERN QUESTION. 

By RiCHAED Lodge, M.A., late Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, 
Professor of History in the University of Edinburgh. 

Changes in the eighteenth century 306 

Russia. Alliance of France with Austria 307 

Russian policy. The Eastern Question 308 

Alliance of Russia with Prussia . 309 

Policy of Joseph II 310 

Alliance between Russia and Austria 311 

Aggressive schemes of Joseph II 312 

The Fiirsteribund 313 

Death of Frederick the Great and of Vergennes 314 

Catharine II in the Crimea 315 

Outbreak of war between Russia and Turkey 316 

Joseph II and the Austrian Netherlands ....... 317 

Joseph's measures. The Church. Edicts on Government . . . 318 

Rebellion in the Netherlands 319 

Precarious restoration of order. The United Provinces .... 320 

Parties in the United Provinces. The Stadholder 321 

Foreign support needed. WUhelmina arrested 322 

Prussian intervention. WUliam V restored to power .... 323 

The Triple Alliance of 1788 324 

War with Turkey. Capture of OczakofF. Sweden 325 

Gustavus III and his nobles. War in the East ' . . ... , 326 

Hungary. The Austrian Netherlands 327 

The liberties of Brabant cancelled 328 

The Belgian revolution 329 

Prussia. Danzig and Thorn. Hei-tzberg's schemes 330 

Prussia and the Eastern Question. Pitt 331 

Death of Joseph II. Accession of Leopold II 332 

Leopold II and Prussia 333 

Convention of Reichenbach. Treaty of Sistova 334 

Suppression of the Belgian Republic 835 

Peace between Sweden and Russia 336 

The question of Oczakoff. The treaty of Jassy 337 



62 



XVI 



Contents. 



CHAPTER XII. 



THE TERROR. 



By J. R. MoEETON Macdonald, M.A. 



After the fall of the Gironde . 

The Dantonist regime. The Commune 

Reaction at Lyons, Marseilles, and Bordeaux 

The Vendee. Unsuccessful assault on Nantes 

The Constitution of 1793 .... 

The elimination of Danton's influence 

The Great Committee of Public Safety 

Robespierre. Couthon. Saint-Just. Its policy 

Lyons. The Vendee. Murder of Marat . 

Advance of the Allies. Danton and Robespierre 

The lev4e-enrmasse. Occupation of Toulon by Hood 

The Terror established in full force . 

The law of the Suspect. The Girondins proscribed 

Revolutionary Government. The fall of Lyons 

Siege of Toulon. Napoleon Bonaparte 

The war in the Vendee 

Defeat of the insurgents. Their defeat at Cholet 

Last successes of the insurgents. Their defeat at Le Mans 

Savenay. The noyades at Nantes. Trial of the Queen 

Execution of the Queen. Trial of the Girondins 

Anarchists and Terrorists. The Republican Calendar 

Atheism of the Hebertists. Robespierre, Danton, and religion 

The Committee of Public Safety strengthened. The Vieux Oordelier 

Saint-Just returns to Paris. Proposals for confiscation 

The Hebertists executed. Danton attacked 

Charges against Danton and his followers 

Robespierre's position after Danton's fall . 

Fete de TEtre Supreme 

The Law of 22 Prairial. Opposition to Robespierre 

Coalition against Robespierre 

Robespierre's speech in the Convention, 8 Thermidor 

9 Thermidor 

Arrest of Robespierre. He breaks his arrest . 
Robespierre outlawed and executed .... 



PAGE 

338 
339 
340 
341 
342 
343 
344 
345 
346 
347 
348 
349 
350 
351 
352 
353 
354 
365 
356 
36T 
358 
359 
360 
361 
362 
363 
364 
366 
366 
367 
368 
369 
370 
371 



CHAPTER XIII. 



THE THERMIDORIAN REACTION AND THE END OF THE 
CONVENTION. 

By J. R MoaETON Macdonald, M.A. 



The victims of the Terror 

The liberation of public opinion and of the press 
The prisons. The parties 



372:^ 
373 

374. 



Contents. xvii 



PAOE 

Reconstruction of the Committee of Public Safety 375 

Reactionary measures 376 

The impeachment of Carrier 377 

Reconstruction of parties. Extremists. Thermidorians. Moderates . 378 

The Vendee and the Chouans 379 

Aims of the new Committee of Public Safety. Peace policy . . . 380 

Peace of La Jaunaie 381 

The religious question 382 

Liberty of worship conceded 383 

The Girondins recalled. Jacobin agitation 384 

Insurrection of 12 Germinal. Confiscated property 386 

Partial restoration. Constitutional committee 386 

The White Terror 387 

Insurrection of Prairial 388 

Restoration of order. Increase of Royalist feeling 389 

Ill-treatment and death of Louis the Dauphin 390 

The Quiberon expedition 391 

Proposals for a new Constitution 392 

The Constitution of the Year III 393 

Feeling in favour of monarchy . • 394 

The decrees of the two-thirds. The Constitution ratified .... 396 

The insurrection of 12-14 Vendemiaire 396 

The results of Vendemiaire 397 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE GENERAL WAR. 

By R. P. Dunn-Pattison, M.A., Magdalen College, Oxford. 

The question of Alsace 398 

The circular of Padua. The Conference of Pillnitz 399 

The outbreak of war. Relative strength of forces 400 

The French army. Organisation. Personnel 401 

Officers. Tactics. Unsatisfactory condition . ' 402 

Disaffection. The National Guards. The Assembly .... 403 

The flight to Varennes. The need of officers 404 

Preparations for war. Volunteers 405 

Ministers of War. Condition of the army 406 

The Volunteers of 1792. The armies on the frontier .... 407 

Dispositions of the Allies 408 

The advance of the allied forces 409 

Dumouriez. Battle of Valmy 410 

Negotiations after Valmy 411 

Retreat of the Prussians 412 

The Army of the Rhine. Custine .413 

Custine crosses the Rhine, and occupies Mainz and Frankfort . . 414 

Retreat of Custine. The Austrian Netherlands 415 

The invasion of the Austrian Netherlands by Dumouriez .... 416 

Jemappes. The Austrian Netherlands occupied 417 

Decree of December 15. War with England and Holland . . - 418 



xviii Contents. 



Invasion of Holland. Austrian movements ^19 

Dumoixriez returns to Belgium ^20 

Battle of Neerwinden. The Netherlands evacuated ^1 

Defection of Dumouriez. The siege of Mainz 422 

The fall of Mainz .... 423 

Bouchotte. All officers of noble birth cashiered 424 

Movements of the Allies. Dissensions 425 

Carnot and Prieur of the Cote d'Or 426 

Pichegru and Hoche. Kaiserslautem 427 

Wurmser defeated at Weissenburg. His retreat 428 

Council at Antwerp. Dampierre. Lamarche. Custine .... 429 

Fall of Conde and Valenciennes . 430 

Battle of Hondschoote. Relief of Dunkirk 431 

Battle of Wattignies. Reorganisation 432 

Supply. Strategy. Tactics . . . . . . . . . 433 

The Allies. Carnot's plan of campaign . . . . . . . 434 

The campaign in the North-East 435 

Battle of Fleurus. The Low Countries occupied . . . . . 436 

Operations on the Rhine. Switzerland. The Sardinian kingdom . . 437 

The French occupy the passes leading to Piedmont 438 

The war with Spain . 439 

French successes in Catalonia and on the Western Pyrenees . . . 440 

Treaty of Basel. Peace with Holland 441 

Peace with Spain. Jourdan and Pichegru in Germany .... 442 

The treason of Pichegru. Armistice with Austria. Invasion of Italy . 443 

Kellermann. Scherer. Battle of Loano 444 

The change in the spirit of the French' armies 445 

New classes of officers 446 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE NAVAL WAR. 

By H. W. Wilson, B.A., Trinity College, Oxford. 

The French navy under Louis XVI 447 

Mutinies at Brest and Toulon. Emigration of officers .... 448 

Scheme for procuring officers 449 

Want of discipline in the French fleet 450 

The dockyards. Manning of the fleet 451 

The British fleet. Strength. Manning 452 

Enlistment and treatment of the seamen 453 

Promotion. Officers. Commanders . 454 

The methods, strategy, and tactics of Nelson 455 

The naval allies of England. The Mediterranean campaign . . . 456 

Hood occupies Toulon. The allied fleet 457 

Toulon evacuated. Corsica ......... 458 

Hotham in the Mediterranean 459 

Sir John Jervis. Spain allied with France 4g0 

The Mediterranean abandoned by the English 461 

Battle of Cape St Vincent. ......... 452 



Contents. xix 



PAOK 

Bold initiative of Nelson. Results 463 

Mutiny in the' navy. Nelson at Tenefiffe 464 

War in the North. State of the French navy 466 

Reorganisation of the French navy. Lord Howe 466 

Howe and Villaret-Joyeuse 467 

Actions of May 28, 29 468 

Battle of June 1. A ''Lord Howe victory" 469 

Imperfect results 470 

Cornwallis and Villaret 471 

Lord Bridport. Landing at Quiheron. Preparations for invasion of the 

British Isles .'.472 

The expedition of Hoche to Ireland 473 

Failure of the expedition 474 

The losses of the French 476 

Other expeditions to Ireland 476 

Mutiny at Spithead 477 

Parliament and the mutineers 478 

Mutiny at the Nore 479 

Minor mutinies and discontent 480 

Duncan and the Dutch fleet 481 

Battle of Camperdown 482 

Bonaparte's plans for invasion 483 

Operations in the West Indies 484 

Losses of the British mercantile marine ....... 486 

Effects of the naval war upon France 486 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THE DIRECTORY. 

By G. K. FoRTEscuE, Keeper of the Printed Books at the 
British Museum. 

The Constitution of the Year III . . • 487 

The elections to the Corps Ugislatif 488 

Election of the memhers of the Andens 489 

Election of five Directors. Larevelliere-Lepeaux. Rewhell . . . 490 

Barras. Letourneur. Carnot 491 

The Directorial Government 492 

Methods of the Directors. Corruption 493 

Bribery. The Corps Legislatif 494 

Parties' in the Legislative Body 495 

Royalists. Revolutionaries. Peace or war? 496 

Failure of Moi-eau and Jourdan in Gei-many 497 

Lord Malmesbury's mission, 1797 498 

War necessary to the Directors 499 

Legislation against the clergy . 600 

The Constitutional Church. Theophilanthropy 601 

The emigres . . . . . . . . . • • • 602 

Treatment of the imigr^s 503 

The conspiracy of Babeuf 604 

The conspiracy of the Abb^ Brottier. 506 



XX Contents. 



PAQE 

The elections of the Year V. Barthelemy elected as Director in place of 

Letoumeur 506 

Readjustment of parties. The imigris and the clergy .... 507 

Preparations for a coup d'Hat 508 

Cmip d'6tat of 18 Fructidor 509 

Law of 19 Fructidor. New Directors 510 

The supposed conspiracy. Pichegru 511 

The depoi-tations. Removal of magistrates 512 

Treatment of the priests 513 

DScadis, and Republican festivals 514 

Subservience of the Legislature 515 

Elections of the Year VI. Scissions 516 

Goup d!etat of 22 Floreal. Fran9ois succeeded by Treilhard . . . 517 

The Law of Conscription 618 

The elections of the Year Vll 519 

Accession of Sieyes to the Directory 620 



CHAPTER XVII. 

THE EXTINCTION OF POLAND, 1788-97. 
By Professor Richahd Lodge, M.A. 

The Polish constitution. Decline of Poland 621 

Poland and its neighbours. Election of Stanislas Poniatowski . . 522 

The first Partition of Poland 623 

Constitutional refoi-m 624 

The Four Years' Diet at Warsaw. Delays in constitutional reform . 525 

Treaty with Prussia. Doubling of the Diet 526 

The Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791 527 

The attitude of Russia 528 

Austria. Prussia. Hertzberg. Bischoffswerder ..... 629 

Alliance of Austria and Prussia 530 

Russia invades Poland 531 

Prussia refuses aid. Poland occupied 532 

Negotiations with Austria and Prussia 533 

Rivalry between Austria and Prussia . 534 

The Second Partition of Poland 636 

Dissatisfaction of Austria . 636 

The Diet of Grodno 537 

Russia and the Diet ........... 533 

Prussia and Poland 639 

The Dumb Sitting 640 

Discontent in Poland 54I 

Rising under Kosciuslso 542 

Influence of Polish affairs on the West 543 

The Treaty of the Hague ineffective 544. 

The three Powers and Poland 545 

Retreat of the Prussians. Victorious advance of Suvoroff . . . 540 

The Russians capture Warsaw ' . . 54^ 

Proposals for partition. Position of Prussia 543 



Contents. xxi 



PAGE 

Alliance of Russia and Austria 549 

Motives and policy of Catharine II 660 

Prussia reluctantly accedes to partition 661 

The final Treaty of Polish Partition 562 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

BONAPARTE AND THE CONQUEST OP ITALY. 
By J. Holland Rose, Litt.D., Christ's College. 

Summary of the Italian campaign 563 

The strategical position in northern Italy 664 

The Pope. Sardinia. Naples 666 

The Jacohin propaganda in Italy 656 

The forces of Austria and Sardinia 657 

Lack of cohesion. The commanders 658 

Great Britain. Pitt's desire for peace 669 

The youth of Napoleon Bonaparte 660 

His scheme for the invasion of Italy 661 

The m^moires of 1796 662 

Criticism of Scherer. Bonaparte receives the command in Italy. Josephine 

Beauhamais 563 

The condition of the Army of Italy 664 

The Austrian and the Sardinian plans 666 

First successes of Bonaparte 566 

Armistice of Cherasco 567 

Bonaparte's advance into Lombardy 568 

Battle of Lodi 569 

Proposals of the Directors to divide the command 670 

The plunder of the Milanese 671 

The siege of Mantua begun. Wurmser 672 

The French in the Legations. The Pope sues for a truce . . . 673 

The advance of Wurmser 674 

Castiglione. Solferino. Wui-mser driven back 676 

Bonaparte's strategy 576 

Comparison of Maillebois' campaign 677 

Continuation of the campaign 678 

Wm-mser takes refuge in Mantua. Alvintzy 679 

Battle of Areola. Fall of Mantua 680 

The spoils of the Papal States 681 

Campaign against the Archduke Charles 682 

Preliminaries of Leoben. Motives 683 

Bonaparte's designs upon Venice ........ 684 

Risings in Venetian territory 685 

The Venetians adopt a democratic constitution 686 

The fall of Venice. Genoa 687 

The Ligurian Republic. The Cispadane Republic 588 

The Cisalpine Republic 689 

The extension of the Cisalpine Republic. Venice 690 

Bonaparte and the East. The Ionian Isles 691 

Peace of Campo Formio : 692 

The Austrians occupy Venice. Bonaparte leaves Italy .... 593 



xxii Contents. 



CHAPTEE XIX. 
THE EGYPTIAN EXPEDITION. 
By J. Holland Rose, Litt.D. 

PAQE 

The invasion of England abandoned 594 

Bonapai-te and the East 595 

Talleyrand's mimoire . . . . 696 

Switzerland. The French forces set sail for the East .... 597 

The Mediterranean. Malta 698 

Alexandria occupied 699 

The Mamelukes. The French march through the desert . . . 600 

Advance towards Cairo 601 

Battle of the Pyramids 602 

Bonaparte at Cairo 603 

The French ileet destroyed 604 

The Institute of Egypt 606 

Rebellion at Cairo 606 

Expedition to Suez. Alliances against France 607 

Expedition to Syria. Aims of Bonaparte 608 

The Syrian campaign 609 

The siege of Acre ■ ■ 610 

Engagements in Syria .......... 611 

Assaults upon Acre 612 

The siege of Acre raised. Losses of the French 613 

Retreat to Egypt. Battle of Aboukir 614 

The defeat of the Turks 615 

Departure of Bonaparte. Position of Kl^ber . . . . ■ . . 616 

Fortunes of the French in Egypt 617 

The French forces capitulate 618 

Results of the Egyptian expedition 619 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE STRUGGLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN. 

By H. W. Wilson, B.A. 

Nelson misses Bonaparte's fleet off Toulon 620 

Command of a new Mediterranean squadron given to Nelson . . . 621 

The French, miss^d again, June 22 622 

The French, seize Malta and sail for Egypt, which Nelson had just left . 623 

Nelson sails, once more for Egypt. Brueys' orders 624 

His perilous position in Aboukir Bay 625 

Nelson, appears and instantly attacks 626 

The Battle of the Nile .... .. 6i27 . 

The result of the actipn. Comparative strength 628 

Not victory but annihilation . , 629 

Bruix in the Mediterranean. The United Irishmen in the British fleet . 630 

Neapolitan rebels surrender to Ruffo 631 

Tlieir treatment. . Nelson's action 632 



Contents. xxiii 



CHAPTER XXI. 

THE SECOND COALITION. 

By J. Holland Rose, Litt.D. 

PAGE 

The period after Campo Formio 633 

Relations of Austria and Prussia 634 

Paul I and Malta. Great Britain 635 

The situation in Italy. Rome and the Papacy ..... 636 

Rising in Rome. Roman Repuhlic 637 

Pius VI. Meeting of Fi-ench troops in Rome 638 

Occupation of Switzerland 639 

Resistance of Switzerland 640 

The Grisons. Congress of Rastatt 641 

The Episcopal States of Germany 642 

Relations between Austria and Great Britain ...... 643 

The policy of Austria and Russia 644 

Naples, Austria, Russia, and Malta 645 

Alliance of Russia and Turkey ......... 646 

Delays in the formation of the Second Coalition 647 

The question of Malta. Anglo-Russian Treaty 648 

Neapolitan hostility to France 649 

Nelson and the Neapolitan Court. Mack . . ' 660 

Preparations for war ........... 661 

Ferdinand occupies Rome, is defeated, and takes to flight . . . 652 

The Parthenopean Republic 653 

Piedmont. Russia. Austria 664 

Murder of French Envoys at Rastatt 655 

French disasters. The Archduke Charles 666 

Suvdroffs campaign 657 

Nelson and the Neapolitan rebels 668 

Defeat and death of Joubert 669 

Disputes between the Allies 660 

Suvoroff and Korsakoff in Switzerland 661 

The Duke of York in Holland 662 

Landing of Bonaparte at Frejus. Failure of the Allies .... 663 

Causes of the failure 664 



CHAPTER XXII. 

BRUMAIRE. 

By H. A. L. Fisher, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of New College, 

Oxford. 

The Directory discredited . .^ . . . . . . . . 665 

Discontent and distress in France 666 

Turn in the tide of victory. Rewbell retires 667 

Sieyes elected as Director 668 



xxiv Contents. 



The Councils and the Directors. Prairial 669 

The Law of Hostages 670 

Restitution of the Jacohin Cluh . 671 

Defeat and death of Joubert ■ 672 

Jourdan in the Five Hundred 673 

Landing of Bonaparte. French successes 674 

Bonaparte and Sieyes 675 

Proposal to transfer the Councils to Saint-Cloud 676 

The conspirators of Brumaire 677 

The eighteenth of Brumaire . 678 

Bonaparte in the Assembly 679 

Barras, Gohier, and Moulins 680 

Preparations for 19 Brumaire 681 

The Councils at Saint-Cloud 682 

Bonaparte among the Anciens . 683 

Lucien Bonaparte leaves the Assembly 684 

The troops in the Orangerie . 685 

The Directory abolished 686 

Success of the coup d'etat 687 

The price to be paid 688 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

REVOLUTIONARY FINANCE. 
By Heney Higgs, M.A. 

The cahiers on finance 689 

Necker's financial statement ggo 

The National Assembly and taxation 691 

Decrees of the Assembly 692 

Unsuccessful issue of loans. Riots . 693 

Nationalisation of Church property 694 

Report of the Finance Committee 695 

The assignats 696 

The Assembly and finance. Local authorities 697 

Resignation of Necker 698 

End of the Constituent Assembly 699 

The pension list. The Livre Bmige yOO 

Blunders of the Constituent Assembly . yoi 

Financial statements of 1791 and 1792 . 702 

Bullion and paper wqo 

Recognition of public bankruptcy tjQA 

Sale of lands. Local finance . . . . . . , _ _ yQg 

The gradual return to order trr^ 

National receipts. Contributions of conquered countries .... 707 

Restoration of order »«„ 

Table of depreciation of assignats. Table of fundamental laws of finance 709 



Contents. xxv 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

FRENCH LAW IN THE AGE OF THE REVOLUTION. 

By Paui, Viollet, Member of the Institute, Professor of the 
History of Civil and Canon Law in the ^cole des Chartes, Paris. 

PAGE 

The enthusiasm for reform 710 

The ground prepared for legislation 711 

Conflicting desires for unity and for provincial liberty .... 712 

The Law of Land Tenure 713 

Feudalism. Serfdom 714 

The decree of August 4, 1789 715 

Sweeping abolition of existing rights and burdens 716 

Subsequent legislation against feudalism 717 

The test of feudalism 718 

La directe. Its history 719 

Injustice and inconsistency in its application 720 

The " direct dominion " of the State 721 

F^odaliU dominante. FiodaliU contractante ...... 722 

Communal property. Mortgage 723 

Legitimation of interest 724 

Copyright. Patents 725 

Law of persons. The right of association 726 

ITie nobles. Heretics 727 

The Rights of Man. Slavery 728 

Law of succession 729 

Limitation of testamentary freedom 730 

Succession among roturiers. The clergy 731 

Civil death of the professed religious 732 

Protestants. Jews 733 

Napoleon and the Jews. Equality of Frenchmen 734 

Paternal authority 735 

Civil marriage 736 

Age for marriage. Divorce ......... 737 

The inheritance of bastards 738 

Vacillating legislation concerning natural children 739 

Adoption. Projects of a Civil Code 740 

The Assemblies and Codification 741 

The Civil Code. Penal Law 742 

Secret criminal procedure 743 

Mitigation of punishments. Torture 744 

Reform of criminal law 745 

Criminal procedure 740 

Law of evidence. Legal proofs 747 

The right of pardon 748 

The jury system. Penalties 749 

The death penalty. Confiscation 750 

Civil procedure. The Juge de paise 751 

Attorneys. Suppression of law schools 752 

The conditions of sound legislation 753 



xxvi Contents. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

EUROPE AND THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. 

By G. P. GoocH, M.A., Trinity College. 

PAGE 

The principles of the Revolution 754 

England and the French Revolution 755 

Burke's Beflections on the French Revolution 756 

Character of the work. Its effects 757 

Mackintosh's Vindiciae Gallicae 758 

Paine's Rights of Man 759 

Formation of societies 760 

The trials for High Treason in England 761 

Change in English opinion 762 

Ecclesiastical opinion. Parr. Paley 763 

The Universities. The Nonconformists 764 

Opinion in London. Wordsworth 766 

Southey. Coleridge 766 

Landor and lesser Poets 767 

Godwin. Malthus 768 

Thomas Spence. Bentham. Scotland 769 

Trials in Scotland 770 

The Society of United Irishmen 771 

Hoche's expedition. The Aufkl'drung in Germany 772 

The reception of the French Revolution in Germany .... 773 

Goethe. Schiller. Gentz 774 

Fichte. The Rhineland. Gorres 775 

The Romantic School. Austria. Hofmann 776 

Hungary. Italy 777 

The Revolution welcomed. Revulsion of feeling 778 

Alfieri. The Parthenopean Republic 779 

Savoy and Piedmont. De Maistre 780 

Switzerland. The Helvetic Society 781 

The Helvetic Republic. Spain 782 

The French alliance. Portugal . , ■ 783 

Catharine II and the Revolution 784 

Repressive measures. Paul and La Harpe ...... 785 

Poland. The Austrian Netherlands. Vonck. Van der Noot . . . 786 

The Dutch Republic 787 

Denmark. Sweden 788 

Greece. The Roman Catholic Church 789 

Other developments 79O 



XXYil 



BIBLIOGRAPHIES. 



CHAPS. 

General Bibliography . . . . . 

I. Philosophy and the Revolution 

II. The Government of France . . . . 

III. Finance 

IV — VII. The Breakdown of Government in France 

and the Constituent Assembly 
Vm, IX, XII, XIII. The Legislative Assembly, the 
National Convention, the Terror, Thermidor, 
Vendemiaire ..... 
X. The Foreign Policy of Pitt to 1793 
XI, XVII. Eastern and Central Europe 
XrV. ■ The General War .... 
XV. The Naval War .... 
XVI. The Dn-ectory .... 

XVIII. Bonaparte and the Conquest of Italy 
XIX — XX. The Struggle for the Mediterranean and 
the Egyptian Expedition 

XXI. France and the Second Coalition 

XXII. Brumaire 

XXIII. Revolutionary Finance 

XXIV. French Law in the Revolutionary Era 

XXV. Europe and the French Revolution 



PAQBS 

791—3 
794—8 
799—800 
801 

802—4 



805—8 

809—11 

812—7 

818—20 

821—6 

827—9 



1—6 

837—9 
840—1 
842 



844—60 



Chkonological Tabi^ of Leading Events . 
Index 



851—8 
859—75 



CORRIGENDA. 

p. 64j 1. 22. For seigneuriales read seigneuriaux. 

p. 173, 1. 10 from bottom. For 17B7 read 1789. 

p. 439, 1. 12 from bottom. For Thurreau read Turreau. 

p. 753, 1. 24. For Voltaire, but more good sense; more knowledge 
read Voltaire; but more good sense, more knowledge. 



CHAPTER I. 

PHILOSOPHY AND THE REVOLUTION. 

Philosophy, wrote Mallet du Pan in his Mercure Britannique, may 
boast her reign over the country she has devastated. Her votaries, he said, 
hastened the degeneration and corruption of the French by weakening 
the bulwarks of morality, by sophisticating conscience, and by substituting 
the xmcertain dictates of man's fallible reason, the equivocations of 
passion and of selfishness, for rules of duty imposed by tradition, con- 
firmed by education, and secured by habit. They threw doubt on all 
truths, and shook the foundations of whatever had been established and 
consecrated by time, by experience, and by a wisdom saner than their 
own. Intellectual anarchy prepared the way for social anarchy. Rousseau, 
the favourite author of the middle classes, who was read and commented 
upon in the streets, misled virtue's self. He taught the nation to receive 
the dogmas of popular sovereignty and of natmral equality as axioms, 
and deduced from them their most extreme consequences. He was the 
prophet of the Revolution, and his works were its Gospel. 

Moxmier, on the other hand, an observer not less acute and one who 
had himself played so important a part in the opening scenes of the 
Revolution, considers that the " philosophers " contributed but little to 
the overthrow of the old political and social order. It is true that they 
had attacked abuses and advocated reforms, that by their hostility to 
religion and by their generally materialistic doctrine they might indirectly 
have undermined morality and encouraged a selfish luxury and corruption ; 
but he maintains that their wilder rhapsodies were little read or not 
seriously taken. Such works as Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, 
or that of Mably, Doubts on the Natural Order of Societies, were, he 
assures us, looked upon as brilliant pieces of declamation, and had as 
little practical influence as More's Utopia. Desire of civil and political 
liberty existed before the Ena/clopedie was published (1751-72) or 
Montesquieu had written ; and, if during the latter part of the century 
that desire became more vehement, this was far more due to an envious 
appreciation of English freedom and of American independence, than to 
the influence and teaching of the philosophers. They were not the cause 

0. M. H. VIII. 1 



The principles of 1789 and 1793. 



of ruined finances, of fiscal oppression, of the vacillation, the weakness, 
and the incompetence of the government. The Americans had adopted 
and proclaimed the same principles as the French revolutionists, yet none 
of the evil results attributed to those principles had followed. Nor were 
the crimes and follies which dishonoured the Revolution so much due to 
the false and mischievous doctrines of theorists as to the unscrupulous 
ambition of rival demagogues ; nay, they were perpetrated in cynical 
contempt of those principles which these men had constantly in their 
mouths. If Rousseau had never written, the doctrine of popular 
sovereignty would have been asserted, as it had been by the French in 
the sixteenth and the English in the seventeenth century. Christianity 
had taught as enrfphatically as any pihilosopher that men were equal; 
nor was that hateful maxim, by which the worst crimes have been 
justified, that aU means are legitimate which conduce to the safety of 
the State, of so recent invention. Before we can decide which of these 
statements comes nearest to the truth, and to appreciate the part played 
by the French writers and philosophers of the eighteenth century in 
preparing the way for the Revolution and in determining the objetits 
aimed at by the reformers, it may be well to summarise roughly the 
principles which influenced the men of 1789 and 1793, guided their 
policy, and inspired their constructive efforts. In the thousands of 
pamphlets which poured from the press during the year which preceded 
the meeting of the States General, in the Declarations of Rights, in the 
preambles and resolutions voted by the Constituent and Legislative 
Assemblies and by the Convention, in the speeches of the liberal statesmen 
and demagogues, we find certain general principles accepted as axiomatic, 
and the assumption that all conclusions which can be logically deduced 
from these indisputable premises require no further justification. Let 
us enumerate the most fundamental of these axioms. 

AU men are by natm-e equal ; all have the same natural rights to 
strive after happiness, to self-preservation, to the free control and 
disposal of their persons and property, to resist oppression, to hold and 
to express whatever opinions they please. The people is sovereign ; it 
cannot alienate its sovereignty ; and every government not established 
by the free consent of the community is a usxu^ation. The title-deeds 
of man's rights, as Sieyes said, are not lost. Tliey are preserved in his 
reason. Reason is infallible and omnipotent. It can discover truth 
and compel conviction. Rightly consulted, it will reveal to us that code 
of nature which should be recognised and enforced by the civil law. No 
civil enactment which violates natural law is valid. Nature meant man 
to be virtuous and happy. He is vicious and miserable, because he 
transgresses her laws and despises her teaching. 

The essence of these doctrines is that man should reject every 
institution and creed which cannot approve itself to pure reason, the 
reason of the individual. It is true that if reason is to be thus trusted it 



The conception of natural law. 



must be unclouded by prejudice and superstition. These are at once the 
cause and the effect of the defective and mischievous social, political, 
and religious institutions, which have perverted man's nature, inflamed 
his passions, and distorted his judgment. Therefore to overthrow 
prejudice and superstition should be' the first effort of those who would 
restore to man his natural rights. 

Natural equality, nature and her law, which is prior and superior to 
all civil enactments, the Social Contract and the indefeasible sovereignty 
of the people— all these were conceptions familiar to juristsand publicists 
and even to politicians before the eighteenth century. That which is 
characteristic of the French authors of that period is their faith in 
reason, and a conviction that, since all that is • amiss is due to im- 
perfect institutions, all would speedily come right were thbse imper- 
fections remedied. This delusion was encouraged' by the influence of the 
classics, with their exaggerated faith in the power of' the legislator. 
If Lycurgus, by imposing a few rules of life, could turn men into 
Spartans, it must be comparatively easy to turn Frenchmen into men. 
It was not yet a commonplace that we ourselves, our characters, 
prejudices, and habits, as well as the laws and institutions under which 
we live, are the result of a long process of evolution. When this truth 
is half recognised, as it is by Rousseau himself, who holds that the work 
done by Calvin in Geneva is impossible in a larger State, the conclusion 
drawn is that things must go on as they are, and that only partial 
palliatives are possible. The idea of progress, of gradual amelioration, 
is never suggested, except by Turgot in a prize essay; and, although 
Utopias are not wanting, no writer before the Revolution made any 
systematic attempt to forecast the probable future of society, the 
direction in which it would advance. 

We should far exceed our limits were we to attempt to trace the 
history of the idea of nature, her rights, and her law, from the Sophistic 
antithesis of nature and convention, from the doctrine of the Stoics, 
popularised by Cicero and applied by the Roman lawyers, through the 
writings of the theologians and jurists of the Middle Ages down to the 
days of Grotius and Selden. But it must not be forgotten that many 
of what are called the principles of 1789 were recognised and used 
as convenient weapons against the authority of the Crown during the 
sixteenth century both by Catholics and Huguenots ; by none more 
emphatically than by the priest Boucher and the Jesuit Mariana. 

Men, said Boucher, are by nature free. The people choose their 
prince and confer upon him their sovereignty; but they who delegate 
their authority remain the superiors of their representative. Civil law 
gives the ward a remedy against an unjust guardian; the King is the 
guardian and patron of his people and may be deposed if he oppresses 
them. It is the duty of subjects to resist a prince who violates God's 
law, the thuological equivalent for the philosopher's law of Natiure. 

1—2 



4 Montaigne. — JBayle. 



Mariana, in his celebrated apology for tyrannicide, also asserts that 
the derived authority of the prince is subordinated to the popular 
sovereignty; for we cannot suppose that all the members of the State 
would voluntarily have stripped themselves of their rights and have 
handed themselves over unconditionally to the good' will of an individual- 
Such doctrines, advanced by the apologists of intolerance and perse- 
cution, the partisans of Spain, and the enemies of national mdependence, 
were not attractive to the majority of Frenchmen. Weary of civil strife 
and anarchy, of political and theological controversy, disgusted by the 
selfish and unpatriotic intrigues of princes and nobles, the people were led 
by a sound instinct to rally round the monarchy, the centre and the 
symbol of national life. This conservatism is conspicuous in the writings 
of that genius who more perhaps than any other undermined in France 
the foundations of belief. Montaigne (1533-93) drevir from his con- 
viction, that human reason cannot attain to. truth, and that every argu- 
ment may be met by another equally cogent, the practical conclusion 
that to make reason arbiter in social and political questions must lead to 
anarchy, and that therefore a wise man will not by, innovations weaken 
the force of custom and tradition, the foundation and the strength of 
all la^it^s and institutions. It is better, he says, to endure a bad law than 
by altering it to impair the authority of habit. The evils of change, 
the miseries of revolution, are indisputable ; the advantages of this or 
that form of government are debateablp. Why encounter a most certain 
evil for the sake of a most doubtful good."" 

But, while Montaigne's belief that truth is xmattainable led him also 
to deprecate any attack on the doctrines of the Church, of which he 
believed the eflfects to be wholesome, he again and again suggested a 
destructive criticism of those doctrines and placed the most deadly arms 
in the hands of others, who like Voltaire, believed their effects to be 
evil. The "Libertines," as they were called, Epicurean free-thinkers and 
sceptics, avowed followers of Montaigne, one of the best known and last 
of whom was Saint-Eyiemond (1613 c.-i703), the friend of Ninon de 
I'Enclos, continued the tradition of incredulity during the seventeenth 
century. They held faith to be the negation of reason and that we 
should follow our natural impulses and instincts. Rightly consulted 
and understood our nature is a law tp, itself. But it was from Bayle 
(164-6-1706), and not from them, that Voltaire and the other assailants 
of orthodoxy and tradition borrowed their most effective weapons. 

There may, at first sight, appear to be but little of the spirit of the 
eighteenth century in Bayle's writings. Like Montaigne he rejects the 
authority of reason, in which alone the " philosophers " believed ; and 
unlike Montaigne, who holds that if little better than animals we are 
little worse, and as prone to virtue as to vice, he maintains with Pascal 
that man's nature is essentially evil. Virtue is a perpetual struggle o f 
will against natural instincts; and the history of civilisation is, according 



The method of Bayle. 



to him, the history of man's successful efforts to overcome and rise above 
his nature. As for a golden age, that, he asserts, must be sought, not 
prior to civil society, but prior to creation; for then, and then only, pain 
and sorrow, moral and physical evil, were unknown. 

In politics, moreover, Bayle was a timid conservative, wholly averse 
from revolutionary principles. Yet his Dictionary was the storehouse 
from which the philosophers of the following generation derived their 
method and no small part of their ideas and their facts. The irreverent 
banter or ironical reverence with which the most solemn subjects are 
treated, the skill with which the reader is insensibly led to the con- 
viction that he is far less certain about things than he imagined, the 
insidious suggestion that, although all reason is against such a creed, 
it is perhaps as well to believe in God, in Providence, and in im- 
mortality — if you are fool enough — all this in Bayle breathes the 
very spirit of " philosophism." The method of the Encyclopedie as 
described by Diderot is the method of Bayle's Dictionary. "Articles 
dealing with respectable prejudices must expound them deferentially; the 
edifice of clay must be shattered by referring the reader to other articles 
in which the opposite truths are established on sound principles. This 
method of enlightening the reader has an immediate influence on those 
who are quick of apprehension, an indirect and latent influence on all." 
It was from Bayle that writers, anxious not to give too sudden a shock to 
prejudice or to avoid consequences impleasant to themselves, learnt the 
art of suggesting the most extreme conclusions from seemingly innocent 
premises. Yet one liberal principle was openly advocated by the 
cautious and conservative Bayle^that of toleration. His Commentaire 
philosophique sur U CornpeUe Intrare was published in 1686, three years 
before Locke's Letters on Toleration, free thought i s, he argues, a 
natural right, since neither rel igious creeds nor philosophic theoraL admit 
of demonstration, but are matters of conjecture. Nor is it dangerous to 
allow meaTo exercise this right, for even an atheist is not necessarily a 
bad citizen. Society could exist without religion. 

This brief sketch will suflice to show that one part of the philosophic 
doctrine of the eighteenth century, the negative and destructive part, 
was already in existence before the seventeenth century had ended ; and 
we have also noticed that the positive conceptions of popular sovereignty 
and natural rights were familiar to the publicists of the sixteenth century. 
The great writers of the age of Louis XIV either concerned themselves 
but little with political theory, or gave their support to that ideal of 
government which it was the ambition of the "great monarch" to realise. 
Descartes in theory held that the State should resemble a town symmetri- 
cally planned on a level site; but in practice he was a conservative. Who, 
he asked, would wish to pull down the buildings of an ancient city in 
order that it might be rebuilt by square and line? Slow reforms are 
best; it is far easier to destroy than to construct. Pascal — a pessimist in 



6 Pascal. — Bossuet. — Hobbes. 

politics as in all else — ^maintains^ like Spinoza iftnd Hobbes, that might 
is right; for, he adds, ipight is might and right js not. As justice 
could npt be ma4e strong, force was justified ; and sp peace at all events 
was secured. It is dangerous to let the' people know that the laws are 
not just. "This dog is mine," said those poor children. "This. is my 
place in the sunshipe." "Such," he exclaims, "was the origin of in- 
justice and usurpation among men."; But while the sun of Louis XIV 
stood in the zenith these were but unheeded muttering? ; and Bossuet set 
out with great pomp of words the theory of the absolute monarchy. The 
authority of Kings is sacred, absolute, indefeasible. "Ye are gods" the 
Scriptures declare. The sovereignty of Kings is prior to all law, which 
owes its validity to their enactment or assent. 

The French civil wars of the sixteenth century, though the immediate 
issue had been religious rather than political, had led men to investigate 
the basis of political authority ; in a still greater measure this was the 
result of the struggle between the Crown and the Parliament in England, 
where the questions disputed were mainly constitutional. The leaders of 
the Long Parliament, many of whom had been educated at the Inns of 
Court, had for the most part the distaste for appeals to first principles 
characteristic of :Ejiglish lawyers; so that, although there was a disposi- 
tion among the more extreme fanatics tp refer to natural rights and to 
the indefeasible sovereignty of the people, the opposition to the Crown 
was mainly based on constitutional and legal precedents. It is therefore 
not sui^rising that the first attempt to settle the controversy between 
King, and people by logical deductions from abstract assumptions should 
have been; made by a champion of absolutism. It was a dangerous in- 
novation to appeal tp reason for the justification of despotism. To do so 
was to acknowledge the authority of a tribunal whose verdict was likely 
to be adverse. Moreover, Hobbes (1588-1679) gave to the compact on 
which he based his Sta,te a singularly unreasonable form. The social 
pact according to him was a covenant made by every man with every 
man to give up their natmral freedom, their natural right to everything, 
to the man (or body of men) whom they chose to represent them, to 
submit their wills to the sovereign's will, their judgment to his judgment. 
While the subjects were bound by this covenant the sovereign was left 
perfectly freej both because his people had covenanted with each other 
not to resist his will, and because he still retained his natural right to all 
things, his natural liberty to do all things. It was reasonable for men 
to seek tp escape from Hobbes' state of nature, a state indeed of natural 
liberty ajid, equality but also of war of all against all, in which they were 
"solitary, brutish, vile, and miserable"; but was it reasonable that 
they should unconditionally surrender up themselves, their lives, and 
properties to the goodwill of the sovereign ? 

But the politica,l speculations of Hobbies, as well as his crude sensualist 
a,VL^ utilitarian doctrine, influenced French thought not so much directly 



Locke and Ms influence. 



as through the teaching of his follower and opponent Locke (1632-1704'). 
Locke's Essay concerning Human Understwnding is the chief source of 
the French philosophy of the eighteenth century, of the philosophy of 
common sense, which though condemned as shallow gave at least an 
intelligible answer to the most momentous questions. It may be that it 
dealt but superficially with problems, the solution of which it is probably 
the fate of humanity to be ever seeking and never to find ; yet it satisfied 
the many, and this doctrine more profound, but neither so intelligible nor 
so logical, could not have done. In the works of Locke may be found 
nearly all the most essential principles which influenced the political 
and social theories of the French writers. According to him, men, 
bom virtuous, free, and equal, originally lived in a state of nature, 
which was gradually corrupted by the growth of property and luxury, 
until, to check greater evils, civil government — an evil itself, so far as it 
limits natural freedom— was instituted. Man has natural rights, dis- 
coverable by right reason, which existed in the state of nature ; but law, 
a measure by which controversies may be decided, a judge to apply that 
law, and force to support his decisions, were then wanting. It was to 
supply these and for the protection of life and property that government 
was instituted; the members of the State by the Social Compact surrender- 
ing their rights so far as was necessary to secure these ends, but retaining 
others which are to be maintained even against the sovereign. As civil 
government in itself is an evil, its functions should be strictly limited. 
Man's reason is the highest law. Before civil society is instituted, reason 
is the one law, the law of nature ; in civil society it still is the test of the 
validity of all law. No law can be binding which is opposed to right 
reason, the foundation on which all law rests. As the Contrat Social of 
Rousseau is the outcome of Locke's Treatises on Government, so is the 
J^ile of his Thoughts concerning Education; while the Englishman's 
Letters on Toleration gave a great impulse to the crusade led by Voltaire 
against intolerance, although he lays less stress than Voltaire and his 
followers on the sceptical argument against persecution : the absurdity 
and error, or at all events the uncertainty, of the doctrines assent to 
which is to be enforced. 

Enough has been said to show that at the end of the seventeenth 
century " principles " were not wanting to which the French people 
might appeal should a time come when they were no longer satisfied 
with the existing social and political arrangements. Already there 
were many signs that this time was near. The ruin of the finances was 
complete. The condition of the rural population was wretched. The 
peasants indeed, as Sir W^iUiam Temple had noticed in the earlier and 
more prosperous years of the reign of Louis XIV, were so dispirited 
by labour and want that their misery was no danger to the govern- 
ment; but Frenchmen with any : patriotism or feelitig could not but 



8 Political stimulus to destructive thought. 

conclude with Vauban and La Bruyfere, with Fenelon and Saint-Simon, 
that there was something amiss in institutions, under which a large part 
of the industrious population of the most fertile country in Europe was 
condemned to a life of abject suffering. 

Moreover the undoubted stimulus, which had been given to manu- 
factures and trade by the policy of Colbert, had, by increasing the 
wealth and importance of the middle classes, prepared them to welcome 
doctrines subversive of social distinctions and privileges. De Tocqueville 
remarks that the policy of the French monarchy had encouraged the 
jealousy and hostility of classes to prevent their common action. It 
certainly had aggravated that rancorous envy of the privileges of birth 
and station which is one of the less amiable features of the French 
character. " My motto," said Camille Desmoulins, " is that of every 
honourable man — no superior." This is the spirit which many of the 
most acute contemporary observers, men so different as Montlosier, 
Rivarol, and Roederer, held to be one of the chief causes of the 
Revolution. 

Although Louis XIV played out his part on the public stage not 
without dignity amid calamities which would have overwhelmed a weaker 
character, the eyes of his subjects during his later years were no longer 
blinded to the shortcomings of the government by his glory and by the 
splendour of his Court. The pharisaical decency imposed upon the 
courtiers did not excuse in the eyes of the majority of the devout — 
Jansenists or sympathisers with the Jansenists — subservience to Jesuit 
intolerance; while the cruel persecution of the Protestants disgusted 
believers whose humanity was stronger than their religious passions, 
and stiU more so the free-thinkers, a growing dass among the educated. 
"Every young man," wrote the Duchess of Orleans in 1679, "either is or 
affects to be an atheist." There was a general sense of oppression, a 
vague desire for reforms and for greater freedom, and a growing im- 
patience of a savagely intolerant, narrow, and, as it seemed, hypocritical 
orthodoxy. 

Almost everything that was done or left undone by the government 
of the Regent Orleans tended to strengthen these feelings. The Parlia- 
ment had under Louis XIV been strictly confined to its judicial functions. 
The first public act of the Regent was to invite the magistrates, tacitly 
assumed to be the representatives of the sovereign people, to determine 
how the country should be governed during the King's minority. Hence- 
forth up to the very end of the monarchy the lawyers set themselves to 
oppose administrative reforms as the champions of the people, and, no 
longer refusing "to unveil the august secrets and mystery of sovereignty," 
claimed to be "as it were a compendium of the Three Estates," thus 
keeping alive the idea of popular sovereignty. Reverence for the 
Crown was impaired by the cynical profligacy of the Regent and by 
the elevation to the highest place in Church and State of his favourite 



Law's scheme.^Beligious conflicts. 9 

Dubois, the most unscrupulous knave ever raised from mean estate by 
brilliant talents and the basest arts. 

The failure of Law's scheme still further degraded and discredited 
the government. The King, as a French historian remarks, or at least 
the King's representatives, had turned bankers, and had proved unsuc- 
cessful and fraudulent bankers. Moreover the Mississippi Bubble had 
brought the nobility and the moneyed classes into closer contact. Many 
of the greater nobles had used their prudently realised profits td satisfy 
their creditors ; others who had not speculated in the Rue Quincampoix 
took advantage of the depreciated paper currency to pay off their 
mortgages. But such material advantages were purchased by the 
aristocracy at the price of diminished self-respect and public consider- 
ation. Sordid care for gain had not hitherto been one of the vices of 
the French nobles. Honest trade was still scorned ; but henceforth men 
of the highest rank did not hesitate to stain their scutcheons by marry- 
ing the daughters of financiers, and to repair their waste by sharing in 
the questionable but lucrative speculations of their fathers-in-law, whom 
they flattered and humiliated. Throwing away their pride, these nobles, 
perhaps for that very reason, wrapped themselves more closely in their 
vanity. The uneasy familiarity, to which the rich financier and his 
children were admitted by "people of quality," made the impassable 
barrier by which they were separated more palpable and more invidious. 
The rich parvenu knew that he was richer, and close intercourse convinced 
him that he was not less cultivated, intelligent, and refined, than these 
descendants of the Crusaders. It is significant that the wealthy publicans 
and stockjobbers were the most eager patrons of the philosophers, the 
most ready to welcome, or, like Helvetius, to disseminate, their most 
subversive doctrines. The idea of equality, to which, says Senac de 
Meilhan, the people were at first indifierent, was cherished by the rich. 

Meantime the Jansenist controversy, and the fierce and indecent 
conflict between the Molinist hierarchy and the Gallican Parlement 
over the Bull UnigenUus, dealt a deadly blow to religion. Nothing, 
except perhaps the extravagances of the Jansenist enthusiast, was more 
likely to encourage incredulity than the arguments by which the Molinists 
sought to discredit the well-attested miracles of the deacon Paris. The 
diarist Barbier, a typical bourgeois of education, remarks that what was 
now seen taught men what to think of the miracles and marvels of 
former times ; and so, no doubt, many reasoned. The Bull UnigenUus, 
wrote the Marquis d'Argenson, and not the philosophy imported from 
England, is the cause of the present hatred of the priesthood. 

Many Frenchmen had visited England during the reign of Charles II 
when the intercourse between the two Courts had been close. French 
reviews began to notice English works about 1717 ; not a few English 
books had been translated ; and almost all the subjects touched upon by 
Voltaire in his Letters on the English had been dealt with before his 



10 Vokaire's Letters on the English. 

return to France in 1729, but without attracting attention. Locke's 
Essay had been translated in 1700, but few copies were sold till 1725. 
Circumstances had not as yet suggested that any practical lesson 
could be learnt by France from her northern neighbours; and "the 
immediate force of speculative literature depends on practical opportune- 
ness." Nor was it till much later that the thought of transplanting any 
part of the English Constitution was seriously entertained. Just as it 
was the experimental and rationalistic method of the English writers, 
rather than their actual doctrines, which so greatly influenced French 
thought in the eighteenth century, so it was the comparison of the 
general spirit which inspired the administration in the two countries, 
and of the results of government in them, which encouraged the dis- 
content of the French with their own institutions, rather than any wish 
directly to imitate a nation very generally regarded as " seditious and 
violent, brutal in temperament, and always in extremes." 

The publication of Voltaire's Letters on the English (1734) may be 
taken as marking the point when the active campaign of the " philo- 
sophers" against the existing order of State, Church, and society began 
in France. The assault on the Church from the first was direct and 
uncompromising; that on the State was indirect, and often scarcely 
intentional on the part even of those by whom it was most advanced. 
It is significant that Voltaire's book should begin with a description 
of the Quakers, which enables the writer to attack indirectly every ob- 
servance of sacerdotalism, every tenet of dogjnatic Christianity. When 
he passes on to the other sects, he loses, no oppqrtunity of sneering at 
the orthodox faith and commending toleration* He lays stress on the 
absence of a privileged nobility and on the respect shown to trade, but 
he deals shortly with the Constitution and government, Not less charac- 
teristic is it that he does not mention the political speculations of Locke, 
only noticing his refutation of innate ideas and of Cartesian spiritualism. 

The polemical activity of Voltaire (1694-1778) continued for nearly 
half a century ; but the whole plan of his campaign and the objects to 
which it was directed are indicated in this book of some 150 short pages. 
His life henceforth was a constant warfare against superstition, identified 
with Christianity, which he believed to be the source of all intolerance 
and misery, and against those " unreasonable " scientific and metaphysical 
theories, which were capable of being pressed into the services of ortho- 
doxy, or which were obstacles to the supremsicy of common sense. 

We are not concerned with Voltaire as a critic of literature or 
historian or metaphysician; but we may notice that in every department 
of human knowledge— and there was hardly any into which he did not 
enter — he showed himself the same philistine of transcendent cleverness. 
He expresses the views and arguments of the average educated man in 
the most felicitous language, with the most marvellous lucidity, and 
with the most brilliant wit. But while the average man has been 



Voltaire and the ordinary man. 11 

taught to distrust his own judgment, Voltaire is fully persuaded, and 
with good reason, of his own .cleverness and sterling common sense. 
What he cannot understand must therefore he concludes be nonsense; 
and what does not please him must be bad. He therefore Idudly pro- 
claims opinions which the ordinary man holds, but hesitates to acknow- 
ledge even to himself; Socrates was either madman or knave ; Aristotle is 
unintelligible ; Plato a dotard. All systems of philosophy are perfectly 
futile ; and metaphysicians do not understand their own foolish business. 
When in his Dictionary he sums up under Philosophie the grains of 
common sense he has been able to gather ,from the writings of philo- 
sophers, a reader with no taste for metaphysics is likely to recognise an 
admirable summary of his own conclusions. 

His canon of historical criticism is that what appears absurd to him 
is incredible. He has all the prejudices of the average man who relies 
on his common sense, and of an unimaginative student of natural science 
who believes only in generalisations derived from observation and in 
logical deductions from such premises. Hence he was entirely wanting 
in originality ; and it has been truly said that there were Voltairians 
before Voltaire wrote. His influence was so great because he forcibly 
enunciated ideas which were held half unconsciously or timidly by his 
readers. ; AU the crowd, in the well-known story, saw that the Emperor 
was naked ; but it was only after the child put into words what all had 
seen that the general conviction had any practical result. Clearly to 
formulate and to assert prevalent opinions was in itself to threaten the 
existence of institutions which were out of harmony with them. The 
force of habit, dislike of change, self-interest, induce men to admit a 
strange inconsistency between their real beliefs and their social arrange- 
ments. Nor is it easy to startle them out of their sluggish acquiescence. 
To have done this was Voltaire's great achievement. 

Like many others of the middle class who have gained wealth and 
consideration, Voltaire was conservative from fear of the future, not from 
reverence for the past. He was far from believing that his persistent 
attacks on the C3iurch would shake the monarchy. But the strangest 
of his delusions was the conviction that all dogma could be swept away, 
yet a residuum of belief retained sufficient to supply a necess£|,ry sanction 
for the morality of the imeducated. Since he held the lower classes to be 
barbarians, incapable of culture and inaccessible to reason, it would have 
been logical to refrain from any interference with their faith. And 
at times he writes as if this had been his wish. He remarks, for 
instance, that when an old superstition is well established a wise states- 
man will use it as a bit, which the people have voluntarily taken into 
their mouths. But it does not seem that he would have extended this 
forbearance to Roman Catholicism, which he believed to be the most 
mischievous of creeds. It was chiefly the intolerance of the Roman 
Church, an intolerance which appears to be the logical consequence of 



12 Voltaire and reform. 

her doctrine, that made him her irreconcilable enemy. To celibacy 
and monEisticism moreover he had a rooted aversion. They were un- 
natural and unreasonable, and founded on that ascetic contempt of the 
body with which he and his contemporaries had so little sympathy. He 
attributed the prosperity of England to the riddance that had been 
effected of priests, eremites, and friars " with all their trumpery," and 
believed that "the voice of reason now supreme" would applaud such a 
reform in France. He thought that it could be carried out, not only 
without producing any civil discord, but even without serious disturbance 
of the popular faith. In this he anticipated, even if he was not re- 
sponsible for, the delusion of the Constituent Assembly. 

Writing in 1750, he says that the privileges of the Church will 
crumble away like an old i:uin whenever it may pleajse the Prince to touch 
them. The King had only to say a word and the Pope would have 
no more authority in France than in Prussia. Herein he was only 
expressing opinions very generally held. D'Argenson said that the 
Revolution would begin with an attack upon the priests, who would 
be torn to pieces in the streets. Barbier notes that all Paris is 
filled with passionate hatred of the Molinist hierarchy, and that this 
anti-Roman party is swelled by all honest folk who detest persecution 
and injustice. Voltaire's diatribes against Catholicism and Christianity 
continued to be virulent, even after his fear of the consequences of the 
atheistic teaching of his more advanced friends, and perhaps an honest 
conviction, had led him to undertake the defence of natural religion. Men 
at all times and places had believed in the existence of a Supreme Being; 
and the belief, he declared, was reasonable. 

Nor did his common sense allow him to believe that a time was at 
hand when mankind would be the docile subjects of logic and reason. 
The human race generally was not in his opinion two degrees nearer 
to civilisation than the savages of Kamtschatka, In most countries he 
thought the multitude of brute beasts called " men " outnumbered those 
who think by at least 100 to 1. Yet a popular government is, he says, 
less iniquitous than despotism; unfortunately it is only possible in a 
small and favourably situated country. It will no doubt commit errors 
of policy and be divided by factions ; but we shall not see in it Sicilian 
Vespers, St Bartholomews, Irish massacres, men burnt by the Inquisition, 
or sent to the galleys for drawing a pail of water from the sea. In 
another place he maintains that a Republican constitution is the best, 

because under it the nearest approach is made to natural equality by 

which he means an equal right to personal liberty, to property, and to 
the protection of the laws. The English cry for liberty and property is 
according to him, the cry of nature. 

He comes nearest to radical doctrine in the Idks RipMkaines 
published in 1765. He there defines the ideal function of civil govern- 
ment as " the execution by one or more of the General Will in accord- 



His practical proposals. 13 

ance with laws voted by all." The English, he says, are to be envied, 
because among them every citizen has recovered those natural rights, 
which the subjects of other monarchies have lost. These are the right 
of each individual to the unimpeded control of his actions and pro- 
perty, the right of addressing his fellow-citizens through the press, of 
being tried on all criminal charges in accordance with strict law before a 
jury of independent men, and of professing without molestation whatever 
religion he pleases. He considers that there is no reason why the French 
should not enjoy these rights under the existing monarchy. Voltaire 
had no political and hardly any social reforms greatly at heart. But he 
was impatient of what was unreasonable; he was humane and good- 
natured ; and therefore wished the people, " vUe canaille " though they 
were, to be happy and contented. He was rich and therefore anxious to 
secure order and stability. The reforms he desired were those which 
would naturally suggest themselves to such a man. Even as regards 
religion, all that he ^ked for the present was : that all creeds should be 
tolerated and civil rights extended to the Protestants, and even to the 
Jews — a miserable and contemptible race; that no ecclesiastical law 
should have any force unless sanctioned by the State ; that the govern- 
ment should fix what feasts should be observed, and regulate the marriage 
laws; that there should be no privilege of clergy; and that excommuni- 
cation, annates, and other payments to Rome should be forbidden. 

He attacked tortiure with indignant common sense. Was the man 
who might be innocent to endure suffering much more terrible than the 
punishment which he would incur if guilty? He eagerly advocated a 
reform of the criminal laws, such as was demanded by Beccaria. The 
innocent children of a felon ought not to be punished by the confiscation 
of his property, nor a servant girl put to death for stealing half-a-dozen 
napkins. Criminal procedure ought not to be secret and a pitfall for the 
innocent. There ought not to be twenty diflferent systems of law in the 
same kingdom. All laws ought to be clear and intelligible. AU citizens 
should be equal in the eyes of the law, and all fiscal privileges ought to 
be abolished; a vexatious system of internal taxes and toUs should not 
prevent commodities from being sent to the place where they were needed. 
Such are the most important reforms asked for by Voltaire. They are 
all demanded again and again in the cahiers of 1789, and were effected 
by the Constituent Assembly. 

Voltaire hated theorists and " ideologues^ and appealed throughout to 
common sense and utility rather than to general principles and a priori 
conceptions. Living when he did, it was impossible that he should not 
sometimes speak of "nature" and "natural laws"; yet even then he never 
loses touch with reality. He denies that the savage is the "natural man." 
Primitive man was the dirtiest and most miserable of brutes, wholly 
absorbed in the struggle for existence. To live freely among equals is 
true life. Our Uves are more in accordance with nature than that of the 



14 Reformers among the nobility. 

savage, who transgresses her law from morning to night, being useless to 
himself and to others. For we are naturally social beings; consequently 
the law of our nature is to do what is conducive to social happiness. 
Like almost every writer of the eighteenth century Voltaire believed the 
people to be what institutions and rulers make them; but he did not share 
the prevailinig delusion that the removal of all mischievous institutions and 
restrictions -would restore them to a state of primitive virtue and happi- 
ness. He could not indeed allow that man is naturally evil — for that 
was the Christian doctrine. But as things are, he believes the populace 
to be everywhere the same, stupid and cruel, and that at bottom none 
are more cruel than his own countrymen, ' the mildness and docility 
of whose disposition it was then the fashion to extol. 

There is little that can be called original in the many volumes of 
Voltaire ; but he rarely says anything that is not eminently rational, ■ 
lucid, and convincing; and he says the same thing over and over again, 
never feariiig to repeat himself^, never striving after originality, but 
determined to be heard, and charming his reader by his brilliant lucidity, 
by his wit, and by sparing him every intellectual effort, even the strain 
of careful attention. He was thte leader of the attack on the Church, 
on superstition, intolerance, and injustice, the most brilliant and 
persuasive assertor of the authority of reason ; but he did nothing that 
others also were not attempting, that left undone by him they might 
not have accomplished. His work was negative. He cleared away the 
obstacles which dammed back the rapidly rising flood, but his hand was 
only the most active and unerring of many engaged in the same task ; 
and even unassisted the impatierit stream would have overflowed and 
borne away the impediments to its course. 

The sufferings of the last years of Louis XIV's reign had called the 
attention of many to the faults of his rulei, and had led them to desire 
a change in the spirit and method of government. Sdme of these 
reformers had been among the friends of the Duke of Burgundy, and 
had trusted that the accession of the pupil of Fenelon would enable them 
to realise their hopes. They were for the most part nobles who regretted 
an idealised feudalism. Their views therefore had little influence on the 
future, yet one author who belonged to this party must be mentioned. 
This is the Comte de Boulainvilliers (1658-1722), who, in two works 
posthumously published, a History of the Ancient Government of France 
and Letters on the Parlement, maintained the Feudal System to be the 
masterpiece of the human intellect. Everything gained by the authority 
of the Crown, every franchise obtained by the commons, was according 
to him a usurpation, an infraction of the rights based on conquest of the 
nobility, the heirs of the conquering Franks. This theory was accepted 
in part by Montesquieu, and by the Parlement when defending in 
1776 the privileges of the nobles against Turgot, and was turned against 



F'auban.— ^Saint-Pierre. 15- 

the feudal classes with fatal effect by their revolutionisiry enemies. If 
the people were the conquered Gauls, why should they, when might 
was on their side, endure the oppression of men who boasted themselves 
to be their alien conquerors ? 

But even under Louis XIV there were reformers who looked to the 
future rather than to the past. Among them may perhaps be counted 
the illustrious name of Vauban. In his Dime Roy ale he insists on the 
misery of the people. One-tenth of the industrious population, the real 
strength of the State, were, he saysj destitute, and this shortly after the 
Peace .of Ryswick, before the most disastrous years of the reign. A 
complete reform of the fiscal system was, he said, as just as it was 
necessary; for there was a "natural" obligation on all citizens to 
contribute to the support of the government -in proportion to their 
ability ; and every privilege exempting from this obligation was alike 
unjust and contrary to the common interest. (During the Regency and 
under the administration of Fleury political questions were discussed with 
a freedom that had been impossible in the previous reign. A spirit of 
reform was abroad. In 1724 some men who shared the growing interest 
in social emd political questions agreed to meet every week for the purpose 
of reading essays and holding discussions in the rooms of a certain Abbe 
Alary. They called themselves the Club de TEntresol from the place of 
their meeting. We may suppose the English name of "Club," now first 
used in France, to have been suggested by Bolingbroke, who was one of 
the score or so of diplomatists, officials, and men of letters, who were 
members of this society. The leading spirit of the Entresol, at all 
events the most prolific contributor of essays and harangues, was the 
Abbe de Saint-Pierre (1658-1743). The Club was suppressed by Fleury 
in 1731 ; but the members must have had a remarkable incapacity for 
being bored, a most vigorous interest in the subjects discussed, or it 
would not so long have survived the lucubrations of so pitiless a pedant, 
so indefatigable a reformer as the excellent Abbe. He had projects for 
everything, from securing a perpetual peace by the establishment of a 
European diet to the "utilisation of dukes and peers." There were 
among his ideas some which were sound, and some which afterwards 
made their way in the world. In two points more especially the Abbe 
de Saint-Pierre foreshadowed or contributed to the beliefs of the 
next generation. He had faith in the perfectibility of mankind. The 
race is as yet, he said, in its childhood. Like La Bruyere he considers 
our experience of some 7000 or 8000 years superficial and incomplete. 
"How old do you call yourself.''" asked Fontenelle. "About 10" 
was the answer. And secondly his religion was a deism, more like 
that of Rousseau than that of Voltaire; for, although he would 
wish a priest to be something between a policeman and a relieving 
officer, he seems to have been by no means devoid of real, albeit 
sentimental, religious feeling; and his description of Agaton, a very 



16 UArgenson. 



wise and saintly Archbishop, is a curious ; analogue to that of the 
Savoyard vicar. 

Another member of the Entresol was the better known Marquis 
d'Argenson (1694-1757), Intendant of Hainault, and for a short time 
(1744-7) Minister of Foreign Affairs. D'Argenson was fuUy convinced 
that the time was out of joint, and not less that he was born to set it right. 
His constantly disappointed hope to be invited to do so made him a 
bitter critic of the government. His memoirs afford abundant citations 
to historians who wish to paint the maladministration of the old 
monarchy and the misery of its subjects in the darkest colours; but, 
positive as he is in assertion, his views vary from day to day with his 
spirits, and these greatly depend on a chance word from the King. The 
grumbles of a pessimist, who is also a disappointed office-seeker, are not 
always vray trustworthy evidence. D'Argenson's political views and pro- 
gramme are contained in his Considerations on the Government of FrancBy 
a work published in 1764 after his death, but written many years earlier 
to refute the reactionary and feudal Boulainvilliers. He is strongly in 
favour of decentralisation. To govern well it is necessary to govern less. 
An order of the Council should not be required to repair a bad road, or 
a hole in a church wall. The government should be content to leave 
something undone; a physician does not undertake to digest for his 
patients. He would have the country divided into districts, boroughs, 
and municipalities, the administration of which shoiild be entrusted to 
officials appointed by the Intendants from lists of candidates elected by 
the communes. The Provincial Estates should be composed of repre- 
sentatives of the districts and a few great landowners, sitting in one 
Chamber. He would abolish all internal tolls and duties, and inclines 
to permit free trade with foreign countries. Those who cultivate the 
land should be relieved from ail feudal dues and obligations. If people 
would lay aside their prejudices they must allow that it is most conducive 
to the good of the State that all men should be equal. Nobles are but 
drones in the hive. He thinks it no objection to his principles that 
they are favourable to democracy and tend to the destruction of th& 
nobility. But he has no wish to limit the authority of the Crown. The 
powers of the Roman tribunes, of thie English Parliament, of the States 
General, the right of remonstrance claimed by the French law Courts are 
mischievous; for the sovereign power whether in a monarchy or a republic 
should be one and imquestioned, like that of the Almighty. "The 
whole art of government consists in nothing else than the perfect 
imitation of God 'Wno doubt an easy art, at all events one in which 
d'Argenson imagined himself to be well versed. At the same time he 
would have the Prince remember that he exists for the people, and that 
they are not his chattels. D'Argenson thought Morelly's Code de la 
Nature, which we shall have to notice hereafter as one of the earliest 
sources of modem Socialism, " the book of books," and far superior to. 



Montesquieu. — The Lettres Persanes. 17 

Montesquieu's great work. He has himself been justly called a socialistic 
rather than a liberal royalist; but the Due de Richelieu's description 
of him as " the Secretary of State of Plato's Republic " is scarcely just, 
for it is clear that, had he obtained the coveted place of Prime Minister, 
he would have attempted reforms not very unlike those afterwards 
undertaken by Turgot, and in a spirit even more uncompromising. 
His ideal for France was a reforming despotism based on local self- 
government, with equal laws and equal opportunities for all. To a 
certain extent he anticipated the doctrines of the Economists. So 
early as 1739 he thought a treaty admitting English manufactures 
would be good for France, since it would divert French capital 
and labour from manufactures to agriculture — a more truly productive 
employment. Some years later he hears that the English have taken 
off import duties. He wonders whether they have fully recognised 
the profit they may derive from making their island the world's 
market. It is a mistake for a government to try to direct production. 
Liberty, Liberty, he exclaims, this is what is wanted for individuals and 
communities. 

Montesquieu (1689-1755) printed his Persicm, Letters in 1721. The 
popularity of this book, one of the most remarkable of the century, was 
great and immediate. It breathes the spirit of the reaction, then at its 
height, against the monarchy of Louis XIV ; and, written thirteen years 
before Voltaire's Letters on the English, it anticipates his attack on 
intolerance and orthodoxy. As a satire of society it is weak, for the 
characters described are lifeless types ; and a modem reader is disgusted 
by a frigid and elaborate indecency, very characteristic of that period 
and fer more repulsive than the spontaneous obscenity of Aristophanes 
or Rabelais. But when the writer turns to religious and political matters 
there is no want of outspoken vigour. The Pope is an old idol, wor- 
shipped from habit, yet still a potent magician, since he can make men 
believe that three are one, and that the bread they eat, the wine they 
drink, are neither bread nor wine. Nor had the state of affairs so com- 
pletely changed in France that her rulers could read with complacency 
such an attack as that contained in the Persian Letters on the memory 
of the late King. It is true that the Regent could not be reproached 
with a minister of eighteen and a mistress of eighty years, nor with 
banishing his most useful and industrious subjects. But it was not 
Louis XIV alone who rewarded the man who handed him a napkin 
more liberally than the captain who had won a battle, and gave a 
small pension to an officer who had run away for two leagues, but a rich 
government to him who had run fom-. Nor was the preceding reign the 
only one in which pensions had been so lavishly granted as to make it 
appear that Princes, in consideration of the merits of their courtiers, 
had decided to enact that every laboiu-er should henceforth diminish his 
children's daily bread by one-fifth. 

C. H. H. Tin. 2 



18 L'Esprit des Lois. 



Few readers in these days probably lay down Ths Spirit of the Laws, 
the great work with which the name of Montesquieu is generally 
associated, without a feeling of disappointment, and of wonder that 
a book which is less a book than the materials for one should have 
obtained so vast a reputation not in France alone, but throughout 
Europe and especially in England. It was natural indeed that Burke 
should have exerted his unequalled command of hyperbole to extol the 
foreigner who had so well appreciated the merits of the British Constitu- 
tion; but Horace Walpole and Gibbon are scarcely less emphatic in 
their commendation. Walpole probably was very ready to appreciate 
the merits of the wit and man of quality, who, like himself, affected to 
regret a vulgar impulse to join the scribbling herd ; while the historian 
of the Decline and Fall was likely to be a kindly critic of a writer who 
at least had pointed out the way to the field in which he was himself 
to win renown. But we must remember that it is in part because the 
success of Montesquieu has been so great that it is now difficult to do 
him full justice. Much that he said for the first time has become trite. 
The ideas that he suggested have been developed and elaborated, so 
that as presented by him they appear crude and incomplete. It is not 
the .least of his merits that he attempts to apply a historical and 
inductive method to political and social questions ; but to this we are 
now accustomed, and we are most struck by the faults in the application 
of that method. Much in short that was then original now seems 
commonplace, and errors then scarcely to be avoided are in our eyes 
inexcusable. 

But we may not stop to attempt a criticism or analysis of Tlie Spirit 
of the Laws. It is sufficient for our purpose to set forth the leading 
ideas which Montesquieu wished to impress on his readers. He begins 
by asserting a general proposition, that the constitution most in con- 
formity with nature — ^nature as understood by jtirists and Stoica-r-is that 
which is best suited to the character of the nation for which it is 
intended. There is no absolutely best form of government. If law 
generally is the reason of mankind, the civil and poUtical laws of each 
nation should be the application of that reason to particular cases. 
The laws should correspond to the character and principles of the 
established government, and like it must depend upon and suit the 
climate and physical conditions of the country. But it is not the 
illustration and practical application of this general principle that 
Montesquieu has most at heart. He believes that the salvation of 
France depends upon the possibility of undoing the evil work of 
Richelieu and Louis XIV, and of a return to the old monarchy, as he 
conceives it to have existed under Henry IV or Louis XII. The danger 
which threatens France is despotism, leading to anarchy. He would 
warn his countrymen, renew and invigorate their love of liberty. He is 
a liberal conservative, who would temper monarchy by aristociatic 



Montesquieu's political ideals. 19 

institutions, the antithesis of d'Argenson, one of the first advocates 
of democratic and socialistic despotism. Monarchies perish when 
obedience becomes servile, when honour — the sense of personal dignity 
and love of privilege^ — is no more, when the nobles are the despised 
instruments of the Prince, when the dishonourable and the base are 
honoured ; when the monarch, abolishing all institutions and bodies 
intermediate between himself and his people, seeks to centralise all 
government in himself; when, in short, a kingdom is in the condition of 
France under Louis XV. Montesquieu is convinced that aU undivided 
sovereignty is bad — whether in the hands of the one or of the many; it 
leads to despotism, and despotism to anarchy. 

The best form of government accordingly is a carefully balanced 
constitution such as that of England ; but this, he aUows, can only be 
brought into being and continue to exist by some most fortunate 
combination of circumstances. The next best polity is a monarchy in 
which the power of the Prince is limited by love of privilege among the 
nobles and by the existence of intermediate bodies which will be an 
obstacle to arbitrary actiocl and wiU guide the obedience of the subjects. 
He is disposed to approve of everything which creates friction and so 
impedes the direct action of the Sovereign ; even the law's delays are in 
so far salutary. The first aim of tyrants is, he says, to simplify the laws, 
because they recognise in their forms an obstaclei to despotism'. This 
desire to limit the power of the Sovereign distinguishes Montesquieu 
from almost all the political theorists of his age. The philosophers 
generally had no objection to enlightened despotism, still less had the 
Economists ,• whilst it was the aim of the followers of Rousseau to free 
the sovereign people from all checks and trammels. 

Montesquieu thought that the supreme merit of the British Con- 
stitution, the security that undivided sovereignty should not become 
despotism, lay in the performance of the executive, legislative, and 
judicial fimctions by special bodies— ^thie King's ministers, the legisla- 
ture, and the law Courts : a misconception sufficiently plausible to be 
accepted by Blackstone and other English authorities as well as by the 
able men who framed the Constitution of the United States. He sug- 
gested that the evils under which France was suffering might be remedied 
by doing that which Burke reproached the Constituent Assembly for 
having left undone. He would have had "privileges which, though 
discontinued, were not lost to memory " restored, and those opposed and 
conflicting interests which " interpose a salutary check on all precipitate 
resolutions " so organised as to limit the arbitrary power of the govern- 
ment. In short, he wished the constitution of the old monarchy " which 
had suffered waste and dilapidation " to be rebuilt and enlarged on the 
Same plan. That this or something' like this should be attempted was 
the wish of some of the more enlightened nobles, and, as would appear 
from the pamphlets and cahiers of 1788 and 1789, of some of the more 

2-2 



20 Influence of Montesquieu. 

conservative commoners at the time of the meeting of the Estates. But 
there were few even among the nioderate reformers who would have been 
content to stop just at this point. Encouraged probably by the success- 
ful constitution-building of the United States, the liberal royalists, a 
majority at one time in the Constituent Assembly, hoped to realise in 
France the constitution described by Montesquieu as ideally best — ^that 
of England, freed from some of its anomalies and imperfections. They 
were disappointed; yet, had we sufficient space, it would be easy to show 
that, although Sieyes prevailed, traces of Montesquieu's influence are 
not wanting in the Constitution of 1791. 

But the more extreme reformers might ask : was it clear that 
Montesquieu believed constitutional monarchy to be the ideally best 
form of government? Had he not said that the establishment of a 
democratic republic in England had been prevented by want of virtue .' 
And was not that constitution obviously the best of which the principle 
was virtue, and which could only continue to' exist so long as education 
and law maintained virtue, public spirit, and disinterested patriotism, 
checked luxury and promoted equality among its citizens? But if a 
republic was the best constitution, why should it not be established in 
Prance ? They had learnt from other teachers that, so soon as corrupting 
institutions were destroyed, the native virtue of man would assert itself. 
All that was needed therefore was to destroy everything that existed, to 
pass the laws which, according to Montesquieu, are of the essence of a 
republic and thus secure its existence. Unfortunately Montesquieu, 
who had derived his ideas of democracy from classical antiquity, had 
written that a republic can hardly be established without magistrates 
invested with an awful authority, and laws which will forcibly lead back 
the State to freedom : that the law of public safety must prevail over 
every other consideration — ^the most execrable maxim of tyranny as 
Rousseau called it : and even that, " as in old days the statues of the 
gods were sometimes hidden, it may at times be necessary to throw a 
veil over liberty." The whole spirit of the Jacobin Revolution, it has 
been said, is contained in a sentence spoken by Robespierre : " If the 
strength of a Republican government in time of peace is virtue, in the 
time of Revolution it is both virtue and fear — for fear without virtue is 
deadly, virtue powerless without fear." When Robespierre said this he 
may have seemed to himself and others to have been closely following 
the precepts of Montesquieu. 

Montesquieu, like every other reformer, wishes for a complete reform 
of the fiscal system; but, unlike the " Economists," he would lighten the 
direct and increase the indirect taxation. He would have direct taxation 
progressive. The absolute necessaries of life should be exempt from all 
burdens. The comforts of life should be lightly taxed, mere luxuries 
heavily. The State should teach its members to work, and supply the 
opportimity of working. Its duty is to see that no citizen is without 



The Economists. 21 



" an assured subsistence, daily bread, decent clothes, and a kind of life 
not destructive of health " — a most momentous admission. 

The Spirit of the Laws appeared in 1748; in 1753 Chesterfield, 
visiting Prance, recognised "all the symptoms which he had ever met 
with in history previous to great changes and revolutions in government — '" 
a celebrated prophecy, which would be a more convincing proof of the 
writer's sagacity, had he not three years later foretold even more 
positively the imminent ruin of his own country. But no doubt in the 
middle of the eighteenth century the French had begun to reason more 
freely than ever before upon matters of religion and government. 
Contempt and hatred of the clergy, discontent with the government, were 
more and more openly proclaimed. Incredulity was no longer confined 
to the upper classes. D'Argenson, especially after he had lost office in 
1747, predicted more and more persistently some great convulsion, which 
might even end in the establishment of a Republic. Observers less 
pessimistic than this political Cassandra were alarmed at the prevalent 
spirit of restlessness and discontent. This feverish disquiet preceded 
and was the cause, not the effect, of the numerous books on economical 
and political theory and practice, criticising existing institutions and 
suggesting more perfect social arrangements, which were produced diuring 
the next twenty years by writers differing in their views, but unanimous 
in ascribing the misery of the people to the organisation of society. 
Whatever they see amiss, the exclamation that arises to their lips is that 
ingeminated by Arthur Young, " Government, all is Government." The 
Economists, in their own eyes the most conservative of reformers, 
are wanting, as TocqueviUe says, in all respect for anything that exists 
or that is likely to be an obstacle to the realisation of their ideal. 
Their books, he maintains, are instinct with the spirit of democratic 
revolution. It is not only that they hate certain privileges; variety 
itself is odious to them, and they would welcome tmiformity and equality 
even in servitude. 

According to Rabaut Saint-Etienne the Economists first taught the 
French to reflect on the science of government; but Dupont of Nemours, 
himself one of them, with more justice considers that Montesquieu gave 
the impulse to the political and economical speculation of which the physio- 
cratic school itself was a result. Not a little also of the public interest 
in such matters must be ascribed to the influence of a book, VAmi des 
Hommes, published in 1756 by the Marquis de Mirabeau (1715-89), 
afterwards the most enthusiastic follower of Quesnay (1694-1774), but 
at that time, as he says, " no more an Economist than his cat." Such 
economic principles as his work contains he had taken from a manuscript 
in his possession written by Cantillon, an Anglo-French banker, part of 
which. On the Nature of Trade, was published in 1755. Yet there is 
much in Mirabeau's book that is in harmony with the teaching of the 



22 Mirabeau. — Quesnay. 



Physiocsrats' ; and its great popularity prepared the way for the diffusion 
of their doctrines. A contemporary critic said that the author " thought 
like Montesquieu and wrote Hke Montaigne." Like Quesnay the Marquis 
was a Utopian optimist, firmly pereuaded that he possessed the secret of 
so organising society as to secure to men the happiness for which nature 
intended them. He was convinced that agriculture was the source of aU 
wealth ; he was opposed to all restrictions on trade and industry, and so 
thorough-going a free trader that he held a war of tariffs to be not less 
destructive than a war of cannon. Both as a partisan of agriculture 
and as a noble he was opposed to the " moneyed interest." " Great 
fortunes in a State are like pike in a pond." The man who lives on an 
income derived from funded property is a self-indulgent drone, and the 
cause of most of the evils in society. The lower classes are, he says, the 
most truly productive, and should therefore be honoured. He tells us 
that he would always make way for a water-carrier with a feeling of 
respect ; yet his hatred of ;the bureaucratic government is almost as 
much due to his indignation that men of no birth should lord it over 
the country gentlemen as to a dislike of centralisation, which had led 
him six years before to write a tract in favour of local self-government. 

Struck no doubt by the similarity of their views and anxious to gain 
a proselyte whose reputation with the public would be useful to the 
cause, Quesnay asked Mirabeau to visit him, told him that Cantillon 
was an ass, initiated him into the true economic doctrine, and gained a 
devoted disciple. Quesnay, the "Confucius of Europe," as his followers 
called him, was the physician of Madame de Pompadour ; and it was in 
his lodgings under her apartments that his meeting with the Marquis 
took place, from which the existence of the Physiocrats, as an organised 
and actively proselytising sect, may be dated (July, 1757). No doubt 
Quesnay had already thought out his system i and many of his opinions 
were shared by his friend Gournay (1712-59), a member of the Bureau 
du Commerce and a student and translator of the English economists, 
who had induced his official superior Trudaine to accept the maxim, 
" Laisser faire et laisser •passer^'' which he is said to have been the first 
to formulate as the true principle of practical political economy. 

Before his alliance with Mirabeau, Quesnay had only written articles 
in the Encydopkdie ; one (Fermier), in which he ascribed the poverty of 
the cultivators and the decay of industry to the misery and oppression 
which drove the peasants into the towns, to the atrbitrary and imjust 
taxation, and to the restrictions on the corn trade ; and another (Grains), 
in which he pointed out that the natural advantages of France ought to 
be turned to account by concentrating labour and capital on the land, 
the produce of which should be exchanged for foreign luxuries, a reversal 
of Colbert's policy. In 1758 his Tableau Economique was printed at 
Versailles at the royal press, and it is said under the King's personal 
supervision, for Louis XV had as warm a regard as his selfish insenssibility 



<rhe doctrine of Quesnay. 23 

allowed for the vivacious monkey-like little man with the face, according 
to his admirers, of Socrates. It is not likely that the King suspected 
any danger to his government from that enigmaitical table, or took the 
trouble to listen to the explanations of his " thinker," as he called the 
author. Two years later the Economic Table was reprinted, with eluci- 
dations scarcely less obscure, by the Marquis de Mirabeau, together 
with essays by the same hand, one of which pointed out the evils of the 
corvee. Henceforth the restless Marquis became the leader of a band of 
disciples who preached with eager conviction the doctrine of the net 
product and of the impot unique. Next to the " Friend of Humanity," 
the most able and popular of the "Economists" as they called thenl- 
selves — the name of Physiocrats was given long after by T. B. Say — 
were Mercier de la Riviere (1720-94), an official and at one time 
governor of Martinique, whose book. The Natural and Essential Order 
of Political Societies, published in 1767, contains the clearest and most 
connected account of the doctrine of the school ; and Dupont of Nemours 
(1739-1817), who wrote a book in 1763 entitled RefleaAons on the 
Riches of the Nation, and served the cause with an indefatigable pen 
in the Journal de V Agriculture et du Commerce (1763-66) and in the 
tphem^rides des Citoyens (1766-72). 

The Marquis de Mirabeau was of opinion that the three great 
inventions " which have given stability to political society " are writing, 
money, and the Tableau Economique. Fortunately it is possible to 
give a sketch sufficient for our purpose of the doctrine of Quesnay, 
without attempting to explain this most crabbed document, the maib 
object of which is to show that the national capital can only be increased 
by returliing a greater share of the " net produce " of the country to 
"productive expenditure," i.e., to the support of agriculture, and that 
one tax upon the net returns of the land ought to be substituted for the 
existing complicated, unjust, and extravagant fiscal system. Rulers and 
subjects alike muBt obey the self-evident laws of nature. These " natural 
laws," which mankind ought to observe, are the expression of the con- 
ditions under which man, in the social state "natural" to him, will secure 
the maximum of well-being. The system might equally well have been 
christened "theocratic," since it is represented as a recognition of and 
obedience to the laws of nature, which are also those of God — the 
Physiocrats were convinced deists. These laws are an infallible guide. 
We can deduce from them the whole science of human life. God intends 
the good of man, whose universal motive is desire of happiness; and these 
are the rules on the observance of which it is "evident" that his happiness 
depends. Once imderstood they must command the assent of all men as 
infallibly as mathematical truth ; so that all restriction of individual 
freedom is both unnecessary and injurious, and the function of government 
is reduced to a minimum. Indeed government would appear unnecessary, 
were it not that some education is needed to enable men to recognise the 



24 Influence of the Physiocrats. 

cogency of nature's laws, and were it not that in every society there are 
some brutes not under the control of reason. The province of govern- 
ment should therefore be confined to that of policeman to coerce these 
brutes, and of schoolmaster to render their number as small as possible. 
The establishment of a uniform, national, and compulsory system of 
education was one of the practical reforms most insisted upon by the 
Economists. 

We are not concerned with Qiiesnay's erroneous idea, that labour and 
capital can only produce new wealth, or value, when employed on the 
land, nor with his curious theory that all taxation ultimately falls upon 
the owners of the soil ; but there can be little doubt that the notion of 
substituting one single direct tax, levied on aU landowners ahke, for 
the existing cumbrous and unjust system of taxation, was singularly 
attractive, and led many to profess themselves the admirers of doctrines 
they only half understood. The criticism by the economists of existing 
institutions fostered the prevailing discontent ; and change was made to 
appear easy by their optimistic confidence that reform was not difficult, 
that little more was needed than to destroy mischievous restrictions on 
natural liberty, and to formulate clearly the natural and necessary laws 
of society. 

" The more I ponder over the abuses of society," wrote the Marquis 
de Mirabeau, "and the remedies suggested, the more convinced I am, 
that it needs only that twelve principles expressed in twelve lines should 
be firmly fixed in the head of the Prince or of his minister and carried 
out in detail, to set everything right, and to renew the age of Solomon." 
The Economists did no service to their country in thus encouraging the 
belief that it was as easy to build as to pull down, and that men in 
general were reasonable. In some ways like Rousseau, they represent 
the reaction against the logical development of the " philosophism " 
of their century. The Friend of Humanity boasts that that " odious 
philosophism" was never allowed to penetrate into their periodicals. 
Mercier de la Riviere insists that the study of the natural order of 
society leads man back to God, and enables him to recognise more and 
more His wisdom and beneficence exemplified in the laws He has given 
to mankind. "Helvetius," said Turgot, "seems to be constantly 
labouring to prove that it is not to our interest to be honourable men." 
The Physiocrats maintained that enlightened self-interest teaches us that 
not honesty only but " virtue" is the best policy. Not a few men either 
in the service of the government or closely connected with it more or 
less accepted the creed of the sect, among others Goumay, Trudaine de 
Montigny, Malesherbes, Bertin, the Cardinal de Boisgelin, and Turgot. 
Quesnay himself had the ear of the King and the support of Madame 
de Pompadour. The teaching of the Economists had therefore a direct 
influence on the measures of the central government and carried still 
further the reaction against Colbertism, which had led Machault, the 



Turgot. 25 

one able Finance minister under Louis XV, to reply, when he was told 
that trade and manufactures were perishing, " so much the better, there 
will be the more labour to employ on the land." Yet more did it 
influence the spirit of the provincial administration; for Turgot, although 
his reforms in the Limousin were the most systematic, the most successful, 
and the best known, was not the only reforming Intendant. 

The restrictions on the com trade were abrogated in 1764. Unfortu- 
nately bad harvests in three successive years brought free trade and 
economic theory into disrepute ; for dear food was a more eflective argument 
than the ridicule of Voltaire, or Galiani''s most lively and acute critifiisms 
in his Dialogues on the Com Trade (1769). The com taxes were 
accordingly reimposed by Terray in 1770, to be again removed by Turgot 
on his accession to power in 1774. Once more the seasons took the side 
of protection ; and the unavoidable rise in the price of food was utilised 
to the utmost by the enemies of the minister to decry his policy — by 
no one with more reckless appeals to popular passion and prejudice 
than by Necker, in his book on The Corn Laws and the Com Trade, a 
production hailed by Diderot as a work of genius. WThen Turgot was 
driven from oflice (1776), free trade in com was abandoned, together 
with those other reforms which were in strict accordance with the 
principles of the Economists : the abolition of the corvie, and of the 
close companies and trading corporations, the organisation of local self- 
government by representative councils of landowners, and the attempt 
to mitigate the iniquities of the oppressive fiscal system ; reforms which 
Turgot had assured the King would, if completed by a national system 
of education, make the French in a few years a new people and the first 
in Europe. Talents, virtue and disinterestedness, honour and zeal, 
would take the place of corruption, timidity, intrigue, and greed. Such 
words in the mouth of a man like Turgot are a remarkable instance 
of the prevalence of that blind confidence in the perfectibility of the 
people, provided a few reforms are carried out, which proved so dangerous 
a delusion. 

The more advanced philosophers had no sympathy with the Physio- 
crats. But Voltaire, whose dislike of everjrthing pedantic and obscure 
led him to ridicule Quesnay's abstruse dogmatism, had eagerly 
welcomed the ministry of the gi'eatest and the most practical of the 
school. There may have been some affectation in the emotion he 
showed when he met Turgot during his triumphal visit to Paris in 1778; 
but the words he wrote on hearing of the great, minister's fall ring true : 
" I have nothing but death to look forward to, since M. Turgot is out 
of office. The thunderbolt has blasted my brain and my heart." 

It ceased to be fashionable among those who would be thought 
enlightened to profess the principles of the Economists ; yet the impulse 
given by them continued to some extent to influence the administration. 
More favour was shown to agriculture. Enclosures were encouraged, to 



26 Destructive philosophy. 

the detriment of the poorer cultivators ; and the English negotiators. of 
Pitt's commercial treaty were surprised by the wish of the French 
Foreign Office to promote free trade between the two countrieSi " The 
most liberal system was what they desired." Even in 1789 not a few of 
the cahiers ask for the "impot unique^'''' the single tax on landed revenue. 

It has been often remarked that before the middle of the eighteenth 
century the attack of the philosophers was directed against the Church, 
while from that time down to the outbreak of the Revolution political and 
social arrangements were chiefly criticised. This is not to be accepted 
without some explanation. We have seen that from the beginning of 
the century onward there was among the enlightened a very real interest 
in political questions and a desire for practical reforms, and that those 
who say that the Church alone was assailed are thinking too exclusively 
of Voltaire. But while the earlier generation, men like d'Argenson and 
Montesquieu, would have been content to build on the old foundations, 
Rousseau and his followers, as well as the Socialists, such as Morelly and 
Mably, aspired to construct the State of the future on a whoUy ideal 
basis, and more or less believed themselves to be sketching a Utopia. 
The philosophers in the narrow sense — the men of the Encyclopidie as 
they are sometimes called — ^men such as Diderot, d'Alembert, Helvetius, 
or Holbach, had hardly any positive political creed. Their teaching was 
destructive and negative. What they did was to substitute reason for 
the seemingly intuitive dictates of conscience ; reason, which at the 
critical moment is likely to become the advocate of passion and selfish- 
ness, if the premisses of these men are accepted, that the end of all our 
actions is oiu" own private happiness, and that they are good or bad 
only so far as they do or do not conduce to that end. To " return to 
nature" meant with them to throw off all moral restraint; as if, Rousseau 
pointed out, our conscience was not as much a part of our nature as our 
senses. 

The practical outcome of their doctrines can nowhere be more clearly 
traced than in the purple patches with which Diderot embellished and 
enlivened the Abbe Raynal's otherwise meritorious and tedious Philo- 
tophical and Political History of the Indies (published 1 774). We are 
told in these diatribes that the unhappiness of civilised man is caused 
by the absurd laws which constantly violate those of nature ; that the 
groans of the oppressed are stifled in a pi'ison or on the scaffold ; and 
that if anyone should attempt to vindicate the Rights of Man he 
would perish in infamy. The sole employment of Princes, when not 
engaged in unjust wars, is to forge heavier chains for their wretched 
subjects and to make their slavery more grievous. Everywhere ■ the 
peaceful citizen is the prey of the lawyer, the publican, and the brutal 
soldier. In the country the labourer is the victim of a pitiless landlord, 
who robs him of the hay on which his weary limbs seek a few hours' 



Sotisseau. — -T%e Sentimental School 27 

respite. If he owns a few acres the lord of the manor is there waiting 
to reap where he has not sown ; if he has oxen or horses they are taken 
for the corvie ; when nothing but his person remains, he is torn from his 
family to serve in the militia. In the towns the workpeople are exploited 
by idle and avaricious employers. As for religion, it is the invention of 
hypocritical and infidel priests, who have made the idea of a supreme 
being destructive of all morality. How much wiser are the Japanese 
Shintos ! They teach the people that "the innocent pleasures of man 
are pleasing to the Deity"; and girls are attached to the temples to be a 
source of honest profit by " piously yielding to the most sacred impulse 
of nature." Such is the kind of writing that Raynal thought might be 
indulged in with a light heart. It is well known how bitterly he 
repented when he discovered that this was not quite the case. 

Voltaire had too much sense to be the slave of logic. He refused to 
accept the extreme consequences of his own principles. He lamented 
and refuted the atheistic doctrines of his friends. But, for all that, he 
and they were of the same sect, a sect of which the doctrine was 
negative, and the practical aim of which was destruction. Some wished 
to destroy a little more, others a little less, but all rather for the con- 
venience of freer movement in more liberal space, than from any wish to 
find room for a new construction. Not so the men of whom we have 
next to speak. 

Man cannot live on reason alone ; and no tyranny is more certain to 
provoke revolt than that of logic. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) in 
asserting the claims of sentiment did but give expressipn to a widely felt 
feeling. D'Argenson^ in the previous generation, lamented that that 
fine quality sensibility would soon be lost. Love and the need of loving 
were disappearing from earth. But afterwards he recognises in himself 
Pamela as well as Cato; a mixture of Richardson and Plutarch, the very 
formula of Rousseauism. Painters and poets, exclaimed Diderot, all 
who have either taste or feeling, read Richardson day and night. The 
Marquis de Mirabeau would like to make Grandison his model, and says 
that we should carefuUy cultivate feeling. When Diderot, meeting 
Grimm after a fortnight's separation, wept on his waistcoat and sobbed 
out at intervals during dinner, " My friend ! my dear friend !," or when 
the Due de Nivemais on his way to London visited the tomb of the 
Black Prince, and remembering his virtues burst into tears, they 
were but following a fashion already prevalent before the gospel of 
emotion, the Nmivelle Elo'ise, was printed. Rousseau insisted, almost in 
the spirit of Montaigne or Pascal, on the fallibility of our intellect, the 
deceitfulness of our senses. But, he concludes, if reason crushes and 
abases man, an inner sentiment exalts him; we hear a voice which forbids 
us to despise ourselves. Writing in 1766 Horace Walpole says, " You 
must not conclude the people of quality atheists, at least not the men. 



28 Rousseau's sympathy with the people. 

Happily for them, poor souls, they are not capable of going so far into 
thinking. They assent to a great deal because it is the fashion, and 
because they don't know how to contradict." If it is an explanation of 
the popularity of Voltaire that he said what most were thinking, then 
we may say that Rousseau was popular because he gave the most 
perfect expression to what others were feeling. 

Another cause of his iniluence was his real sympathy with the people. 
One of the first questions a political theorist must decide is whether he 
would have society framed so as to seciu-e the highest culture, the 
noblest activity for the few, disregarding the many, or whether, sacrificing 
the ideal life of the few, he should try to raise the many to a decent 
standard of culture and physical well-being. The former was the choice 
of Voltaire, the guest and correspondent of princes, the moneyed man 
fond of luxurious leisure, the devotee of art, as he understood it, and 
of literature. It could not be the choice of Rousseau. He belonged 
himself to the people, he had mixed with them during his happier and 
earlier years, and had sympathised with their joys and sufferings. He 
had met among them with that kindness which he was perversely deter- 
mined not to recognise when shown to him by the cultured and wealthy. 
Purity, justice, humanity, are according to him only to be found in 
cottages. His political ideal was a government for the people by the 
people. The Emile has been called a paedagogical romance ; it shows how 
a boy of the upper classes may be so trained as to share in popular virtue, 
but for that reason the education is essentially popular and capable of 
wide application. Joseph Chenier was not altogether wrong when he said 
that public education should conform to it, nor the Committee of Public 
Instruction when they attempted to carry it into practice. Emile is to 
be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, singing and drawing, national 
history orally by narrative, the principles of natural (undenominational) 
religion. Practical information is to be imparted by object lessons ; and 
careful attention is to be given to physical and technical training. 
Might not this be a modem programme of primary instruction .'' It is 
a system which would tend to produce useful citizens rather than to 
train a few superior intellects to accomplish, or even fully to appreciate, 
great achievements in literature, science, and art. 

The admirers and opponents of Rousseau have often done him 
injustice by confounding with his later doctrines the views crudely put 
forth in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1753), and by trying to 
crush into one homogeneous and logical system statements and views 
really irreconcilable. His very inconsistencies show that he took a more 
comprehensive view of the problems with which he dealt, than his 
deductive method, and the abstract and arbitrary assumptions which 
form his premisses, would lead us to expect. But to his followers in the 
next generation one text of the master was as authoritative as another ; 
and they naturally cited those which flattered the passions or justified 



Opinions of Mousseau. 29 

the policy of the moment ; so that in the Jacobin Club and the Convention 
a paradoxical and unsuccessful prize essay was more heard of and had 
more influence than the philosophical Social Contract (1760), the 
moderate Letters from the Mountain (1764), or the generally sensible 
Considerations on the Government of Poland (1772). 

It is only in the Discourse on Inequality that the state of nature is 
exalted as a golden age, from which civil society based on a compact 
obtained by fraud to perpetuate injustice has degenerated. In the Social 
Contract we are told that the civil is preferable to the natural condition, 
since in it duty takes the place of physical impulse, right of appetite, 
property of possession ; that we ought to bless the moment of the 
contract which changed a stupid animal of limited capacity into a 
rational being and a man. Rousseau tells us that his object is to enquire 
whether there is or can be in politics any sure and legitimate rule of 
administration, taking men as they exist and laws such as are possible. 
But this purpose is soon forgotten; what is really discussed is the 
abstract and universal basis of political right; and men are taken not as 
they are, but as abstract beings out of all conditions of time, place, and 
circumstance. He begins by asking a question. Why is it that man who 
is bom free is everywhere enslaved? And his answer implies that aU 
existing governments are illegitimate; that there is but one govern- 
ment by natm*al (divine) right, the rule of the popular majority. For 
nature, he says, gives to no man authority over his equals. Force cannot,^ 
as Hobbes and Spinoza suppose, be the origin of right. For if so a 
stronger might would be a better right, and therefore all right fluid 
and uncertain. 

When men reached a point at which cooperation was necessary for 
their welfare, the problem which they were called upon to solve was to 
find a form of association capable of protecting the person and the 
goods of each with the whole strength of the community, while each 
individual should remain as free as when in a state of nature. If the 
body politic which results from the social pact does not protect person or 
property, or unnecessarily interferes with personal freedom, the contract is 
violated and annulled. This would seem a strict limitation of the power 
of society, a bold assertion of the rights of the individual. Helvetius had 
written that everything is well done which is done for the public safety. 
The public safety, answered Rousseau, is nothing unless all individuals 
enjoy security. He denies the assertion of Grotius that a people could 
alienate their liberty ; so one-sided a contract would be void ab initio^ 
What consideration would compensate a man for the smrender of aU the 
attributes of humanity ? Such a bargain would be contrary to law and 
reason. The right of society to claim obedience from the individual 
depends upon that obedience being indispensable, in order to enable 
society to perform the functions for which it was instituted. But no 
criterion is given by which we can judge whether the obedience is 



30 2'he General Will. 



or is not necessfeiry. To supply some rule determining at what point 
resistance to the authority of the sovereign begins to be legitimate, was 
no doubt one of the motives which actuated the framers of the Declara- 
tion of Rights, Rousseau himself says that the sovereign must judge 
what sacrifices the State may demand as necessary. But if so what 
remains of the rights of the individual ? Moreover, he gave to his Social 
Contract a form which implies popular absolutism, the complete surrender 
by each member of himself and of all his rights to the community, that 
alienation of all individual liberty against which he elsewhere protests. 

He excuses the inconsistency by pointing out that in the only 
legitimate State every individual is a member of the sovereign body. 
Everyone is at once subject and sovereign ; and, if he is oppressed by the 
sovereign, it is by himself. He has moral liberty, for the law which he 
obeys is self-imposed. Besides, it is irrational to suppose that the 
sovereign — the aggregate body of citizens, which can have no interests 
other than those of the individuals of whom it is composed — will be 
tempted to act oppressively like a magistrate who is swayed by anti- 
social impulses and private interests. Rousseau makes two erroneous 
assumptions that the interests of the part are always identical with 
those of the whole, and that the popular majority is always able to 
discern and willing to pursue the general interest. In his article Economk 
in the EneyclopMie he asserts axiomatically that the State is a moral 
being capable of volition ; that the golden rule of every legitimate, 
i.e. popular, government is to carry out the general will, which always 
tends to the weU-being of the whole and of each part and is always just — 
for the voice of the people is in truth the voice of God. It is unnecessary 
to point out the vast influence and the abuse of these principles in subse- 
quent years; nor is it easy to read without a shudder, when remembering 
the crimes perpetrated in the name of popular justice, the commendation 
of a custom, attributed to the Chinese, of throwing into prison any 
official accused by popular clamour, "which is never raised without 
good reason." 

That the only legitimate constitution is that in which the will of the 
sovereign people, or rather of the sovereign majority of free and equal 
citizens, prevails; that this will is always just, and that therefore a 
citizen is only virtuous so long as his will conforms to it; that the masses 
are always wiser and better than the few— these were principles easy to 
understand and likely to win popular acceptance. Little rhetoric is 
required to convince men that they are as good and as wise as their 
neighbours, and that authority not exercised by themselves is an abuse. 
The limitations and corrections suggested by Rousseau were forgotten 
or rejected. Although the people cannot delegate their sovereignty to 
the executive, he lays down the rule that the more numerous a people 
is the more powerful and vigorous ought the government to be, the 
larger the powers entrusted to it. If the State is small the executive 



The reservations of Rousseau. 31 

may be numerous and weak; if large, the government should be entrusted 
to a few, and they ought to have a wide discretion — a truth ignored 
by the authors of the Constitution of 1791, though perhaps not forgotten 
by those who placed power in the hands of the Committee of Public 
Safety. Rousseau moreover expressly says that to be fit for political 
society men must already possess the social virtues; that the social 
disposition, which it is the object of the State to create, must already 
be there in order that the State may be formed. " Before the laws 
exist men must already be what the laws are to make them." To escape 
from this vicious circle he relies on the lawgiver, Lycurgus or Calvin, 
and on the sanctions of religion, an admission fatal to the historical 
reality of his Social Contract. Still less are all nations fit for liberty. 
If a people is to be free it must be mature — nor can it if once enslaved 
be made free. It is possible to acquire liberty; but once lost it cannot 
be recovered. 

His ideal State was Sparta or republican Rome, as he conceived 
them to have existed, or rather a more perfect Geneva. " After full 
consideration," he says, " I have given the preference to the constitution 
of my own country"; but he did not believe that it could be copied 
except by a commimity with a smaU territory and limited population, 
least of all by France. " How great would be the danger of disturbing 
the vast masses which compose the French monarchy ! Who could 
arrest the impulse once given or guard against the possible consequences ? 
Even if the advantages of the new arrangement were indisputable, what 
man of sense would venture suddenly to abolish old customs, to change 
old maxims, and to alter that shape which an existence of thirteen 
hundred years has gradually given to the State ? " Rousseau, therefore, 
would have been far more cautious, than the Physiocrats in the practical 
application of his abstract doctrine. It would indeed be easy to cite 
many passages of sound practical sense, many luminous suggestions which 
would surprise those who only know Rousseau as "the great professor and 
founder of the philosophy of vanity," whose writings were the Jacobin 
" Canon of holy writ." 

No attention was paid to him when he spoke words of soberness and 
wisdom, based on experience and common sense. Such remarks might 
be admirable; but there was little in them that was original, nothing 
that expressed the feelings and flattered the passions of the moment ; and 
it must be confessed that they were out of harmony with the logical 
consequences of his abstract and universal principles. They were 
brushed aside by his revolutionary foUowei-s ; and they have had no such 
efiect on European politics as the clear and precise dogmas of natural 
equality and freedom, of inalienable popular sovereignty, and their 
corollaries : that every government not based on popular consent is a 
usurpation : that the people can at any moment dismiss their rulers : 
that—the nation being an aggregate of equal and independent units. 



32 Itifluence of Rousseau. 

whose will can only be discovered by counting heads — if owing to the 
size of a country a representative body is necessary, this assembly must 
represent not classes or interests but individuals. Whence it follows that 
manhood suSrage, equal electoral districts, a chamber of delegates, who 
may not pass measures which have not been submitted to the electorate, 
and the other characteristics of the modem democratic State, are in«^tu- 
tions based on natural right; whUe that which was at one time-^he 
ideal of English Liberals, a polity based on the representation of 
organised bodies, classes, and interests by deputies entrusted with a wide 
discretion and constituting a real legislature, is not more legitimate than 
monarchy itself. 

It has been said with some plausibility that the Constituent Assembly 
was Voltairian, while Robespierre and his followers in the Convention 
attempted to carry out in letter as well as in spirit the precepts of 
Rousseau not less in their religious than in their secular policy. The 
decree of 18 Floreal, affirming the belief of the French nation in the 
existence of the Supreme Being and in the Immortality of the Soul, 
accepted " the profession of faith of the Savoyard Vicar " as the estab- 
lished religion, and as a minimum of faith to be imposed on all citizens. 
For scepticism — by which he meant the agnosticism of Montaigne, of 
Bayle, and of Voltaire — said Robespierre, is aristocratic, while the 
materialistic and systematised atheism of the Encyclopaedists is selfish 
and anti-social ; and neither must be tolerated. Voltaire had attempted 
to assert the existence of a Supreme Being, and the possible immortality 
of that mysterious particle we call our soul, against Diderot and Hel- 
vetius. But his common sense and sceptical arguments, his appeals to 
the evidence of design in the universe, and to the absurdity of dogma- 
tising negatively when we know nothing, do not touch those complicated 
emotions on which religion depends. Not so the impassioned unction 
of Rousseau's rhetoric. It may be sentimental, vague, not quite un- 
tainted by a strain of insincerity ; but it affects and stimulates the 
feelings through the imagination, and was the source of that romantic 
religious revival which prepared the way for clerical reaction under the 
restored monarchy. This result would have probably surprised Rousseau, 
who derived the religion as well as the constitution of his ideal State 
from his native town, not foreseeing that the emotions excited by his^ 
eloquence would, like his Savoyard priest, find greater satisfaction in 
the splendour and the far-reaching associations of Roman faith and 
ritual, than in the colourless Socinianism of Geneva. 

There are passages in Rousseau which imply that much is amiss 
in the existing distribution of wealth ; but nowhere does he suggest that 
it would be either possible or desirable to introduce Communism. Yet 
five years earlier than the Contrat Social a book was published, the Code^ 
de la Nature, in which communism is said to be the only organisation of 



MoreUy. — Mably, 33 



society which can secure man's happiness, and therefore the only one in 
accordance with the will of his beneficent Creator. So little was MoreUy, 
the writer, known that La Harpe, who refuted the Code de la Nature, 
attributed the authorship of the book to Diderot. But MoreUy had 
already advanced the same views in a prose poem called The BasUiade, or 
the Moating Islands (1753), which described a communistic Utopia, and 
professed to be a translation "from the Indian." The Code de la Nature 
was the most systematic exposition of Communistic Socialism which had 
as yet appeared, giving a logical coherence to ideas derived from Plato, 
More, CampaneUa, and even Montesquieu. Self-interest is the universal 
motive,^ and when misdirected the source of all evil. Nature intended 
aU things to be held in common, so that the interests of aU should be 
identical. Each man pursuing his own interest woxild further that of 
the community, were it not that private ownership leads men to pursue 
discordant aims, injurious to each other and to society. Besides it is 
unnatural for men to seek to injure each other. There is in man "a 
certain native probity" which has been destroyed by avarice, "the desire 
of possessing," the root of aU vice. MoreUy sketches the social order 
which would enable men to be as happy and as virtuous as is possible 
in this life, although as things now are he has no hope that it can be 
established. Although his book was not imread and had the usual 
advertisement of being burnt by the hangman, MoreUy acquired so 
Uttle fame that even the dates of his birth and death are unknown. 

The voluminous writings of Mably (1709-85), the brother of 
Condillac, who shared some of Morelly's communistic opinions, are more 
celebrated, and had an authority with the legislators of the Revolution 
second only to that of Bousseau and Montesquieu. The most important 
of Mably's books were the Conversations of Phocion on the Relation of 
Ethics and Politics (1763), Observations on the History of France (1765), 
Doubts on the Natural Order of Societies (1768). Mably believes the 
individual ownership of land to be the source of aU mischief. It causes 
inequality of wealth, of which the result is avarice, ambition, sensuality, 
indolence, and insolence among the rich, hatred and envy among the 
poor, and in the commonwealth misery, restlessness, and ruin. Refohn 
is impossible except by some revolution which shaU destroy aU institu- 
tions unfavourable to equality, and bring about a complete change of 
manners and fashions. For it is not enough that the laws should aim at 
keeping aU citizens at the same level of wealth and dignity. Nil leges 
sine moribus. 

It is difficult to say how far Mably held any part of his ideal to be 
capable of practical appUcation in his own time and country. Some 
buildings are, he says, too crazy to bear repair, some cesspools so foul 
that to stir them is to breed a pestilence. And he applauds Fleury, 
" the wisest minister of the century," for not attempting reforms, since 
it is a mistake to court failure. Yet in his Observations on the History 

C. H. H. vui. 3 



34 Communism and the Jacobins. 

of France, collecting whatever traces he can find of free institutions, he 
makes an attempt to find in the past that old constitution which Burke 
would have had the French rebuild. The French ought to attack the 
evil at its root— the despotic power of the Crown. The Parlemerd in 
1766 ought to have established the principle that the nation alone has 
the right to tax itself. The Court would have been cowed by a general 
cry of approbation. No doubt such an opportunity will recur. He 
considers that the English are not sufficiently on their guard against 
despotism. The King should be powerless to do wrong. He should 
have no control over the army, still less be able to summon, prorogue, 
and dissolve the legislature at his pleasiu'e, and to corrupt its members 
with titles and honours. 

These and other practical precepts had a direct effect and were quoted 
in the debates of the revolutionary assemblies. But Mably's com- 
munism and that of Morelly, associated as it was in their writings with 
other tenets which formed part of the Jacobin creedj tended to discredit 
that creed in the eyes of the cautious ; although communistic theories 
were repudiated by the vast majority of even the most radical reformers. 
Mallet du Pan accused the Jacobins of intending an agrarian law ; 
Gouverneur Morris believed that they aimed at establishing Communism. 
But, although they knew the rich to be their enemies and the poor their 
supporters, the Jacobins were not so mad as to think of touching private 
property, and thereby converting the timid disapprobation of the middle 
classes into active enmity. " Souls of mud," said Robespierre, " who 
value nothing but gold, I do not wish to touch your treasures." He 
was convinced that under existing conditions it would be not less difficult 
to establish equality of wealth than Communism itself, which was con- 
fessedly chimerical. The sanctity of property was in principle as much 
respected by the Republic as by the old monarchy. The property of 
the bnigrks, it is true, was confiscated, but so had been that of the 
Protestants '; while the requisitions and other arbitrary measures of the 
Terror were no more due to communistic principles than the seizure of 
stores and the destruction of houses ordered by the commander of a 
beleaguered fortress. Even the profound misery of 1795 and 1796 
provided Babeuf with followers rather than with disciples. 

The little practical effect at the end of the eighteenth century of 
doctrines which were to be of such vast importance in the nineteenth 
century is another proof of the small influence of theory, unless it happens 
to fall in with the sentiment of the moment or to promise a remedy for 
those evils which are either physically most unendurable or most incon- 
sistent with existing social and economic conditions. The Revolution 
was an attempt to apply in practice the principle of individual freedom : 
a negative principle, mainly valuable as an instrument to overthrow 
restrictions, which have lost their use and meaning and have become 
injurious. But it is remarkable that this negative principle was 



Influence of the philosophers. 35 

embraced with the fervour of a rehgious faith. The great work done 
by the philosophers was the part they took in exciting this fervour; 
and it was because there is little that is original in their teaching that it 
was received with enthusiasm. 

It is when an author is expressing feelings already in men's minds, 
*'when he is thinking articulately that which those around him are 
thinking inarticulately," that his influence is greatest. A wi-iter, there- 
fore, who is essentially commonplace like Voltaire, is likely to have 
greater immediate influence on the fortunes of his country, though not on 
the future of mankind, than a Plato or an Aristotle. Even if we believe 
that the philosophers did not cause the Revolution, nor originate the 
ide£is which determined the form it was to take, we must allow that they 
precipitated it by giving a definite shape to vague aspirations, by clearing 
Away the obstacles which restrained the rapidly rising flood of discontent, 
by depriving those, whose interests and position made them the defenders 
of the old order, of all faith in the righteousness of their cause, and by 
inspiring the assailants with hope and enthusiasm. 



S— 2 



38 



CHAPTER II. 

THE GOVERNMENT OF FRANCE. 

In France the Crown had always been the symbol of national unity 
and power. During the period in which the nation luider the skilful 
guidance of Richelieu and Mazarin achieved supremacy in Europe, the 
royal authority became absolqte in France itself Louis XIV surpassed 
all contemporary despots in his sense of unbounded and irresponsible 
dominion. During his long reign the French Monarchy assumed its final 
form ; and his system of government, although directed by weaker hands, 
remained in force until the outbreak of the Revolution. Fervid as were 
the French in their loyalty, they were not willing to allow that they 
were the subjects of lawless caprice. They clung to the distinction 
formulated by Montesquieu between a despotism of which the principle 
is fear, and a monarchy of which the principle is honour. The clergy 
and the nobles were tenacious of such privileges as the sovereign had 
spared; the protests of the Parlements against certain exertions of 
prerogative were often received with applause; in some Provinces 
the Estates kept up some tradition of self-government ; and since the 
States General, although never summoned, had never been suppressed, 
they might be regarded as an essential part of the French constitution. 
But such remnants and shadows of the medieval polity, while they might 
save the self-respect of the upper classes or even temper the exercise of 
power in particular cases, could not conceal the fact that one man was 
master of France. 

Despotic rule over a great civilised community implies a concentration 
of business so enormous as to exceed the capacity of one man, however 
able. It is the officials who govern ; and the administrative system is the 
real constitution. Thus it was in France. The true centre of power 
was not the King, but the Royal Council. On the eve of the Revolution 
this was a body of about forty members, comprising the Ministers of 
State and a much larger number of persons who held no portfolio. The 
ministerial dignity might attract men of any rank ; and Ministers were 
often, though by no means always, nobles or prelates. The Chancellor, 
or Keeper of the Seals, was usually a lawyer, as he had grave duties to 



J%e ministers.^^The Council. 37 

perform in legislation and in connexion with the Courts of Justice. 
The Royal Household, Foreign Affairs, War, and the Navy, each gave 
employment to a Secretary of State. But perhaps the most influential 
Minister was the Controller-Greneral of the Finances, whose duties, at 
first correctly expressed by his designation, were gradually enlarged until 
he became in fact Minister of Public Works, Minister of Commerce and 
Agriculture, and Minister of the Interior. The Controller-General, 
if, like Colbert or Turgot, he were a man of talent and energy equal 
to his task, might exercise the authority of a Premier. The title of 
Principal Minister rested with the sovereign to give or to withhold at 
pleasure. The Ministers took part in the general business of the 
Council; but, for the consideration of such weighty affairs as would 
in England be decided by the Cabinet, they, together with any other 
Councillors whom the King might select, met under the King's 
presidency in different committees known as the Council of State, the 
Council of Despatches (Conseil des Dipiches), the Royal Council of 
Finance and Commerce, and the Inner Committee of War. 

The members of the Council other than Ministers were singly of far 
inferior consequence. Sprung as a rule from the upper middle class, 
they had entered the public service at an early age ; they had worked 
their way up to posts of confidence and authority, such as that of 
Intendant ; and they brought to the Council board the advantages of 
long experience and administrative dexterity. Their names were not 
familiar to the public ; nor had they, unless possessed of extraordinary 
talent or influence, much prospect of becoming Ministers. But it would 
be a mistake to think that the ordinary Councillors were insignificant. 
In determining the general course of policy, in drafting new laws, in 
fixing the sum to be raised by taxation smd the taxes to be imposed, the 
Ministers would necessarily have the largest share, and much would 
be settled in the ministerial committees. But there remained for the 
Council as a whole more work than it could perform. At every step in 
the progress of absolute monarchy and centralised administration the 
powers and the duties of the Council had been enlarged. The numerous 
officials of the Civil Service received their orders from the Council, 
reported to the Council, sought instructions from the Council in cases 
of difficulty, could be called to account for misconduct only with the 
sanction of the Council. The whole administration of a great kingdom, 
from the apportionment of the taille between the Provinces down to 
the repair of a parsonage, passed in endless review before the Council, 
which vainly strove to keep down the arrears of national and municipal 
business. Finally, it exercised a judicial power practically without limit, 
since it could at pleasure quash the decree of any ordinary Court and 
remove a cause into its own hearing. 

From the central authority we naturally turn to consider its local 
agaits. In France, as in the other kingdoms which dated from the 



38 The Intendants. 



Middle Ages, a number, of administrative systems had arisen and decayed ; 
and all had left traces at least in forms and titles. As the royal domain 
had been enlarged in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries by the 
absorption of the great fiefs, France had been divided into baUliag&s bxiA 
sinichaussees, administered by a royal officer, the hailU or the sivh^hdl, 
somewhat resembling the Anglo-Norman sheriff; but his powers had 
become obsolete long before the opening of the eighteenth century. At 
a later time the kingdom had been divided into a number of gouverne- 
ments, answering roughly to the historic Provinces. The Governors 
were the military representatives of the Crown ; they were usually men 
of rank, and sometimes insubordinate. They had therefore been deprived 
of all real power, while keeping their ample emoluments; and in the 
age preceding the Revolution the ofiice of Governor was merely a rich 
sinecure. At length Richelieu had placed the whole of France under a 
new class of royal officers, the Intendants. The jurisdiction of each 
Intendant was known as a gineralitS, so-called because in each there 
was a Chamber of fiscal officers known as g^ntraux de ^finances. An 
Intendant was assisted by a number of subdelegates (subdSlegues), each 
of whom had a district known as an Slection, not because there was any 
question of popular choice, but from certain fiscal officers known as the 
^his. In those Provinces which had preserved their Estates and were 
therefore known as pai/s d'Etats, the elus did not exist and the term 
ilection was not in use. 

The Intendant was to his district what the ControUer-iGeneral was 
to the kingdom ; he conducted the whole administration, and every kind 
of public business came under his care. The collection of the indirect 
taxes, indeed, belonged to the capitalists by whom it had been farmed ; 
but the collection of the direct taxes fell to the Intendant. When the 
Council had fixed the sum total of the taille to be raised in the year and 
had divided it between the ginhraliUs, the Intendant apportioned the 
share of his giiieraUte between the different parishes. The parish then 
fixed the quota of each inhabitant and was responsible for its payment. 
The Intendant fixed the quotas of each taxpayer in the vingtihnes and 
the capitation. The Intendant and his subdelegates ; carried out the 
balloting for the militia. For the maintenance of order the Intendant 
possessed the most ample powers. The rural police, the raarichaussee, 
was immediately subject to the central authority and therefore at his 
orders. Although the towns had a police of their own, municipal self- 
government was little more than a form, and the Intendant could dispose 
of this force also. Moreover the Intendant had a summary jurisdiction 
to repress disorder, and, when he sat with assessors who had received a 
legal education, could sentence even to death or to the galleys. Public 
works were also in the Intendant's charge, although, in Provinces where 
the Estates still met, he was relieved of the greater part of this business. 
In. other Provinces the plan of public works was fixed by the Royal 



Provincial government. 39 

Council ; the execution was directed by the Intendant : and, where re- 
course was had to the corvee, it was exacted by his subdelegates. 

Another function of the Intendant was the relief of the poor. A 
large proportion of the labouring class were so needy that in time of 
war or in bad seasons they became destitute; and, as the steady encroach- 
ment of the Crown had almost annulled the free action of the landed 
aristocracy and the municipal bodies, it had to take the chief part in 
relieving their distress. The Coimcil allotted to each giniralitS its share 
of the royal bounty ; the Intendant assigned the portion of each parish, 
and with the help of his subdelegates directed the administration in 
detail. Since the time of Colbert the government had tried to further 
industry and commerce by regulating, constraining, teaching, and re- 
warding ; and for all these ends it looked to the Intendant to execute its 
ordinances. The Intendant supervised with jealous care the action of 
every local authority. The style of Monseigneur, given not merely by 
peasants but by citizens to the Intendants despite the fact that they 
were generally not of noble birth, would alone show how ample was 
their right of control and how unsparingly it was exercised. " I could 
never have believed," Law said to d'Argenson, " what I have seen while 
I had the charge of the finances. Know that this kingdom of France 
is governed by thirty Intendants." Without noise or show the In- 
tendants before the Revolution had engrossed a power little inferior to 
that which the prefects of Napoleon afterwards exercised. The diversity 
of names and forms, even of usages and laws, in diflFerent parts of 
France, helped to conceal, but could not hinder, the uniform movement 
of the bureaucratic machine. 

The aH-pervading influence of the royal authority was not balanced 
by any general system of provincial self-government. Materials for such 
a system had once existed. It is well known that modem France was 
formed by a double process. Great fiefs, which had been all but inde- 
pendent, were resumed by the Crown ; and territories belonging to various 
adjacent States had been annexed to the French monarchy. The lands 
thus united in a common subjection were in some cases separated by 
difierences of blood, of language, and of civilisation ; each had its own 
history and traditions ;' each had its own peculiar usages ; and in each 
the inhabitants had been bound together by a provincial patriotism, not 
wholly extinct even in the eighteenth centiu-y. But the later course of 
events had tended to- blur these distinctions, to centralise the life of 
France in the capital, to produce a common French type, and to weaken 
aU that was either good or bad in provincial feeling. The Kings had 
instinctively furthered consolidation and had waged incessant war 
against provincial liberties. Most Provinces had anciently possessed 
Estates, medieval Parliaments of their own, which the Crown had very 
generally allowed to drop. Only in Artois, Flanders, Burgundy, 
Britanny, and Languedoc^ and some other territories too small to be 



40 Decay of the provincial Estates. 

worth naming, did the Estates continue to assemble. Only in Britanny 
and Languedoc did they retain any real power, and even there it was a 
Restricted and peculiar power. 

These Estates had no legislative function. Even the rules of pro- 
cedure which they adopted and the resolutions which they passed needed 
the confirmation of the Council. They could make grants to the Crown, 
but could not exclude its taxing power, while they could not raise a 
tax or a loan for provincial purposes without having its consent. They 
served chiefly to express the wishes of the Province to the sovereign, 
to execute a number of public works, and to collect a part of the 
royal revenue. Thus the provincial Estates were administrative bodies. 
Where they retained some vigour they secured to their respective 
Provinces an administration in many details milder and more reasonable 
than that which prevailed in other parts of France. Young remarked 
that the noble roads of Languedoc were made, not by forced labour, but 
by a tax which, however unfairly imposed, was a much lighter burden 
upon the peasants. In Languedoc, too, measures were taken to render 
the assessment of the taiUe more equitable and uniform. The finances of 
Languedoc were in a far sounder state than the finances of the kingdom. 
The provincial Estates had also the moral and political advantage of 
bringing together for the discussion of matters of public interest those 
classes which the insidious policy of the Crown had always endeavoured 
to disunite, and of giving some play to those energies which the servants 
of the Crown had always viewed with distrust. Yet the provincial 
Estates counted for little in France as a whole, and proved in the time 
of trial as frail as all other French institutions. 

There were many reasons for their infirmity ; but the chief reason 
was that the Crown and its servants for ages had done their utmost, not 
to improve and expand the provincial Estates, not to adapt them to the 
needs of a modern people and a high civilisation, but to get rid of 
them or, failing that, to reduce their power. Hence the Estates had 
disappeared in most Provinces. Hence, in the few where they survived, 
they remained medieval assemblies. For, widely as they differed in 
constitution, they were all more or less antiquated. In Languedoc the 
Third Estate had as many representatives as the clergy and the nobles ; 
and all sat and voted together. But the deputies of the Third Estate 
were chosen by the municipal bodies of the towns which had no popular 
element. Even the nobles were not properly represented, since only the 
holders of certain lands were capable of sitting. In Britanny the com- 
position of the Estates was still more unreasonable. The Third Estate 
had only forty-two deputies, who represented, as in Languedoc, not the 
towns but their close corporations. The First Estate contained no 
representatives of the inferior clergy. But all the nobles of Britanny 
were entitled to attend in person; and the nobles present sometimes 
amounted to twelve hundred. It is true that each Order sat and voted 



Comnvunal government. 41 

separately. But we cannot wonder that such an assembly should have 
laid unfair burdens on the lands of those who were not noble, or that it 
should have failed to gain popular support in its last struggles with the 
Crown. When we add that in the provincial Estates the peasants, the 
great bulk of the nation, were not represented at all, we shall understand 
how the National Assembly was able to discard them almost without 
a murmur from the Provinces. 

It was one of the faults in the local administrative system of France 
before the Revolution that there existed no area of self-gbvemment 
intermediate between the Province, sometimes of enormous extent and 
containing as many as two million inhabitants, and the rural village or 
commune. The boundaries of the commune generally coincided with 
those of the manor or the parish, and had often been traced in remote 
antiquity, in Prankish or even in imperial times. Its constitution was 
in appearance at least popular. The supreme authority in the commune 
was the general assembly of the inhabitants, all persons liable to the 
taiUe having the right to attend. Thus, although domestic servants 
could take no part in the meeting, the day-labourer could. While 
bachelors were in many cases excluded, women seem to have been 
sometimes admitted. The villagers were summoned by the church 
bell and usually met in the open space before the church door. Ten 
inhabitants formed a quorum ; but for certain purposes the presence of 
two-thirds of the parish or even a unanimous vote was required by law. 
The assembly had the management of the communal property, which 
was often valuable; for the common lands were extensive in France 
before the Revolution, and were vested in the community, not, as in 
England, in the lord of the manor. The assembly had also the duty 
of providing for the repair of the church and the parsonage and of the 
roads and bridges within the parish. It elected the communal officers, 
among whom the syndic and the collectors of the taUle were the most 
considerable. Other duties such as that of fixing wages or prices were 
sometimes imposed upon it by the State. But it had little discretion 
in the exercise of its powers. The ignorance and incompetence of its 
members were often alleged as reasons for official control — and doubtless 
with some truth ; for the seigneur, who had lost nearly aU his authority 
in the parish, did not care to take part in the communal assembly as a 
simple citizen; and almost all the other householders were peasants, who, 
though not so utterly illiterate as is sometimes alleged, certainly were 
ill-educated and must often have been very torpid in mind. 

Whatever the justification, the Intendant controlled every act of the 
commune. It needed his permission to assemble ; the officers of its choice 
had to be confirmed by him, and the confirmation was often withheld ; 
it could not buy or sell, let or hire property, or go to law without the 
sanction of the Council conveyed through the Intendant. De Tocqueville 
mentions a case where the parishioners who wanted to spend a sum little 



42 The muTiidpalities. 



exceeding £1 had to obtain the leave of the supreme government. Thus 
to supervise the action of more than forty thousand communes was a task 
for which no industry could suffice; and the parochial business of Prance 
was always in arrear. The village syndics were sometimes twenty years 
behindhand with their accounts. TQie Royal Council was no less tardy. 
A commune, which had been demanding for some years past licence to cut 
its own timber for the repair of its own church, declared in 1721 that the 
ruinous state of the building left the congregation unsheltered to the 
storms. Four years later their petition had not yet been answered by 
the Grand Master of Waters and Forests. Delays and formalities made 
the simplest parochial undertaking costly. But, if the commune was to 
be pitied, the situation of its servants was still harder. The syndic was 
as much the agent of the Crown as of the commune, for he had to take 
part in the collection of taxes, the adjustment of the corvie,\he levying 
of the militia, and the quartering of troops. His burthens were so heavy 
and his gains so small that the most respectable inhabitants were loth 
to be chosen, and it was sometimes necessary to force the office upon the 
person elected. The collector of the taiUe was strictly a servant of the 
Crown ; and his office, for reasons which have been stated elsewhere, was 
even more disliked than that of syndic. Such a communal self-govern- 
ment could avail little to bring different classes together or to call forth 
administrative talent. The Crown and its Ministers had preserved the 
communal system as an instrument which might be useful and could not 
be dangerous, but they forgot that even the humblest form of self- 
govemment must be made attractive before it can become efficient. 

In the administration of cities and towns the abuses were different, 
but scarcely less serious. The history of municipal institutions in 
France; offers many resemblances to the history of such institutions 
in England and other neighbouring coimtries. Everywhere from the 
eleventh century onwards the growth of towns had led to a strenuous 
effort after municipal self-government. Each town had striven for 
itself and had gained privileges proportioned to its power. Each had 
its own charters and its own customs, for there was no general legislation 
on municipal affairs, and such resemblances as could be traced were due 
to individual imitation, the smaller towns trying as far as possible to gain 
the liberties already enjoyed by the greater. In Prance the Crown had 
fitfully encouraged the effort of the towns to free themselves from feudal 
shackles ; but, when the feudal lords ceased to be dangerous, the Crown 
itself encroached on the rights of the towns, leaving them indeed the show 
of self-government, but taking away the substance. K we ignore the in- 
finite variety of forms and titles, we find the government of French towns 
in the eighteenth century vested in two bodies, the General Assembly, 
and the corps de vilk, or Town Council. The General Assembly had 
once been numerous, including in some towns all the citizens ; but it had 
become small, often not exceeding sixty or seventy persons. Some of 



Restrictions upon heal government. 43 

its members might be notables sitting in their own right. The majority 
were elected either by the professional corporations, especially of lawyers 
and public officials, or by the trade guilds, or by the parishes or quarters 
of the town. How many persons enjoyed the municipal franchise in any 
town would thus depend on a series of local and historical accidents ; 
but it would appear that usually the greater part of the General 
Assembly was appointed by a small part of the townsfolk. In some 
towns the General Assembly filled up its vacancies by cooptation. This 
General Assembly discharged certain executive functions. It decided 
on the purchase or the sale of property, the contracting of a loan, the 
imposition of a tax, and other matters which varied from town to town. 
It also elected the Town Council, but its freedom of choice was often 
narrowed by the fact that certain corporations were entitled as of right 
to seats on that body. All the municipal business which was not 
despatched by the General Assembly fell to the Town Council. 

So far what had happened in France was like what had happened in 
England. The municipal corporations had become narrow oligarchies, 
usually sluggish and often corrupt, in any case unequal to the tasks 
imposed by the growth of population and the progress of society. But, 
while the English corporations were left to themselves, the French 
corporations had felt the ceaseless interference of the Crown. This 
interference had sometimes been prompted by mere lack of money. 
Louis XIV had set the example of suppressing the election to municipal 
offices and making them pujchaseable. The towns which could affiard 
to do so redeemed the right of election, as it was intended they should ; 
and this shameful device was copied in after years, so that before the 
death of Louis XV many places had lost and regained the right of 
election seven times. In other cases interference had been prompted by 
the desire of the central authority to absorb all power, by the mere love 
of vmiformity, or by the honest wish to make municipal administration 
more effective. The royal edicts of 1692, 1764, and 1765, had been 
prompted by all these motives. Thus the office of Mayor was intro- 
duced into the towns where it had not existed before ; and all Mayors 
were to be appointed by the Crown. Nor was it only the municipal 
constitution which the government modified at pleasure. Its power 
was felt in the daily course of municipal business. The Intendant broke 
in upon the freedom of municipal elections; he applied stringent 
remedies to disorder in municipal finance; and he urged the towns to 
ambitious imdertakings, such as the construction of new streets and 
squares, new quays and aqueducts. Like the communal authority, the 
municipal authority needed the sanction of the Council, conveyed through 
the Intendant, for all dealings with property and for all lawsuits. Projects 
for public works had to be approved by the Council ; the designs were 
often furnished by the engineers of the Intendant's staff, and contracts 
for their execution required the Intendant's approval. In the 



44 Effects of the bureaucracy. 

cTilecfion the Intendant audited the municipal accounts, while in the 
paxfs d'itats a commission of the provincial Estates took that duty. 
Considering the narrow and irresponsible character of the municipal 
corporations, this stringent control by the State had many advantages. 
The Intendant often gave an impulse to piublid improvements and put 
a check on personal jobs. But it was not always in the common interest 
that he acted. Even his supervision did Hot prevent many instances of 
mismanagement and waste, while his domineering authority must have 
discouraged municipal patriotism and the exercise oforiginal "talent. 

Thus local self-govgrntaent in France had dwindled to extreme weak- 
ness. The old names and forms disguised in some degree, but hardly 
restrained, the action of the central power. By degrees it fashioned 
the mind of the people until bureaucracy seemed the only natural 
systera of government. Popular discontent with the abuses of the system 
and zeal for new political theories led the Constituent Assembly to 
transfer the entire local administration from the servants of the Crown 
to the representatives of the Communes, Districts, and Departments. 
But this abrupt, unqualified change resulted in unutterable confusion, 
and when order returned the rule of expert officials retmned also, and 
under the Consulate and the Empire became more absolute than it had 
ever been before. If we 8isk how the bureaucracy worked in the eighteenth 
century, it is not easy to give a just answer in few words. Compared 
with many other despotic governments which have been known among 
civilised men, the French monarchy might pass for wise and liberal. 
Far worse tyrannies have been known in Spain, in Italy, in Germany. 
The character of such a government depends largely on the character 
of the civil service ; and the French civil service was above the average of 
the time. Many of its members were upright, intelligent^ hard-working 
men ; and a few, Uke Turgot, were men of exalted virtue and public 
spirit. We may say that, so far as there was chaflige in the character of 
this class, it was a change for the better, even under Louis XV, and still 
more under Louis XVI. The humane and scientific spirit of the time 
was felt here as elsewhere. The development of the country by public 
works, the improViement of agriculture, the mitigation of the peasant's 
hard lot, attracted much more thought than formerly. The material 
progress apparent between the close of th^ Seven Years' War and the 
outbreak of the Revolution had many causes ; but part of it was due to 
the spread of enlightenment in the official class. 

"Die vices of the system were, however, enormous. The all-pervading 
action of the State enervated private enterprise, voluntary association, 
and municipal energy. The bureaucrats had an instinctive jealousy of 
self-help in any class or in any district. They were clever and industrious, 
but they were naturally unable to do everything and unwilling to let 
others do what they had to leave undone. Thus the tendency to expect 
all improveriaent from the State rather than from the efforts of those 



Arbitrary and capricious control. 45 

interested was ingrained in the French people, with the result that all 
the evils which aflHicted society were imputed to the government. 
Especially in bad seasons, when a large part of the people suffered 
from dearth, and the well-meant but foolish interference of the execu- 
tive with the transport and sale of com aggravated the distress, suffering 
broke out in riot or even petty rebellion. Again, -the bureaucracy in 
France, as in other countries, was slow and formal in its movements. 
Official reports and returns were numberless, correspondence accumu- 
lated, and the despatch of business, especially at the centre, fell into 
arrear. The pernicious practice of creating offices merely to sell them 
had increased beyond belief the number of useless officials, and therewith 
the friction and delay of business. 

Most Continental States are still governed by a bureaucracy, but its 
action is tempered by the representative system, and by some measure of 
press criticism. Neither of these mitigating influences existed in old 
France. Criticism of the government was at the peril of the critic. 
Some freedom was allowed, especially to fashionable writers, in discussing 
speculative questions; but direct censure of administrative acts was 
almost certain to be visited with punishment. Secrecy enveloped the 
business of the State. Even the condition of the finances was almost 
unknown to the public until Necker published his Compte Rendu au Roi. 
That knowledge which the modem citizen can find in a dozen works 
of reference was then the monopoly of persons engaged in the work of 
administration. As a result of the principle of secrecy the government 
was sometimes made accountable for crimes which it had not committed, 
and which no man in his senses woiild commit. The wildest fables 
about the wickedness of the Court and the tyranny of the Ministers 
would find credence with an ignorant, suspicious, and sufiering people. 
The same secrecy favoured much oppression and corruption in detail. An 
incapable or malevolent official could gp on doing mischief for years with 
impunity. In the administration of a modern State im thrift and jobbery 
often mock at public censure. They must have been far more prevalent 
where they were so difficult to detect and so perilous to denounce. 

A still more grievous fault of the French administration was its 
arbitrary and capricious temper. Were we to fix on the most char- 
acteristic difference between the government of France and that of 
England in the eighteenth century, we might say that in England the 
letter of the law, however imperfect, was held sacred, while in France 
the good pleasure of the sovereign, or of his servants, overrode all 
statutory restriction. The rulers of France seem not to have understood 
the value of fixed principles or the danger of irregular exceptions. Thus 
the great benefit which the action of the Crown bad undoubtedly rendered 
to France in unifying and consolidating the State, in harmonising local 
usages, and curbing individual self-will, was half annulled by the new 
anomalies and disorders which the sovereign himself introduced. In a 



46 Uncertainty of the law. 

fevr luminous sentences de Tocqueville has* summed up his long study 
of this inveterate evil: 

"The government seldom undertakes or soon abandons the most 
necessary reforms, which, in order to succeed, demand a persevering 
energy ; but it incessantly changes particular regulations or particular 
laws. In the sphere which it inhabits nothing remains an instant in 
repose. New rules succeed one another with a rapidity so strange that 
the agents of the State by dint of being commanded often have trouble 
in making out how they are to obey. Municipal oflficers complain to 
the Controller General himself of the extreme variability of minor 
legislation. ' The variation of the financial regulations alone,' they- say, 
' is such as not to allow a municipal officer, were he irremoveable, to do 
anything else save study the new regulations as they appear, even to the 
point of being forced to neglect his own business.' " 

Laws so lightly made, we may be sure, of ben remained without 
execution; and their maker taught the public to hold them cheap by the 
multitude of exceptions and variations which he ordered or allowed. It 
was thus that, even when an equitable tax like the vingtiemea was 
imposed, influential persons and corporations found means to elude it, at 
least in part. It was thus that personal freedom was disregarded at the 
request of those who could command influence at CotiH;. The immediate 
evil was great, the indirect evil was far greater: The highest service 
which any government can render to a people is to instil a sense of law. 
The old French monarchy left no moral stay of public order save a blind 
reverence for the Lord's anointed. To quote de Tocqueville once more : 

"People often complain that Frenchmen despise the law; alas! 
when could they have kamt to respect it? We may say that among 
the men of the emcien regime the place which the notion of law ought to 
occupy in the human mind was vacant. Every suitor demands a 
departure from the established rule in his favour with as much insistence 
as if he demanded its observance ; and in fact the rule is hardly ever 
upheld against him, save when it is desired to evade his request." 

The judicial as well as the administrative system of France had grown 
up in the course of ages, had never been revised on broad principles, and 
had ended in singular confusion and waste of power. During the medieval 
period Courts had been multiplied by the same influences which were at 
work throughout feudal Europe. Every lord had the right and duty of 
holding a Court for his tenants. Every chartered town sought to gain 
the amplest jurisdiction over its own citizens and the stranger within its 
gates. The Church covered the land with a complete system of in- 
dependent Courts administering ecclesiastical law. Feudal, corporate, 
and ecclesiastical competition left little to be done by the royal justice. 
Duty and interest alike impelled the Kings of France to enlarge their 
jurisdiction ; and to this end they found untiring auxiliaries in the legal 
profession^ which became more and more powerful from the end of the 



The royal Courts. 47 



thirteenth century 6nwards. By degrees the royal Courts overspread 
France and withdrew from the other secular Courts their most weighty 
business. But here, as in other fields, when the Crown had engrossed 
the substance of power, its reforming energy expired. Neither the 
desire for symmetry nor the consideration of the public good availed to 
bring about the final reform, the suppression of all Courts not emanating 
directly from the sovereign. The feudal and corporate Courts lingered 
on until the Revolution ; and the nobles kept a remnant of jurisdiction 
long after they had been ousted from public life and stripped of political 
influence. 

The ordinary royal Courts were of three degrees ; the Parlements, 
the prisidiaux, and the Courts of the bailliages and senichaiissees. There 
were thirteen Parlements, all sovereign Courts as they were termed. 
Courts of the highest rank, from whose decision there was no appeal. 
Among these the most ancient, the most illustrious, and the most power- 
ful was the Parlement of Paris, sprung from the Curia Regis of the 
early Capetian KingSj and in its organisation little changed since the 
fourteenth century. Its jurisdiction extended over a great part of the 
kingdom, and perhaps ten million human beings. The Parlements of 
Toulouse, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Dijon, Rouen, Aix, Rennes, Pau, Metz, 
Douai, Nancy, and Besan9on, copied faithfully its claims and its pre- 
tensions. For the Parlements deemed themselves more than merely 
judicial bodies. Their function of registering the royal edicts, which has 
been noticed in earlier volumes of this work, they construed to imply a 
right of criticising a new law before they registered it, and even of refus- 
ing to register it at all. Although they would hardly have put their 
wish in plain, direct terms, they aimed at nothing less than a veto on 
legislation and taxation. Moreover they assumed an indefinite power of 
making police regulations, even upon subjects so alien from the dispensa- 
tion of justice as the trade in corn. The executive government in turn 
trespassed- upon their sovereign jurisdiction ; for the Royal Council often 
quashed the decrees of the Parlements and removed cases which they 
had tried into its own hearing. It will be observed that until the 
Revolution there was no general Court of Appeal for the whole kingdom. 

Next below the Parlements came the Courts known as prisidiaiuc, 
instituted in 1551 by Henry II as tribunals of first instance in certain 
cases and as tribunals of appeal from the many inferior Courts, whether 
royal or feudal. They had the final decision in all civil cases where the 
value in dispute did not exceed 2000 livres tournois, and a decision 
subject to appeal where it did not exceed 4000. They also possessed a 
certain criminal jurisdiction. At the eve of the Revolution there were 
one hundred and two Courts of this class. In the third rank stood the 
Courts of the hailliages and the sSnSchauss^es. These administrative 
areas had been formed when the direct rule of the King succeeded the 
sway of great vassals, such as the Dukes of Normandy or the Counts of 



48 Feudal jurisdiction. 



Champagne. Although the bailU or the sinichal had now very little 
to do, his Court remained in use for petty causes, and received certain 
appeals from the feudal Courts. It was composed of the same persons 
as those who sat in the pr eddied ; but a smaller number sufficed to give 
judgment. In all the royal Courts of justice a measure of independence 
was rendered possible by the fact that a seat on the bench was a re- 
cognised form of property. For the constant financial embarrassment of 
the Crown had induced Louis XII to make judicial office saleable, and 
Henry IV to make it hereditary subject to a slight annual payment. 
A judge had therefore a moral assurance that, so long as he observed 
the law, he would not forfeit his preferment. He was not a mere official 
who could he dismissed at pleasure and without the reprobation of the 
public. But the benefit incidental to the abuse was mtichi impaired by 
the power of evoking causes from the ordinary tribunals to be heard by 
the Council, which power the Crown always asserted and often exercised, 
as well as by the number of extraordinary tribunals at its service and 
imder its absolute control. Not only the Council and the Intendants, 
but many, other strictly administrative authorities, exercised an ample 
jiuisdiction, civil, or criminal,tor both. Those Courts of Justice, which, 
like the Forest Courts of England, owed their origin to the sovereign's 
possession of immense Crown lands, had been carefully preserved wherever 
they could serve to fortify the royal authority^ When all existing 
tribunals seemed insufficient, the Crown had from time to time appointed 
commissioners with extraordinary powers and a summaiy procedure, to 
deal with corrupt financiers, heretics, smugglers, and other troublesome 
offenders. These commissions, expressively ' styled Chambres Ardentes, 
had become rare in the eighteenth century. 

Feudal jurisdiction in France admitted of three degrees, high, middle, 
and low. The seigneur haut justickr originally had cognisance of all 
causes, civil and criminal. But the gravest criminal offences, such as 
treason, coining, homicide, and highway robbery, had been withdrawn 
from his Court under the name of cos royaux ; and it had become the 
practice to hand over to the royal judges all culprits taken within the 
seigneur's jiu-isdiotion. A great deal of the civil litigation had passed 
to the same authority. The seigneur, who had moyenne Justice, exercised 
a criminal jurisdiction, which varied greatly in different provinces. His 
Court was not competent as a rule to pronounce sentence of death, and 
was often restricted to imposing fines of moderate amount. He had also 
a certain civil jurisdiction, and powers of police on the highways and of 
inspection of weights and measures. Basse justice comprised only petty 
cases, civil and criminal, and gave authority to impose no penalty 
beyond a small fine. All these three degrees of justice included, how- 
ever, the determination of questions relating to the seigneur's feudal 
rights, as against his tenants. The remains of feudal jurisdiction in the 
age of Louis XVI were therefore considerable. But the Crown in the 



Confusions of Courts and laws. 49 

course of ages had fettered its exercise. Litigants enjoyed a very 
extensive fight of appeal from the feudal to the royal Courts. The 
seigneur yvas compelled to exercise his jurisdiction through. a judge, 
who was required to be at least twenty-live years old, to be of good 
character, and to have given some proof of legal competence. The 
Crown had even taken steps to render the judge irremovable by the 
lord. Since, however, the judges of the feudal Courts were not highly 
paid, it was impossible to attract to them lawyers of the highest 
character or attainments. One man often acted as judge in several 
feudal Cotu-ts; and thus his place had to be taken by lieutenants 
so-called, usually country lawyers of humble standing. 

The number of feudal Courts was prodigious. In the single pro- 
vince of Maine, neither very large nor very populous, there were on the 
eve of the Revolution at least one hundred and twenty-five. In the 
single city of Le Mans twenty-nine feudal Courts could be reckoned. 
In Angers there were sixteen. The parishioners of Gueugnon in Burgundy 
declared in 1789 that fourteen seigneurs had jurisdiction within its 
bounds, and that litigants were perplexed to know who had power to 
settle their disputes. The cities and towns frequently had a jurisdiction 
of their own, and Courts distinct alike from the royal and the feudal. 
Such a multitude of tribunals should have ensured cheap and speedy 
justice. But the entanglement of jurisdictions and the possibility of 
successive appeals went far to annul this advantage. Much evidence 
which has been preserved points to a litigious temper in the Frenchmen 
of that time. Lawyers swarmed even in the poorest country districts. 
One small parish of the Nivemais contained in 1789 half-a-dozen 
procureurs and as many notaries. 

The mtdtiplicity and confusion of tribunals corresponded to a multi- 
plicity and confusion of laws. France was unequally divided between 
the region of customary and the region of written law. In the south 
the written law, the Roman law of Justinian, or in some cases of the 
Theodosian Code, was in force, although modified by local usage or 
modem statute. In the centre and north of France, except Alsace, 
customary law, modified in turn by statute or by the influence of the 
Roman system, bore sway. But within the two regions there prevailed 
the utmost local variety. Writers of repute have reckoned in France 
on the eve of the Revolution at least three hundred and sixty distinct 
bodies of law, in force sometimes throughout a whole Province, some- 
times in a much smaller area. It is true that the differences between 
these were often few and slight, but they were enough to complicate the 
law and swell the bulk of legal literature. The mischief of such a 
multiplicity and confusion of laws had been acknowledged ever since the 
time of Louis XI ; and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the 
rules regarding certain subjects had been codified for the whole kingdom 
by royal ordinance. But the obstacles raised against a complete 

c. M. H, vin, 4 



60 Lettres de cachet. 



codification by prejudice or interest could be overcome only by an 
energy such as the governments of Louis XV and Louis XVI never 
possessed. The criminal law was more uniform and simple than the 
civil ; but, like ' the criminal law of the surrounding States, it was 
unreasonable and cruel. The punishment of death was not more lavishly 
awarded than in the Engljsh law of that time ; but inhuman forms of it, 
such as breaking on the wheel,' were still in use for the worst oflFenders. 
The execution of Damiens in 1757, for attempting to murder Louis XV, 
displayed the same refinement of barbarity which had been seen at the 
execution of Ravaillac in ' 1610. The cruelty of the criminal law 
was enhanced by its inequality; for the nobles were exempt from 
certain painful or degrading punishments inflicted on the commons. The 
inquisitorial character of criminal procedurey the secret examination of 
witnesses, and the use of torture to extract a confession, odious as they 
must be reckoned, were common to many- Continental States. The 
withholding of counsel from persons accused of grave crime was an 
abuse to be found in England as well as in France. 

No blemish of French law before the Revolution has been more often 
and more justly denounced than the lack of any guarantee for personal 
freedom. That any Frenchman might be deprived of his liberty by a 
lettre de cachet, an administrative order under the privy seal, is perhaps 
the most generally known fact regarding the old polity of France. A 
person thus arrested might remain in prison for an indefinite time, as 
there was no legal process by which he could enforce his release. Since 
the action of the government was secret, his friends might not know 
whither he had vanished, and he might even be ignorant of the cause 
of his arrest. Nay, if the record of his case were mislaid, even the 
Minister responsible for such prisoners might not know why he was 
detained. It is true that in the eighteenth century a great proportion 
of the persons .thus detained were domestic offenders, such as undutiful 
sons; for the lettre de cachet was an instrument of domestic discipline, 
and the philanthropic Marquis de Mirabeau took out many in the idle 
hope of subduing his unruly household. Again, most of the persons thus 
arrested underwent only a brief confinement, sometimes of weeks or 
days. Moreover, persons of respectable condition were the most frequent 
victims, and were often treated as mildly as was compatible with detain- 
ing them at all. The practice was none the less an abuse, lending itself 
to great injustice and cruelty. We may not absolutely credit some 
piquant stories as to the profusion with which lettres de cachet were 
issued under Louis XV, and we have reason to think that under 
Louis XVI they were issued with comparative forbearance ; but in all 
matters of justice and police it may be fairly said that the despotic 
temper of the French monarchy thought far too much of enforcing 
submission and far too little of the rights of the citizen. 

The military establishment of France before the Revolution was 



The army. 51 



based on. prijiciples then common to all western Europe, although they 
have left hardly any trace in our time. Since the military improvements 
of the sixteenth century, discipline and skill had Been valuied more than 
numbers ; and discipline and skill were thought to need lifelong practice. 
As the number of recruits needed in any one year was not great, govern- 
ments shunned the trouble and unpopularity of forced enrolment, and 
enlisted men wherever they could find them, at home or abroad. The 
soldier's lot being hard, the comfortable citizen, and even the prosperous 
artisan, was not likely to oiler himself to the recruiting sergeant. The 
very poor, the thriftless, and the dissolute, were his natural prey ; and 
to ensnare them he might use every means of deceit and debauchery. 
On the other hand the still powerful prejudice handed down from the 
age of chivalry, that arms are the true profession for a gentleman, 
disposed- the nobles of every land to accept commissions as officers, from 
their own sovereign if possible, but, failing that, from any other Christian 
sovereign with whom he was not at war; for, even so late as the out- 
break of the Revolution, the calling of a soldier of fortune was not 
thought dishonourable. It was therefore difficult for a man of the 
middle class to become an officer; and, as he would not willingly 
become a private soldier, the middle class in the eighteenth century 
remained almost entirely unwarlike. In 1789 the Frenchman of the 
middle class felt as keen a thriU of novelty when he donned the uniform 
of a National Guard as when a little earlier he had recorded his vote in 
the elections to the States General. 

In the reign of Louis XVI France maintained about 170,000 regular 
troops, of whom perhaps one-sixth were foreigners, Swiss, Germans, 
Irish, Polesi Swedes, Danes, and Italians. Prussia, with about one-third 
of the population of France, maintained an equal number. The slow 
historic growth of the regular forces could still be traced in many 
irregularities of organisation ; and favour and privilege had cumbered 
the army with many grotesque abuses. In order to satisfy the nobility 
the officers had been multiplied out of all proportion to the privates. 
At the beginning of the Revolution there were 966 generals and 1918 
staff oiBcers ; that is to say, one general for every 157 privates and one 
staff officer for every 79. Those who had enough influence gained their 
commissions early and without labour. The Diic de Choiseul raised an 
outcry by refusing to allow any more colonels of sixteen ; and Marshal 
de Broglie declared all the officers from the sub-lieutenant to the 
lieutenant-general totally ignorant of their profession. The private 
was poorly paid, had no comforts, and could not rise above the rank 
of non-commissioned officer. Bad fare and hard usage made desertion 
common. In the Seven Years' War the French army had tarnished its 
old renown, and France had yielded the first place among military 
States to Prussia. Yet that there was excellent stuff in the royal 
army was proved by the number, both of privates and of officers, who 

4—2 



62 The militia. — The clergy. 

rose to fame in the wars of the Republic and the Empire. Out of 
twenty-four Marshals of France created by Napoleon, eight had been 
officers and ten had been privates under Louis XVI; and Englishmen 
will remember the great achievements of their own army at a time 
when it was open, though not in the same degree, to many of the 
reproaches brought against the old army of France. The French 
discipline was not so harsh as the Prussian, nor harsher than the 
English ; and at least one English traveller in 1789 was impressed with 
the healthy and vigorous looks of the common soldier. 

The army was supplemented by a militia of about sixty thousand 
men. As the term of service was for six years, the annual contingent 
required was ten thousand, raised by a sort of conscription. The burthen 
was not more than France could easily have borne had it been fairly 
distributed; but the privilege enjoyed by many places and classes doubled 
the pressure upon those who were not exempt. Thirty-nine different 
descriptions of persons were (excused on one ground or another. The 
people of the capital were not liable. As the militia service was thus 
rendered only by the poorest class of peasants, its hardships were not 
relieved by any honourable associations ; and, as the militiamen were not 
well treated, the balloting was regarded with intense fear and dislike. 

Since the form and operation of government always depend to a very 
greiat degr^ on the structure of society, this outline of the institutions of 
France may be rendered more intelligible by some notice of the classes 
into which the French people were divided. By taking accoimt of the 
relative position and the conflicting interests of the clergy, the nobles, 
the bourg'eoisie, and the peasants respectively, we may better understand 
the course which each of these orders took in the Revolution, and the 
character and effects of the Revolution itself. 

Outwardly the clergy of France still held the position which had 
been theirs in the Middle Ages. They were the only authorised spiritual 
teachers; for, although the flame of intolerance was burning low, although 
the Frotestants were but languidly persecuted, while in Alsace even the 
Jews were left in peace, the Catholic was the only religion known to the 
law, the Catholic, the only worship publicly allowed. A very great 
number of those employed in the education of youth were clergy or 
nuns ; and all other teachets were subject to clerical supervision. 
Politically the clergy were the first of the Three Estates, an order 
possessing valuable privileges, the only order which fenjoyed even partial 
self-government. Lastly, the clergy were possessed of immense riches; 
and it was vaguely asserted that they held one-fifth of the soil of France. 
Inwardly it is true the condition of the Church was less satisfactory. 
The zeal of the clergy had cooled, their discipline was reldxed^ and a 
spirit of indifference, even of enmity to religion, had become widely 
spread. i ^ 

For want of accurate statistics the number of the French clergy at 



Condition of the Church. 53 

this period has been variously estimated. It was supposed in 1762 
that they then numbered 194,000. It is certain that they were 
dwindling through the greater part of the eighteenth century. Taine 
thought that under Louis XVI they numbered 130,000, not very 
unequally distributed between regulars and seculars, there being about 
23,000 monks and friars and 37,000 nuns. In an age of indifference the 
regulars were most apt to diminish. Thus in Troyes there dwelt in 
1695 three hundred and twenty nuns ; in 1774! there remained only 
ninety-one. In two spacious monasteries of the same city only ten 
monks were left. A royal edict of 1765 had ordained that, when the 
inmates of any religious House fell below nine, the House should be 
closed, the inmates transferred to another House, and the revenues 
carried to a fund available for certain religious or charitable purposes. 
Under this edict it is said that nearly four himdred Houses were closed, 
and that several of the less numerous Orders had vanished from the 
kingdom. Yet the cahiers of 1789 frequently refer to the existence of 
monasteries almost unpeopled. In the suppression of the Jesuits the 
government had taken a still bolder measure. Had no reaction inter- 
vened, the Orders of men would probably have shrunk to a few com- 
munities actively employed in education and charity. , The secular 
clergy were not subject to a like decrease. There are said to have 
been 38,000 parishes in France; and the parish priests and curates 
numbered about 60,000. All the remaining seculars may have 
amounted to 10,000. 

The wealth of the Church, although it cannot now be accurately 
measured, was very great. A committee of the National Assembly 
estimated its revenues at 170,000,000 livres, and Gomel thinks that 
they may have amounted to 200,000,000 livres — about one-half of the 
revenue of the Crown at the accession of Louis XVI. Fully two-fifths 
of the whole were derived from tithes, the residue from landed estate. 
Arthur Young admits that the tithe was levied with comparative 
moderation. It was nowhere a tenth, usually a twelfth or fifteenth, 
sometimes no more than a twentieth, of the gross produce. In many 
places meadows, oUve grounds, and cattle, were exempt ; and a new kind 
of crop, such as potatoes or clover, did not pay anything imtil the law 
was altered in 1783. Nevertheless the exaction was odious to the thrifty 
peasants, who had so much to pay ; and the claim to tithe was every- 
where most prolific of lawsuits. The tithepayer grumbled more because 
the bulk of the tithe went, not to the parish priest, but to distant 
Chapters or monasteries, which seldom remembered him in their 
boimty. The landed estates of the Church proba:bly yielded more than 
100,000,000 livres — ^no surprising retiun, if they really occupied one- 
fifth of the surface of France. It must be remembered that the great 
clerical domains were often iU-managed, and that religious Houses have 
often been indulgent landlords. The wealth of the clergy excited the 



54 Revenues and government of the clergy. 

more en^vy because it was privileged. The clergy were exempt from the 
taille, and had redeemed themselves very cheaply from the mngtiemes 
and the capitation. The clergy did indeed every five years grant the 
Crown a subsidy, whose free and voluntary character was expressed in 
the term don gratuit, and in time of war they often* voted further sums ; 
but these by no means balanced their exemptions. Even these sub- 
sidies they often raised by loans, afterwards repaid out of the dSchnes, 
a light tax on clerical incomes. The distribution of ecclesiastical 
revenues was yet another scandal, for lucrative sinecures were even more 
plentiful in the Church than in the State; and those who did most 
work had as a rule the least reward. The one hundred and thirty-four 
Archbishops and Bishops of France were singularly vmequal in their 
revenues ; but their average income amounted perhaps to 60,000 livres, 
about £2500 of English money ; and their wealth was often .doubled by 
the rich abbacies which they were allowed to hold. In consequence of 
the diversion of the tithe from its proper object most of the parish 
priests were shamefully ill-paid. The State had been forced to interpose 
and enforce a minimum stipend, the portion congrucj fixed in 1768 at 
500 livres and raised in 1786 to 700 livres. Here again there was 
no equality, for some curis, who received the whole of the tithes, were 
comfortable or even rich. The cahier of Brulon in Maine mentions 
curSs enjoying an income of 10,000, 15,000, even 30,000 livres. The 
parish priest was entitled to fees for marriages, etc. (the casuel), and to 
certain dues, which the peasants frequently regarded as a grievance. 
The religious Houses varied in their condition from poverty to opulence. 
The clergy enjoyed a real, though limited, power of self-government 
through their provincial and national assemblies. The national assembly 
of the Church of France met every five years on the King's summons. 
Each of the sixteen provincial assemblies sent as its representatives two 
Bishops and two of the inferior clergy. The assembly upon meeting 
elected a President and then divided itself into bureaux, which chose 
commissaries to treat of business in detail. It. voted the don gratuit, 
and, in the spirit of an earlier time, joined to its gift petitions, which the 
sovereign received with respect and sometimes granted. Yet we must 
not overrate the liberties of the clergy; for, in things ecclesiastical as 
in things secular, the Crown had always been studious to enlarge its 
prerogative. The clerical assemblies might not promulgate any decree 
without the King's previous knowledge and approval. No new religious 
House could be established without his sanction. Without the same 
sanction no lands could be acquired or alienated by the clergy. The 
Crown exercised a patronage so vast and valuable as to ensure clerical 
obedience. By the concordat of the year 1516 Francis I had agreed with 
Leo X that the King should have the right of nominating Bishops and 
Archbishops, subject to pkpal confirmation, and should also be entitled 
to fill up a great number of wealthy abbacies. Many inferior preferments 



The higher and the lower clergy. 55 

were in the King's gift. He was thus able, not merely to control 
the clergy, but also to bind the nobility to himself by new ties of 
interest. For aU the archbishoprics, all but five of the bishoprics, all 
the commendatory abbeys, the commanderies of the Knights of Malta, 
and the noble Chapters of men and women, were reserved for persons of 
gentle birth, who received in this way a large proportion of the enormous 
ecclesiastical revenue. 

In judging the character of the French priesthood during the 
eighteenth century we must distinguish between the higher and the 
lower ranks, as well as between the regulars and the seculars. The 
superior clergy, taken in the gross, were courtiers and men of the world. 
Some notorioiasly disbelieved the religion which they were supposed to 
teach; and some were dissolute in their conduct. Yet the majority, even 
imder Louis XV, observed outward decorum ; and here and there was to 
be found a prelate of sterling piety and benevolence. Nor need it be 
denied that the pride of birth and the feeling of assured independence, 
together with the tradition of GaUican liberties, gave to the French 
prelates a certain breadth and firmness of mind, and, helped to save 
them from some failings which have been noted in their far more zealous 
successors. Professional talent and learning, it is true, were seldom found 
in this class, nor did any of them in the age preceding the Revolution 
gain glory by controversial or apologetic writings. They, were silent 
or ineffective, whUe argument and wit and rhetoric were untiringly 
exerted against the characters of the clergy and the doctrines of 
Christianity. If an acute and vigorous intellect appeared among the 
French Bishop>s, he was too commonly a man of the stamp of Talleyrand, 
whom accident or influence had pushed into a splendid but incongruous 
position. No Bossnet, no Fenelon, shed the splendour of eloquence and 
imagination over the decline of the GaUican Church. 

The inferior clergy offered a glaring contrast to their chiefs. Drawn 
mostly from a humble middle class, or even from the peasantry, since 
their office had so few worldly allurements, and condemned to poverty 
and a monotonous routine, they were rarely men of wide culture or 
polished manners ; but they were usually regular and edifying in their 
lives. In spite of occasional scandals, such as will occur in every large 
body of professional men, the parish priests appear to have generally 
deserved and enjoyed the goodwill of their flocks. They felt for the 
people from whom they sprang and amid whom they laboured ; and they 
often entertained democratic opinions. They had indeed their own 
grievances, and they might be pardoned if they felt some bitterness in 
reflecting on what stamp of divine the richest preferments of the Chiurch 
were so often lavished. Many of them regarded their Bishop as the 
common soldier regarded his noble colonel, and as the peasant regarded 
the lord of the manor. The abuses of the French system tended to 
alienate those whom both duty and interest should have drawn together ; 



56 The religious Orders. — Dissent. 

and the privileged orders, a mere handful among discontented millions, 
were themselves rent into hostile factions. In the first stage of the 
Revolution the sympathy df the parish priests ensured the victory of 
the Third Estate over the nobles and the prelates. 

The regular clergy of France in the eighteenth century presented the 
spectacle so often seen when ascetic enthusiasm has almost died out. 
The religious Houses were still very numerous, and some of them were 
very wealthy ; but they rendered no proportionate service' to the com- 
munity. A few Benedictines were honourably distinguished by their 
zeal for learning ; and those Orders which busied themselves in works of 
charity or in teaching were kept healthy by employment. That large 
residue of men and women, who, having taken the vows, found themselves 
with no definite occupation, were at best useless and sometimes vicious. 
The religious Houses generally were liberal of their alms ; but indis- 
criminate charity has everywhere made more beggars than it relieves. 
Beligious Houses were often disliked by the peasants because they drew 
rent and tithes from parishes on which they conferred no benefit in 
return. They were incessantly denoimced and ridiculed by men of 
letters and philosophers ; they were regarded by many statesmen as a 
useless encumbrance on the national resources ; they were so alien to 
the spirit of the time that they could not find a sufficient number of 
novices; and the monasteries, although not the convents, were slowly 
tending to extinction. 

The eighteenth century in France, as in England, offered a contrast 
between tolerant public opinion and intolerant laws. The clergy re- 
tained enough of the old persecuting spirit to disgust the laity, but not 
enough tO' crush dissent. The government did not go so far as the 
clergy wished, and yet went far enough to share their unpopularity. 
Infinite bitterness was bred in the Church by the long and unmeaning 
warfare between the orthodox and the Jansenists. Protestants were still 
outlaws, denied a civil status, and so disabled from having an authentic 
record of births and marriages. If they assembled for divine worship, 
the congregation might be sent to the galleys and the pastor might be 
hanged. Under Louis XV the judicial murder of Calas showed that the 
spirit of St Bartholomew's Day was not extinct ; but such incidents were 
rare, and Louis XVI gave a lesson to Protestant Kings when he made 
Necker Minister of Finance. Now and then feeble attempts were made 
to suppress the new rationalism. The publication of the Enct/clopidie 
was at one time arrested. Some of the most eminent writers of the age 
were sent to prison, though none were detained for long or harshly 
treated. Voltaire thought it prudent to spend the years of his highest 
fame and power in exile, and only revisited Paris at the very close of 
his life. But such half-hearted persecution merely advertised new ideas 
and proclaimed the imbecility of the government. Its worst efiect lay 
in imparting to the Revolution a tinge of anti-religious rancour. 



The nobility of France. 57 

It is difficult to give the English reader a just conception of the 
French noblesse in the eighteenth century. Even the number of the 
nobles has been very variously estimated. Taine thought that there 
were about 140,000, or rather more than five nobles to every thousand 
inhabitants of France. The French noblesse corresponded at once to 
the English nobility and to the English gentry. It has often been 
termed a caste — correctly in so far as every child of gentle birth was 
noble — ^but incorrectly in so far as entrance to the class was easy ; for, 
apart from the special favour of the Crown, any person might be 
ennobled by purchasing one of about four thousand offices. The French 
nobility as a whole was not rich. A few families possessing vast estates 
and attracting the lavish bounty of the sovereign were indeed as rich 
as the wealthiest English nobles. But the majority of French nobles 
neither owned wide domains nor could aiford a splendid and luxurious 
life at Versailles. Some possessed very little land and drew nearly all 
their income from their seigniorial rights — ^rights analogous to those 
which an English lord of the manor enjoys against the copyholders. 
Such rights, often ill-defined and burdensome, were most unpopular, and 
bred infinite litigation which absorbed much of the revenue they pro- 
duced. The poor noble was condemned by the prejudices of his order 
to remain poor, for he might not engage in a lucrative calling and was 
almost compelled to enter the army or navy. Pay was small, promotion 
was tedious, and the great prizes in these as in other fields were too 
often intercepted by favour and intrigue. A prejudice hardly less 
powerful, though sometimes defied, forbade the noble to marry any 
woman not of noble blood and thus recruit his fortunes with wealth 
gained in commerce or industry. The virtues and the vices of the 
nobility were alike adverse to minute thrift and petty gains. Hence the 
share of the nobles in the wealth of France was diminishing for many 
years previous to the Revolution. The French noble was usually poorer 
than a petty English esquire; and Arthur Young was told at Mmes 
that many noble families in the Province of Rouergue contrived to live 
on fifty or even twenty-five louis a year. 

s^^The French nobles as a class were without political power. It is 
true that they enjoyed many unjust privileges, such as exemption from 
the bulk of the direct taxes and a monopoly of field sports. Again, 
those nobles who surrounded the sovereign, waited on his person, and 
shared his pleasures, had ample opportunities of procuring favours for 
themselves and of doing harm to those who had incvured their hatred. 
Moreover, the officials of the Crown observed in their dealings with the 
nobility a forbearance and a courtesy, a respect for the rights of human 
nature, which were too often forgotten in dealing with the other classes. 
For after all the King of France was a French gentleman, who shared the 
tastes, habits, and prejudices of his order, and wished to gratify his 
fellows so far as was compatible with his own absolute power. But that 



68 Weakness of the nobility. 

absolute power came first in his thoughts and in the thoughts of his 
servants. No independent will might be allowed to impede the course 
of his prerogative. For centuries the Crown with its lawyers and officials 
had been sapping the power of the noblesse, and had at length reduced 
it to political muUity. The nobles had lost all voice in making laws 
and levying taxes when the States General ceased to meet. The 
bureaucracy had carefully stripped them of administrative power in 
their respective neighbourhoods. They had no part in the levying of 
the militia, in the relief of the poor, in the assessment of taxes, in 
the execution of public works, or in enforcing the regulations which 
controlled commerce and industry. The only political privileges, which 
they retained were a share in the Estates of the few Provinces where 
Estates had survived, and an enervated feudal jiu-isdiction. The 
French noble had no opportimity of combining with his fellows, or of 
offering himself as a leader to the commons., A number of gentlemen 
could not meet for any public purpose without official leave. The noblesse 
had never shown, eminent political capacity; anil what they had, withered 
tmder conditions so deadening. At the outbreak of the Revolution not 
a few nobles gave proof of generous ardour for the common good ; none 
save the discredited , vagabond Mirabeau displayed the acuteness or 
resource of the bom statesman. 

The French noblesse, as the event proved, was unpopular. It could 
hardly have been otheirwise, for it was a body sharply defined by the 
titles, forms, and privileges most apt to wound the pride as well as the 
self-interest of other classes. Although manners were more humane 
in France than in some of the adjoining countries, the noblesse often 
displayed the arrogance natural to men who are not merely taught to 
think themselves superior, but have no occasion to solicit other men's 
sufirages. The isolation of the noblesse, save in, a few districts, was 
complete ; for the policy of attracting the nobles to Court and keeping 
them in attendance on the sovereign had rendered the most illustrious 
and wealthy of that order strangers to their own estates. When a noble 
family, after long residence at Paris or Versailles, went down to the 
ancestral mansion, it usually sought to replenish its purse and lived 
frugally until it could .return to the centre of, power and pleasure. The 
significant phrase, "exiled to his estates," tells us how the courtier 
regarded a sojourn in the country. Such a landed proprietor could not 
know the wants of his people or gain their good-will by furthering their 
welfare, but was often obliged to press them for the last farthing in order 
to feed his artificial and expensive manner of life. The poorer nobles, 
who liyed in the country because they could not live so cheaply anywhere 
else, were as little able to improve their land, to help the peasants, or 
to encourage local industry. As a class the nobles had become useless. 
Their proprietary rights very generally took a form which hindered the 
progress of husbandry; their obsolete prejudices debarred them from 



The middle class. 59 



lucrative callings ; and the jealousy of the Crown excluded them from 
public life. Arrogance, isolation, and futility, rather than any enormous 
wickedness, seem to have been the causes of the ill-will felt towards 
the French nobles. Very bad men are found in all times and in all 
classes, and certainly abounded at the Court of Louis XV. But much 
the greater number of the nobility had not the means, even if they felt 
the wish, to vie with the Regent Orleans or the Due de Richelieu, and 
astonish Europe by prodigal lust and riot. The ordinary French noble 
was a man of narrow ideas and strong prejudices, who cherished a false 
and flattering notion of the consequence of his own order ; but he was 
often a man of honour and integrity, who led a spare and frugal life and 
taught his children some virtues which our commercial age is too prone 
to ignore. 

Disunion completed the weakness of the French nobility. Even a 
small body of men cannot long be held together save by the effort to 
get or keep something of value to all the members. The English landed 
interest found such an object in political power and its advantages. The 
French nobles had no common tie of that kind. The nobles of the 
Court, who formed the most elegant society in Europe, despised their 
rustic brethren. The provincial noble swelled with anger at the thought 
that the reward of his campaigns and scars was intercepted by triflers 
and flatterers at Versailles. The noble of ancient lineage flouted the rich 
upstart who' had bought an ofilce conferring nobility, and affected to be 
familiar with descendants of the Crusaders. The "nobility of the 
sword," as it was termed, which made arms its career, looked down 
upon the "nobility of the robej" which preferred to fill, generation 
after generation, the more dignified places in the judicature. The 
absolute monarchy which denied any scope to combined effort, and 
the privileges which seemed to exclude all vulgar competition, left the 
French nobles free to indulge a mutual jealousy which only perished 
with the order. 

The middle class was very differently composed in France and in 
England. In England there has always been a rural middle cjass 
either of yeomen or of substantial tenant farmers. But in France tenant 
farmers were rare save in a few Provinces ; and the proprietor who ddtir 
vated his own land had usually so little as not to rise above the degree 
of a peasant. Throughout the greater part of France the lawyers made 
up the chief part of what middle class there was in rural districts. Thus 
the French middle class was eminently urban, a hourgeoisie in the- proper 
sense of that term. The towns had gained privileges and exemptions of 
various kinds proportioned to their wealth and power ; and those citizens 
who belonged to the governing body or to any of the professional cor- 
porations were usually favoured above their, fellows. The unfair; aiid 
oppressive taxation piled upon. the dwellers in the coimtry, especially the 
tax known as ihe Jranc-fief. payable by every person who, without b^ing 



60 The French towns. 



noble, held a fief, had hindered prosperous citizens from buying small, 
estates and setting up as squires. They preferred to buy an office, and 
with it the privileges and the dignity of a servant of the Crown. In the 
country a townsman would have found little society; while at home he 
had friends and connexions who gave him consequence, aind could often 
exact full reparation for any aifront offered by a noble. 

French industry and commerce had grown steadily since the death of 
Lbuis XIV ; and the urbto class had increased in numbers arid riches. 
Towns were indeed both few and small, if judged by the standard of 
our own time. According to a return prepared for Calonne in 1787, 
France then contained seventy-eight towns with upwards of 10,000 
inhabitants and an aggregate population of nearly two millions. One 
hundred years later there were in France thrice as many towns with 
upwards of 10,000 inhabitants; and their aggregate population was more 
than four times as large as in 1787. Levasseur thinks that Paris at 
that time contained from 600,000 to 650,000 inhabitants, less than a 
quarter of its present population. The return prepared for Calonne 
estimated the population of Lyons sA. 135,000. No other city exceeded 
100,000, and only five had more than 50,000. But it is doubtful what 
trust can be put in these statistics ; and much higher figures are given by 
some contemporary writers. In point of health, convenience, and safety, 
the towns of France were also defective. Yet several were very prosperous;; 
for France then enjoyed a superiority in certain manufactures which has 
been partly lost since ; and the West India trade, in spite of frequent 
interruption by war, was most profitable. The towns began to put 
on a Hiodern aspect.' New quarters were built in spacious streets and 
squares ; promenades were laid out on the site of the old ramparts ; the 
streets were better pa:ved and for the first time generally lighted ; and a 
purer and more copious supply of water was brought sometimes from a 
considerable distance. At Rheims Arthiu: Young felt bound to confess 
how much French cities surpassed English in their dignified and orna- 
mental appearance. At Nantes he lodged in a new hotel which had 
been built at a cOst of 400,000 livres ; and the theatre, " twice as large 
as Driiiy Lane and five times as magnificent," filled him with wonder. 
Bordeaux surprised him no less. Dr Rigbyiwas similarly, charmed with 
Lyons and Marseilles. The citizens of these great towns must have been 
rich and luxurious. 

In truth the bourgeoisie, apart from such legal privileges as they 
enjoyed, were in many respects fortunate. The multitude of splendid 
foundations made a liberal education cheap arid often gratuitous. The 
citizens were very generally free from the militia service, and the con- 
scription was as yet' unknown. Nearly all lucrative employments were 
filled by men of this class. It supplied the great majority of lawyers, 
judges, and civil servants, the contractors who reaped a rich harvest in 
ev^ry war, and the financiers who farmed the indirect taxes. If the 



Grievances of the bourgeoisie. 61 



bourgeoisie had little land, they possessed nearly all the capital of France, 
held the bulk of the public securities, and counted many a noble and 
prelate among their debtors. Intelligent, frugal, and laborious, they 
were always improving their stock ; and every year they became a greater 
force in the kingdom. And yet this cla«s which Ijad so much to lose 
was profoundly discontented. With a few illustrious exceptions, such as 
Mirabeau and Lafayette, the leaders of the Revoljition in every period 
of its history, even during the Terror, came from this class. The bour- 
geoisie had studied the writings of the philosophers and economists, and 
had lost its deference for the priest and the noble. It longed for a share 
of power and consideration proportionate to its talent and culture. It 
wanted a real municipal self-government and a parliamentary constitution 
which would give it a direct voice in public affairs. It was irritated by 
the constant ofitcial meddling with the processes of industry and the 
movement of commerce. It understood how much wealth was lost for 
lack of simplicity, equity, and reasonableness in the fiscal system. It 
watched witii alarm the waste and disorder which imperilled its own 
savings advanced to the State. It resented an almost entire exclusion 
from the army, the navy, and the diplomatic service. Above all it 
was embittered by the honorary distinctions of the nobility, and by 
the insolence of the more foolish nobles. Even the reflexion, that any 
opulent citizen could easily be ennobled, seems to have had no effect 
in soothing this exasperation. With these partly selfish motives for 
desiring a thorough reformation, there mingled beyond doubt that 
generous and humane enthusiasm, which was so widely spread through 
France in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Such feelings had 
not been sobered by any experience of public life or by any provident 
fear as to what might ensue were the old order too roughly assailed. 
The bourgeoisie were not yet aware, of any danger from below ; nor could 
they divine that in no long space of time they would themselves be the 
theme of invective as bitter as Diderot or Champfort had ever poured 
forth against Kings and priests. 

Whatever the prosperity of the towns, France remained eminently 
agricultural ; and it would appear ,that, after deducting the townspeople, 
the nobles, and the clergy and other professional men in the country 
districts, foiu--fifths of the nation, fuUy twenty million souls, were 
employed in tilling the earth. An agricultural , middle class hardly 
existed save in those north-western Provinces, Normandy, Picardy, Artois, 
Flanders, and the lie de France, where proprietors were accustomed 
to let their land in large farms. Elsewhere nearly aU the agricultural 
population were peasants. Thus the peasants vastly outnumbered all 
the other classes of French society put together; , The condition of the; 
peasants was undoubtedly a prime cause of the Revolution ; but,, since 
it, varied in different, parts of France and our information is imperfect, 
it has been very differently represented by different writer^ according to 



62 The French peasantry. 

the regions which they knew best, their temperament^ or the political 
opinions which they cherished. 

The bulk of the French peasantry had achieved personal freedom; 
Villen^ge had been declining in France ever since the twelfth century ; and 
the number of persons more or less uhfree in their- status at the accession 
of Louis XVI did not exceed iSfteen hundred thousand. These were 
mostly cWwded togiethel' in a few districts! Louis emancipated the 
last serfs on the royal domain, and might well have enforced a general 
emancipation; but serfdom was so exceptional that such a reform 
would probably have had little influence on the course of events. ■ In the 
administration of their coinmunes the peasants had also been freed from 
the control or supervision of thfeir loMs. That their Itocal independence 
was little more than a form, was due to the action of "the Intendant 
with his subdelegates, not of the gentry, who had been so carefully 
divested of administrative power. 

The French peasants had also acquired- an immense interest in the 
land. For lack of full and trustworthy statistics we cannot^ speak pre- 
cisely as to the distribution of real property. But a recent writer of 
authority has accepted the opinion that before the Revolution one-fifth 
belonged to the Crown or was communal property, one-fifth belonged to 
the clergy, one-fifth to the nobles, and two-fifths to the Third Estate. 
As few of the middle class were lando~wners, the share of the Third 
Estate belonged mostly to the peasants ; and the peasants, who made up 
most of the rural communes, must be regarded as holding nearly all the 
communal lands. It appears that the peasants were always buying land 
and so changing the. proportion in their favour. All the testimonies 
point to an enormous number of petty properties in France under 
Louis XVI. Arthur Young states that they abounded in almost every 
part of France and supposes more than One-third of the kingdom to 
have been occupied by them. Some writers have thought that very small 
properties were as numerous then as they now are in France, the great 
estates confiscated in the course of the Revolution having been bought in 
larger portions by purchasers often belonging to the middle class. The 
lands still held by the Crown, the clergy, and the nobles, were in some 
Provinces let in farms of considerable size, but in most to peasant 
metayers, the lord furnishing a variable proportion of the capital required, 
and taking a variable proportion of the gross produce. Young thought 
that perhaps seven-eighths of the land let were held on this tenure. An 
enquiry into the condition of the French peasants under Louis XVI is 
therefore threefold, according as it relates either to the hired labourer in 
the districts of large farms, or to ^QmMayer, or to the petty proprietor 
cultivating his own land. 

The condition of the hired labourer seems to have been as good as 
in many parts of England, better than in most countries of Europe. 
The districts where large farms held at a money rent abounded were 



Condition: of the peasants. 63 

among the best tilled, and the farmers were substantial men. The 
labourer earned tolerable wages, and sometimes saved enough to buy a 
patch of land. It was not these districts which broke out into anarchy 
in the first months after the meeting of the States General. It was the 
districts fuU of mMayers and small proprietors that rose up against the 
seignews ; and these were the classes alleged to have been most wretched. 
Arthur Young's verdict on the metayer system has beeil often quoted. 
" In this most miserable of all the modes of letting land; . .the defended 
landlord receives a contemptible rent ; the farmer is in the lowest state of 
poverty; the land is miserably cultivated, and the nation suffers as severely 
as the parties themselves." As to the petty proprietors, he concluded 
that " small properties are carried much too far in France ; that a most 
miserable population has been created by them which ought to have had 
no existence." Young had a high standard both of farming and of 
comfort ; the impressions of other travellers were sometimes more 
favourable. Walpole, in 1765, thought the condition of the people 
wonderfully improved within his own recollection. " The worst villages 
are tight, and wooden shoes have disappeared." Dr Rigby, in 1789, 
was in raptures with the aspect of France ; and, though a; hasty traveller, 
he was not a contemptible witness, for he was a man of talent, accom- 
plished in natural science, and an agricultural amateur from the pioneer 
county of Norfolk. Yoimg himself acknowledged that in the regions 
of vines and maize and olives, as well as in some northern Provinces, 
" France possesses a husbandry equal to our own." 

It would be more easy than useful to multiply general assertions 
of contemporaries on both sides of the case. The evidence which 
Babeau has collected as to the domestic economy of the peasants 
tends to show that they were as a rule meanly and often wretchedly 
housed, but that their diet varied in a surprising manner from one 
district to another. Here they ate good bread made chiefly or entirely 
of wheat ; there rye bread was the staple article of food. In some 
places they ate meat only on holidays; in other places they con- 
sumed as much animal food as the best paid English labourer. Those 
differences of soil, climate, and access to markets, which still render the 
peasant's lot so unequal in diffei'ent parts of France, were still more 
potent when communication was difficult, when fiscal pressure varied 
from one region to another, and when the movement of produce was 
checked by so many artificial barriers. Babeau has shown that the 
peasant family often accumulated a surprising quantity of clothes and 
linen ; and that peasant women usually allowed themselves some trinkets, 
at least a cross and chain of silver, sometimes of gold. To what extent 
the elements of knowledge were diffused among the peasants is an equally 
interesting and difiicult enquiry. - Many commimes possessed an elementary 
school ; but for lack of fimds the schoolmaster was usually ill qualified, 
and the buildings and appliances were such as would now be regarded as 



64 Agrarian burdens. 



wretchedly insufijcient. Taine's assertion that out of twentyr?ix miillion 
French people only one million could read is in itself improbable, and 
certainly not proved by the few particulars which he adduces. Babeau 
professes to have established that in the districts now forming the 
Department of the Aube seventy-two per cent, of the men and twenty- 
two per cent, of the women knew how to read. Yet a great number of 
the municipal officers elected under the laws of the Constituent Assembly 
are said to have been unable to read or write. 

It might have been thought that , the difference would be glaring 
between the metayer, who gave his landlord a large part of the produce of 
the land, and the petty proprietor. But by far the greater number of such 
proprietors were what we should term copyholders, not freeholders. From 
the twelfth century onwards the great proprietors had been selling land 
to the peasants, not for a sum paid down, but for perpetual rent-charges 
and services. The progress of agriculture and the fall in the value of 
money had often made the rent-charge insignificant; but the services were 
felt to be more and more irksome as the times of villenage became more 
and more remote. The peasant chafed more and more under the carvie 
seigneuriale — the claim for a certain amount of unpaid labour — the 
banaliUs which obliged him to send his com to the seigneur's mill, his 
grapes to the sdgneur's winepress, or his flour to the seigneur's oven, 
the peages seigneuriales — tolls levied on the roads and rivers of the 
vicinage for the seigneur'' s benefit— the droit de cohmhier or right of the 
seigneur to keep an indefinite number of pigeons, which found their food 
in the adjoining cornfields, and the droit de chasse, which reserved every 
kind of game within the manor for the seigneur'' s amusement. Such 
manorial rights inflicted on the peasant a loss out of all proportion to 
the gain of the lord. What deduction from the gross value of the 
peasant's land they implied we cannot tell, for they varied from manor 
to manor, and the estimates which have been attempted are all more 
or less uncertain. But experience everywhere has shown that, when the 
cultivator comes to regard himself not as tenant but as owner, all rents 
and services appear intolerable. It has been found needful to provide 
for the enfranchisement of copyholds in England, and for the purchase 
of farms by the tenants in Ireland. An enlightened government would 
have enforced the commutation of manorial rights in France. 

A critical historian will not adopt without reserve those descriptions 
of the appalling misery of the French peasants which have been so often 
copied from one book into another. Yet there are solid reasons for 
thinking that most of them led a very hard, pinched, insecure life. 
The condition 6f the petty farmer or freeholder is not easy even under 
the more genial circumstances of the present day. In France one 
hundred and fifty years ago his technical skill and command of capital 
were far less, and his difficulties were fajJ greater. He was subjected to 
unfair and excessive taxation, assessed and collected in such a way as to 



Condition of France. 65 

inflict the utmost loss and annoyance. He had to pay tithe. When 
he wished to take his produce to market he met with many hindrances. 
Although the highways were often superb, the cross-roads were usually 
villainous. On every road and every river the peasant might expect 
to pay toll to some lord or coiporation or city or to the Crown itself. 
Often he had to pass one of the internal lines of custom-houses. In 
selling his com, especially, he was hampered by edicts of the King and 
regulations of the Parlements. If his own crops failed in a bad season, 
the same obstacles hindered food from coming to him, and forced 
him to pay dear for it or go without. Before the extraordinary im- 
provement in communications due to steam, all countries were liable to 
times of scarcity, even of famine, unless, like England and Holland, they 
were everywhere accessible to water carriage, or, like Lombardy, unfailing 
in productiveness. The frequent recurrence of dearth in France before 
the Revolution does not imply so absolute a penury in the mass of 
the people as we are now apt to assume ; but it does imply that their 
condition was bad, and in a country so fruitful and among a people so 
thrifty proves how injurious were the fiscal and agrarian systems. 

If we judge Friince in the eighteenth century by the standard of 
to-day, we must pronounce French institutions clumsy, incoherent, and 
unjust, and a great part of the French people wretchedly poor and half- 
civilised. Yet France held the first place among Eiu:opean kingdoms ; 
and if the condition of the lower classes was better in England, in the 
Netherlands, in a few favoiured parts of Germany, and in northern Italy, 
it was probably worse in most of the German countries, in Naples, in 
Spain, and in Ireland. From the close of the Seven Years' War to the 
outbreak of the Revolution France was growing in population, riches, 
and enlightenment. A reasonable and humane temper had spread so 
widely among administrators and judges that the spirit of government 
under Louis XVI was very different from what it had been under 
Louis XIV. But in a society where personal freedom was general, 
landed property widely diffiised, and every class aspiring to equality 
with the class above, evils, which elsewhere might have been borne in 
patience, were felt to be intolerable. The long reign of a slothful and 
sensual Prince gave time for discontent to accumulate and criticism to 
become embittered. Class was divided from class ; old institutions and 
beliefs became objects of scorn; crude theories and impossible hopes 
gave a new sting to injustice and oppression ; and discerning strangers 
could foretell, even while aU was calm, the approach of a tremendous 
catastrophe. 



o. H. H. yni. 



66 



CHAPTER III. 
FINANCE. 

The generalisation that money is the root of all revolution has the 
defects of its simplicity; but among the varied influences which provoked 
the French Revolution vicious finance takes the first place. Apart from 
it, other causes, seemingly independent, lose much of their significance^ 
Even the religious controversy owed much of its acuteness to a sensitive- 
ness about the rights of the Parlement, which were prized and feared 
mainly on account of their bearing upon public finance. Misgovernment 
made itself chiefly felt in the imequal and excessive pressure upon the 
taxpayer, which alienated the affections of the people from the govern- 
ment; and the refusal of the Parlement of Paris to legalise by registration 
permanent additions to taxation necessitated the convocation of the 
Assembly of Notables, and subsequently of the States General, which 
grew into the Constituent Assembly. 

The problem before Louis XVI was to avert imminent bankruptcy 
while relieving the excessive pressure of taxation upon the lower and 
middle classes. No system, no expedients, could effect these objects 
without such a remodelling of the constitutional system and the 
machinery of government as would have amounted to a complete, if 
bloodless, revolution. Turgot's minute to the King upon municipalities 
indicates this clearly: "The mischief comes from the fact that the nation 
is completely without a constitution." Finance necessitated organic 
changes in the State. The present financial system of Russia works, it 
is true; but it is not one which the history and temperament of the 
French people would have allowed them to accept from Louis XVI. 
Roederer, addressing the Constituent Assembly, said ; " The unanimous 
mandate of France has settled the question. Finance must be placed 
outside the interference of the Executive power." The Assembly virtually 
took upon itself the functions of Treasury control and of audit — the 
authorisation of expense, and the scrutiny of accounts ; but the task was 
an impossible one for its financial representatives — at best a collection of 
untrained amateurs already absorbed by politics. It was left to the 
Empire and the restored Monai-chy to introduce a rational financial 
system. 



The financial resources of France. 67 

France in the eighteenth century was without a budget. The very 
word first officially appears in a law of 1806. Living from hand to 
mouth, its accounts little better than statements of balances in the 
Exchequer, or of cash receipts and payments actually effected, it may 
almost be said that the financial system of the ancien regime was to have 
no system. The history of Revolutionary finance will be dealt with in a 
later chapter. We proceed to consider the resources of government, 
the machinery of financial administration, and the pressure of taxation 
in the reign of Louis XVL 

The domaine, or feudal property of the Crown, corresponding m the 
main to our Crown lands, sufficiently provided for the needs of the early 
Kings of France ; they " lived of their own," with more than sufficient to 
cover the expenses of their household and government. This favourable 
financial position stimulated, it is asserted, the growth of kingly power ; 
it pushed the monarchy in the direction of assuming new functions and 
extending its sphere of influence. On the other hand, it infected public 
finance tiU the end of the eighteenth century with a belated feudalism. 
The accounts of the King were his private concern, not to be divulged 
to a profane public becoming increasingly sensitive to its powerlessness 
in determining the forms or the amount of taxation. Bargains, exemp- 
tions, privileges, were at the will of the sovereign. Particularism 
degenerated into chaos. Various caiises, including, on the one hand, the 
alienation of royal properties by sales and gifts, and, on the other, the 
increase of expenditure due partly to the increased wealth and population 
of the country, partly to costly wars, reduced the King at an early stage 
to the necessity of appealing for additional resources. In 1439-51 
the Estates of Languedoil lost their control over direct as they had 
previously lost it over indirect taxation. The annual toiZfe amounted 
then to 1,200,000 livres, and was raised entirely from the Third Estate : 
the nobility and clergy were exempt. 

The taille was from time to time increased, until, on the eve of the 
Revolution, it produced 91 millions of livres. To escape payment was a 
mark of social distinction : magistrates and their subordinates, financial 
and Court officials, members and officers of the Universities, and other 
classes, secured exemption. Corporations and towns compoimded with 
the Treasury ; and the number of tailldbles continually decreased, while 
the total burden to be borne became heavier and heavier. In a few 
provinces the taiUe was based upon real estate and assessed upon a land 
register, thus becoming, in reality, a land tax. Elsewhere, it was 
personal and arbitrary. The total was fixed by the Royal Council once 
a year for each Skction, except in the pays cPHats, where the sum 
demanded by the Royal Council was voted and apportioned by the 
provincial assemblies. The am omit required from each Election once 
decided, the quota of each parish was arrived at by the iliis, at first 
nominated by the people, but already in the fifteenth century by the 

6—2 



68 Taille. -^Capitation, — Don gratuit. 

King ; and the share of each inhabitant was assessed by persons chosen 
in the parish. The assessment varied with the presumed wealth of the 
taxpayer and depended upon his mode of living and his apparent pros- 
perity. The contribution was collected by receivers chosen in the district 
and made personally responsible for the payment of the full amount. 
Taxpayers deliberately lowered their standard of livings and refused to 
stock or cultivate their farms to the best advantage, having found by 
experience that the increased taxation following upon any evidence of 
improvement was often more than sufficient to deprive them of the fruits 
of increased industry and enterprise. The taille was, in this way, a 
distinct check to the creation of wealth and to the increase of comfort. 
The Constituent Assembly pronounced it responsible for " a negligence, 
a deprivation, and an in^ubrity in the majority of rural dwellings, most 
injurious to the comfort and even to the preservation of the tillers of 
the soil." The so-called contrainte solidaire rendered the wealthiest 
inhabitants liable to iniprisonment until the whole taUle of their district 
had been paid, even though their own contributions had been faithfully 
discharged. If they made good the deficiencies of the collector, the 
parish was assessed a second time in one year in order to repay them. 
As many as 95 collectors in one ilection of Champagne were imprisoned 
at one time. 

The capitation, or poll tax upon the head of each household, was 
first established in 1695, during the war of the League of Augsburg and 
was suppressed after the Peace of Ryswick, but renewed in 1701 on the 
occasion of the Spanish War. It was regarded as a war tax, to be 
abandoned six months after the conclusion of peace, but was maintained 
tin 1791. The whole community was liable to it, according to a classi- 
fication which reposed upon status and not upon wealth. There were 
22 classes, in the first of which stood the Dauphin alone, assessed at 
2000 livres; in class 2, came the Princes of thei Blood, assessed at 1500; 
at the bottom of the scale, labourers figured at 40, 80, 10, 3 livres, or 
even at 20 sols. The clergy had compounded in 1695, and again in 1701, 
and had finally in 1709 agreed to pay 24 millions down, thus obtaining 
exemption till 1789. The don gratuit, or free gift accorded to the King 
by the clergy, was revised by them every five years. In its permanent 
form it dated from the Conference of Poissy, 1561, when it was fixed for 
six years at 1,600,000 livres ; but special grants were added on special 
occasions. Efforts to make the contribution compulsory were success- 
fully opposed by the clergy ; and, in return for their don gratuit, they 
claimed exemption from new taxes like the capitation and the vingtihne. 
In 1755 the don gratuit was settled at 16 millions, at which figure it 
stood unaltered until its abolition. The repartition of the burden 
was left to the clergy themselves. In 1758 a don gratuit was imposed 
upon the cities and towns of France for six years, but successive 
renewals continued it to the end of the centxiry. The pays d'itats and 



Indirect imposts. 69 



several towns made an annual subscription for capitation as in the case of 
the taille. The division into classes was made by the Intendants ; but, 
in spite of apparent equality, the Commons were assessed strictly (the 
taUle serving as a guide), while the Nobles were rated according to their 
personal declarations. They obtained, under various pretexts, indul- 
gences and exemptions to such an extent that they were estimated to 
pay only one-eighth of their fair contribution, while the peasantry 
contributed eight times their equitable quota. The capitation yielded 
21^ millions of livres in 1695, and upwards of 56 millions in 1789. 

The vingtiime^& kind of tithe, theoretically payable upon all pro- 
perty, real or personal — was first imposed by Desmarets in 1710, abolished 
in 1717, renewed 1733 to 1737, and again from 1741 to 1749. In 1749 
it was made permanent and fixed at the rate of one vingtieme and two 
sols the livre. A second mngtieme was imposed in 1756, and in 1760 
two vingtiemes and two sols a livre, making roughly one-sixth of all 
income. In this case also the pays cTetats arranged for a fixed annual 
subscription; and certain towns and corporations either subscribed or 
redeemed the tax on easy terms. The clergy, as already explained, were 
not separately assessed. The privileged classes successfully exerted their 
social influence to evade the strict assessment to which they were legally 
liable ; and Calonne declared that the total yield of the tax was only half 
the proper amount. The extent to which personal property escaped 
may be gauged from the fact that in 1785 only 2J millions were derived 
from personal as against 74 millions from real property. 

The aides were indirect taxes of the nature of excise duties levied 
chiefly upon alcohol, but also upon gold and silver ware, steel, iron, 
cards, paper, starch, etc. Various localities had purchased exemption in 
whole or in part, causing innumerable differences in the various parts of 
the kingdom. 

The traites or customs, etymologically transit dues, were tolls levied 
usually for the benefit of municipal or ecclesiastical corporations, or of 
nobles, upon goods passing across the borders of their properties. The 
Baron de Comere, who published in 1789 a treatise on finance, prepared 
a map showing the intricate divisions and subdivisions of France for the 
purpose of customs and excise duties, but declared it impossible to 
indicate the multiplicity and complexity of the barriers where transit 
dues were collected. It wotild seem indeed that not even the govern- 
ment possessed any complete record of them. They were in effect 
internal customs, requiring an army of collectors, and seriously fettered 
the interior commerce of the country, Colbert had endeavoured to 
secure uniformity and order by a general tariff; but the pays iTetats, 
jealous of their privilege of voting their own assessments, resisted him so 
effectually that he was unable to do more than make three great divisions 
for government purposes: (i) the five great farms (twelve Provinces 
mainly aroimd Paris and between the Somme and the Loire) ; (ii) the 



70 Gabelle and other burdens. 

"foreign" Provinces — Britanny, Auvergne, the south of France, Franche 
Comt4 and Flanders ; (iii) the places " reputed foreign " — Alsace, Lor- 
raine, Metz, Verdun, Avignon, Marseilles, Dunkirk, Bayonne, and 
L'Orient. Within these several districts there were no government 
internal customs, but private and mimicipal tolls were numbered by 
thousands. A boat from Languedoc to Paris laden with wine lost a 
fortnight in paying some forty tolls. 

Upon various smaller taxes, such as stamps, posts, tobacco, powder 
and saltpetre, and import dues, it is unnecessary to enlarge. The gabelle, 
or salt tax, deserves fuller consideration. The government monopoly in 
salt was stringently enforced. The country was divided into six districts — 
the ffrandes gabelles, petites gabeUes, salines, the pai/s ridimes, the provinces 
frcmches, and the^a^* de quart bouillon. The historical reasons for these 
distinctions must be sought elsewhere. Certain places and persons were 
Jranc-sali, or exempt. The price of salt varied in different districts from 
50 sols to 60 Uvres at the same time. Every individual over eight years 
of age was supposed to consume a minimum quantity of salt {sel de 
devoir), about 2f litres a year ; and (unless privileged) was taxed accord- 
ingly. Contraband was rife ; 50,000 troops and agents were employed 
to suppress it. It was forbidden to use sea water for cooking or manu- 
factures, to feed cattle in the salt marshes, or to di'ink at salt springs. 
Meat and cheeses could not be preserved for lack of salt; and the breeding 
of cattle was hindered. In 1783 there were 4000 domiciliary seizures ; 
2500 men, 2000 women, 6600 children were arrested. Out of 6000 
criminals at the galleys, one-third were convicted smugglers. The salt 
tax yielded some 60 millions ; the cost of collection was from 18 to 20 
millions'. 

Over and above these contributions, the people paid ecclesiastical 
tithes, local taxes {octroi, etc., in which the government sometimes shared), 
and feudal dues to their seigneurs, and contributed personal service or 
forced labour (corvies) upon public works ; for example, making and 
mending the roads, conveying troops, stores, etc. They also served in 
the militia to the number of 60,000 — selected annually by lot — and 
were burdened with billeting or the gratuitous lodging of soldiers. 
Each district was compelled to contribute its contingent to the militia, 
and substitutes were not allowed for fear of hindering enlistment for the 
standing army. Those liable to service sometimes fled to the mountains 
or the woods, and were hunted down by their neighbours who had no 
desire to serve in their stead. The privileged classes and their servants 
were exempt. 

The total burden of taxation might have been easily borne had it 

been fairly distributed. Forbonnais, one of the ablest and best-informed 

writers on French finance, wrote in 1758, " Prance would be too rich if 

the taxes were equitably apportioned." But the wealthiest classes, by 

' For a map of the districts otgabelles see Necker's Oompte Bendu, 1781. 



Collection of revenue. 71 

the purchase of oiScial posts or otherwise, joined the ranks of the privi- 
leged, and secured complete or partial exemption. The practice of 
fiirming;the indirect taxes to the highest bidder encouraged revolting 
harshness in collection. In his celebrated anonymous Theory of TaxU' 
tion, 1760, the elder Mirabeau, addressing the King, informs him that 
he has seen a tax-gathering bailiflF cut oft" the hand of a woman who 
clung to her cooking utensils when distraint was made upon her eftects. 
Collectors were appointed by a system of rotation, under which two or 
three persons each collected a year's taxes in turn. This primitive device 
for keeping the accounts of each year's receipts distinct occasionally 
resulted in conflicting claims upon a taxpayer in arrear for the current 
taxes, last year's taxes, and the taxes of the year before. Competing 
among themselves, the several collectors showed no consideration for the 
public; and it was left to Necker to exempt the bed and clothing of 
unfortunate debtors from distraint for taxes. Forcible resistance to arrest 
or to domiciliary visits was met with the extremity of armed violence. 
Adam Smith, with tmusual warmth, says: "Those who consider the 
blood of the people as nothing, in comparison with the revenue of 
the prince, may, perhaps, approve of this method of levying taxes." 

The practice of farming out a particular tax is of great antiquity. 
In 1697 the indirect taxes were leased collectively to a body of financiers, 
sixty in number, thenceforward known as the Farmers-general. They 
were appointed by the King for six years and paid an agreed sum in 
advance year by year. The leases were awarded by Court favour and 
led to much intrigue and corruption, always at the ultimate expense of 
the public. The farmer made large profits. " He levies," says Adam 
Smith (referring to salt and tobacco), " two exorbitant profits upon the 
people ; the profit of the farmer and the still more exorbitant one of the 
monopolist." In 1785 a government analysis disclosed 5 lbs. of salt and 
25 lbs. of surplus water to 100 lbs. of tobacco, a fraud of 23 per cent, in 
a farm yielding SO millions of livres. It was on the charge of this fraud 
that the farmers-general were guillotined during the Revolution. At a 
dinner party at Voltaire's the exploits of famous robbers were being related. 
Pressed for a story in turn, Voltaire began, " There was once upon a time 
a farmer-general," and, after some hesitation, " That is all ! " Some of 
the farmers were public-spirited and upright men. Beaujon founded a 
hospital. Helvetius, Dupin, and Lavoisier, bear honoured names in 
literature and science. But the system, convenient as it was to a govern- 
ment anxious rather for the moment than the future, deserves the stigma 
of Adam Smith as "wasteful and expensive." The ferme ginh-ale pro- 
duced S7 million Uvres in 1697, 64 in 1743, 90 in 1763, 112 in 1786, 
and 180 in 1789. 

The banking system of the country was so imperfect that the remit- 
tance of large sums from place to place was slow, troublesome, expensive, 
and almost dangerous. On this account collectors of taxes deducted from 



72 Lack of control 



the revenue the cost of collection and defrayed local charges out of the 
funds in their hands. The net receipts alone found their way into the 
exchequer; thspays tf^tofo contributed only their surplus;. and the total 
contributions of the people are therefore hardly discoverable. One 
example will illustrate this. Necker, in his Compte Rendu of 1781, returns 
the receipts from the fermes generaks unks at 48,427,000 livres^ They 
amounted in fact to 126,000,000, out of which were paid the salaries of 
the Parlement of Paris, the Chambre des Comptes, the Cour des Aides, 
part of the interest on pubUc debt, tithes, etc., in aU 77,673j000 livres. 
Twelve audit offices received the vouchers of their several districts; but no 
central authority resumed them as a whole. The Royal Council added 
the accounts together and ordered the local Chambres des Comptes to 
pass them without waiting for further examination ; and the summary 
was then signed by the King, leaving a blank for the total, tc admit of 
subsequent corrections. Acquits de comptcmt, or orders upon the Treasury, 
emanating from the King or the Controller-General, without specifying 
any service, were, not sent to the Chambre des' Comptes. Thus at least 
one-sixth of the expenditure entirely escaped audit. Other expenses 
might, for political reasons, be passed for audit by the Conseil d'Etat, or 
by the Bureau des Finances. The controllers or auditors, who purchased 
their offices,! were ordered to arrange with the local revenue officers 
(whose accounts they cheeked) for the payments due to them. Such a 
regulation was highly dangerous to the scrupulous conduct of their 
business ; and it is impossible to view without suspicion discrepancies 
which will now never be cleared up. The acquits de comptant received a 
great extension imder Madame de Pompadour. They increased from 
some 20 to 30 millions in 1739 to 117 millions in 1759. 

The annual ledger was disturbed by anticipations and repayments 
to such an extent that the accounts of a single year were frequently not 
closed for ten or twelve years. In 1789 the anticipations upon future 
budgets had risen to 282 millions of livres, or, according to the later 
statement of Cambon, to 325 millions. The Controller-General might 
indeed form an estimate of the normal revenue for the coming year; 
but his estimate of expenditure was liable to serious disturbance from 
capricious expenditure beyond his control. The acquits de comptant were 
increasingly abused; and the creations of pensions without adequate 
justification became a scandal of the first magnitude. The publication 
of the Livre Rouge, or register of pensions, bound in red, added fuel 
to the flame of the Revolution. In April, 1787^ Calonne informed 
the Assembly of Notables that the pension list amounted to a total of 
16 millions of livres. In 1790 Camus declared the true amount to be 
over 51 millions. Vouchers for payment were not always forthcoming. 
In some instances the pensions were charged upon revenue. The mistress 
of a minister received 12,000 livres a year on the contract for the 
bread of galley slaves. Economies were eflfected in the cost of public 



Increasing deficits. 73 

lighting by extinguishing lamps upon moonlight nights, and so-called 
" pensions on the moon " were accorded out of the saving. When public 
debts were created, fictitious creditors were entered as subscribers, and 
thus became virtual pensioners. In 1770 the State debt included some 
40 or 50 millions of imaginary capital on this account. One Ducrest, a 
barber, figured in the Red Book for a pension of 1700 livres as some- 
time hairdresser to a daughter of the Comte d'Artois who died as an 
infant before she had hair to dress. During the eight years 1779 to 
1787, the pensions charged in the Litire Rouge, including acquits au 
porteur and acquits de cofitptant, amounted to 858,824,250 livres. 

The deficit increased from year to year. Bankruptcies, or repudia- 
tions of part of the national obligations, occurred in 1715, 1721, 1726, 
1759, 1770. A Controller-General with a depleted exchequer raised 
money how and when he could. Money was coined lighter, with the 
result that foreign-made coin of the new weight crept into circulation to 
an amount estimated by Forbonnais at three hundred millions of livres. 
The payment of expenses, and even of interest on debt, was postponed 
to the following year ; moneys were borrowed or anticipated upon future 
budgets; loans were raised at usurious rates; unnecessary offices were 
created and sold, which amounted to borrowing upon annuities ; and 
in this manner a large floating debt was kept on foot until the issue of 
a new loan enabled the government to consolidate a portion of it with 
the ever-increasing public debt. Such a course made rapidly for financial 
ruin. The American War of Independence cost the French nation from 
1000 to 1200 millions. Cambon states the amount at 1500 millions. 
No less than 220 millions were still due on this account in 1783 
(Calonne), and 100 millions in 1784 (Necker). In their anxiety to 
do a mischief to England the advisers of Louis XVI precipitated the 
ruin of the French monarchy— as well by the example of American 
Independence; which they helped to bring about, as by their mortal 
blow at the finances of the struggling government. 

Economy in administration, a peaceful policy, a rigid and businesslike 
control of public expenditure, a clear and ordered system of public 
accounts, might have alleviated the difficulty. These were the expedients 
of Necker; but no permanent solution of the problem was possible 
without subjecting the privileged classes to their fair share of taxation, 
and to this their assent could not be obtained. Beyond this, the leaven 
of political liberty and the increasingly critical attitude of the public 
made it inevitable that the taxpayer should be admitted to a share in 
the direction of financial policy; The Parlement of Paris, a body of 
salaried judges who purchased their appointments, declared itself in- 
competent to grant permanent taxes ; but at the same time demanded 
the convocation of the States General, in order "that the nation might 
be instructed in the state of its public finances" before further taxes 
were conceded. The wordy warfare of eighteen months between 



74 Financial statements. 

Calonne and Necker as to the accuracy of Necker's statement of finance 
sufficiently illustrates the shadowy uncertainty which hung over financial 
administration. The publication, by royal permission, of the Compte 
Rendu of Necker in 1781 is an event of the first importance in the 
history of French finance. From the time of Richelieu it had been the 
policy of government to discourage and even to punish the public 
discussion of national finance. 

Necker's account was an estimate of the probable ordinary budget of 
the year, excluding war expenditure and other " extraordinary " charges. 
He (improperly) includes the cash balance in the Treasury as income of 
the year, and gives no account of the debt — a large part of which was 
floating or unfunded. Calonne based his criticism upon it in the main 
upon comptes effectifs, or figures of actual expenditure as certified by the 
Chambre des Comptes ; but these figures were in themselves exceedingly 
imperfect for the reasons already given, and much of the controversy 
turned upon the question whether floating debt and terminable annuities 
were to be regarded as permanent debt or as current expenditure. It 
will readily be seen that such simple questions as what were the receipts 
and the expenses of government, and the amount of the national debt, 
year by year, are not now susceptible of accurate answer : it may indeed 
be doubted whether an accurate answer could ever have been given. In 
1788 there appeared at Lausanne a collection of the public accounts of 
France from 1768 to 1787, usually attributed to Mathon de la Cour. 
These were prepared from the official papers of the Abbe Terray, of 
Turgot, and of Necker, and showed for the year 1774 expenses of 

234 millions, receipts 207 millions, to which Calonnp added 12^ millions 
of extraordinary expenses, chiefly connected with the war. Apparently 
some 165 millions of expenses over and above these amounts were paid 
out of gross revenue. In 1775, under Turgot, the expenses are estimated 
at 414J millions, the receipts at 377^, and the permanent debt charge at 

235 J millions. In 1776, under Clugny, the expenses were 402^ millions, 
the receipts 378^, while expenses charged upon future budgets amount 
to 50J millions. Calonne places the deficiency in this year at upwards 
of 37 millions. In 1784 Calonne sold to Burgundy the privilege of 
exemption from aides; and it is estimated that, out of the total 
borrowing of 1647 millions between 1776 and 1786 Calonne alone 
borrowed 650 millions and a half, at an annual cost of 45 and a half 
millions, in 41 months of peace. In 1786 the expenses amounted to 593 
and a half millions, the receipts to 412 and a quarter millions. In 1787 
the expenses exceeded 599 millions, while the receipts were estimated at 
474 millions, though Brienne admitted a deficit of 140 millions and antici- 
pations exceeding twice that amount. According to Bailly, the nation 
contributed in 1786 upwards of 880 millions, of which 558 went to the 
government, 41^ to the Provinces, and 280^ to private individuals and 
communities. Again, according to Bailly, the etai au vrai, based upon 



The Compte Rendu of 1788. 



actual receipts and expenditure and eliminating anticipations and repay- 
ments, showed the receipts of the Treasury at 364 millions, the expenses 
at 442,350,000. There were, however, in addition, 27,813,000 of 
pensions and 71,932,000 of arreai-s, making the total real deficit 
of 1785 177,640,000 livres. In 1789 the true debt amounted to 
4,467,478,000, with a charge for interest of 236,150,000. On the 
evening of April 30, 1789, there were in the Treasury 58,589,079 Imres : 
80 millions more were due to the Treasury, and 90 millions of anticipa- 
tions had been consumed in advance upon the receipts of 1790, with 
a further 172 millions upon the last eight months of 1789. 

These figures sufficiently show the desperate financial position of the 
French monai-chy on the eve of the Revolution — chronic deficit, in- 
creasing public debt, increasing pressure upon the taxpayers, resulting 
in increasing exasperation, intensified by the unfairness of exemption. 
Without further resources the King was hopeless. Before granting 
further resovu-ces, the people demanded guarantees against arbitrary fiscal 
oppression by large extensions of political power. The struggle to 
obtain this power and the opposition to its concession are the first 
chapter in the French Revolution. 

We are now in a position to examine the Compte Rendu of 1788, 
the last presented to the King before the convocation of the States 
General. It was prepared by Lambert, Controller-General imder 
Lomenie de Brienne, and is summarised as follows : 

Receipts: livreg 

Ordinary (gross) receipts 472,415,549 

Extraordinary receipts 168,130,500 

Total 640,646,049 

Expenses: 

1. Ordinary expenses and charges to be paid out of 

revenue 240,420,720 

2. Extraordinary expenses and charges to be paid 

out of revenue 6,656,285 

3. Repayments and charges to be paid out of revenue 13,629,667 

4. Ordinary expenses to be paid out of the Exchequer 286,834,369 
6. Extraordinary „ „ „ „ 22,739,300 
6. Repayments due at fixed dates 62,872,800 

Total 633,153,041 

At the first blush it might appear that there is here an 
estimated surplus revenue of 7,393,008 livres. In reality there is a 
deficit of 160,737,492 livres. The ordinary expenses (items 1 and 4) 
amount to 527,255,089, the ordinary receipts to 472,415,549 — a 
deficit of 54,839,540 livres on the normal budget. But if we add the 
extraordinary expenses (items 2 and 6) and the repayment of loans due 



76 



Receipts of 1788. 



in the year (items S and 6), the total becomes 160,737,492. It is 
converted into a surplus by treating as "receipts" a number of mis- 
cellaneous loans and sales amounting to 154,327,500 livres and a small 
balance of miscellaneous windfalls, 18,803,000. With this exception of 
less than 14 millions the whole of the extraordinary receipts are 
borrowings in one form or another. This estimate of extraordinary 
receipts was not realised. The cost of raising the loans is not accounted 
for. An enormous deficit is virtually treated as if it were revenue I 
The gross receipts, in greater detail, are as follows: 



Fermes gSnSralet: 
Gabelles ... 

Tobacco 

Entries {Octroi, etc.) of Paris 

Traite* 

Sundry receipts 



livres 

68,560,000 
27,000,000 
30,000,000 
28,440,000 
6,106,876 



livres 



2. General receipts (direct taxes), (failles, capitation, 

mngtiemes, etc.) ... ... ' 

3. Bigie gdn^rale {aides, etc.) 

4. Domaine ... 
6. Casual revenue 

6. Post-office 

7. Mailship service 

8. Tolls at Sceaux and Poissy 

9. Subscription for duties of maritime Flanders 

10. Gunpowder 

11. Royal lottery 

12. Vingtieme (subscribed for) 

13. Mint 

14. Assay, etc. 

16. Tithe (on Government salaries and peusions) 

16. iltats of Languedoc 

17. „ „ Britanny 

18. „ „ Bourgogne 

19. „ „ Provence ... 

20. General receipts, Languedoc and Roussillon 

21. „ „ Britanny 

22. „ „ Bresse, Bugey, and Gex ... 

23. „ „ Provence and locality around 

24. ,, „ Pau, Bayonne, and Foiz 
26. Due from the United States of America 

26. Forges of La Chaussade 

27. Due from towns for fortifications 

28. Miscellaneous receipts 

29. Don gratuit of the clergy ; pld debts, etc. 



160,106,876 

166,478,010 

61,940,000 

61,240,000 

6,665,000 

10,800,000 

1,100,000 

630,000 

800,000 

600,000 

9,860,000 

574,700 

533,774 

120,000 

966,761 

8,584,824 

6,116,400 

3,201,608 

1,997,031 

1,210,426 

496,060 

938,128 

896,431 

1,260,079 

1,600,000 

80,000 

661,652 

4,160,000 



Total 472,416,649 

Of this total 211,708,977 livres alone were receivable into the 
exchequer. The sum paid out of item 1 for cost of collection, charges 



The defects of French finance. 77 

assigned, etc., amounted to 132,305,658 livres: out of item 2, 43,134,100; 
item 3, 40,828,021 ; item 4, 14,017,550. Item 16 was insufficient by 
2,280,787 livres to meet the expenses charged for the year upon the 
financial agents in Languedoc. The net receipt under item 17 is 
8,073,421 ; item 18, 21,038 only. The only receipts which are nett as 
well as gross are 10, 12, 15, 25, 26, and 27. The items 6, 7, 8, and 14 are 
farmed. Item 25 represents a sum due from the United States in respect 
of French assistance during the War of Independence. Of the ordinary 
expenses about 100^ millions are for the War Department, 45 millions 
for the Navy, 9 millions for Foreign Affairs, nearly 32 millions for the 
Household of the King and the royal family, or upwards of 186 millions 
out of a total of 286. The last item had been very considerably cut 
down. Reductions of 36,266,837 livres had been made in the total 
estimate of expenses, but such reductions are not necessarily to be 
regarded as ultimate economies. 

In spite of the numerous reforms of Turgot and of Necker the 
finances of France on the eve of the Revolution illustrate every possible 
defect. The government did not pay its way. With gross receipts 
of 472 millions it had an annual charge of one half (or upwards of 
236 millions) for debt alone; and the debt was ever growing. A very 
small portion of it was productive of revenue. State railways, State 
telegraphs, and other modem assets to be set against public debts, did not 
exist. Practically the whole debt was the heritage of past misgovemment 
hung like a millstone around the neck of the nation. Delays in the 
payment of interest, the forced reduction of the rate of interest in violation 
of public faith, the risk of total repudiation, alarmed the wealthier classes 
of the bourgeois, the merchants, the financiers, and the new nobility, who 
were at once the government's chief creditors and its principal critics. 
The superior credit of England would have enabled her in case of war to 
raise easily and rapidly a large war loan, while France would have been 
at the mercy of her enemies. Her treasury empty, her credit exhausted, 
her resources anticipated in advance, she could hardly hope to hold 
her place as a great nation, if she continued to descend the slope of 
insolvency. After payment of the debt charge her revenues fell hope- 
lessly short of the minimum requirements of the public service ; and the 
most drastic economy would only have succeeded in retarding the final 
crash. The direct taxes pressed so heavily upon the tiers Hat that an 
increase was not to be thought of. Indirect taxes might, perhaps, by the 
operation of what is known as " the elasticity of the exchequer," have 
yielded an even higher return if they had been reduced. It is almost 
certain that an increase in these taxes would have failed to produce a 
higher revenue. The form of the taxes was odious to such a degree that 
in his Compte Rendu au Roi in 1781 Necker published his opinion of the 
gabelle in terms like these : "One universal cry rises, so to speak, against 
this tax. Thousands of men, ceaselessly attracted by the bait of an easy 
profit, devote themselves constantly to the illegal commerce of smuggling 



78 Intolerable burdens of the nation. 

salt. Agriculture is abandoned for a career promising greater and quicker 
returns. Children under their parents' eyes grow up in forgetfulness of 
public probity ; and thus, by a mere fiscal arrangement, is prepared a 
generation of depraved humanity. The evil resulting from this school 
of immorality is incalculable." The taxes took immensely more from 
the pockets of the people than found its way into the Treasury. Some 
of the taxes, indeed, hardly paid for the cost of collection. The 
apprehension of the taillable as to the amount of his assessment, with 
its attendant fatalism, broke his spirit and numbed his energies. 
Certainty, the great safeguard of the taxpayer, was wanting. Economy 
and efficiency were alike lacking in the mode of collection, and in the 
checking and ordering of the public accounts. Finally, equality, the 
first great requisite of taxation, was openly flouted. It was requisite 
that the people as a whole should shoulder the burden, sweep away local 
privilege and personal exemptions, unify the fiscal arrangements of the 
country, and decide for itself how best to support the weight of the 
national engagements. One of Necker's numerous adversaries declared 
that local inequalities were rather apparent than real, and that where the 
gaheUe was lightest the twlle was heaviest. This assertion was true only 
in part. So far as it was true it lessened the difficulty which would have 
been encountered in smoothing out the differences of taxation. 

The calculations of Taine, based upon the reports of the provincial 
assemblies from 1778 to 1787, show an average contribution of each 
taillable in respect of direct taxation (taille, capitation, vvngtieme, etc.), 
amounting to 53 fr. 15 c. for each 100 fr. of income assessed to taille. 
Over and above this the tithe is 14 fr. 28 c. The feudal dues are 
estimated at the same sum. The total was 81 fr. 71 c. on each 100 fr. 
of nett revenue ; and out of the balance of 18 fr. 29 c. there still remained 
to be paid the aides, gahelle, etc. As a set-off, the peasant received the 
services of the clergy, and even his seigneur rendered him some return. 
The monopoly of the lord's mill, oven, market, etc., was a bin-den; but it 
dated from the time when the lord alone possessed capital enough to 
construct the mill ; and his fees for milling may thus be regarded as an 
agreed bargain. But for the most part the absentee seigneur did little or 
nothing for the peasant. His duties of protection, succour, and charity, 
had fallen into disuse. The dues were often petty in amount, but on 
that account all the more irritating, owing to the time and trouble 
wasted in paying them long after their raison d'itre had ceased to be 
apparent. The lods et ventes were a more serious charge, amounting 
usually to one-sixth of the purchase-money, but sometimes one-fifth or 
one-fourth, upon the sale of land, or a lease for more than nine years. 
Under such weights as these the very springs of industry were broken. 
The active and industrious section of the community yielded up to its 
governors the capital which would have made its labours vastly more 
productive to the general well-being. Fiscal burdens were ruining alike 
the government and the people. 



79 



CHAPTER IV. 
LOUIS XVI. 

Louis, third son of the Dauphin and grandson of Louis XV, was 
bom on August 23, 1754, and was therefore in his twentieth year when 
he succeeded to the throne on May 10, 1774. In 1770 he had married 
Marie- Antoinette, youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, then fourteen 
years old. This marriage had been intended to strengthen the alliance 
between the Houses ■ of Bourbon and Habsburg, as were likewise the 
marriage of Ferdinand of Naples with the Archduchess Maria Caroline, 
and the marriage of Ferdinand of Farma with the Archduchess Maria 
Amalia. 

In person Louis was large and inclined to corpulence, with little 
grace of bearing and with undistinguished features. His intelligence 
was by no means contemptible. Although his education had been 
grossly neglected, he was thoughtful, liked reading, and possessed a 
degree of historical and geographical knowledge unusual among kings. 
His character presented an amiable contrast to that of Louis XV. He 
revolted against the vices of the Court in which he grew up; he took 
a serious view of his duty, was religious without fanatical intolerance, 
and tried to live in some accord with his profession of faith. He 
wished to improve the condition of the people, practised economy in 
his personal expenses, and always instinctively preferred upright men for 
ministers. Yet, with all these good qualities, Louis was unfit to be an 
autocrat, and doubly unfit to govern France on the eve of a revolution. 
Shy and unsocial, he spent valuable time in trifling mechanical pursuits 
or in the hunting-field, where he used to fatigue himself so much that 
he would afterwards fall asleep in Council when grave business was under 
discussion. He was unequal to prolonged toil or daring resolution, and 
so self-distrustful as to be readily swayed this way or that by those 
whom he liked or who had frequent access to his company. His very 
virtues thus became a snare, for, had he been a worse husband, he 
would have been less influenced by that unwise counsellor, his Queen. 
His lack of will was phenomenal. When you can keep together a 
number of oiled ivory balls, said the Comte de Provence, you may do 



80 Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. 

something with the King. It was thus that, when Louis had set foot 
on the path of reform, he was again and again diverted by sinister 
influences, or retreated before opposition which had no strength but in 
his own weakness. So,, when the Revolution began, he could resolve 
on no policy and would take no decisive measiu:e, but drifted on the 
current of circumstance. Sometimes, indeed, he was spurred into doing 
just enough to awaken suspicion, but only to sink back into the same 
lethargy and lose whatever advantage continuous action might have 
gained. Even at the last, when power was gone and it was only a 
question of saving life and liberty, the same failings wrought his 
destruction. In another age and country Louis might have proved an 
excellent constitutional King; but where fate had placed him he was 
no more than an ingloidous victim. 

His Queen, for very different reasons, was equally unsuited to her 
position. She began with the grave disadvantage of representing the 
Austrian alliance, which was unpopular both as a departure from French 
tradition and as the cause of many misfortunes to France. In the Seven 
Years' War France had lost her empire in India and America; her navy 
had been destroyed, her military renown had been tarnished, her finances 
had been ruined. England and Prussia, the authors of these calamities, 
were less detested than the Austrian ally for whom they had been endured. 
From the first arrival of Marie- Antoinette there was laid up against her a 
fund of grudge and suspicion, and in after years nothing was too bad to be 
believed of the Austrian woman. She was unfortunate in her education, 
for the Court of Vienna was singularly indiflFerent to intellectual interests, 
and the Archduchesses were brought up with little culture. Maria 
Theresa has testified to her owii neglect of her daughter, who could not 
write a good letter, had no taste for reading, and did not even possess 
any of the lighter accomplishments. She was still more unfortunate in 
being thrown, at the age of fourteen, into a Court where she had scarcely 
a friend and where no good was to be learnt. The heavy, listless youth 
to whom she was married did nothing' to gain her affection or respect. 
The old King, though well disposed towards her, was too slothful a 
voluptuary to think of governing his household. She fell under the 
influence of his daughters, three maiden ladies of feeble intelligence, 
gave herself up to childish amusements ajid unsuitable companions, and 
made no serious effort to imderstand PVench character or conciliate 
Frenbh opinion. 

As she grew up, Marie- Antoinette shook off this degrading depend- 
ence, and when children were bom to her she gained ascendancy over 
the mind of her husband. She remained, however, a thoughtless 
woman, frank to indiscretion, haughty towards those whom she disliked, 
little apt to take good advice, and headstrong in all her actions. She 
was capable of very warm friendship; but her bosom friends, such as the. 
Polignacs and the Princess of Lamballe, had neither the sense nor the 



1774] The Court and the Bevolution. 81 

strength of character to supply her deficiencies. She was compassionate 
to distress when it came before her in bodily form ; but she had not 
enough reach of mind to grasp the amount of suffering caused by reck- 
less and wasteful government. In affairs of State she always took the 
personal view, never the statesman's. For these reasons her interference 
in public affairs was often harmful, and brought upon her odium even 
out of proportion to the harm. She displayed noble qualities of 
courage and devotion in the closing period of her life; but even then 
she gave no proof of that talent for affairs which her mother had possessed 
in so eminent a degree. 

What the Queen lacked as an adviser Louis could not hope to find 
among his nearest relatives. His next brother, the Comte de Provence, 
though clever, was at this time a frivolous trifler, despising the King 
who disliked him, and a bitter personal enemy of the Queen. The 
Comte d'Artois, the youngest of the brothers, in after life an impene- 
trable bigot and dullard, now a mere fop and voluptuary, was on better 
terms with the Queen ; but his influence, such as it was, tended to the 
detriment of the King and the kingdom. Philip, Due de Chartres, 
afterwards Due d'Orleans, the King's cousin, was as yet remarked only 
for his dissolute manner of life. At a later period he became ambitious, 
showed a peculiar enmity to the Queen, and finally set himself up xmder 
the thinnest disguise as a rival to the King. 

It is no longer necessary for the historian to insist that the failings 
of Louis, his Queen, and his kinsmen, were not principal causes of the 
Revolution impending over France. The Revolution arose from the fact 
that the French people had entirely outgrown its institutions and must 
find new ones if its growth were not to cease. But the form which 
that Revolution should take was in large measure determined by the 
character of the man whom birth had invested with supreme authority, 
and by the personal influences to which he was exposed. A bold and 
able King, or even a King capable of holding firmly by a minister of 
genius, might have guided the course of events, might have made himself 
powerful by administrative reform, and popular by sacrificing the privi- 
leged orders, and might have prolonged the life of the monarchy while 
saving France from ten years of unutterable confusion. But, though 
Louis often saw what was right, he could not conceive or execute a 
policy; and, although he tried to choose honest and capable servants, 
he could not support them against noisy opposition. From time to 
time he would essay reform, abandon it, and take it up again only to 
let it fall, until he had taught even the most ignorant that the state of 
France was deplorable, but that they must not expect from the King any 
adequate improvement. No bigot, no tyrant, no shameless debauchee, 
ever educated his people to revolt more effectively than this sensible, 
well-meaning, and kindly King. 

The mere accession of a young and amiable pair in place of a 

C. M. H. VIII. 6 



82 First measures of Louis XVI. [i774 

widowed old profligate naturally called forth a loyal emotion, which was 
strengthened by the first events of the new reign. Louis found the 
public impatient for a change in the, conduct of affairs, which he was 
quite willing to make. Louis XV had done nothing since the close of 
the Seven Years' War to efface the memory of its disasters or to regain 
the goodwill of the nation. His latest advisers, the Due d'Aiguillon, 
who bore a very bad character, the Abbe Terray^ who as Controller- 
General had been the author of a fresh bankruptcy, and Maupeou, 
who as Chancellor had abolished the Parlements and replaced them 
with a new system of superior Coui-ts, were all exceedingly unpopular. 
The King disliked these men and resolved to dismiss them, but without 
recalling Choiseul, whom they had driven from power, for Louis was 
jealous at least of the semblance of authority and did not mean to give 
himself a prime minister. He chose for first Minister the Comte de 
Maurepas. It was an unfortunate choice, for the sole merit of Maurepas 
was to have been brought into disgrace with the late King by Madame 
de Pompadour; and age had made him feeble without making him 
serious. With Maurepas Louis called to office Miromenil as Keeper of 
the Seals, Vergennes as Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Comte de 
St Germain as Minister for War, and Tm'got as Minister of the Navy. 
Somewhat later Turgot became Controller-General, and Sartines took 
over the navy. Later still Malesherbes was named Minister of the 
King's Household. All these ministers were respectable, and three of 
them were men of eminent worth. 

The first appointments made by Louis were therefore welcomed by 
the best opinion in France. He gained still louder applause by re- 
nouncing the so-called "gift of joyous accession" and "the girdle of the 
Queen," commonly levied when a new sovereign came to the throne, and 
by promising in the edict of renunciation that henceforward frugality 
should prevail in the public expenditure and the claims of the public 
creditor should be fully satisfied. His intention in making this sacrifice 
was good, but its wisdom may be questioned. So long as there was a 
deficit the Treasury should not have parted with any source of revenue ; 
and until the finances could be reformed as a whole it would have been 
better not to raise sanguine expectations. The recall of the Parlements 
and the suppression of the new Coiuts before the end of 1774 were also 
popular and also unwise. The Parlements had been but a feeble check 
upon tyranny ; and their members, as lawyers, as privileged persons, and 
as traditional carpers at the royal wiU, were enemies of aU compre- 
hensive reform. They were barely reinstated when they began to show 
their mischievous temper ; and they must share with the Queen and the 
courtiers the blame of having defeated Turgot's beneficent designs. 
Yet Louis had perhaps no alternative. For it was scarcely possible 
to maintain the suppression of the Parlements when reversing his pre- 
decessor's policy in other things ; and public opinion, which in France 



1774] Turgot as Controller'General. 83 

had almost become a match for the power of the Crown, insisted on 
their restoration. 

One capital point Louis had secured. He had found the Controller- 
General best fitted to reform the finances. This was now the all- 
essential reform. If it were once achieved the Crown would have gained 
an independence and a popularity which would render all subsequent 
reforms easy by compa,rison. 

Turgot was forty-seven years of age. He came of a family long 
established in Normandy and respectable, though not noble. His father 
had held the office of Provost of the Merchants of Paris, the highest in 
the old municipal constitution of Paris. As the youngest of three 
brothers, of whom one was destined for the army and another for the 
law, Turgot was destined to take holy orders. He distinguished himself 
at the College of the Sorbonne, but he came to doubt the doctrines of 
the Catholic Church ; and, although his talent and character gave promise 
of high preferment, he was not one of those whom either the prospect of 
wealth and power or the more insidious temptation of doing good imder 
false pretences could move to palter, with his. own integrity. As soon as 
his father's death set him free, he gave up his studies for the Chiu^ch 
and entered the public service. In 1761 he became Intendant of 
the Limousin, a post which he held for thirteen years, and in which he 
gave a fine example of the good that might have been accomplished 
in France by skilful and humane administration. From these duties he 
was called to take a place, and presently the most important place, in the 
government. Although his practical experience was considerable, the 
cast of his mind was essentially speculative. He had reflected long and 
deeply upon political and economic subjects and had come to conclusions 
in most respects resembling those of the physiocratic school. Like them 
he was no enemy of the royal authority. On the contrary, he thought 
that a monarch could have no interest in making bad laws and was 
a better agent of reform than popular assemblies, which decide according 
to their prejudices and so make abuses perpetual. Like the Physiocrats 
he considered that agriculttire was the only industry which produced a 
real surplus, and that all taxes must in the last resort come out of 
agricultiu-al produce, and therefore thought a single tax upon land the 
best way of raising a revenue and all indirect taxation mischievous. 
Like them he believed absolute freedom of production and distribution 
to be the best, indeed the only means of ensuring the public welfare. 
But he would not proclaim himself a Physiocrat, for the Physiocrats 
were a sect, and he regarded the sectarian spirit as mischievous. 

He was one of the simplest and most disinterested of men. His 
tastes and habits were studious, and it was only the hope of doing 
good which led him to accept office. With a deep pity for the poor 
and oppressed he joined a masculine sense of justice. In all his reforms 
he was careful that none should suffer vmdeservedly and that all legal 

6—2 



84 Administration of Turgot. [i 774-6 

rights should be recognised. As a statesman he had some failings. His 
zeal led him to attempt too much, and his systematic turn of mind 
disqualified him for managing men. Ignorance of the low ways of the 
world left him open to cabal and mtrigue. A cold and self-contained 
manner chilled the ardour of friends and deepened the ilUwill of enemies. 
He studied perfection more than despatch. He spent infinite pains upon 
the preambles to the edicts which Louis put forth at his suggestion. 
They are admirable justifications of his policy, but we may doubt 
whether they had on the public any effect proportioned to his labour. 
Sometimes their language was positively indiscreet. The abuses which 
he a;ttacked were flagrant enough to draw the severest condemnation 
from a good and wise man; but a Minister of the Crown, speaking in his 
public character, was scarcely justified in denunciations so vehement as 
some that may be found in these preambles. He hoped, doubtless, to 
make the return to evil impossible. He only hastened the descent to 
revolution. 

In a very able letter addressed to the King on taking office Turgot 
explained the principles on which he should feel bound to. act. They 
were : — No bankruptcy, no new taxes, no loans. The deficit was to be 
made good by rigorous thrift. He warned the King that frugality would 
not be easy, and that he expected to bear all the odium of it without 
assistance. He gained the King's consent to a new rule that the 
heads of the different departments should incur no expense without 
consulting the Controller-General, and that the amounts appropriated 
to the different services should never be exceeded. He suppressed the 
so-called ordonnances de coniptamt, whereby the sovereign or the 
Controller-General had formerly authorised disburSeinents which never 
appeared in the public accounts. He put an end to the practice of 
forcing favoured persons as partners upon the capitalists who farmed the 
indirect revenues and were thus reduced to drive a more unfavourable 
bargain with the Treasiuy. He nobly refused the commission which the 
Farmers-General had paid to his predecessors. Finally he abolished 
several thousands of useless offices in the financial administration, but 
with his invariable honesty took steps to reimburse to the holders what 
they had paid for their places. 

While he thus sought to lessen the waste of public money he tried 
all fair means of adding to the revenue. Many rich persons had 
defrauded the Crown by evading or resisting inspection of their 
carriages and waggons at the barriers of Paris. Turgot checked this 
outrage by a severe ordinance, inflicting fine, imprisonment, and con- 
fiscation of the goods thus withdrawn from payment. The State had 
granted, on disadvantageous conditions, a monopoly for making gun- 
powder; Turgot availed himself of the grantee's neglect to fulfil his 
part, cancelled the contract, and took the monopoly into the hands of the 
government. He dealt in the same fashion with the monopoly of the 



1774-6] Removal of trade restrictions. 85 

Messageriea for running diligences and post-carriages. He introduced 
new order and method into every part of the financial administration. 
By all these means he eflFected a remarkable improvement. At the 
untimely close of his ministry he had already reduced the deficit and the 
anticipations of future revenue to a small amount, and had so raised the 
credit of the State that he had obtained from Dutch capitalists a loan of 
sixty million livres at 4 per cent, to pay off debts which his predecessor 
had borrowed at thrice that rate. 

This improvement was in Turgot's design the preliminary to the 
relief of the taxpayers, especially of the peasants. He could not yet 
remit taxes, but he could amend the mode of collection. He abolished 
the rule whereby all the inhabitants of a commune were jointly 
responsible for the taille, a rule by which many of the most substantial 
peasants were ruined every year. He transformed the corvie of transport 
for military purposes into a money payment. He abolished the corvie 
for making and repairing roads, and replaced it by a tax on all landed 
proprietors. As the revenue improved, he suppressed or reduced a 
number of petty indirect taxes, which tended either to make the 
necessaries of life dearer or to hinder commerce and industry. But the 
taxpayer might also be relieved by allowing him to use all his energies 
to enrich himself; and Turgot, we have said, believed in absolute economic 
freedom. He therefore restored free trade in com. The State had 
hampered the com trade in the most singular ways, by hindering 
merchants and farmers from keeping large stocks in hand, by forbidding 
exportation, and by setting a maximum price, while the Parlejnents had 
interfered in time of scarcity to keep com within the limits of their 
respective jurisdictions. The intention had been to ensure food to the 
people, but the efiect had been to discourage corn-growing, to bring 
about a large importation, and to deepen the misery of bad years. The 
system had long been denounced by the Physiocrats and had been 
partly abolished under Louis XV, only to be restored after one or two 
short harvests. By an edict of September, 1774, Turgot gave complete 
liberty to the com trade. Again the harvest was bad, and again the 
cry was raised that free trade in com meant starvation to the people. 
Riots ensued, and the Parlement of Paris protested against the 
Controller-General's innovations. But Turgot still had an ascendancy 
over Louis. The riots were put down and the Parlement silenced. 

A httle while before the end of his administration Turgot gave Uke 
freedom to the wine trade by cancelling all prohibitions against the sale 
in any part of the kingdom of wine grown in any other part. This 
reform was maintained after he had been driven from power and most of 
his work had been undone. But the public took more heed of another 
application of the same principle, the famous edict which suppressed the 
privileges of the gilds, leaving every man free to earn his livelihood in the 
way he thought best. Turgot was now preparing to remodel taxation 



86 Schemes for provincial gox)ernment. [i774-6 

on physiocratic maxims, to reduce indirect taxes and make direct taxes 
uniform. He was not allowed time to do this. But before he left office 
he gave Erench commerce a valuable auxiliary by founding the Caisse 
d'Escompte. Since Law's ambitious scheme had ended in ruin, France 
had remained without a national bank, and the very name was Unpopular, 
although the thing would have been useful. Tiirgot now authorised 
a joint-stock association to form the Caisse which should discount 
commercial paper, receive deposits, make advances, trade in bullion, and 
issue notes payable on presentation. Out of a capital of 15,000,000 
livres two-thirds were to be advanced to the Treasury and repaid in 
yearly instalments of 1,000,000; but this obligation was afterwards 
remitted. 

Turgot did not limit his projects to economic reform. The scheme 
for a system of municipal assemblies covering the whole of France, which 
his friend Dupont of Nemours drew up under his instruction, although 
never presented to the King, remains an interesting record of his 
political principles. An elective assembly in each parish was to send 
representatives to a higher assembly in the Canton, which was in turn 
to send representatives to a provincial assembly, and this finally was to 
send representatives to a general assembly for the whole kingdom. The 
franchise was to be reserved to persons holding land of the value of 600 
livres and upwards ; but no account was to be taken of the distinctions 
between the three Estates. The assemblies were not meant to have any 
legislative power, for Turgot, as has been said, distrusted parliamentary 
legislation. The parish assembly had no other function than electing 
deputies to the cantonal assembly. The 6issemblies of higher rank were to 
administer and advise, concerning themselves especially with public works 
and the assessment of taxation. By means of these graded assemblies 
Turgot hoped to ensure the fullest knowledge of details to the sovereign 
and the ministers, to call forth such a sense of duty to the commonwealth 
that the government would no longer be regarded by the subject as an 
enemy, and to form such a bond of union between men of all three Estates 
as might render possible a uniform taxation irrespective of privilege. 
Had the experiment been tried, the assemblies might have proved very 
useful, but it seems unlikely that they would have kept within the limits 
traced by Turgot or left the Crown an unfettered right of legislation. 
Turgot was aware that the execution of his scheme would lessen the 
royal authority, although his speculative bias hindered him perhaps 
from noting the rise of democratic sentiment in iVance. 

We now approach the period of Turgot's fall from power. He had 
done much good and had earned the applause of his wisest coimtrymen, 
but he had made many enemies, and his teniu-e of office rested on his 
ascendancy over the young, inexperienced, irresolute King. The first 
shock to that ascendancy was the restoration of the Parlements. Turgot 
must have feared and distrusted these bodies, but he probably thought 



1775-6] Opposition to Turgot. 87 

it hopeless to prevent their return. His friend Malesherbes wished the 
King to summon the States General, a step which would have reduced 
the Parlements to insignificance. But so long a time had passed since 
the meeting of the Estates that the experiment might well be con- 
sidered perilous. Besides, a medieval assembly like the States General 
may have seemed to Turgot likely to be as troublesome as the 
Parlements. He therefore contented himself with taking some steps 
to lessen their power of obstruction, and prevailed with the King 
to quash their resistance to the freedom of trade in corn. He then 
brought Malesherbes into the government as Minister of the King's 
Household. Malesherbes was known as an advocate of impartial taxa- 
tion, religious freedom, and the abolition of lettres de cachet, while his 
high character and attainments promised new strength to the adminis- 
tration. But he was a sensitive, fastidious man, indifferent to power and 
averse from conflict, though he lived to display in far darker times the 
serene comrage of a philosopher. The Parlements were still hostile. The 
Parlement of Paris ordered the suppression of a pamphlet by Voltaire 
in fevour of Turgot and free trade in com, and of another pamphlet by 
Boncerf against feudal rights. They next showed a desire to oppose the 
edicts for the suppression of the corvee and of the exclusive privileges 
of the gilds. Still Louis upheld his Minister. He summoned the 
Parlement to Versailles, held a " lit de justice " on March 12, 1776, and 
enforced registration of the edicts. But other enemies were gathering 
round Turgot. The clergy had long disapproved of his tolerance, 
especially of his endeavoin: to make the King omit that part of the 
coronation oath which bound him to exterminate heretics; and in 
September, 1775, their assembly had warned the King against such 
specious errors. All the interests which Turgot had alarmed, the bulk 
of the privileged nobles and citizens, the courtiers who disliked honesty 
in dispensing public money, and at their head the Queen and the King's 
brothers, conspired against Turgot. His well-known views as to the 
injurious nature of feudal rights having encouraged an a^tation against 
them in some Provinces, the Parlement of Paris seized the occasion to 
make a decree enjoining the punctual discharge of feudal liabilities. 
Turgot, understanding the challenge, asked the King to cancel the decree; 
but the King refused. Maiu-epas now ceased to support Turgot, and 
Miromenil opposed him openly. The Queen, incensed by the recall of 
her friend the Comte de Guines, ambassador in London, on the joint 
request of Vergennes and Turgot, broke loose from the restraining 
influence of the Austrian ambassador, and did all she could to overturn 
the Controller-General. Malesherbes now resigned. " How happy you 
are ! " said poor Louis ; " why cannot I also quit my place .'' " But he 
could make no head against the clamour of almost all who had his 
respect or affection. The enemies of Turgot proposed an obscure person 
named Amelot for the place of Minister to the Household. Turgot wrote 



88 Failure of attempts at reform. [i776-7 

several letters to the King, injudicious although prophetic. "It was weak- 
ness, Sire, which laid the head of Charles I on the block." In his despite 
Amelot was appointed to succeed Malesberbes ; the Comte de Guines was 
raised to ducal rank ; and on May 12, 1776, Turgot received his dismissal. 

So ended the power of the most illustrious Controller-General who 
had held the office since the death of Colbert. Turgot had made mistakes ; 
he had tried to do too much at once ; he had been wanting in tact and 
flexibility ; and he had refused to urge the calling of the States General. 
Louis was probably glad to be at peace once more; and all whose 
interests were contrary to the interest of the commonwealth rejoiced. 
But a much greater number who could not make their voice heard were 
sad, and the fiiends of progress who had hailed the young King as a 
reformer saw their mistake. Louis meant well, but he was unequal to 
his task ; and the feeling slowly grew that a radical reform mxist be the 
work of the nation. 

Turgot had not been the only reforming minister. Malesherbes as 
Minister of the Royal Household had visited the State prisons, had 
released a great number of prisoners detained by lettres de cachet on 
what appeared to be trivial grounds, and had been sparing beyond 
example in the issue of these odious warrants which he sincerely dis- 
approved. The Comte de St Germain had tried to render the French 
army once more efficient. He took as his model the Prussian army, 
generally allowed since the Seven Years' War to be the best in Europe, 
and copied the Prussian system, not without pedantry. By introducing 
the austere subordination, the precise discharge of duty, and the elabo- 
rate drill of Prussia, he offended all ranks of the service. The common 
soldiers were outraged by a rule which authorised the officers to strike 
them with the flat of the sword, a rule accepted in Prussia, where the 
bulk of the privates were of servile origin, but abhorrent in France, 
where a sense of dignity had spread far beyond the class of gentlemen. 
The nobles were incensed by the suppression of several of the ornamental 
Household regiments, and of many agreeable sinecures. When St 
Germain's opponents became formidable he was abandoned by Maurepas 
as Turgot had been abandoned in a similar situation. He kept his 
place until 1777, and some of the changes which he had made were 
lasting; but the chief result of his laboiars was to further that dis- 
affection among the troops which broke out in the early period of the 
Revolution. 

On Turgot's dismissal the place of Controller-General was given to 
Clugny de Nuis, whose brief administration was notable only for the 
revival of most of the abuses which Turgot had destroyed. The corvie was 
again imposed on the peasants; the com trade again put under restraint; 
the privileges of the gilds restored with some mitigations; even the 
corrupt practices in reference to the farming of the taxes were revived. 
Clugny's ingenuity was seen only in the establishment of a royal 



1776] Necker Finance Minister. 89 

lottery ; but he died in October, 1776, and it became needful to find an 
abler minister, for a war with England seemed probable. The French 
had hailed with natinral joy the dispute between England and her 
Amierican colonies; and when the first blood was shed in 1776, still 
more when the colonists proclaimed their independence in 1776, many 
Frenchmen felt that the time had come to avenge the loss of Canada. 
The colonists were aware of this disposition and tried to take advantage 
of it ; but the French government was slow in deciding. It could not 
be seriously aDeged that France had received any real injury from 
England. Louis was by nature the most peaceable of all the long 
Capetian line. We may safely assert that he did not consider taxation 
without representation sufficient ground for revolt, and that he did 
consider rebels as wrongdoers. Indeed Bertrand de MoUeviUe assures 
us that his final resolution to attack England caused him much remorse 
in later years. The disasters of the Seven Years' War were stiU recent ; 
and the French navy, in spite of all that had been done to strengthen it, 
and of probable assistance from Spain, seemed an imequal match for the 
navy of England. Turgot had resisted war as ruinous to his plans of 
financial reform, and unnecessary since the colonies even though imaided 
were sure to become independent. The King and Maurepas had agreed, 
and had resolved merely to help the colonists in secret; but the 
pressure of pubhc opinion and the wish to be ready for all emergencies 
led to costly preparations. Maurepas therefore proposed to divide the 
functions of the Controller-General, assigning the administrative part 
to a certain Taboureau, and the purely financial business to the 
celebrated Necker. 

Necker, so long believed by himself and the public to be a reformer 
equal to Turgot, was a native of Geneva, a Protestant, and a banker. He 
had made a large fortune — ^partly, gossip said, by manoeuvres such as 
men of the world judge very leniently; and he had frequently engaged in 
transactions with the French Treasury. He was really an excellent man of 
business, who mistook himself for a genius in finance. He had expressed 
opinions at variance with the physiocratic doctrine in a panegyric on 
Colbert, crowned by the , Academy. In particular he demurred to the 
absolute freedom of the com trade, and had gained a prodigious success 
by publishing a book on the subject at the very time when the oppo- 
sition to Turgot was gathering its forces. He had confirmed the repu- 
tation thus won by a series of memoirs on financial topics, submitted to 
the King and Maurepas. But, highly as he was esteemed and much as 
his help was desired, his religion debarred him from the title of 
Controller-General. He therefore received the style of Director of the 
Treasury, October 22, 1776, and after Taboureau's retirement that of 
Director-General of Finances, although from the first he enjoyed all the 
real authority of a Controller-General. 

Necker was quite competent to work a good system well. Not 



90 Necker's administration. [yiiG-si 

only was he versed in business, frugal, and laborious, but he was 
upright, nay, nobly generous as a public servant, for he refused to draw 
his ample salary. He shared the humane spirit of the age, he was 
anxious to do good and still more anxious to gain honour. But Necker 
possessed neither the highest talent nor the highest virtue. He was not 
a statesman with large and coherent views; he lacked the courage to 
speak unpalatable truths; he never clearly perceived the change that 
was passing over France, or rose to the real demands of the dangerous 
time in which he lived. He thought too much of his own spotless 
reputation and too little of saving the State ; he was eminently vain and 
self-conscious, and blended with his genuine good qualities something 
which we are occasionally tempted to describe as charlatanism. 

Upon taking office Necker had still to meet an annual deficit of not 
less than 24,000,000 Kvres, and to provide for the growing expense of 
warlike preparation. Circumstances thus imposed an economy agreeable 
to his own instincts. He therefore entered on a series of reforms. 
The expenses of the Court, which amounted to a twelfth of the total 
expenditure in time of peace, were the most palpable and frivolous, and 
the most unpopular part of the whole, and therefore that which most ob- 
viously called for retrenchment. Necker steadily opposed grants of favours 
and pensions, persuaded the King to approve the suppression of many 
ornamental but useless offices, and introduced various economies of detail 
into the royal housekeeping. The Queen, who did not relish these changeSi, 
often resisted Necker, and sometimes extorted favours for her friends 
against his will; but on the whole he was steadily supported by the 
King. Necker also suppressed many of the useless offices in the financial 
administration and simplified its mechanism. Here too the interested 
parties raised an outcry, and found spokesmen in the King's brothers 
and the Duke of Orleans; and here too the King held firm. Necker 
tried to regulate the grant of pensions which had hitherto been given 
on no fixed or rational principles. All demands for pensions were to be 
reserved for consideration at a certain time in each year ; a list of 
pensions expired and pensions conferred was to be drawn up every year 
for the Minister, so that he might restrict the new charges to the amount 
of the old ones extinguished ; and steps were taken to seciu-e punctual 
payment, hitherto grossly neglected. These regulations were sensible, 
but could not uproot the evil consequences of the absolute discretion 
enjoyed by the King with regard to pensions. 

Necker also tried to make the fiscal system more profitable to the 
Crown and less onerous to the subject. The system of farming the 
indirect taxes was more and more clearly seen to be wasteful ; but it 
could not be suppressed until the government had a large balance in 
hand, a thing hardly to be hoped in time of peace, and in time of war 
impossible. When the farm of the indirect taxes was renewed in 1780, 
Necker contented himself with taking the aides and some other impositions 



177&-81] Attempts at reform. 91 

into the hands of the Treasury, reducing the number of the Farmers- 
General, making a much more advantageous bargain with those who 
were left, and again suppressing the unjust favours which persons at 
Court extorted on these occasions. He wished to amend the gabelle 
on salt, but did not venture to meet the opposition of the favovu'ed 
Provinces. He suppressed that part of the vingtiemes which was paid 
by the industrial and commercial classes in the country districts, and 
made various small improvements in the collection of the taiUe. 

Necker essayed other reforms which were not merely financial, and 
began the establishment of provincial assemblies, that were to share in 
the administration and to point out abuses. At first Necker merely 
suggested to the King that, by way of experiment, a single assembly 
of this kind should be set up in the province of Berry. It recognised 
the distinction between the three Estates ; but the Third Estate had as 
many representatives as the clergy and nobles together, and all deliberated 
and voted in common. The members were not elected, but appointed 
by the government; and the powers of the assembly were narrowly 
defined, as Necker was not prepared to suppress the authority of the 
Intendant and his stafil Thus the new assembly resembled the old 
provincial Estates rather than the municipalities conceived by Turgot. 
Even this small concession to self-government proved so beneficial that 
in the following year Necker created two more assemblies of the same 
class in the gSniralites of Grenoble and Montauban respectively. 

Necker also gave freedom to the last serfs on the royal domain and 
tried to assist enfranchisement elsewhere ; but he lost the occasion of a 
notable reform by not enacting a general emancipation. He relaxed, 
but again did not abolish, the irritating rules which forced manufactvu:ers 
of cloth and other commodities to make them of certain sizes and 
descriptions. He declared the many toUs throughout the kingdom 
held by private persons or by corporations redeemable, and promised 
that the Crown would begin their redemption at the retvim of peace. 
All these reforms showed good sense and good intentions, but they aU. 
betrayed a certain timidity and inability to conceive large designs. 
Yet if we blame Turgot for trying to do too much good at once, it 
seems unfair to blame Necker for trying to do good piecemeal. 

Not all that Necker did to replenish the Treasury could countervail 
what was lost by the American war. The news of Burgoyne's surrender 
at Saratoga in October, 1777, gave the French government courage to 
promise that open help which the colonists had long implored, and to 
conclude a formal treaty with them in 1778. In the ensuing war with 
England France had nothing to fear on the side of the Continent. 
Spain first, then Holland, and finally the Baltic Powers, either allied 
themselves with Prance or threatened to break with England. 
Accordingly France was on the whole successful. The naval supremacy 
of England was broken down. During three successive years the 



92 Effects of the Ameiican war. [i776-83 

combined French and Spanish fleets swept the Channel, drove the 
English into their harbours, and kept Great Britain and Ireland in fear 
of invasion. In the Mediterranean Minorca fell, and Gibraltar seemed 
about to fall. In the Indian waters the French maintained a more 
than equal conflict with the English squadron. Beyond the Atlantic 
Comwallis was isolated at Yorktown, and his surrender ensxu-ed the 
independence of the colonies. Ireland clamoured for free trade and 
legislative equality. Although one or two glorious feats of arms enabled 
Great Britain to make peace on better terms than at one time seemed 
possible, the national spirit had fallen very low, and the most dis- 
passionate Englishmen often spoke as though their country was undone, 
or at least had for ever sunk from the dignity of a great Power. In none 
of the many wars waged between England and France has France gained 
so many successes and inflicted so much injury as iu the war which 
severed the American colonies from the mother-country. 

Thus the dishonour of the House of Bourbon and the losses of 
France in the Seven Years' War were signally avenged. The war had 
been most popular in France. As it was unnecessary to raise large 
armies, the cost in French lives had not been great ; and, as Necker had 
undertaken to defray the whole expense by loans, the taxpayer had felt 
no hardship, nay, had been enriched by the artificial energy which many 
industries derive from war. Yet in a few years England was seen to be 
greater and more formidable than ever, and the French monarchy was 
shown to have received a mortal wound. The war made almost 
impossible the reform of the finances, the first condition of all other 
reform. Thenceforwards another national insolvency was imminent, and 
the endeavour to shun it ended in revolution. A mighty impulse to 
democratic ideas was involved in assisting the Americans, whose prime 
grievance was that they had been taxed without their own consent. 
The American colonies were, if we except one or two small Swiss Cantons, 
the most democratic societies of that age. The Frenchmen who came 
to their help observed among them an equality of conditions and a 
general well-being, due chiefly to the inexhaustible resources of a new 
continent, but not the less striking. The Americans, in their Declara- 
tion of Independence, spoke a language of abstract philosophy more 
intelligible to Frenchmen than the traditional lore of English patriots. 
The Americans asserted, sword in hand, maxims which in France had 
been proclaimed loudly in drawing-rooms but scarcely whispered in the 
market-place. The blunt ways of the Americans, their simple though 
plentiful mode of life, their active and out-of-door occupations, made 
them appear to the heated French fancy a commonwealth of philosOphera 
or of antique heroes like Cincinnatus and Aristides, or possibly of 
natural men wise and virtuous and therefore free and happy, as man was 
everywhere until he had been debased by civilisation. Thus many of 
the French auxiliaries, among whom Lafayette was the most eminent, 



1776-81] Financial expedients. 93 

returned to France, feeling that they had seen in practice beyond the 
ocean what at home they had only read of in books, A people had 
proved able to declare itself free, to give itself a constitution, to shape 
its own destinies, and all this without returning to anarchy or even 
undergoing any dangerous convulsion. And when Frenchmen saw in 
succeeding years how their own ancient polity was failing, and how a 
sovereign deemed absolute could remedy few of those evils which he had 
himself condemned, they perceived no reason why their own nation 
should not do what the Americans had done, and regenerate France in 
a constituent assembly. 

The events of the American war have been recorded elsewhere. But 
we must not pass over the means by which Necker met the cost of the 
war. He knew the faults of the fiscal system, was unwilling to enhance 
the distress of the poor, and overrated the power of credit. He therefore 
imposed no fresh burdens, save that he prolonged to 1790 some few 
taxes which would otherwise have expired in 1780. He trusted to 
borrowing ; and his own financial skill and business connexions, as well 
as the general success of the French arms, enabled him to borrow great 
sums, although upon terms which we should not think favourable. 
Owing to the confusion of the French finances, it is impossible to state 
with any assurance the total amount of the loans which he contracted. 
The American war is supposed to have cost France nearly ^50,000,000 ; 
but it went on for some time after Necker's dismissal, and the payment 
of expenses went on for some time after the war ended. Gomel 
supposes that Necker borrowed in all about 530,000,000 livres, of which 
200,000,000 went to cover annual deficits and the rest in strictly military 
expenses. He floated his loans by representations of the state of the 
royal finances so flattering that charity can hardly suppose him to have 
believed them himself. He used, as had sometimes been done before, 
the credit of the pays cPHats, of the city of Paris, and of the Order of the 
Holy Ghost, and he induced the clergy to lend 14,000,000 livres, repay- 
able by annual instalments of 1,000,000. As he would impose no new 
taxes, he could not properly provide either for interest or for a sinking 
fund. And as the public was not likely to endure in peace heavier 
taxation than it had borne in war, we must allow that Necker 
prepared a grievous embarrassment for his successors and hastened the 
overthrow of the French monarchy. 

Necker's fall from office was due to an innovation more daring 
than any which we have yet mentioned. Secrecy, it has been said, 
was the rule of the French administration ; and, although the number 
of persons who concerned themselves with public affairs was always 
increasing, very little was really known about any of the departments 
of public business. In the finances the lack of order and method was 
such that even the King and the Controller-General were without exact 
information upon all points of consequence. It is not surprising that 



94 Necker's Compte Rendu au Roi. [i78i 

the notions entertained by the public should have been vague, or that the 
evils of the actual system, great as they were, should have been magnified 
in gossip. Necker resolved to interest the people in the finances. With 
the royal permission and the consent of Maurepas he put forth in 
1781 his Compte Rendu au Roi, a voluminous and particular statement 
of national revenue and expenditure. It is true that the wish to please 
and be admired, so potent a weakness in men of Necker's temperament, 
led him to draw an unfaithful picture, and without telling absolute 
falsehoods to make a false impression. Instead of showing wha;t had 
been raised and spent in the actual state of war, he drew an imaginary 
picture of revenue and expenditiure in a normal state of affairs : that is, 
in time of peace. Although hte said much about the imperfections of 
French finance, so as to heighten the merit of recent reforms which were 
fully described, he professed to show the existence of a surplus which had 
never existed in the eighteenth century. Great was the satisfaction of 
intelligent Frenchmen to find the national resources so ample; greater 
the enthusiasm called forth by the sensibility which Necker diffused 
through this as through all his other writings and speeches ; greatest of 
all the admiration felt for a Minister who had dared to enlighten the 
people because he had no motive for keeping the people in ignorance. 

Not such were the feelings of Maurepas. Although he had consented 
to the publication of the Account, he had not reckoned on the general 
emotion which it produced, and he felt jealous of Necker's mounting 
fame and influence. Necker understood that a cabal was forming against 
him, and believed that Sartines, the minister for naval affairs, was a 
ringleader. He therefore entered into an alliance with the Queen's friends, 
also hostile to Sartines, and urged the King to replace him by de Castries. 
Under the impression that Maurepas desired this change, Louis consented^ 
and was displeased to find that Matu'epas was adverse. Maurepas now 
became more openly hostile and employed against Necker such devices as 
prompting others to carp at the Account, and betraying to members of 
the Parlement of Paris a memoir drawn up by Necker for the King on 
the subject of the Provincial Assemblies, in which the conduct of the 
Parliaments had been severely censured. The Parlement therefore refused 
to register a decree for the formation of a Provincial Assembly in the 
Boulonnais, but had to submit on finding that the King still supported 
Necker. Exalted by this success, Necker sougjit to obtain a seat in 
Council with the style of Minister of State, honoui's hitherto withheld 
on account of his religion ; and, although his friends warned him to be 
prudent, he declared that he would resign if his wishes were not granted. 
When Maurepas assured the King that Necker's admission to the Council 
would be followed by the resignation of the other Ministers, Louis, 
against his own wish, and even against the wish of Marie- Antoinette, 
accepted Necker's resignation on May 19, 1781. 

We have seen that Necker was immeasurably inferior to Turgot, and 



I'TSi-a] Fleury and Maurepas. 95 

that his administration in some respects deserved the severest blame. 
Yet it was a mistake in Louis to part with Necker. For Necker was a 
reformer according to his powers ; and his retirement before the enmity 
of the futile Maurepas was a scandal to public opinion. Necker, even 
more than Choiseiil, was escorted home by the nation. His country- 
house became a court whither all who wished to be thought enlightened, 
humane, and lovers of virtue divorced from power, thronged to pay 
their respects. Many nobles came to wait on the banker, and even the 
Archbishop of Paris and other prelates paid formal visits to the 
Calvinist. Necker was not indeed the wiser or the happier for this 
homage, which confirmed his too flattering estimate of his own 
qualifications. But Louis had a second time thrown away that power 
which public opinion alone can give, and which a wiser sovereign could 
have tmned to such good account for himself and his kingdom. 

There now ensued a second reaction. The King left to Maurepas the 
choice of a Controller-General ; and Maurepas, who by this time had a 
settled distaste for the pretentious and troublesome persons known as 
reformers, fixed upon a dull and respectable veteran, Joly de Fleury, 
who, we are assured, never lost an opportimity of lamenting the diffusion 
of enlightenment. Fleury held office from June of 1781 to March of 
1783. But he and Maxu:epas thought it necessary to bruit abroad that 
they would follow in the footsteps of Necker. Fleury found that the 
surplus implied in the Account did not exist even in time of peace, and 
imparted the fact to Louis, who now first began to feel that dislike of 
Necker which afterwards became a fixed prejudice. As France was still 
at War, large sums had to be raised ; but the financiers did not extend to 
Fleury the confidence which they had placed in Necker, and, as borrowing 
was difficult, new taxes were inevitable. A third vingtieme was imposed 
in July, 1782. Then the Parlement protested, declaring that the 
taxpayer could pay no more and that the public money was squandered. 
It repeated these complaints even in the act of registering the edicts for 
fresh taxation. The Parlement of Besan^on made a like remonstrance. 
Although a deputation of that body was summoned to Versailles to hear 
a reprimand from the King's lips, they had scarcely retimied to Besanyon 
when the incorrigible Parlement demanded the convocation of the States 
General. The demand was little noticed at the time, but it was not 
lost. It is true that the Parlements had spoken without discernment, 
and that the war made new taxes the least of evils. Yet the feeble 
soverei^ and unwise Minister gave way and ventiu-ed on no further 
taxation. Instead, Joly de Fleury resorted to the worst of all the 
traditional resources, . making and selling a number of useless offices, 
especially in the financial department. 

The reaction was felt in other ways. A regulation dated May 22, 
1781, and passed against the will of Segur, then Minister of War, 
required sixteen quarters of nobility for all officers in the army, thus 



96 A Council of Finance. [i78i-3 

enhancing an unjust privilege at the very time when all privileges were 
more and more called in question. With similar blindness the Parle- 
ments reserved their best places for persons of at least two degrees of 
nobility. In many parts of France the seigneurs became unusually 
active in enforcing obsolete or doubtful manorial rights. The clergy 
gained a recognition of their claim to tithe certain crops lately intro- 
duced, such as lucerne and potatoes. But when the parish priests 
represented; the meagreness of their livelihood they were silenced by the 
government. Maurepas having died in November, 1781, the King leant 
chiefly upon Vergennes, an able man and a master in foreign policy, but 
little acquainted with finance or administration. The signing of the 
preliminaries of peace in January, 1783, was more welcome to the nation 
than to the Controller-General, who knew that he was expecbed to remit 
taxes which he could not spare, considering the enormous growth of the 
debt. Fearing to suffer for his own weakness and his predecessor's, he 
induced the King to set up a Council of Finance, t\fith the Controller- 
General as president, the other councillors being Vergennes and Miromenil, 
the latter of whom, as Keeper, would have to overbear the resistance of the 
Parlements. Such a council might have done good in devising ways of 
retrenchment, but the other Ministers, especially Segur and Castries, 
thought it humiliating thati a' new authority should be interposed 
between the King and themselves, while the courtiers viewed it as a 
hindrance to designs upon the Treasury. A strong cabal was formed 
against Fleury, who found that he no longer possessed the King's con- 
fidence, and resigned in March, 1783. 

Fleury was succeeded by Lefevre d'Ormesson, an honest and industrious 
man, but unequal to so perplexed a state of affairs. He feared to lay 
fresh taxes on the people, and hoped that with the return of peace 
borrowing and retrenchment might suffice. When he applied to his 
colleagues for an account of the financial position of their several depart- 
ments and suggestions for economies, they took no notice of his request. 
Thus ended d'Ormesson's hope of reducing expenses. The State was in 
fact without a head, for Louis would neither act as master himself nor 
uphold the authority of his Ministers. Driven to despair, d'Ormesson 
negotiated a secret ad ranee from the Caisse d''Escompte, the first of a 
series of transactions which ruined the Caisse without saving the govern- 
ment. Before long a crisis forced the Caisse to call for its money, which 
the Crown could not repay, so that it had to obtain a royal decree 
suspending cash payments. Thus d'Ormesson was thrown back, upon 
borrowing in the open market, and having filled up the measure of his 
discredit by other faults he retired in November, 1783. 

The definitive treaty of peace had been signed on September 3, 1783. 
But the effects of the course taken to raise money during the war 
remained. The state of the Treasury was worse than at any previous 
period of the reign, while the Crown had lost the confidence of the 



1783] Administration of Calonne. 97 

nation. It was so necessary to have an able and daring Controller- 
General that the King bestowed the office on Charles-Alexandre de 
Calonne. Calonne remained Controller-General for three years and a 
half, during which time he did more than any of his predecessors to 
hasten the Revolution. 

He could already number many years in the public service. He had 
been Intendant of Metz and afterwards of Lille, and had long been 
looking for the preferment which he now received. He was a courtly, 
engaging personage, eloquent, sanguine, open to large ideas, fertile in 
bold expedients, but incurably frivolous and unscrupulous. In private 
life a spendthrift and votary of pleasure, in public life anxious only 
to conciliate and astonish, he undertook, perhaps hoped, to set every- 
thing right without oflFending anybody. France, he had always said, 
possessed inexhaustible resources, and if the Crown were poor, it was 
only because the Ministers did not know their business ; and the saying 
had just enough truth to be dangerous. By a lively attack upon 
Necker's Compte Rendu Calonne had gratified Maurepas, although 
without gaining his patronage. He had, however, impressed many 
by his clever, daring talk; and even Vergennes was his friend and 
believed in his capacity. He could count upon the courtiers, who felt 
with unerring instinct that Calonne would not be morose about the 
public money. He had been pressed upon the King when Fleury retired, 
but the King disliked his character; and, as the Queen shared this dislike, 
Calonne was baulked of his ambition. But the resignation of d'Ormesson 
left the King without any resource if he would not recall Necker ; and 
he therefore silenced his doubts and gave to Calonne what he had so 
eagerly desired. 

The new Controller-General found the state of the Treasury far more 
alarming than he had supposed. He afterwards assured the Notables 
that when he entered on his office the annual deficit had risen to 
80,000,000 livres, the revenue had been anticipated to the amount of 
176,000,000 livres, and the outstanding debts of all kinds due by the 
government exceeded 300,000,000 livres. As the public had been kept 
in ignorance, and looked for a remission of taxes, it was impossible to 
meet these demands by new taxation. Retrenchment, according to 
Calonne, would have been equally perilous. For the government had 
need of all its credit, and credit can be kept up only by appearing to be 
rich. Calonne resolved neither to impose taxes nor to cut down expen- 
diture, but to win the confidence of the nation by showing unbounded 
confidence in himself, to borrow as recklessly in time of peace as Necker 
had borrowed in time of war, and to put his trust in the revival of 
business, the growth of prosperity, and the impetus given by a lavish 
outlay of the public money. His first measinre was judicious. He 
recalled the decrfee suspending cash payments, reorganised the Caisse 
dfEscompte, and did his best to strengthen it in public opinion. His 

c. u. H. viu. 7 



98 A policy of loans and expenditure. [i783-5 

second measure was astute. He persuaded Louis to suppress the Coimcil 
of Finance, thus freeing himself from the supervision of Vergennes, and 
gratifying the other Ministers who resented control. He then b^an the 
execution of his policy with a loan of 100,000,000 livres. He was thus 
enabled to make an apparent reform by paying punctually the dividends 
upon public securities which hitherto had been almost always in arrear. 
He gave out that he intended to abolish the internal customs-barriers 
which did such injury to commerce; but he never was in a position to make 
the immediate sacrifice required. The severe winter having caused much 
distress, he readily persuaded Louis to grant a large sum for relief, which 
was to be met by economies in the Court and Hotjsehold. He reduced 
the duties on certain articles of common use, such as coffee and sugar. 
He set up a sinking-fund which, though modest in amoimt, was by the 
magical potency of compound interest to pay off the debt in a short 
period. He actually paid into this sinking-fund the appointed sums for 
1785 and 1786, but then stopped for the vulgar reason that he had no 
money, and found that, notwithstanding all his ingenuity, a national 
debt can never be extinguished by borrowing even on the most audacious 
scale. He spent freely on useful public works, such as roads and 
harbours. He spent as freely in making friends at Court, gave to all 
who asked, paid the debts of the King's brothers, and enabled the King 
himself to buy Rambouillet and St Cloud, A fine harvest in 1784, 
and the expansion of commerce and industry owing to the peace, 
seemed to justify Calonne's hopes ; but his policy left him always 
in distress, and he had to renew the practice of creating and selling 
offices. By September, 1784, he was forced to issue another loan 
of 125,000,000 livres, alleging that it was needed to cover liabilities 
incurred in the late war, and promising various reforms in the incidence 
and collection of the taxes. But the Parlement, which had always 
distrusted Calonne, now took alarm, demurred to registering the 
edict for the loan, and presented a remonstrance to the King upon the 
growth of the public debt. Since his accession, it said, 1,200,000,000 
Uvres had been borrowed, and part at least of the recent loans had been 
wasted. Louis insisted on registration and the Parlement gave way. 
Although the loan was nominally issued at 5 per cent., the advantages 
given to subscribers brought the real return up to 8 per cent., a rate 
so tempting that the whole was speedily subscribed. 

In January, 1785, just as the public were beginning to feel somewhat 
anxious about the effects of Calonne's policy, there appeared, without the 
royal warrant, a new work by Necker, entitled The Administration of the 
Fimances of France, It contained much indirect praise of the author 
and blame of his successors, a description of the faults of the French 
financial system, and some remarks and proposals for improvement, 
usually of the most cautious character, for, even now, Necker did not 
contemplate the suppression of privilege in taxation. He still assumed 



1785-6] Increasing deficit. 99 

that the revenue balanced expenditm-e, and that the financial state of 
the kingdom was sound. Whatever the defects of the book, its success 
was amazing. Bulky as it was, nearly twelve thousand copies were sold 
in the first month, and in March a second edition was sold off. As the 
actual deficit at this time amounted to 100,000,000 livres a year, Necker 
had made it yet more difficult for Calonne ever to disclose the real 
condition of the Treasury ; and for this and for other reasons Calonne, 
resenting the pubheation, obtained a royal order exihng Necker from 
Paris. But this only gave fresh credit to the author and brought deeper 
suspicion on the Minister. Meanwhile Calonne continued to play his 
desperate game. He aimounced further measures for the reUef of distress 
in the country districts; he founded a new East India Company; he 
promxdgated new rules about pensions, and took steps to abate stock- 
jobbing ; he gratified pinists with a scheme for the payment of public 
creditors defrauded many years before by Terray, and gratified the 
courtiers as formerly by giving them everything they wanted. 

But even Calonne had at length to own that these were makeshifts, 
and that a State cannot borrow for ever. Taxation must be made more 
productive ; and, since the taxpayer could hardly be forced to pay more, 
exemptions must be abolished. Calonne thought therefore of taxing 
the clergy. He resolved to begin with an enquiry into the value of 
their possessions — an enquiry more than once meditated by former 
Ministers, but always baffled by clerical resistance. Here again his 
constant lack of ready money defeated a useful project. He had to 
demand from the Assembly of the clergy in 1785 an increase in their 
free contribution, and they in return obtained leave to reassemble in 
1786 and a promise that nothing further should be done till then. 
When the time came, they were able to stave off enquiry ; and Calonne 
had to comfort himself with a larger scheme for the taxation of all 
privileged persons. Such was his happy disposition that whatever he 
knew to be desirable he imagined to be easy. 

At the end of 1785 Calonne found it necessary to borrow again. He 
issued a loan of 80,000,000 livres and again overpowered the reluctance 
of the Parlement. The loan was introduced to the public with a 
flourishing statement of the financial position and an intimation that 
the sum now raised would be paid off in ten years. In 1786 Calonne 
gained his last successes : a favourable bargain with the Farmers-general 
and a commercial treaty with England. However empty the French 
Treasury, the French nation was at this time prosperous. Industry and 
commerce had thriven since the Peace of Versailles, and comfort and 
luxury were spreading. The wall lately built round Paris, so as to 
ensure payment on all commodities brought into the city, had swelled 
the proceeds of the octroi. Owing to these causes the yield of the 
indirect taxes had been increased ; and Calonne was enabled to lease them 
for the largest sum yet known. The commercial treaty with England 

7-2 



100 Confession of failure. \_nm 

was concluded in September. Such was the impulse given to trade 
between the two kingdoms that French imports into England increased 
in value from 21,000,000 Uvres before 1786 to 34^000,000 livres in 1787. 
Yet the treaty caused much discontent in some Provinces. For the 
French manufacturers, screened from all competition, were often inferior 
to their English rivals in machinery and in organisation, and were 
consequently at a disadvantage even in the home market. It was said 
also that French custom-house officers were lax as compared with 
English, so that English importers into France often evaded payment 
of duty, while French importers into England paid in full. Many of 
the cahiers of 1789 require that the commercial treaty with England 
should be denounced or at least modified. 

Calonne's experience only made him more reckless. As he could 
not venture on a new loan he now had recourse to expedients ; and in 
September he actually procured a decree of Council ordering the city of 
Paris to raise 30^000,000 livres for improvements, to be lent to the State 
during the interval before the works were begun. The end was evidently 
at hand. Calonne was forced to begin the bitter task of enlightening 
his dupesj and first of all his sovereign. In August he made a full 
statement of the financial position to Louis, saying that when he took 
office he had found an enormous deficit, that he had vainly tried to 
make it good since, that the actual resources of the State were in- 
sufficient, and that all new taxation must be uniform, admitting of no 
exemption. He therefore proposed a general land-tax (subvention terri- 
toriale^ and a stamp-tax. In order to gain the acquiescence of a 
disappointed and angry people, benefits would have to be conferred. 
Calonne therefore proposed that the corvee should be suppressed once 
more, that the internal customs-barriers should be removed, that the 
trade in com should be made free, and that elective assemblies with- 
out any distinction of Orders should be set up in all the Provinces. 
Thus the circle had been completed. In order to raise money Calonne 
proposed to enact once more the principal reforms executed or planned 
by Turgot and set aside after Turgot's dismissal. Within a space of 
littile more than ten years the policy of the State upon matters of the 
most vital consequence, matters afiecting the welfare of millions, was to 
be reversed a second time, not because! society had been transformed or 
because new enlightenment had been vouchsafed to Ministers, but merely 
because the circumstances of the moment made such a course seem 
opportune to those who misgoverned the kingdom. 

Calonne knew that the reforms which he advised would be resisted 
by the Parlements, and he despaired of overcoming their obstinacy 
unless public opinion could be enlisted on the side of the Crown. He 
therefore proposed to convene a Council of Notables chosen by the King 
from the Tluree Estates of the realm, and to gain their approval of 
his schemes. Such Councils had been called in former times, but the 



1786] A Council of Notables summoned. 101 

precedents were few and remote, and altogether at variance with that 
iinqualified absolute power which Louis XIV had bequeathed tb his 
descendants. To purchase the right of imposing new taxes by listening 
to the advice of subjects was to take the first step towards constitutional 
monarchy. In the actual temper of the public none could foresee what 
a Council of Notables might do, or what might be the consequences of 
its action. Almost any other King would have upbraided Calohne with 
his manifold deceptions, would have seen the risks inseparable from his 
project, and would have dismissed, even if he did not punish, a minister 
who had trifled away the last resources of the State. Louis acquiesced 
without a struggle. Calonne pressed for speed, and hoped to see his 
plan executed before the end of 1786. Vergennes and Miromenil, 
staimch upholders of the royal authority, disliked the proposal for 
convening the Notables, though they did not reject it, for they knew 
not what to propose instead. But they were opposed to haste, and they 
carried the King with them. Calonne was left to find ways and means 
for the interval. As the last loan had been taken up very slowly he 
would not issue another, but turned to the Caisse d'Escompte. The 
Caisse agreed to increase its capital to 80,000,000 livres and lend 
70,000,000 to the Treasury. In return it received a monopoly of issuing 
notes for the next thirty years. Calonne struggled on tiU December, 
when he was forced to beg again for prompt action, and the King 
declared that he would convene the Notables within a month. 

To us who look back upon the events that ensued this resolution 
appears big with momentous consequences. To Louis it seemed an 
escape from intolerable perplexity. He wrote to Calonne that he had 
not been able to sleep the night after his declaration, but that it was for 
pleasure. The public were less satisfied when it appeared from the 
terms of the summons that the Notables were convened merely to learn 
the King's intentions, for they contended that the only object was to gain 
the semblance of national consent to new taxes. A few discerning men, 
however, like Lafayette, Mirabeau, and Bailly, saw that matters would 
not end there. Calonne was careless about ensuring the nomination of 
persons who were at least not his enemies. The composition of the 
assembly was singular if we consider the use which it was intended to 
serve. Out of a total of one himdred and forty-four, forty-six were 
Princes or nobles, eleven were clergymen, twelve were members of the 
Council, thirty-eight were magistrates of the supreme Courts, twelve were 
deputies of the pays cPetats, and twenty-five were municipal officers. Thus 
the representatives of the Third Estate were few, and mostly of that 
official class which shared many of the prejudices of the higher ranks. 
The First and Second Estates, so deeply concerned in the maintenance of 
privilege, and the magistracy, at bottom so cbnservative, formed an over- 
whelming majority. Calonne probably hoped thus to disarm his natural 
adversaries, more especially the Parlements. For the edicts approved 



102 The Council meets^ [i787 

by the Notables would still need registration, and the Parlements would 
have the opportunity of contesting every reform a second time. The 
result showed how erroneous were the Minister's calculations. 

The actual meeting of the Notables was delayed by the illness and 
death of Vergennes. During the interval they remained idle in Paris, 
where they caught the spirit of discontent and criticism now general in 
the capital. Meantime Calonne behaved with his wonted frivolity. To 
the last he gave out that the finances were in excellent order and the 
debt in course of regular liquidation. He neglected to break the dis- 
appointment which he knew to be inevitable by taking some at least 
of the Notables into his confidence. Although he was about to propound 
a vast scheme of reform which would touch all the interests of a great 
people and require years for complete execution, he took no pains to 
formulate it until a few days before the session began. Not until the 
last week did he begin drafting the necessary papers. Talleyrand, who, 
though no expert in administration or finance, was employed by Calonne 
to draft the proposals regarding the com trade and to help in drawing 
up other parts of the programme, relates that Calonne did not send for 
him till February 14. On the 22nd the Notables met for the first time. 
During the previous five months Calonne had done nothing. 

After the King had opened the proceedings, the Controller-General 
set forth the necessities of the State and the remedies which he had to 
offer. He told the Notables that there had always been a deficit ; that 
it had been growing throughout the reign; that 1,250,000,000 livres 
had been borrowed in the last ten years, and that numerous sums were 
now due by the government to various creditors. He added that the 
existing taxes could not be made to yield more than at present, and 
that the only hope lay in the reform of abuses, particularly in the 
suppression of privileges. Then he announced the list of reforms. 
They included the formation of provincial assemblies, the imposition 
of a general land-tax and stamp-tax, the suppression of the vingtiemes 
and the corvee, the exemption of the nobles from the capitation, the 
reduction of the taille and the gdbelle, the restoration of freedom to 
the com trade, the improvement of the revenue arising from the royal 
domain, and various economies in administration and expedients for 
reducing the debt. Some of these proposals could only serve to con- 
ciliate the privileged orders. Others were real reforms. But taken 
together they could not be executed without long and patient labour. 
Thus Calonne announced the estabhshment of a land-tax payable by all 
land-owners. The due assessment of such a tax throughout a great 
kingdom implied processes of sin-veying and valuation which must extend 
over years. The gain to the Treasury from the new taxes would be 
gradual, while its loss in the suppression or reduction of old taxes would 
be immediate. In the near future Calonne's proposals would yield little ; 
but it was in the near future that a generous growth of revenue was 



1787] Opposition to the proposals of Calonne. 103 

needed, or rather it was needed at once. Even apart from their attach- 
ment to privilege, the Notables might well be smprised and angered by 
Calonne's statement. They were still more provoked by the frank 
avowal that the King's resolutions were fixed and that the Notables had 
only to devise the most suitable means for giving them effect. On the 
following day the Notables listened to the reports in which the several 
proposals of the government were explained at length. Then in 
obedience to the royal will they separated into seven bureaux, a Prince 
of the blood presiding over each, and proceeded to consider what they 
had heard. They were not long in raising many objections. They 
approved, indeed, the provincial assemblies, but demanded that they 
should be representative of the Three Estates. They criticised severely 
the project of a general land-tax. They called for accounts of public 
revenue and expenditure and insisted upon retrenchment. Calonne 
tried to overcome their ill-will in a conference with the presidents and 
select members of the bureaux. But, though he displayed an energy and 
an eloquence in strange contrast with his previous sloth, he could not 
cancel the effect of his disclosures or prevail upon the froward humour 
of the Notables. Weeks passed away ; the Notables remained in a very 
bad temper; and the public, although not admitted to their debates, 
applauded their obstinacy. 

At length Calonne, impatient at the resistance he encountered and 
hoping to overbear it by stress of public opinion, published his speeches 
to the Notables and the statements drawn up for their use, with an intro- 
duction which insinuated that the privileged orders were selfishly hostile 
to a scheme which would at once supply the Treasury and relieve the 
people. He did not pause to think of the consequences of thus making 
public opinion a judge and divider over both King and Notables. Nor 
did he weigh the power of reprisal which the Notables possessed. They 
at once adopted a formal protest denying the insinuation and declaring 
that they thought themselves in duty bound to have some assurance that 
new taxes were necessary; that economy appeared to them the best 
means of restoring the finances ; and that they had accordingly asked for 
full statements of revenue and expenditure which the Minister had 
obstinately withheld. As Louis allowed this protest to be published, it 
got abroad that he was wavering, while the public, already prejudiced 
against Calonne, received it with applause. 

The Notables having adjourned over Easter, Calonne persuaded the 
King to dismiss Miromenil on the ground that he had instigated their 
opposition and to make Lamoignon Keeper of the Seals. He then went 
on to ask for the dismissal of the Baron de Breteuil, the Minister of the 
King's Household, a personal friend of the Queen. Marie-Antoinette, 
who had always disliked Calonne, was now incensed against liim and did 
her best to drive him from power. With the help of the Comte de 
Provence and other great persons she succeeded. The King, indifferent 



104 Lomenie de Brienne. [i787 

to the Minister although resolved on his measures, tired and distracted 
and hoping to conciliate the Notables, gave way and dismissed Calonne 
on the very same day (April 8) on which he had dismissed Miromenil. 

Thus for the third time in his short reign Louis had let himself 
be deprived of a Minister, who, whatever his faults of character, was 
undoubtedly able, and whom he could not immediately replace with any 
fit successor. He named de Fourqueux, a plain, respectable man, 
Controller-General; but he was quite unequal to the task of carrying 
out Calonne's plans. Montmorin, who had succeeded Vergennes as 
Foreign Secretary, begged the King to send for Necker ; but Louis had 
now taken a dislike to him which necessity alone could overcome. 
Necker published another pamphlet to refute Calonne's statements to 
the Notables in so far as they reflected on his character. For this 
offence he was again exiled from Paris, a penalty which made him even 
more an idol than he had yet been. Louis himself convened the 
Notables for April 23, and made a judicious speech ; but they, although 
affected, continued to press for further particulars. Lafayette, who was 
one of the Notables, had expressed the opinion that they had no right to 
grant taxes, and this opinion began to gain ground among the rest. Thus 
time passed. Nothing was done ; the Treasury sank daily into deeper 
penury; and Louis was overcome by the difficulties which met him in 
every direction. The Queen now insisted that the time required a 
skilful and popular minister. She suggested Lomenie de Brienne, 
Archbishop of Toulouse, who had distinguished himself as a member of 
the Estates of Languedoc and as one of the Notables. He was made, 
not Controller-General, but chief of the Council of Finance, the position 
formerly held by Maurepas and Vergennes. Fourqueux was put aside 
and replaced by another man equally obscure, Laiurent de VilledeuiL 
Brienne had entreated the King to give him Necker for a colleague ; but 
Louis, fixedly averse to Necker and only half awake to his own danger, 
refused. Such was Brienne's reputation that even the liberal and philo- 
sophic party applauded his appointment. But the last clerical Prime 
Minister of France had nothing great about him save his ambition, which 
was boundless. He failed to humoxu: the Notables or to break the Parle- 
ments; he made concessions which earned only contempt, and reforms 
which excited no gratitude ; he left his master a King only in name, as 
bankrupt of authority as of revenue, and France in a condition scarcely 
to be distinguished from anarchy. 

When he took office, he had first to consider what he should do with 
the Notables. While yet one of their number he had eagerly opposed 
Calonne's scheme of reform, which as Minister he had to execute if it 
were possible. In a position so invidious he would perhaps have done 
well to dissolve the Assembly at once and try other expedients. Fearing 
to take this course he resolved to continue the session. By a lamentable 
story of the public needs and the promise of extensive economies, he 



1787] The Notables dissolved. 106 

persuaded the Notables to approve a loan of 60,000,000 livres. But this 
was his only success. Although he stated the deficit at a higher figure 
than any given by Calonne, he could not get their 9;pproval for the land- 
tax or the stamp-tax. They still declared that they had no taxing 
power. Only one of their hwreausc pronounced for the land-tax as a 
substitute for the vmgtiemei. Brienne therefore dissolved the Notables 
on May 25. 

The Notables had done nothing, but their assembly had momentous 
results. The King had published his distress and yet had obtained no 
relief. He had once more explained to the nation how grossly it was 
misgoverned, had propounded a great plan of reform, had announced his 
unalterable purpose to execute it, and had then wavered before the 
opposition of an assembly which had no representative character or law- 
making power. The Notables had called for further information, had 
insisted on economy, had raised objections to all new taxes, and had 
ended by suggesting that only the nation had the right to tax. Those 
of the Notables who were not themselves courtiers went home, to spread 
in every part of France their antipathy to the Court and their contempt 
for the Ministers. From this time the deference for the Crown, formerly 
so profoxmd in France, began to disappear. The King was still esteemed 
for his gentleness axid good-will ; but he was no longer thought competent 
to reform abuses. The Notables by their manifest unwillingness to give 
up privilege in taxation had also embittered the people against the First 
and Second Estates ; and the belief became general that France must 
have a new constitution before the disorder of the finances could be 



Freed from the Notables the Ministers had still to consider how they 
should deal with the Parlements. For they were still committed to 
Calonne's list of reforms, and it was certain that some of these would 
be opposed by the Parlements, if only to keep up their tradition 
and to gain the popular applause. Lamoignon wished the King to 
enact all the reforms in a mass, and if necessary to enforce registration. 
But Brienne, already weary and disheartened, would not face a conflict ; 
and Louis, always soft and hesitating, agreed with Brienne. It was 
resolved to enact the reforms part by part, beginning with those which 
were thought to be most generally acceptable. Three edicts, therefore — 
the first restoring freedom of trade in corn, the second creating in all 
the pays d'ilection assemblies like those devised by Necker, and the third 
commuting the corvSe into a money-tax — were presented to the Parle- 
ment and registered without a murmur. Then the ministers ventured to 
put forth a new edict imposing the stamp-tax. As aU new taxes were 
unpopular, the Parlement at once began to oppose. It appointed a 
committee to examine the project and resolved to ask the King for 
details of public income and expenditure. The King returned a very 
mUd answer. The public, especially in Paris, applauded the Parlement, 



106 Contest with the Parlement. [i787 

and the Parlement of Rouen echoed its protest. Still Brienne tem- 
porised, when in a sitting of July 19 a member of the Parlement, 
the Abbd Sabathier, used the memorable words, "It is not itats de 
jinanice (statements of accounts) that we want, it is Etats Gtrutrauxr 
This spark kindled a great fire. The Parlement at once drew up an 
address to the King, declaring that only the nation assembled in its 
States General could authorise a permanent tax. The address was 
coupled with fresh remonstrances as to the waste of public money and 
the need of thrift. The King and Ministers shunned a direct encounter, 
and presented for registration another edict imposing a general land-tax. 
Again the Parlem,ent professed its inability, and demanded the meeting 
of the States General. Louis would have shown his high displeasure ; 
but his Queen and Malesherbes, again a Minister, although without a 
portfolio, urged him to forbear. He therefore contented himself with 
holding a "Zi< de justice"" at Versailles on August 6, where d'Aligre, 
the President of the Parliament, and Seguier, the Advocate-General, 
in the strongest terms repeated their objections; but the edicts were 
perforce registered. Next day the Parlement met and declared the 
registration illegal and null. Still the Ministers wavered, while the 
people of Paris were wound up to the highest tension, and the King and 
Queen were reviled in outrageous terms. Brienne tried to make a 
diversion by announcing economies in the Household, but no man took 
any notice. The Parlement next ordered the prosecution of Calonne 
for misappropriating public money; and, though the Council annulled 
this order, Calonne fled to England. Then the Parlement repeated its 
censure of the enforced registration and its demand for the assembling 
of the States General. The public responded with a fresh burst of 
applause. Brienne and his colleagues now resolved to banish the Parle- 
ment to Troyes. The Parlement went triumphantly into exile and 
riots broke out in Paris. The Chambre des Comptes and the Cour des 
Aides, which had taken the same tone as the Parlement, escaped with 
a gentle reprimand. The exiled magistrates continued their protests, 
which were echoed by the other Paaiements, while the ministry, pressed 
on one side by want of fimds, and on the other by public opinion, could 
not move forwards or backwards. It was of no avail that Louis bestowed 
on Brienne a fresh mark of confidence in the title of Principal Minister, 
which obliged his colleagues to prepare the business of their respective 
departments with him before submitting it to the King. 

The coufse of foreign afiairs helped to complete the discredit of the 
Ministers. In the United Provinces the historic feud between the House 
of Orange and the republican party had broken out afresh. The 
republican party had usually regarded France as their friend and had 
procured a treaty of alliance with France in November, 1785. England 
and Prussia, jealous of French ascendancy, supported the cause of the 
Prince of Orange, William V. At length the rancour of the parties 



1787] Compromise with the Parlement. 107 

rose to actual civil war. Frederick William II, King of Prussia, took 
advantage of an affront to his sister Wilhelmina, the Stadholder's wife, 
to assemble an army on the Dutch frontier; and the English govern- 
ment made an alliance with him and fitted out a naval force. The 
French government could not see unmoved the ruin of their party in 
Holland. They promised the republicans armed support and resolved 
to form a camp at Givet. But every active measure was hindered by 
want of money and of public confidence. Segur, the Minister of War, 
and Castries, the Minister of Marine, resigned because they could not 
move Brienne to do what they thought necessary. They were replaced 
by the Comte de Brienne, the Archbishop's younger brother, a man 
of no consequence, and by the Comte de la Luzerne, then commanding 
in St Domingo. As Frederick William now felt certain that France 
could and would do nothing, he sent Duke Charles WiUiam Ferdinand 
of Brunswick to invade Holland, where no resistance was made. France 
did not even try to intervene on behalf of her friends. The Orange 
party thus became supreme, PVench influence in Holland was destroyed, 
and French weakness was displayed to all Europe. These events could 
not but sharpen the contempt felt by the French people for their rulers 
and embarrass still further the conduct of affairs at home. 

In August Laurent de Villedeuil resigned the office of Controller- 
General, and was succeeded by Lambert, a man equally obscure, the third 
Controller-General in five months. About the same time the contest 
between the Crown and the Parlement was closed by a precarious peace. 
Brienne despaired of success against the violence of public opinion, and 
was more than ever in need of money. The Parlement began to tire of 
its stay in a provincial city and feared to wear out its popularity. Both 
parties were thus disposed to treat. The Council indeed annulled the 
resolutions taken by the Parlement in August, and prolonged its exile 
over the vacation. But when the Parlement deputed d'Aligre to set 
forth the obstacles to the dispensation of justice arising from its stay at 
Troyes, he found a gracious reception with the King and the chief 
Minister, who consented to suppress the edicts for a stamp-tax and a land- 
tax. All that the Parlement would do in return was to register an 
edict, prolonging the time during which the increased vingtiemes could be 
levied. It is true that even by this small favour the Parlement belied 
its former declaration of inability to grant taxes. On these terms the 
Parlement returned to Paris, September 24, 1787, amid the rejoicings of 
the people, and with the proud sense of a complete victory over the 
Crown. 

It might have been foretold that the conflict would presently be 
renewed. Resistance to the government was highly popular and in no 
way dangerous. The Parlement was not restrained either by accurate 
knowledge of the necessities of State — ^for it had no part in administration, 
or by large views of public policy — for its stubbornness was mainly an 



108 Renewal of the contest. [i787 

affair of sentiment and tradition, or by the feeling which sobers an oppo- 
sition in a free commonwealth that it may be called upon to govern — 
for the function of the Parlement in politics was purely negative. On 
the other side the government was sinking ever deeper into penury and 
contempt. About this time Calonne published his RequMe au Roi with 
the object of clearing his own character and showing that he had always 
acted with the knowledge and approval of the King. He injiu:ed the 
King more than he benefited himself. He did not spare Brienne, and 
here his accusations were not thrown away. The public now began 
to reckon the chances of national bankruptcy; and the fund-holders 
became eager for the meeting of the States General as the only means 
to a thorough reform of the finances. Thus the very class which is 
usually most attached to the existing order of the State had learnt 
in France to wish for something little short of a revolution. 

Forced to raise money, and yet afraid of the Parlement, Brienne 
took up once more the policy which had failed with Calonne, the 
combination of reforms with measures for filling the treasury. He 
resolved to issue a series of loans amounting in all to 120,000,000 livres, 
but spread over five years, to promise the convocation of the States 
General, and to relieve the Protestants from one of their greatest 
hardships, the denial of civil status. The Protestants being neither 
able nor willing to partake of the sacraments of the Roman Church, 
their births, marriages,, and deaths were left without legal record, 
and all their relations of family and property were thus kept in 
doubt and confusion. It was now designed to supply such a record 
without relieving Protestants from any of their other disabilities. At 
Brienne's instance the King held a " royal session " of the Parlement on 
November 19, in which the decrees for the loan and for restoring a civil 
status to Protestants were presented for registration. At a "royal 
session," herein diflering from a " lit de justice^ the members of the 
Parhment were allowed to state and to justify their opinions ; and the 
discussion had lasted some time when Lamoignon spoke to the King, 
who suddenly cut short the debate and ordered immediate registration. 
The Duke of Orleans complained of this proceeding as irregular; but 
the King refused to listen and took his departure. The Parlement 
continued its sitting, and disclaimed all share in the registration of the 
edicts. There is reason to believe that, if the debate had not been 
interrupted, the majority would have accepted registration. The 
Ministers had therefore made a fresh mistake; but they could not 
overlook such an affront to the sovereign as was implied in the conduct 
of the Pa/rlement, and were forced to begin again the hopeless struggle 
with these obstinate lawyers. The Duke of Orleans was ordered to 
retire to his country-house of Villers-Cotterets, and two of the boldest 
magistrates, Freteau and Sabathier, were imprisoned by lettres de cachet. 
A deputation of the Pa/rlement was summoned to Versailles to hear a 



1787-8] Provincial Assemblies. 109 

rebuke from the King and witness the erasure of the offending 
resolution. The Parlement answered with remonstrancesj and was 
abetted by most of the provincial Parlements. The Parlements had 
won for a moment the place they had always desired as leaders and 
spokesmen of the French nation and seemed a coimterpoise to the 
power of the Crown. But it would be a mistake to credit them 
even now with insight or with large views of government. They set 
themselves against even the small measure of toleration which the 
Ministers had resolved to bestow on the Protestants. It was not until 
June, 1788, that they consented to register this edict. With regard 
to the finances they had no constructive policy. And of the results 
which would flow from the summoning of the States General they 
had, as the event proved, no forecast even approaching the truth. 

The new Provincial Assemblies created in June met before the 
close of the year, but rather exasperated than calmed the public mind. 
Their constitution disappointed some reformers, because all the original 
members were chosen by the Crown, and were only to be replaced 
gradually by elected members. Some provinces, like Hainault and 
Dauphine, would have preferred the revival of their historic Estates. 
In other Provinces the Parlements resisted to the utmost the in- 
stitution of the new assemblies. When these hindrances had been 
overcome and the assemblies met, they proved not unworthy of the hopes 
cherished by the government. The members of the different Estates 
showed a spirit of cordial cooperation and industry in devising reforms. 
But the assemblies, the first endeavour towards local and popular 
control, were not easily harmonised with the old administrative system, 
rigidly despotic and central. Some friction was unavoidable. Moreover 
in these assemblies the gathered discontent of all classes found utterance; 
and, as the age was in the highest degree rhetorical ,and sentimental, 
their members sometimes used language directly tending to encourage 
disorder. The Ministers had hoped that the assemblies would help in 
the collection of taxes, but did not find them very useful for this 
purpose. A valuable improvement, but one which could be perfected 
only by time and with the advantage of quiet, had been hurried through 
amid increasing anarchy, and so proved a new perplexity to its authors. 
Few governments have sacrificed so much in power to gain so little in 
popularity as the government of Louis XVI. 

The year 1788 opened without any change in the condition of 
France. The Ministers tried to conciliate opinion by such activity as 
the state of the revenue allowed, and in March, 1788, they redeemed a 
royal promise by publishing a statement of receipts and expenses for 
the current year, which Gomel has pronounced the fullest and most 
trustworthy of those published before the Revolution. It showed, 
indeed, a deficit of 160,000,000 livres, which could not easily be made 
good by borrowing, since no capitalist would lend without the sanction 



110 Proposed judicial reforms. [i788 

of the Parlement to the loan'. The Parlement, conscious of its power, 
persisted in denouncing the severities of the previous November, and in 
asserting the right of individuals not to be deprived of liberty save by 
legal process. The spirit of criticism and resistance became more and 
more general, and pamphlets were multiplied beyond all former pre- 
cedent. The language of the Parlement was so revolutionary, and its 
endeavours to disable the government from borrowing money or levying 
taxes were so imscrupulous, that the ministry resolved on a bold 
stroke. Two of the ringleaders of the opposition, d'Espremenil and 
Goislard, were to be seized and imprisoned; and the Parlement, as an 
institution, was to be transformed. That a body created to administer 
justice should presmne to exercise a veto on laws and taxes was itself 
anomalous ; and this body in its own sphere was not free from reproach. 
The judicial system of France, if system it could be called, was the 
gradual result of ages, and in many ways ill-suited to modem French 
society. The same might be said of law in France, for the criminal law 
remained in many particulars barbarous and inhuman. Brienne and his 
colleagues proposed therefore to connect the abolition of the veto 
claimed by the Parlement with a reform of the law and the judicial 
system. Their designs were supposed to be secret, but were in fact 
well known to the Parlement. On the night of May 4, when 
d'Espremenil and Goislard were to be arrested, they took refuge in the 
Palace of Justice, whence they had to be torn by military force on the 
6th, after an impressive display of fortitude and majesty by themselves 
and their colleagues. 

The Parlement now suspended its sittings, and on May 8 was 
summoned to a lit de justice at Versailles. The King there announced 
the remodelling of the judicature. A new Cour PUniere was to take 
the place of the Parlement, the senior members of the old Coiu?t being, 
however, eligible to the new. The Cour PUniere was alone to exercise 
the office of registration, the provincial Parlements being henceforth 
restrained to strictly judicial duty. The relations and powers of the 
inferior Courts were to be so amended as to make justice more cheap 
and speedy. The conflicting bodies of custom which had force in 
diflerent parts of the kingdom were to be harmonised. Criminal 
procedure was to be reformed, and in particular the use of torture to 
obtain evidence was to be abandoned. The King also promised that 
the States General should be convoked as often as the condition of public 
affairs made their meeting advisable. The President replied with a 
protest that the King could not violate the fundamental laws of the 
realm. He added that the Parlement was to suflfer merely for having 
asserted that only the States General could tax the people. The 
Cour des Aides and the Chambre des Comptes, when required to register 
the edicts, repeated the protest of the Parlement. The public was 
divided, for the abuses of the judicial system were keenly felt and its 



1788] The provincial Parlements. Ill 

reformation was very widely desired; yet the circumstance that the 
refusal of the Parlements to register tin edict was the sole constitutional 
check on despotism secured perhaps a majority of voices in their favoiu:. 
The Ministers who had gone thus far should at least have seen the 
impossibility of retreat and therefore the wisdom of acting with vigour. 
Yet they did nothing further towards establishing the Cour PUniere, 
but were content to keep the members of the Parlement idle at 
VersaUles. Neither Calonne nor Brienne seems ever to have understood 
the danger of annoimcing reforms which they were not able or not 
resolved to carry. These Ministers called every part of the old polity of 
France in question and then left it little altered. Thus they tutored 
the French people in revolution. 

Even if Brienne could flatter himself that he had overthrown the 
Parlement of Paris, his work was only half done until the edicts had 
been registered by the provincial Parlements. These bodies had been 
accustomed to obey the political impulse of the Paris Parlement. They 
resented the edicts which, by taking away the power of registration, 
ended their influence in public aflFairs, and they saw in the suppression of 
the Parlement of Paris a menace to themselves. Most of the provincial 
Parlemsnts were therefore determined to resist the edicts as long as 
they could ; and their means of resistance were formidable. The distinc- 
tion between the noblesse of the sword and the noblesse of the robe, 
which severed so deeply the courtiers of Versailles from the lawyers of 
Paris, was much fainter in the Provinces. By birth, by social intercourse, 
by common interests and prejudices, the members of the provincial 
Parlements were closely bound to the provincial nobility. This nobility, 
poor and proud, tenacious of its dignity and privileges, had long been ripe 
for mutiny. It bore a bitter grudge against the grandees who surroimded 
the King and intercepted his favours. It winced under the despotic 
sway of Ministers and Intendants. It had lately seen its chances of 
promotion in the army curtailed for the benefit of the higher nobility, 
and it now saw its seigniorial jurisdiction assailed by the new edicts. It 
resolved to stand by the Parlements to the last. In some at leeist of 
the Provinces, such as Beam, Britanny, or Dauphine, the opposition had 
a peculiarly strong case. For these Provinces had come imder the direct 
sway of the Crown only by virtue of solemn pacts which guaranteed 
them in the enjojmient of their own laws and institutions. If the new 
edicts could be shown to infringe these chartered rights, the whole force 
of provincial patriotism would be enlisted in the Parhamentary opposition. 
The middle class at first took little part in resisting the edicts, 
although the lawyers generally followed their professional superiors. 
But the provincial nobility had many dependents both in town and 
country, and did not reflect upon the danger of raising the mob against 
the government. The Provinces were accordingly foremost in resistance 
to the royal wiU. In Beam the Parlement delayed registration as long as 



112 Resistance to the edicts. [i788 

possible. When it had been suspended from its functions, an insurrection 
broke out, which was only calmed when the Parlement resumed its place 
and duties. The victorious Parlement pronounced its unwilling registra- 
tion null, and declared all who should assist in executing the edicts to be 
out of the protection of the law. The government, thus openly defied, 
would have been content with formal submission; but, as even this was 
refused, it sent an order for the whole body to appear at Versailles. When 
they arrived, Brienne's ministry was drawing to a close, and they were 
sent home without pimishment or even rebuke. In Brifemny the Parle- 
ment refused to register tiie edicts, and the representatives of the three 
Estates supported its action most strenuously. Bertrand de MoUeville, 
the Intendant, and the Comte de Thiard, the commandant who had been 
charged with the duty of enforcing registration, were furiously assailed 
by the mob, while the troops showed an unwillingness to use force which, 
in a free country, would have been deemed criminal. As in Beam, so in 
Britanny, the Parlement declared the registration null, and pronounced all 
who had any concern in the edicts traitors to King and country. The 
magistrates, it is true, submitted to lettres de cachet, exiling them from 
Rennes. But thereupon the commission of the Estates, which acted for 
the whole body between its sessions, took up their cause and sent a 
deputation to remonstrate with the King. The Ministers denied them 
an audience, and even sent them to the Bastille. This tardy vigour 
merely produced more deputations. In Dauphine the Parlement 
declared that if the edicts were not withdrawn the people would consider 
themselves released from their allegiance. The government as usual 
replied with an order for the arrest and exile of the magistrates. 
Then the populace of Grenoble rose against the garrison, and forced the 
commandant, the Due de Clermont-Tonnerre, to restore the magistrates 
to their places and to confine the soldiers to barracks. The Parlement, 
behaving with unusual decorum, stayed just long enough to calm the 
multitude, and then quietly withdrew, each man to his appointed place 
of exile. 

In this resistance to the edicts of May we trace two distinct motives, 
jealousy of provincial privilege and weariness oif absdute rule. The 
edicts taken as a whole embodied a great reform ; and it was significant 
of the time that good laws should excite rebellion among a people which 
had so often tamely submitted to the worst. The forbearance, nay the 
weakness, of the Ministers is equally remarkable. They might have 
taken a higher tone if they could have trusted the army. But the 
officers, swayed by liberal ideas or by aristocratic sympathies, were almost 
everywhere unwilling to use force even under the grossest provocation ; 
and where the officers were lukewarm the private soldiers could not be 
expected to hold out against the multitude. Yet the historian must 
own that the government of Louis XVI treated rebellion with an 
indulgence which amounted to abdication. While employing arbitrary 



1788] The meeting of Fizille. 113 

words and forms inherited from a very different state of society, it showed 
hesitation and gentleness inconsistent with strong government. 

Brienne was as unsuccessful with the clergy as With the lawyers. In 
May he tried to get an increase in the don gratuit. The clergy refused, 
and chose commissioners to draw up a remonstrance to the King, in which 
they took the side of the Parlements and claimed all their old privileges. 
This remonstrance was presented in Jime. In reply a royal decree 
recognised the immunity of the clergy from taxation. It thus became 
apparent that the King and the Ministers either did not understand 
their own policy or were not in earnest with it, since they laid down 
principles merely to discard them, and ended by confirming the abuses 
which they had assailed. Had they known it, there was no more to fear 
from the selfishness of the privileged orders; for the provincial 
Parlements had by this time diffused a spirit of resistance through the 
whole community, and it was the nation which henceforth had to be 
considered by the sovereign and his advisers. In Dauphine this memor- 
able change was first manifested, and the assembly of ViziUe marked a 
further approach towards revolution. 

On June 14, 1788, the noblesse of Grenoble held a consultation with 
representatives of the other Orders, and agreed by their own authority to 
revive the ancient Estates of Dauphine. The Third Estate was to have 
as many representatives as the other two, and all were to deliberate and 
vote in common. The meeting was fixed for July 21, and the resolu- 
tions to be proposed were drafted by Jean-Joseph Mounier, a young 
lawyer of Grenoble, who had distinguished himself in the recent troubles. 
It is not surprising that the Ministers should have treated this conduct 
on the part of a number of private men as an act of rebellion and have 
sent down the Marshal de Vaux with troops to restore order. But the 
Marshal found such a fierce unanimity in the Province that he deemed it 
better to consent that the assembly should meet, so long as the meeting 
was not at Grenoble. The leaders were willing to hold it at 
ViziUe, a few miles distant. On the appointed day nearly five hundred 
deputies met there, among them Moimier, who was chosen secretary, 
guided all their proceedings, and may be termed the first parliamentary 
statesman of the French Revolution. The resolutions now submitted to 
the assembly condemned the edicts of May, demanded the convocation 
of the States General and of the Estates in each Province, and required 
that in the Estates of Dauphine the Third Estate should have as many 
representatives as the nobles and clergy together. They also declared 
that the Estates of Dauphine would never consent to any taxes not 
granted by the States General or separate their cause from that of the 
other Provinces, and insisted upon the abolition of lettres de cachet. 
After the deputies at ViziUe had voted these resolutions, and had 
declared their own assembly permanent until the edicts should have been 
withdrawn, they adjourned until September 1. The efifect of their 

C. M. H. VIII. 8 



114 Enquiry into the States General. [iV88 

proceedings upon public opinion was incalculable. An entire Province 
had given itself a political constitution, and had announced its resolve to 
gain one for the whole kingdom. The deputies had insisted, it is true, 
upon their provincial rights, but only as a temporary makeshift, and had 
been careful not to separate the interests of Dauphine from the interests 
of France. In the same spirit they had implied, although they had 
not presumed to assert, that in the national assembly the Third Estate 
must have a deciding voice. Opposition to arbitrary power was hence- 
forward to be based not upon ancient forms but on modem needs ; 
not on the privileges of any order but on the rights of the people i, not 
on the peculiar laws of a Province but on the common patriotism of all 
Frenchmen. 

Brienne and his colleagues were angry but had neither spirit nor 
resources to overcome this new opposition. All through the smnmer 
deputations, complaints, and protests had been multiplying. The 
Ministers had tried to silence agitation by a severe decree of Council 
dated June 28. Only a week later, a new decree betrayed their 
bewilderment. After observing that the number and qualifications of 
the electors and the elected, and the procedure of elections for the 
States General had never been precisely determined, this decree required 
municipal and other officers to search for documents illustrative of these 
matters and to send them to the provincial assemblies for consideration 
and report. It also invited all men of learning to make independent 
enquiry, and to send the results of their labour to the Keeper of the 
Seals. By this decree the Ministers doubtless intended to show that 
they were in earnest, and also to give the public a new theme which 
might divert them from sedition. But it showed what a venture was 
made in summoning the States General, and how ill the Ministers under- 
stood their own business. Where there was no continuous tradition of 
parliamentary government, the Crown should have decided doubtful 
questions with reference to the needs of the age, instead of distracting 
the public with a useless discussion. Even the decree of July brought 
no rest to Brienne's ministry. The King, bewildered by the storm, ceased 
to attend to public business, and spent nearly aU his time in hunting. 
Brienne was worn out; Breteuil resigned; the Treasury was almost 
empty ; and the time seemed close at hand when there would no longer 
be a government. It was resolved therefore to hasten the assembling of 
the States General. A decree of August 8 fixed their meeting for 
May 1, 1789, and suspended the establishment of the Cour PUnih-e. 

Even this abridged interval seemed more than France in her existing 
condition would endure. The ever-increasing agitation, with its occa- 
sional outbursts of brutal violence, had checked business; and a very 
bad harvest announced a season of distress. The government was so 
poor that even the movement of troops required to maintain order was 
more than it could well afford. Authority had fallen into such contempt 



1788] Necker Minister of Finance. 115 

that it was more and more difficult to collect the taxes, and the public 
creditors were now so thoroughly alarmed that to borrow had become 
impossible. A decree of August 16 announced that for the present a 
large proportion of the public liabilities would be paid in paper. As 
the Caisse d''Escompte had lent so much of its capital to the Treasury, 
this decree involved another, giving its notes forced circulation. Thus 
the deficit with which Louis began his reign had now grown into 
insolvency. There was only one man in France whose credit could 
supply the credit of the State or enable the form of government to 
linger on until May of 1789. Anxious to save Brienne from disgrace, 
the Queen tried to gain Necker. But Necker would not link his 
fortunes with an unpopiUar Minister ; and, as Necker alone could find a 
supply, the King had to dismiss Brienne. He retired on August 25, 
loaded with favours which would have been ample for the most successful 
statesman, and which reflect little honour on himself or the King. 

Necker now became Minister of Finance, with the style of Secretary 
of State, and was admitted a member of the Council. The King and 
Queen, although unfriendly, submitted perforce to all his recommenda- 
tions. The public were hysterical with delight at his return to power, 
and the funds rose 30 per cent. But the tim6 was long past when 
Necker could have restored the vigour of the State ; the sovereign had 
lost his dignity, the people had forgotten to obey, and the common 
wants of the administration could be met only by daily contrivances. 
Necker had no other ambition than to reach without further tumult or 
downright bankruptcy the day on which the States General were to 
meet. With the help of the financiers who trusted him he scraped 
together a little money to meet pressing claims ; and to improve credit 
he obtained the recall of the edict enjoining the Treasury to pay its 
debts partly in paper. In order to shorten the agony he induced the 
King to declare that the States General should meet in January, 1789; 
and in order to calm the public, he obtained the dismissal of Lamoignon, 
the suppression of the new judicial system, and the restoration of the 
Parlements to their old functions. With far less cause than before the 
Parlemeni resumed its old part of opposition; The mob of Paris, 
constantly growing more unruly, had wished to celebrate the downfall 
of Brienne and Lamoignon by burning their houses, and only desisted 
when Dubois, the commandant of the watch, gave orders for the soldiers 
to fire. The Parlement immediately on its return summoned Dubois 
to answer at its bar for his conduct, thus setting the precedent so often 
followed in the Revolution of treating the suppression of savage riot as a 
crime. But the Parlement was speedily punished by the loss of that 
popularity for which it had laboured so hard. When it registered the 
decree convoking the States General, it added the condition that they 
should be held as in 1614, each Order sitting as a separate House and 
voting separately. This proviso, as enabling the clergy and nobles to 

8—2 



116 Assembly at Romans. [ivss 

control everything, was rejected by all who looked for comprehensive 
reforms. From this time onward the ParUment was hardly ever named 
without reproach, and was ignored in all political combinations. Within 
three years it was destroyed almost without a voice raised in its behalf. 

The King and Necker were hardly wiser than the Parlement. In a 
coimtry unused to free institutions every course was full of danger; but 
the least dangerous would have been the adoption of principles already 
applied in the provincial assemblies, double representation of the Third 
Estate, deliberation in, common, and vote by head. Had the Crown 
boldly accepted these principles, it might have regained much of its lost 
influence and have exercised a steadying control over the States General. 
But Necfker, afraid to decide, advised the King to reassemble the Notables 
and to consult them. When they accordingly assembled on November 6, 
they gaye the advice which might have been foretold. Only one bureau 
voted for the double representation of the Third Estate, none for 
deUberation in common or vote by head ; they insisted upon observance 
of the ancient forms; and their one concession to public opinion was 
in renouncing all exemptions from taxes. They were dissolved on 
December 12, after causing some loss of time and helping to diminish 
Necker's popularity.. It was now impossible that the States General 
should meet before May. 

Meanwhile the political leaders of Dauphine had set forth the 
demands of the people. We have seen that the irregular assembly of 
VizUle had adjoiuned, after presenting to the government a list of 
reforms amounting to a revplution. Always anxious to conciliate, 
Necker had sanctioned the renewal of its session, only requiring that it 
should meet at the little town of Romans, twenty leagues from Grenoble. 
It met again on September 10. The president named by the Ministers, 
Lefranc de Pompignan, Archbishop of Vienne, was known for his liberal 
opinions ; yet the president in the former session, the Corote de Morges, 
declared on behalf of the assembly that they recognised him in that 
character merely out of respect for the King, and without prejudice to 
their inherent right to name their own officers — a protest to which the 
Archbishop himself gave his adhesion. After this display of independ- 
ence the assembly began to consider; the subject to wluch the Crown 
had limited its powers, the constitution of the new provincial Estates. 
It adopted Mounier's proposal that the Estates should consist of one 
hundred and forty-four deputies, of whom the Third Estate should 
choose seventy-two, the nobles forty-eight, and the clergy twenty-four. 
All were to deliberate and vote in common. Yet the plan was in 
some respects not democratic, since only two places were assigned to 
curh, and thesie had to be proprietors; while only nobles of one 
himdred years' standing and a certain property qualification could be 
elected, and, in the Third Estate, only those who paid a certain, sum in 
taxes could vote, and only those who paid a somewhat larger sum could 



1788] Representation of the Third Estate. 117 

be deputies. The assembly having adjourned, a decree of the Royal 
Council confirmed the plan •with some slight amendments. When the 
assembly met again in Noveiwber, it called these amendments in question, 
as not having been registered in any Court of the Province, and rejected 
them all, an act which it held to require no confirmation by the Crown, 
and which no Minister ventured to challenge. 

The assembly of Romans also addl'essed a letter to Necker asking for 
the double representation of the Third Estate ; but on this point, doubt- 
less, Necker had solicited their opinion. A grteat number of municipal 
and other assemblies had followed their example. Even the Parlement 
of Paris, in the hope of regaining power, had pronounced for the doublte 
representation of the Third Estate, although not for the other demands. 
Most of the pamphlets which were published at this time in immense 
numbers enforced the popular view of the question. On the other side 
the Comte d'Artois and several Princes of the blood addressed to the 
King a protest against any concession. Necker, who watched the 
course of public opinion with his usual anxiety to please all parties, was 
deeply perplexed and at length took a middle course. He advised the 
King to give the Third Estate double representation, but not to 
determine the other points. A royal ordinance decided that the deputies 
to the States General should number at least one thousand; that in 
distributing representation regard should be had both to population and 
to taxation; and that the representatives of the Third Estate should 
equal in number those of the clergy and nobles. The ordinance was 
prefaced with a report by Necker on the points in dispute, which aiBFOrds 
the clearest proof of his inability to divine the future course of events 
as well as of his wish to please or at least not to offend men of all 
conditions. Both documents were dated December 27, 1788, and were 
published under the singular title of "Risidtat du Conseil du Itoi.'" At 
first received with favour, because of the assurance of double represen- 
tation of the Commons, they were less liked when the public had time to 
reflect how much they left undecided. The royal letter convoking the 
States General, and the regulations determining who should possess the 
franchise and how the deputies should be elected, bore the date of 
January 24, 1789. All was now ready for the elections, which began a 
few days later and took several months to complete. 

A new series of disorders had sprung from the bad harvest of 1788 ; 
and Necker had returned to the practice of regulating the com trade. 
In September the export of com was forbidden. In November com and 
flour were forbidden to be sold elsewhere than in markets. The govern- 
ment ofiered premiums to importers of corn, and even bought corn itself. 
As usual these measures caused alarm and hampered traffic and deepened 
the distress which they were meant to relieve. In a country where the 
government was so much despised and the elements of insurrection were 
so plentiful, violent outbreaks were sure to follow. They began in 



118 Scarcity and disorder. [iim 

January, 1789, and as the civil and military authorities were afraid to do 
their duty, multiplied and became more outrageous. Thus set in the 
period of disorder caused by scarcity, and of scarcity rendered more 
acute by disorder, which lasted with intervals for ten years. Things 
were made worse by the severe winter. All the great rivers of France 
were frozen, and even the port of Marseilles was covered with ice. 
Many poor people died of cold and himger. As usual in France, a time 
of misery produced tales of Ministers and other great men speculating 
in food and extracting imtold wealth from the starvation of the people. 
It was under these evil conditions that the elections to the States 
Greneral were held. 

Louis XVI had begun his reign with the best intentions and the 
fairest hopes. He had always sought for worthy ministers, and had 
found one or two of vmcommon merit. He had at least wished to be 
humane and frugal, and had made many reforms and some sacrifices. 
Yet at every step he seemed only to entangle himself in more and more 
grievous perplexities. In an age of industrial and commercial progress, 
his revenue seemed to melt away and leave him penniless. His 
authority at home had sunk, imtil there was no cheaper way of becoming 
popular than to defy the Crown. His influence in Europe, despite the 
most successful war ever waged against the national enemy, had all but 
vanished. He had abdicated in favour of the Pcniements, in favour 
even of the private assembly of Vizille, before abdicating in favour of 
the nation. Worse still remained behind. He was to lose not only the 
remnant of prerogative which he still kept, but personal freedom and 
safety, and after ,a long train of inconceivable humiliations was to die on 
the scaffold. Even when we have allowed, and it is fair to make the 
fullest allowance, for the embarrassments which Louis inherited, we must 
add that no other reign so forcibly attests the insufliciency in great 
affairs of good-will imsupported by wisdom or firmness. 



119 



CHAPTER V. 

THE ELECTIONS TO THE STATES GENERAL, 

If wa would understand the beginnings of the French Revolution 
we must carefully guard against certain preconceptions. The French of 
1789 had no experience of parliamentary institutions,* and could not 
therefore possess the habits and instincts of parliamentary life. The 
desire for self-government, then so general among the upper classes of 
France, had been fed by literature and philosophy, not by practice. 
In the first stage of the French Revolution even the keenest and most 
judicial minds could little forecast the future ; while the general public 
had no prevision whatever, but lived blindly from day to day. When 
the King convened the States General, he was unaware that he was 
making one of the gravest and most hazardous experiments in history. 
When the States General met, the members hardly suspected the 
enormous difficulty of their task. When, under their later style of 
the National Assembly, they gave to France her first Constitution, 
they did not foresee how that Constitution would operate even for a 
year. Historians are usually prone to ascribe to human wisdom or 
cunning much that is the outcome of mere passion, indolence, or want 
of thought. But nowhere has this fallacy run to wilder extremes than 
in histories of the French Revolution written not long after the event. 
Results so wonderful must, it was thought, have been the work of 
Machiavellian subtlety. The reverse would have been nearer the truth. 
The results were so strange, because the agents had not even that dim 
prevision which in ordinary times is possible to public men. 

The States General of France bore scarcely any resemblance to the 
modem English Parliament. They had never outgrown the medieval 
type of national assembly. The continuous action of the English 
Parliament had ensured continuous growth and almost unnoticed 
adjustment to the new conditions of later ages. In France it had been 
otherwise. While in England dimng the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries a Parliament had been called, as a rule, once a year, and even 
under the Tudors and Stewarts had met once every few years, the States 
General in France had been called at most irregular intervals, usually 



120 The States General. Position of the deputies. [i789 

long, and tending to grow longer, till after 1614 they were called no more. 
Therefore they remained to the last what they had been from the first, 
an assembly of Estates, in which the Clergy, the Nobles, and the Third 
Estate acted as separate bodies, with separate interests and distinct 
traditions. The relative intelligence, wealth, and actual power of the 
different Estates might change ; but there was no corresponding change 
in the constitution of the States General. Meeting so seldom, moreover, 
the Estates had never been able to define their procedm-e or to fix 
their powers. What had been true at first of all medieval parliaments 
remained true of the States General to the end. The deputies remained 
agents in relation to their electors, petitioners in relation to the King, 
and never became senators empowered and obliged to consider the 
interest of the whole commonwealth and to exercise the discretion of a 
sovereign legislature. 

In relation to their electors the deputies were, we have said, agents. 
Their task was to state the grievances of the electors to the King, and 
they had little choice as to the best means of discharging their mission. 
In every baUliage or sinichaussie each of the three Estates drew up a 
list of grievances known as a cdhier des plaintes et doliances. Out of 
these cahiers the representatives of that Estate in all the baiUiages of 
the Province compiled a provincial cahier ; and in the States General a 
committee of each Estate formed out of the provincial cahiers a general 
cdhier for their own Estate throughout the kingdom, and this cahier was 
then presented to the King. The deputies were bound by these written 
instructions, and in great measure debarred from making use of the 
advantages arising from their fuller knowledge and from their position 
as members of an assembly representing the whole of France. 

In relation to the King the deputies were petitioners, not legislators. 
As in England down to the Lancastrian period, so in France down to 
the reign of Louis XIII, the Estates petitioned for the redress of 
grievances, and the King promised redress in return for money or for 
help in some other form. Whether the King should grant or refuse 
the whole of what was asked, or grant part and withhold the rest, 
or grant something difierent but in his opinion better or more con- 
venient, remained at his own discretion, as it had been at the discretion 
of the English Kings in the fourteenth century. The Estates had rarely 
gone so far as to make the grant of supply conditional on the redress 
of grievances ; and therefore the Crown Could often evade promising or 
neglect to fulfil its word. Meantime the original law-making power of 
the King remained unabated. The form of the law was always, the 
substance of the law was usually, what the sovereign willed. Few and 
superficial were the traces left by the activity of the States General 
upon the law of dd France. So likewise the States General never 
gained the power of the purse. They might grant a supply in exchange 
for redress of grievances ; they never established the maxim that there 



1789] Hopes of the King and of the people. 121 

could be no taxatioh without their consent ; and such control over 
supply as they originally possessed steadily diminished after 1357. 

TTie historic States General of France were therefore an institution 
compatible with almost absolute monarchy. They did not impose 
their wiU upon the sovereign, although they helped him to ascertain 
public opinion. What the States General would do, when they should 
meet again after an interval of one hundred and seventy-five years 
fruitful in change, none could know; and individual wishes or fears 
determined all surmises. The language of the royal summons was 
vague and comprehensive. It enjoined that the deputies should be 
furnished with instructions and powers sufficient to propose^ advise, 
and consent to all that might concern the wants of the State, the 
reform of abuses, the establishment of a fixed and durable order in all 
parts of the administration, the general prosperity of the kingdom, and 
the welfare of each and aU of the subjects, and promised on behalf 
of the King his good-will to observe and execute all that should have 
been concerted between him and the Estates. These words, liberal as 
they are, do not exactly ascribe any legislative power to the States 
General, certainly not that sole legislative power which they afterwards 
claimed with reference to the Constitution. Louis who, though weak 
and gentle, believed firmly in his divine right and unlimited prerogative, 
can hardly have contemplated, certainly did not desire, such a surrender. 
Probably he attached no very definite meaning to the words placed in 
his tnouth, and expected the States General to show far more deference 
for ancient usage than Frenchmen in 1789 were disposed to pay. He 
hoped, in return for limited although substantial reforms — such as the 
suppression of all immunities from taxation, the transfer of the taxing 
power to the States General, and guarantees for their periodic meeting — 
to be set free from his financial embarrassment. Even these reforms 
would have ended the absolute power of the Crown ; but they would 
have left the King, in a very real sense, head of the State ; and 
beyond these reforms we may feel sure that Louis did not mean to 
go, or expect to be driven. 

Very difierent were the hopes and resolutions of a great part of 
the public. The government of France had, as we have seen, lost 
every shred of authority and was now as much despised as it was 
disliked. The spirit of criticism which had been gaining strength all 
through the eighteenth century and the ever-rising discontent with 
the abuses of the old order had found a practical direction and an 
immediate object. The most active and aspiring men in the country 
wanted much more than the redress of particular grievances ; they 
wanted political, and indeed social, reconstruction. The "regeneration 
of France" was expected from the approaching States General; and 
inexperience made even so gigantic an undertaking seem easy. The 
mounting agitation of the public broke forth in such a txmiult of 



122 Pamphlets and treatises. [nsa 

political discussion as France had never known till now. Newspapers 
indeed there were none save the official journals. But the pamphlets 
were counted by hundreds, perhaps by thousands. The government 
made one feeble attempt to impose silence; but such an attempt was 
contrary to the invitation which it had addressed to all citizens and 
to Necker's conciliating policy, and proved altogether ineffectual. For 
the first time in French history the press was in fact free. All the 
passions so long restrained found utterance. All the ideas hitherto 
confined to books or to conversation were hawked about the streets. 
Men of all opinions wrote; but the partisans of reform wrote most 
eagerly and copiously. They covered an extraordinary range of topics, 
but dwelt longest on that which seemed most urgent, the constitution 
of the approaching States General, above all on the relation of the 
tliree Estates. Deliberation in common and vote by head they felt to 
be necessary for the changes which they all desired. It is true that 
the clergy and the nobles had very generally intimated a readiness 
to forgo their immunity from taxation ; true that for the most part 
they desired constitutional freedom. But there remained other privileges 
which they were not disposed to surrender, nor the Third Estate to 
spare ; the freedom which they desired would have been in some measure 
aristocratic, while France was dominated by democratic theory ; and 
their feudal rights in the soil set them in opposition to the material 
interests of the bulk of the people. 

In the party of reform at this time there was none more conspicuous 
and there were few more temperate than Jean-Joseph Mounier. Yet 
Mounier in his NowvelUs Observations sur les Etats giniraux poured 
scorn upon the ancient constitution and procedure of the States General, 
which reduced the deputies to the business of compiling useless petitions 
for redress out of the cahiers which they had received from their electors. 
He urged his countrymen to give their representatives the amplest 
powers, and to regard the cahiers merely as means of laying stress upon 
what was most essential, not as restraints to be imposed on the discre- 
tion of legislators. He bade them enjoin upon their representatives 
the framing of a constitution, but only in a joint assembly of the three 
Estates. Himself an admirer of the English system, and convinced that 
two Chambers were necessary to order and freedom, he maintained 
nevertheless that a constituent assembly must be one and indivisible. 
To enforce the same moral Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyes wrote his famous 
pamphlet Qu'est-ce-qm le Tiers J^tat f — which opens with the three well- 
known questions, "What is the Third Estate? Everything. What 
has it been until now in the political order ? Nothing. What does 
it ask ? To be something." Sieyes sought to put the Third Estate upon 
its guard against the other two. The reform of abuses, he argued, 
is hopeless so long as those who profit by them have a veto upon 
change. Therefore deliberation in common and vote by head are as 



1V89] lAhels and caricatures. 123 

necessary as the double representation of the Third Estate if the 
States General are to effect any real good. But what is to be done 
if the clergy and the nobles, entrenching themselves in precedent, 
hold aloof? In that case, he answered, the Third Estate must go on 
alone and enact a constitution. After all the Third Estate is the 
nation, of which the First and Second Estates are small portions, and 
if its deputies by themselves do not form the States General, they 
will form a national assembly. Whatever may be thought of the 
exaggerations and the fallacies in this memorable pamphlet, it made 
Sieyes famous and powerful. A crowd of inferior though often 
vigorous writers repeated and enforced the arguments of Mounier and 
Sieyes. 

Along with the serious attempts to influence the electors came forth 
a swarm of pamphlets and fly-sheets often bearing grotesque titles, such 
as Le Gloria m Excelsis du Pev/ple, Le De Prqfumdks de la Noblesse et du 
Clergi, La Semahie Sainte ou les Lamentations du Tiers JEtat, etc. These 
were often couched in the highflown strain of passionate sensibility 
which Rousseau had brought into vogue, and which pervades even the 
official utterances of that time. Others were steeped in rancour and 
abounded in suggestions of hatred and revenge. All were thrown to a 
people naturally excitable, which had suflFered, and was suflering much, 
and which was for the most part ill-educated, wanting in political 
experience, unused to political discussion, and now thoroughly suspicious 
and distrustful of its rulers. Such literature could not but exasperate 
the electors and prompt them in many cases to choose men rather for 
their vehemence than for their judgment. It even produced some 
immediate disorder, especially in Paris, where the artificial cheapness of 
bread and the relief works established at Montmartre had drawn together 
thousands who could not or would not earn their living at home, and 
where the mob was reinforced by many vagrants and ruflians from all the 
surrounding Provinces. The conservative party also had recourse to the 
press, but their pamphleteers were inferior in talent, in confidence, 
and in numbers. Their writings fell comparatively flat, for they could 
not promise to the general public more than a part of what it weis 
resolved to take, whereas the liberals were in the first flush of a 
sanguine hope, which was not the less sincere because it was very often 
unreasonable. 

Accustomed as we are in a free cotmtry to watch the currents of 
public opinion, we must be surprised that the King and his Ministers 
took no heed of the growing commotion in France. They ought to have 
seen, we think, that the new States General would differ from all 
previous assemblies of the kind, and would require to be managed in a 
new way. Apparently they saw nothing. Louis spent his time mostly 
in field sports, and left to Necker, whom he disliked, the responsibility of 
guiding the State through the crisis. Necker, conscious of the royal 



124 Inaction of the Ministers. [i789 

disfavour, harassed by the cabals of the courtiers, unversed in politics 
as distinct from finance, and afraid of injiuing his reputation, remained 
passive. The honest and sagacious Malouet tells us in his Memoirs that 
he tried to stir Necker to action. He called on him to make at least an 
effort towards guiding public opinion, instead of waiting for its force to 
sweep him away. Before the elections took place, Malouet insisted, 
everything ought to be considered and determined in the royal Council. 
The Ministers should decide what they could not decently defend 
and what they might safely abandon. They should take large accoimt 
of the wants and wishes of the public. Already the commons had 
risen to equal power with the nobles and the clergy; and privileges 
oppressive to the commons were therefore certain to be abolished. 
On these principles the Ministers should settle their plan of concessions 
and reforms. They should then by every honest and lawful means 
recommend this programme to the electoral assemblies as the model of 
their cahiers, and put forward as candidates respectable men who would 
adhere to the programme. Necker only replied that it was neither 
decorous nor safe for Ministers to interfere in any way whatever. 
Malouet urged that, without the initiative of the Ministers, nothing 
but confusion could be expected from an assembly of twelve hundred 
inexperienced men, drawn from all classes and swayed by the most 
discordant passions. But he argued in vain. With Necker, and with 
Annand-Marc Montmorin, the Minister next in consequence to himself, 
the fear of taking a decisive part silenced all considerations of true 
prudence. The Revolution was fated to run its course, uncontrolled by 
any statesmanlike direction. 

The government thus left the field open for eager partisans who 
undertook the guidance of the electors. They drew up model cahiers 
and had them printed and circulated by thousands or sent in manuscript 
to the electors for whom they were intended. They composed manuals 
for electors, such as the instructions sent by the Duke of Orleans relating 
to the States General, and the resolutions to be taken in the assemblies 
of the bailliages drawn up by Sifeyes. 

The royal letter of convocation and the regulations of January 24 
had followed precedent as far as possible and had tried to reproduce the 
order observed in the election of the States General of 1614. Such, 
however, had been the changes in that long interval that strict imitation 
was impossible. The antiquated baiiliages and senichaussSes were taken 
as the electoral divisions. Those which had been formed since 1614 
and had never, therefore, returned deputies to the States General, were 
now described as secondary and annexed to older bailliages and 
sinechaussies. In Provinces where these divisions had almost dis- 
appeared or had never been established they were now defined in a 
somewhat arbitrary manner. In the pays d'etats the provincial Estates 
had usually claimed the right of choosing the deputies for the Province ; 



1189] The franchise. 125 

but this precedent was now set aside, save in the case of Dauphine, 
where the revived Estates had taken the duty upon themselves. In old 
times it was the cities which had constituted the Third Estate; but 
now aU. cities, even the greatest, were merged in the bailliage or 
senichaussie. Paris alone was treated from the first as a separate 
electoral division ; although a few other cities, Aries, Metz, Valenciennes, 
and Strasbourg, afterwards obtained the same favour on grounds peculiar 
to themselves. 

The franchise was very generously defined by the regulations. In 
the First Estate it was enjoyed not only by the superior clergy but by 
all parish priests and curates, not however in the same way or in the 
same degree. Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots and beneficed clergymen, 
appeared in person at the electoral assembly. Each Chapter was to 
choose one elector for every ten Canons; and one elector for every 
twenty of its members below the rank of Canon, Religious Houses of 
either sex were to be represented each by a single elector. In towns, the 
clergymen without benefice were to choose electors in the proportion of 
one to every twenty. Country curis were entitled to vote, but subject to 
a proviso that, if their parish were more than two leagues distant from 
the town in which the assembly of the bailliage or sen&chaussie was held, 
they could vote only by a proctor, unless they had an assistant to supply 
the spiritual wants of the parishioners in their absence. It was, perhaps, 
expected that such cures would name eis proctors some of the superior 
clergy; but they usually preferred men of their own rank; and this 
proviso had little influence on the results of the elections. 

In the Second Estate the suffrage was universal and practically equal. 
Every noble bom or naturalised as a Frenchman, and twenty-five years 
of age, was summoned to the assembly of the bailliage or skiichaussie 
where he had his domicile. He could give only one vote in that assembly; 
but if he possessed a fief elsewhere he might appoint a proxy to vote in 
the bailliage where it was situated. Minors and women holding fiefs 
might also vote by proxy. All the nobles, save in Paris, chose their 
representatives in the States General by direct election. 

In the Third Estate the suffrage was not far short of vmiversal. 
Every Frenchman born or naturalised, twenty-five years of age or 
upwards, and inscribed on the register of taxes, might vote. Thus every 
owner of land, however petty the holding, was admitted. All pro- 
fessional men, all men of business, and all workmen who were members 
of corporations and paid the taille d'industrie, had a voice in the elections. 
Roughly it may be said that only the poorest labourers and downright 
paupers were excluded from the franchise. Against this it must be set 
that the elections of the Third Estate were indirect, in two, three, or 
even ionr stages. The procedure must appear in English eyes extremely 
complex. In every town the members of each gild met to choose 
deputies in the ratio of one to every hundred of their number; and 



126 Forms of election. [ivsg 

the corporations termed " of liberal arts " chose deputies in the ratio of 
two for every hundred. Other inhabitants paying taxes chose deputies 
in the latter proportion ; and then all three classes of deputies met to 
form the assembly of the Third Estate for that town, and chose its 
representatives in the assembly of the bailliage. In each rural parish the 
qualified inhabitants chose two deputies for every two hundred house- 
holds, and an additional deputy for each hundred households after the 
first two. These rural deputies, together with the deputies chosen in 
the towns, formed the preliminary assembly of the Third Estate for the 
haiUiage. Where two or more baiUiages were grouped as principal 
and secondary, the assembly of each bailliage reduced itself to one- 
fourth of its original number. Where a bailliage stood alone, its 
reduction was not enforced ; but its assembly, if upwards of two hundred, 
had to be reduced to that figure. When all these elections and reduc- 
tions had been finished, the general assembly of the Third Estate in each 
electoral division was complete and ready to act. 

The forms of election were no less curious and antique. When the 
electing bodies of the three Estates had been formed, the grand bailli or 
grand sinechal of the district summoned them all to the general assembly 
of the three Estates, held usually in the largest church of the town 
where he had his oificial seat. After hearing mass together, the electors 
were called over by Estate, by locality, and by name, and took an oath 
to execute their task faithfully. The bailli or stnechal then asked the 
members of each Estate whether they would draw up their cahier and 
elect their representatives separately or jointly with the rest. Each 
Estate considered this question apart and usually resolved on separate 
action. Then the clergy resorted to the Bishop's palace, the nobles to 
the Governor's house, and the Third Estate to the town-hall. The 
Bishop presided over the clerical assembly, the grand bailli or sinichal 
over the nobles, and the lieutenant-general of the bailliage over the 
Third Estate. When the cahiers had been settled and the deputies 
chosen, the bailli or sinechal called a new assembly of the three Estates. 
Again mass was celebrated; the Bishop and the bailli or shiichal 
harangued the assembly ; the names of the persons chosen were 
announced, and they swore to make known in the States General the 
contents of the cahiers entrusted to them and to obey the instructions 
which they had received. With this ceremony the business of the 
election was complete, and the electors returned home. 

As a rule the assembUes chose a substitute to take the place of each 
deputy, should death, accident, or illness hinder him from performing 
his duty ; and this precaution was afterwards approved by royal decree. 
Many difficulties arose in the course of the elections through tiie variety 
of local usages and institutions with which the general rules laid down 
by the government would not accord. In these cases special regulations 
had to be made ; and discontent was often expressed. Even so, many 



1789] Censures of the government. 127 

details were not settled; and some trouble was occasioned by the inexperi- 
ence of the electors. As might be inferred from the low qualification 
and the public excitement, the number of persons who recorded their votes 
was enormous — according to Jean-Paul Rabaut de St Etienne, about 
six millions ; but this total, perhaps equal to that of all the adult males 
in France, must be excessive, for there were some districts, such as the 
Limousin, where Turgot's reforms are said to have diffused contentment 
among the country people, in which many failed to vote. In Angoumois 
we are told there were instances where beggars, and even women, took 
part in the elections. But as the system of indirect election prevented 
large assemblies in any one place, the deputies of the Third Estate were 
chosen with very little disorder. 

The conduct of the government of Louis XVI in the memorable 
elections of 1789 has often been arraigned by writers of the most opposite 
parties. Some have severely blamed the admission to the franchise of so 
many poor and ignorant persons who could not be expected to choose fit 
representatives. A property qualification, it is said, should have been 
required in the Third Estate. Whatever may be thought of this 
criticism, no such qualification had been required in the past, when the 
Third Estate had usually comprised only the burgesses of the towns. 
Nor would it have been easy to fix a reasonable qualification in landed 
property. If it had been put low, it would have admitted the class of 
petty proprietors, already amounting to millions, which suffered most 
from the abuses of the old order and, as the event showed, was the most 
ripe for violent and destructive action. In that case the result of the 
elections would have been little improved. If the qualification had been 
put high, it would have excluded almost the whole of this class, which 
would have been unfair and dangerous. It was the misfortune of France, 
not the fault of Louis or of Necker, that an agricultural middle class 
did not exist in most Provinces. Other writers have asserted that the 
franchise was given to the crowd of peasants in the hope of overwhelming 
the intelligent and liberal citizens of the towns and thus thwarting 
reform. But this seems a malicious refinement suggested by the use 
which later rulers of France have sometimes made of the peasant vote. 
There is no real evidence that the government of Louis XVI understood 
such a manoeuvre or, in conferring the franchise so freely, had any 
thought other than the one alleged, of enabling the whole people to 
state its grievances. 

It has been made a reproach that the various electoral assemblies 
were not allowed to elect their presiding officers, who were designated by 
the regulations ; in the baUUage or sin&chaussie the hailli or shiichal, in 
towns various municipal officers, in rural parishes the judge of the 
seigneur. In the last instance the complaint seems grounded, since the 
manorial judge might have the means of exerting imdue influence on the 
peasants; but in the other cases the grievance seems unreal. It was 



128 Defects and anomalies in the elections. [i789 

never thought to prejudice freedom of election in England that the 
sheriff should be the returning officer in counties or the mayor in 
boroughs; although the sheriff was a royal officer and the mayor in many 
cases the representative of a very few citizens. Even writers most 
prejudiced against the monarchy hftve been forced to allow that the 
elections of 17^9 were free from military or official constraint, and pure 
from corruption and intimidation to a degree never again known for 
many years. The immemorial government of old France lacked that 
peculiar cunning which so many of its short-lived successors learnt in the 
fierce struggle for existence. Louis was too easy-tempered, Necker too 
upright and too anxious about his good name, and all who were most 
opposed to change too childishly ignorant of the forces which they had 
to resist, for any serious attempt to bribe or frighten electors. As for 
the civil and military officers immediately charged with the maintenance 
of order, it was never by action, always by omission, that they offended 
at this critical time. 

The uniformity of procedure and the quiet of the elections were in 
several cases disturbed by party divisions in the pays dUetats. In these 
Provinces the Estates had usually chosen the deputies to the States 
General. But the Estates were at this moment viewed with very 
different feelings by different classes. As a rule the -pays diktats were 
attached to their ancient liberties, which had ensured them a milder 
administration than was known in the pays (Telection. The new pro- 
vincial assemblies, although framed on more liberal principles than the 
historic Estates, did not win much affection, because the original 
members were chosen by the Crown, and the elective principle was to 
be introduced only by degrees. Thus the Provinces which had once 
possessed Estates wished to revive them, and those which had never 
possessed Estates wished to secure them. But in the Provinces which 
had never lost their Estates the old attachment was impaired by a new 
democratic feeling. Much as they varied in constitution from Province 
to Province, the Estates had almost everjnyhere an aristocratic character 
which no longer contented the Third Estate. While, therefore, the 
members of the Estates were usually disposed to insist upon their pre- 
rogative of electing deputies to the States General, the aggrieved class 
usually welcomed the royal regulations by which that prerogative was 
ignored. These various feelings led to several defects or anomalies in 
the elections. 

In the little province of Bearn, which to the last bore itself as a 
kingdom united to Prance upon equal terms, the Estates denounced the 
royal regulations and declared any election made in conformity with 
them null and void. Here a national sentiment supported the protest, 
so that no representatives from Bearn appeared at the opening of the 
States General. In Britanny it was otherwise. All ranks had joined to 
resist Brienue's measures and had carried their resistance to the verge of 



1789] Britanny, DaupMne, and other Provinces. 129 

rebellion. But now Brienne had been driven from power, Necker had 
done everjrthing to soothe the Bretons and the Estates had been con- 
voked for the end of December. Thereupon a new conflict began 
between the nobles and commons of Britanny, For the Estates of 
Britanny were so constituted as to give the First and Second Estates an 
entire mastery over the Third; and, if the Estates were to elect the 
deputies, the Third Estate would scarcely have any voice in the election. 
The nobles and clergy stood upon the historic right of the Estates ; the 
commons resisted ; and both parties appealed to the Crown. The debate 
grew so hot that the government tried to restore peace by suspending 
the session of the Estates. The clergy and nobles continued to sit in 
defiance of its orders, while the Third Estate in Rennes and the other 
towns of the Province formed a confederation to maintain their cause. 
Then savage riots broke out in Rennes between the aristocrats and the 
democrats. The regulations of January 24, which decided the issue in a 
popular sense, were welcomed by the Third Estate, but were denounced 
as tyrannical by the nobles and the superior clergy. Finally the Third 
Estate chose iis deputies in the manner prescribed ; the inferior clergy 
met in diocesan assemblies for the same purpose ; and the nobles and the 
superior clergy, refusing to elect, remained without a voice in the States 
Greneral, thus weakening the conservative party by thirty suifrages. In 
Languedoc and Burgundy little difficulty was felt, as precedents were in 
favour of direct election to the States General. But in Provence the 
Estates, which had been lately restored and were eminently aristocratic 
in character, gave Mirabeau his first opportunity as a defender of 
populeir rights. Here too the government decided that the people, not 
the Estates, should elect the deputies ; and the Estates, though with an 
iU grace, submitted. 

In Dauphine the elections took a form absolutely peculiar. The 
assembly of Romans, after settling the constitution of the provincial 
Estates, had gone on of its own authority to fix the method by 
which the deputies of Dauphin^ in the States General should be chosen. 
The Estates were to double themselves by the election of one hundred 
and forty-four members for this purpose only, and the whole body 
was then to elect the representatives of each of the Orders. The 
revived Estates met on December 1, 1788, and proceeded early in 
January to elect the deputies. They adopted a resolution drawn by 
Mounier enjoining the deputies to record no vote on any other subject 
rnitU the double representation of the Third Estate, joint deliberation, 
and vote by head had been secured. These extraordinary proceedings 
in Dauphind cast a strange light upon the condition of France in 1789. 
An assembly at first without a vestige of lawful power had given the 
province a new constitution, and had determined how its deputies to the 
States General should be chosen. In the one instance it had overruled, 
in the other instance it had forestalled the will of the government. In 

0. M, H. vm. 9 



130 The elections in Paris. [i789 

neither case had the government presumed to resist or even to blame 
this usurpation. The impotence of the sovereign and the dissolution 
of the kingdom could not be more .dearly shown. 

The elections were held in Paris later than anywhere else. In this 
delay some have seen the subtle policy of Ministers, anxious to prevent 
the capital of France and centre of European civilisation from taking its 
proper place at the head of the great revolutionary movement ; and the 
siA^picion might seem plausible, if we merely remembered that Paris 
soon became the focus of rebellion and remained for nearly a hundred 
years the constant anxiety of the different governments that have ruled 
over France. But it may be safely affirmed that early in 1789 few men 
thought of Paris as a dangerous city. If anywhere in France the 
conservative forces might have been thought to be strong in Paris. 
A capital must always contain a larger proportion of the upper class ; 
and even the vices of govemmenrt may stimulate the prosperity of a 
capital. In Paris a vast number of the iiJiabitants either held places in 
connexion with the Parlement, or ministered to the pleasures of the 
rich of all nations who even then abounded there. The citizens of Paris 
suffered little from the tax-gatherer, and nothing from feudal rights. 
The fortunes of Paris and the monarchy had hitherto been inseparable ; 
and ©very annexation of territory, every encrqachment on local inde- 
pendence, had brpuight ^in to Paris. A city of seven hundred thousand 
inhabitants was kept in order by two regiments of infantry and a 
singularly weak police. The elections were delayed merely because the 
government wished as far as possible to observe ancient claims of 
right. The Provost of the Merchants who, although a royal nominee, 
representeci the municipality of Paris as it then stood, and the 
Provost of the City, who was more directly the King's representative, 
disputed the right of presiding over the election ; nor was it until 
much paper had been blotted and many weeks spent that a regula- 
tion of March 28, supplemented by another of April 13, gave the 
preference to the Provost of the City and settled the manner of the 
elections. 

Ten deputies were assigned to the clergy, ten to the nobles, and 
twenty to the Third Estate. Owing to the size of Paris, the principle of 
indirect election was enforced for all three Orders. The clergy alone 
held a single general assembly, to choose one hundred and fifty electors 
who were to elect its deputies. For the nobles, Paris was divided into 
twenty departments. Departmental assemblies were to choose one 
hundred and fifty noble electors. Thus the nobles of Paris, alone in 
France, were deprived of the right of directly choosing their representa- 
tives in the States General. The Third Estate was to choose three 
hvmdred electors in the assemblies of sixty districts newly formed for 
that ptirpose. The Provost of Paris was to convoke the first two Orders, 
and the Provost of the Merchants was to convoke the assembhes of the 



1789] The several Estates in Paris. 131 

Third Estate. The qualification of voters in thjs Estate was so far 
peculiar that persons not members of any gild or corporation were not 
entitled to vote unless they paid six Uvres of ctvpitaticfn,: But this require- 
ment was so easily satisfied that the eleptors pf Paris in 1789 have been 
estimated at sixty thousand. Strong protests were made against the 
regulations on three grounds : first, that the presidents of the electoral 
assemblies were spryants of the Crown ; secondly, that the nobles did not 
choose their dpputies directly, as elsewhere ; and thirdly, that the three 
Estates did not meet in one assembly as the commune of Paris for the 
joint election qf their representatives. As time pressed, however, the 
citizens contented themselves with protesting. 

The clergy of Paris showed ^ temper which may be explained by the 
fact that Paris was the centre of anti-clerical feeling. Their cahier, 
though fairly liberal in its political clauses, betrayed a bitter religious 
intolerance; and all their ten deputies, headed by the Archbishop of 
Paris, were highly conservative. 

The electors of the fwbles^e had t9,ken upon themselves to add to 
their number all the supplemeutary members chosen by the primary 
assemblies, ^nd then numbered two hundred and eight. Ten holders of 
fiefs within the walls were admitted to vote in their own right. The ten 
noble deputies were fljl of a liberal complexion. Among them may be 
noted the Comte dP Clermont-Tcmnerre, the Comte d? Lally Tollendal, 
the Sue de la Rophefoucauld, Adrien Duport, whp became conspicuous 
among the radicals of the National Assembly, and Lep^Uetier de Saint- 
Fargeau, who lived to be a Jacobin martyr. The cahier entrusted to 
these deputies was remarljs^lile in thp extent of the reforms which it 
d^maifded. Nowhere else did the nobles live so much in the current of 
new ide^ as in Paris. Nowhere else was theoretical liberalism, at least, 
so fstshion^ble. Nowhere ^Ise were social bajriers more easily sur- 
mounted than in Paris, where new men were always rising and the 
power of intelligence and of wealth, as distinct from rank, was most 
fully manifested. 

The Third Estatp did not at first display any uncommon ardour. 
Np doubt some felt the glow described by B^lly. "When I found 
myself in the midst of the q«se|iibly of my district," he writes, "I thought 
that I breathed a new air; it was strange to be spm^thipg in the political 
order, and in virtue of one's simple quality of citizen of Paris." Yet 
Bailly noted that thp attendance was not very full. "In those early 
timps we were wont to count upon a^ great energy in the Provinces, and 
pefhapg upon the slackness of the city pf Paris." It appears that, out of 
possibly sixty thousand persons qu^Jified, not more than twelve thousand 
recorded their votes. The electors of the Third Estate, using the same 
freedom as the electors of the noblesse, raised their number to four 
hundred and seven. Of these, one hundred and seventy were lawyers; 
one hundred and thirty -seven merchants, shopkeepers, or artisans; thirty-- 

9—2 



132 Malouet and the Ministers. [iV89 

two belonged to the official class; and the rest might be regarded as 
professional men or men of letters. When the primary elections had 
been completed and the electors of the Third Estate had met, it was 
proposed that they should draw up their cahier jointly with the other 
two orders ; but the' proposal was negatived, and things took their usual 
course. The electors declined to allow any official presidency, choosing 
as their president Target, a lawyer, afterwards conspicuous in the 
National Assembly, and as their secretary Jean-Sylvain Bailly, the 
eminent astronomer, destined to a brief popularity and a tragic death. 
It is needless to say that all the deputies of the Third Estate were men 
zealous for reform. Out of the twenty, nine were lawyers, six were 
merchants or men of business, one was a doctor, one a receiver-general of 
finance, one an academician, and two were authors. The academician 
was Bailly, who headed the list. One of the authors was Sieyes, whose 
services to the Third Estate were held to outweigh the irregularity of 
choosing a clergyman. The business of electing these deputies was not 
begun till a week after the States General had met at Versailles. It was 
not until May 25 that the deputies of Paris joined their colleagues. 
The electors of Paris constituted themselves a permanent assembly 
to correspond with their representatives — an irregular though not an 
unexampled proceeding,- which had memorable consequences. 

As the elections drew to a close and the composition of the 
approaching States General and the nature of the cahiers became 
known, the Ministers had a last chance of taking the initiative in the 
revolution. Malouet, who- had warned Necker and Montmorin before, 
was so much alarmed at the rising commotion of the public that he 
made another effiart to rouse the Ministers to action. He implored them 
to condense into a programme the proposals common to most of the 
cahiers and thus put themselves at the head of the main body of 
opinion. It is ti^e that he took as the type of the cahiers that 
which he had induced his own electors at Riom to accept and which 
expressed the wishes of the Third Estate in their most moderate form. 
So little, however, did Necker or Montmorin understand the real drift 
of the time that they objected to Malouet the danger of alienating the 
nobles and the clergy from the Crown by too much concession to the 
people. Necker overrated his popularity so much as to think that he 
could hold the balance between parties in the assembly. But Necker 
must not bear all the blame. Even had he understood the ppril, he 
could not have induced the King to yield all that most of the cahiers 
of the Third Estate demanded. Louis had no penetration ; he distrusted 
Necker ; and he was ever open to the solicitation and intrigue of those 
who hoped to drive Necker from office. Thus the government could do 
nothing but passively await the onset of reforming zeal. We must add 
that this helplessness was approved by men of the most conflicting 
politics. Malouet found to his amazement that the most reasonable 



1789] Composition of the States General. 133 

persons in all parties thought that the King should propose no plan, 
but should simply wait for the resolutions of the States General. 
The more stubborn of the nobles and clergy denied to the King 
any power to modify the old constitution. The democrats main- 
tained that a constitution could be made only by the deputies of the 
people. 

When the States General were complete, they numbered 308 clergy- 
men, 285 nobles, and 621 representatives of the Third Estate — a total 
of 1214. Among the ecclesiastical members only one-third belonged 
to the higher ranks, including 46 prelates and 55 dbbh, and only 7 
were monks, a singular proof of the unpopularity of the regulars, even 
in their own profession. The remaining two-thirds were curis, generally 
ill-disposed towards their superiors and weU-disposed towards the Third 
Estate. The clergy, thus divided, coidd ill repel any attack upon its 
privileges. Among the nobles 265 belonged to the noblesse of the sword 
and only 20 to the noblesse of the robe. The heads of the legal 
profession and the members of the superior Courts, in some respects 
the most conservative of the nobility, were therefore but slightly 
represented in the States General. The noblesse of the sword comprised 
125 nobles of the Court and 140 provincial nobles. Here also was a 
feud only less bitter than the feud which paralysed the clergy. Among 
the deputies of the Third Estate were three or four ecclesiastics like 
Sieyes and 15 nobles,! of whom Honore de Mirabeau is the best known. 
There were about a score of royal and a somewhat larger number of 
municipal officers. Merchants, bankers, and citizens of independent 
fortune numbered about 130. There were about 15 doctors, and about 
40 peasants or farmers. But most numerous among the deputies were 
the lawyers. There were about 150 persons holding various places in 
the judicial system, and upwards of 210 barristers, notaries, and other 
members of the legal profession. More than half of the deputies of 
the Third Estate were therefore lawyers, who represented' as a rule 
not the conservatism of the Parlements, but the angry discontent of 
the rniddle class, and had as little in common with the chiefs of the 
profession as the cures had with the Bishops. 

If we consider the representatives of the Third Estate as a whole, 
we must acknowledge that they were men of respectable character 
and good education, steeped in tbe fashionable philosophy, especially 
in the writings of Rousseau, proud of their intelligence, industry, and 
orderly lives, and resentful of the arrogance and frivolity of the nobles, 
inexperienced, sanguine, and full of dogma. The unhappy mutual 
alienation of classes in France, and the. social barrier between town 
and country, denied any adequate representation of that part of the 
commons whose minds had been enlarged by commerce and industry on 
a grand scale, and who might have been cautious because they had 
everything to lose by rashness. In old France the lawyers were almost 



134 The cahiers des dol6ances. [i789 

the only class of educated laymen other than nobles to be found in the 
country districts ; and therefore the country lawyers had an excessive 
sway in the National Assembly. The keenest of all the adverse critics 
of the Revolution has marked this weakness. "The gener&,l compo- 
sition," Burke wrote, " was of obscure provincial advocates, of stewards 
of petty local jurisdictions, country attomies, and the whole train of 
the ministers of municipal litigation, the fomehttirs and conductors of 
the petty War of vUlage vexation. From the moment I read the list, 
I saw distinctly and very nearly as it has happened, all that was to 
follow,'" 

In the actual course of events the Orders were imerged, and the curis 
gave the Third Estate a decisive majority. Prom a body thils composed 
we might expect alertness in discovering abuses and zeal to remedy 
them^ but scarcely any large or deliberate wisdom. We fcotild not hbpe 
for a wide outlook upon society, or for tact or patience in dealing with 
vast and complex interests. Nor could the other Estates supply what 
was wanting to the commons. Many of the nobles and Some of the 
superior clergy were full of generous and humane enthtisiaStn ; but they 
were also without political experience. The rancoiff between classes 
abated their influence in the assembly, and the unfortunate legislation 
regarding the Church at length drove almost all clergymen into oppo- 
sition. The National Assembly contained many excellent members of 
committee, but very few statesmen, and to them it rarely listened. No 
wonder, therefore, that it should have made many good ktws, but have 
failed entirdy to govern. 

But the members of the States General, as We have seen, wete not 
left to the guidance of their own judgment. They bore Written instruc- 
tions which were singularly fuU and precise. In order to understand 
their action we must begin with analysing their caMers. 

The value of the cahiers of 1789 to the historian of the French 
Revolution has long been acknowledged. It is true that the States 
General of that year met under circumstances and were moved by an 
impulse differing from anything known before and that they did not 
consider themselves bound by their instrufctions so straitly ds did their 
medieval predecessors. Yet it remains true that the National Assembly 
accomplished almost nothing which was not suggested in one or other 
of the cahiers. All its most memorable enactments, even thbse most 
doubtful on the score of wisdom or of justice, were forestalled in some 
cahiers at least of the Third Estate. Instructions so full and precise 
necessarily had weight with the deputies ; partly because tradition, as 
we have said, pointed that way and deputies to the States General 
had always been regatded more as agents or as messehgers than as 
senators ; partly because the political theory then in fiashioh, the theSji'y 
of Rousseau, placed sovereign power exclusively in the gener'al bddj^ 
of the citizens ; partly because political inexperience hindered the public 



I'zsg] The dr cuffing of the cahiers. 135 

from seeing how unwise it was to bind legislators too tightly and thus 
preclude them from feeling their joint responsibility for the welfare 
of all France. 

The cahiers are of two kinds. First there are those of each of the 
three Estates in the different bailliages and sinichanssees. The clergy 
and the nobles respectively drew up in each case a cahier, which they 
entrusted to their deputies. But the cahier of the Third Estate was 
compounded out of those drawn up by the primary assemblies of the 
different towns and parishes. These last, numbering many thousands, 
have never been published as a whole ; but so many have been printed 
that we can form a very gatid opinion of their character. They are far 
more varied and they go much more into detail, than the cahiers finally 
drawn up for the bailliages. Upon the whole they give a keener sense 
of reality. In order to decide finally upon the historical worth of 
either class of cahier^ we must, however, trace the method by which 
they were compiled. 

The cahiers were very generally composed Upon certain patterns 
circulated through France at the time of the elections. To the influence 
of these models we may partly ascribe the surprising uniformity iii the 
cahiers. It is true that their scope is boundless. In one or other almost 
every conceivable thing is demanded, from a declaration of the tights of 
man down to a better distribution of the lamps in the streets of Paris. 
Yet, when we put aside grievances merely local or trivial, for which 
redress is sought from the State merely because it had undertaken to 
regulate everything, and crotchets whidi an individual or a clique has 
persuaded the neighbours to adopts we are impressed with & ciertain 
monotony in the cahiers. It is not an absolute monototiy; there arfe 
differences in form and substance corresponding to the diffei*ehiEeS in 
character, intelliglence, occupations, and interests between different bodies 
of electors. We can see that the models were most effective by way of 
suggestion ; we cannot assert that ttiiey were blindly foUowedi We may 
suppose that they exerted upon the draftsmen of tiie caMieris the same 
kind of influence which the pblitical programme adopted by party chiefs 
exerts upon the election addresses of their followers. The models were 
meant to embody the supposed wishes of the bulk of the French na,tion ; 
and each neighbourhood learnt, sometimes perhaps with sutpiise, what 
its wishes were. To be more precise in judgment would, with our 
information, be hazardous. 

We may next enquire who drew up the individual cahiers. The 
cahiers of the baiUiages and s&nichaussies were in all cases drawn up by 
educated men, those of the Third Estate usually by professional men, 
members of an intelligent, ambitious, discontented middle class, who had 
read Montesquieu, Rousseau, and the Physiocrats — men steeped in the 
new ideas of the age, whose workmanship gave a fresh degree of uniformity 
to the cahiers, because this class throughout France was really vety 



136 The cahiers as evidence. [iTsg 

much the same and formed one naturally coherent party. The cahiers 
of the villages and country towns were the work of men of every degree 
of cultivation. Sometimes — but this was rare — they were drawn up by a 
man of letters or an Economist, who lived in the country ; and then they 
display a logical symmetry and literary elegance which the Academy 
might have condescended to applaud, and which must have astonished 
the petty farmer or shopkeeper. More often they were the work of 
such professional men as the country-side could aiFord, the notary or the 
cur&, whose imperfect culture betrays itself in overcharged or even 
grotesque rhetoric. Sometimes— but this is not common-^— they seem to 
be the actual composition of humble folk, who could not frame a 
sentence or even spell correctly. The little towns or villages occasionally, 
no doubt, saved themselves all further trouble by adopting in gross one 
of the models then circulating through France, or an elaboratie cahier 
drawn up for a neighbouring commune by some inhabitant of unusual 
influence or ability. In all these ways it happened that the statement 
of grievances put forth on behalf of the common people was not the 
work exactly of the common man. But this must always be the case ; 
and here again we are not entitled to suppose that it was drawn up 
regardless of the real feelings of those whose grievances it rehearsed, or 
that they exerted no choice as to the form which it took. Once more 
we have to strike a balance between that which the people gave and 
that which was given to them. 

Upon the whole, then, the uniformity of the cahiers is a proof, though 
not an absolute proof, of the general emotion which then pervaded the 
greater part of the French people. When trying to estimate the truthful- 
ness of the cahiers we must remember that the public were invited to 
complain, in which case complaint wiU always be loud and bitter; 
and no man better knows how to complain than the small farmer 
struggling with taxes, tithes, and manorial dues. The cahiers are not to 
be viewed as a dispassionate accoimt of old French society in all its good 
as well as in its evil aspects. They are statements of grievances, and thus 
record solely what was bad or was thought to be so. We must allow, too, 
for the style of expression then ciu:rent with all who read and wrote. 
Rousseau had brought sensibility into fashion, and he who would be 
thought a man of virtue had to live in a laboured state of tenderness. 
In the cahiers of 1789 we are often vexed with that vague and tearful 
rhetoric which flowed so copiously in all the assemblies of the Revolution. 
But we often read also the touching complaints of those who really worked 
and really suffered. In short, no summary judgment can be passed 
upon this enormous mass of documents. The cahiers are not to be read 
with blind assurance of their constant and literal truth ; and still less axe 
they to be lightly cast aside as the device of professional agitators. 
When aU allowances have been mside, they show how much was amiss 
in France ; and they show what reforms were desired by Frenchmen. 



1789] The political reforms proposed. 137 

In so far as purely political change is demanded, the cahiers of all 
three Estates have much in common. All ranks and conditions of men 
were weary of despotism. The nobles and the clergy no less than their 
inferiors desired a balance of powers, a constitution. It is true that the 
cahiers of the First and Second Estates often imply that a constitution 
already exists, and has only to be restored and strengthened, while the 
cahiers of the Third Estate usually assume that a constitution has to be 
made. The difference was full of meaning, for the clergy and nobles 
desired a somewhat aristocratic liberty, which could only be based on 
tradition and precedent, since it was not in accord with the spirit of the 
time or the wish of the majority. They wanted to limit the power of 
the Crown, without losing their distinctive privileges, and did not know 
that the Crown was less unpopular than themselves. The Third Estate 
preferred to ignore the old institutions of France as never expressly 
approved by the people, and so leave the legislature free to mould the 
constitution to meet their wishes. Their cahiers often imply that the 
States General are to make the new constitution, thus putting the King 
on one side and leaving him a mere provisional sovereign until the new 
order is established. 

That part of the cahiers which refers to the constitution usually 
begins with demanding that the government of France be declared a 
hereditary monarchy, descending to the males of the House of Bourbon ; 
and this is indeed the one part of the actual system which it is desired to 
preserve. The States General are to be convoked at regular intervals, 
the persons of their members are to be inviolable, and their debates are 
to be public. We often meet with the demand that the States General 
should not be dissolved without their own consent. The executive power 
is to remain with the King, but the taxing power is to be in the Estates, 
and is taken to include the control of loans and what in England is 
known as the appropriation of supply. The legislative power is to 
belong to the Estates acting jointly with the King. As a rule it is not 
proposed to leave the King any initiative in legislation, and some cahiers 
would allow him only a suspensive veto upon measures which have been 
passed by the National Assembly. But the ministers are to be appointed 
and dismissed by the King, for they are the organs of the executive 
power which resides in him. We find in the cahiers no inkling of the 
cabinet system, which was already at work in England, although as yet 
imperfect and not clearly apprehended even by the acutest political 
writers. The maxim of Montesquieu that the only security for freedom 
is the separation of the executive and legislative powers, which was 
then hardly questioned even in England, which has left its impress 
on the constitution of the United States, and which was received by 
Frenchmen smarting under the evils of unlimited monarchy as absolute 
truth, was destined to give a very unfortimate bias to the law-making 
of the revolutionary period. The cahiers, it is true, insist upon the 



138 Specific demands. [i789 

responsibility of ministers to the law and to the nation. But the 
responsibility which they contemplate is always criminal. They all 
demand that a minister who has broken the law shall undergo the 
penalty of the law. Political responsibility, the liability of a minister 
to lose his place as soon as he loses the confidence of Parliament, is 
so far from their intention that they generally demand the exclusion 
of ministers from that assembly. 

Together with the remodelling of the national government the 
cahiers desire the remodelling of provincial and municipal institutions, 
which are all to become elective. The reforms of Necker and Brienne 
in this field are not condemned, but they are not thought sufficient. It 
is sometimes expressly said, and it is often clearly meant, that the whole 
of the ancient bureaucratic system, thfe Intendants and aU their staflF, 
should be abolished. The difficulty attending such a complete revo- 
lution in old habits «ind feelings seems not to have occurred to those 
who drew the cahiers. The necessity of subordinating the mimicipal 
to the national authorities was also forgotten. Both of these oversights 
were repeated in the Constitution of 1791. 

The cahiers do not merely seek to divide the powers of govern- 
ment; they are equally concerned to insist upon the liberties of the 
citizen. Many of them demand a formal declaration of the rights of 
man as the preface to the new constitution. All classes in France 
fervently desired what an eminent English jurist terms "the reign of 
law," the supremacy of general rules instead of the ever-varying dis- 
cretion of the sovereign and his ministers. The right of personal 
freedom is claimed with touching emphasis. The suppression of extra- 
ordinary tribunals and arbitrary arrest is loudly called for. Imprison- 
ment by lettre de cachet is universally denounced, although many cahiers 
are disposed to allow it under certain safeguards where the honour and 
happiness of families are imperilled by the misconduct of an individual. 
The right of property is asserted with almost equal vigour. It is 
involved in the demands that taxation should be uniform, that ground 
should not be taken for pubUc works without punctual payment 
in full, and that the fund-holders should be satisfied. But the hatred 
called forth by arbitrary government is most vehemently expressed in 
certain demands aiFecting the army. Some cahiers ask that the foreign 
corps, which formed so considerable a part of the French army, should 
be disbanded. Many cahiers wish to deprive the ministers of all control 
over the troops in favour of the municipal authorities or to make the 
soldier swear that he will never use his arms against his fellow-citizens. 
Frenchmen had felt the sting of despotism; they did not know how 
soon they were to feel the more cruel torment of anarchy. 

Where the cahiers of the clergy and nobles usually differ ftwm the 
cahiers of the commons, is in wishing to preserve the distinctive charSJ3tet 
of the three Estates. The two Orders wish the national assembly to 



1789] The several demands of the Estates. 139 

remain an assembly of Estates ; and with hardly an exception they 
wish each Estate to form an independent Chamber, deliberating and 
voting by itself. They would retain most of the ancient privileges, save 
the exemption from taxes, which is generally renounced; while the 
cdhiers of the Third Estate claim substantial equality, above all free 
admission to every preferment civil, military, and ecclesiastical. Still 
more m'gently do thfey insist upon deUber&tion in common and vote by 
head in the approaching States General. Forestalling the march of 
events, the Third Estate of Dijon intimates that in case of resistance, 
the representatives of the commons should join with such nobles or 
clergymen as may be willing to form a national assembly and remodel 
the State by their own authority. All three Estates desired political 
freedom and self-govemnleat ; but the First and Second desired an 
aristocratic, the Third a democratic, tjrpe of society. 

With regard to law and justice, the Third Estate has many more 
complaints than the other two. It sufiFered more from the abuses of the 
judicial system than they did. The members of the higher Comi;s of 
justice were a privileged class, mostly noble and bound by many ties 
to the rest of the nobility. The lower Courts of justice were mOstly 
seigniorial and in the possession of the First and Second Estates. It is 
in the cahiers of towns and parishes that we find the most minute 
and acrid complaints of the way in which justice is administered. All 
the Estates agreed, it is true, in calling for uniform justice and in 
denouncing extraordinary Courts and arbitrary intervention by the 
executive power. Similarly we find in cahiers of all three Estates the 
demand for a humane criminal law and a better criminal procedure. 
Pubhcity of criminal trials, permission to the accused to avail himself 
of counsel, and the decision of guilt or innocence by a jury, are 
demanded in cahiers of all the Orders. But the cahiers of the Third 
Estate ask for much more. Very often they desire a complete recasting 
of the judicial system. They ask for such a rearrangement of the 
Courts as shall make justice readily accessible to all, limit the number 
of appeals, and save time and expense. They ask that the judicial 
office shall no longer be purchaseable or hereditary, often indeed that 
it shall be in some measure elective. They ask that the judges shall 
be irremovable. They wish lihe judges to be paid by salaries, not by 
fees. The Parlements are very seldom mentioned with favour, and are 
often denounced with a bitterness which proves how extinct was their 
somewhat imreal popularity. The seigniorial Courts are as a rule 
disliked. A cahier here and there dwells on the advantage of having 
close at hand a Court where petty disputes may be settled, and even 
suggests that the decision of the seigniorial judge should be made final 
where the value at stake is below a certain figure. But the general 
drift of the cahiers runs the other way. They allege that the judges 
in the feudal Courts, appointed, paid, and dismissed by the seigneur. 



140 The financial reforms suggested. [i789 

cannot be impartial as between him and his vassals. They allege that 
he is often unqualified, or non-resident, or careless. They complain that 
the seigneur neglects the duty of criminal prosecution because it would 
cause expense, and that for the same reason the seigniorial prisons are 
not properly maintained. They insist, too, on the extraordinary inter- 
lacing of feudal jurisdictions and the difficulty in many cases of deciding 
to what feudal court the litigant should go. Upon the whole the 
Third Estate was ready to extirpate every trace of feudalism from 
the administration of jtistice and to reserve it entirely for the Crown 
and the nation. 

The financial reforms demanded in the cahiers would alone amount 
to a revolution. Upon the suppression of privilege in taxation the three 
Estates were virtually agreed. The clergy without exception concede 
this point, although in some haUliag^s they wish to retain the power of 
assessing payments by clergymen. Only in five bailliages do the nobles 
demur to forgoing the privilege, although in a few more they ask for 
relief to the poorest members of the class. The Third Estate is of 
course unanimous on this point, sometimes grateful to the others for 
their public spirit, sometimes inclined to treat their surrender as a tardy 
atonement for prolonged injustice. The Estates are also agreed as to 
the chief means for protecting the State against the chronic deficits of 
the past. They agree in reserving the power of taxation and appro- 
priation to the representatives of the people, in requiring the regular 
publication of accounts of revenue and expenditure, and in demanding 
the responsibility of ministers. They call for rigorous economy, especially 
in pensions, which had always attracted disproportionate notice ; but they 
acknowledge that the nation is bound to make good the deficit and to 
satisfy the claims of the public creditor, although one or two cahiers 
suggest that the interest on the debt might be reduced without injustice. 
What is more serious is that most cahiers, especially of the Third Estate, 
condemn the whole fiscal system on two grounds, one speculative and 
the other practical. All the existing taxes have been imposed without 
the consent of the people, and are therefore unlawful, although the 
representatives of the people may continue them until a new system 
has been established. Almost all the existing taxes are also condemned 
as unwise and oppressive, in fact economically pernicious. The direct 
taxes, taUle, capitation, and vimgtiemes, and nearly all the indirect taxes 
— the gabeUe, the aides, the duties on iron, leather, and various other 
articles — are condemned. Only two considerable sources of revenue are 
spared: the customs and the stamps on certain classes of documents. 
Even here radical changes are required, for customs duties are hence- 
forward to be levied on the frontiers only, and the stamp duties are 
to be revised and lowered. In proposing new sources of revenue the 
authors of the cahiers have been influenced partly by the teaching of 
the Physiocrats, partly by democratic ideas, partly by the special needs 



1789] The affairs of the Church. 141 

and prejudices of the country population. Generally speaking direct 
taxation is preferred to indirect, not ten cahiers in all favouring the 
continuance of indirect taxes other than the customs. A direct tax is 
to be imposed on all the land of the kingdom ; and it is sometimes 
suggested that this should be taken in kind. A direct tax is to be laid 
on property other than land and on the gains of trades and professions. 
Special taxes upon articles of luxury are often recommended. It is the 
general wish of the cahiers that the assessment and collection of taxes 
should be entrusted to the provincial and mimicipal assemblies. All 
desire to end the practice of farming the taxes. With a view to the 
extinction of the debt many cahiers advise that the domain of the 
Crown should be sold; a few suggest the sale of the lands of the 
Church. It is characteristic of the time and the people that this 
prodigious series of reforms is regarded as something which can be 
effected with little trouble or delay. Only two cahiers, it is said, and 
those drawn up by the clergy, recognise that this financial renovation 
will be a work of time. 

When the cahiers touch upon the affairs of the Chtnrch, the diver- 
gence between the three Estates becomes very notable. The clergy 
themselves, while consenting to forgo all exemption from taxes, wish to 
retain their property and honorary privileges intact. They ask that the 
nation shall take over the debt of the clergy as having been incurred for 
public purposes. The changes which they recommend in the application 
of endowments are few and restricted. They jealously insist on main- 
taining the supremacy of the Catholic Church and the authority of their 
Order. Even when they disclaim any wish to persecute heretics who do 
not defy or insult the established faith, they protest against the permis- 
sion of any public worship other than the Catholic, and even against the 
civil equality of heretics with the faithful. Often they demand that the 
edict of 1787 conceding the civU status to Protestants be revised. They 
very generally demand severe penalties against the authors and publishers 
of infidel books, to which they ascribe the flagrant immorality and 
iireligion of the time. They often desire the restoration of national and 
provincial councils, the strict maintenance of ecdesiastical jiu-isdiction, 
and a restraint on the royal right known as the rigale. They condemn 
the suppression of religious Houses, which had been going on for many 
years past, and desire that hereafter none be suppressed save in con- 
formity with the Canon Law. They often ask that aU colleges should 
be entrusted to the teaching confraternities, and that all places of educa- 
tion should be supervised by the Ordinary. In short they demand that 
in many respects the State should do more for the Church than it had 
done hitherto. 

The tone of the nobles towards the Church is very different. They 
usually express a wish, it is true, that the privileges of the clergy other 
than exemption from taxes should be preserved ; but they show no desire 



142 The cahiers and the Church. [i789 

to increase the power of the Church or to lessen the freedom of the laity. 
The demand that the Catholic Church should remain dominant is not so 
often repeated as the demand for toleration. The nobles, like other 
laymen, evidently approved as a body the growing freedom of opinion. 
Some at least of the nobles would approve the suppression of religious 
Houses and the diversion of some ecclesiastical endowments to new pur- 
poses. When we come to the cahiers of the Third Estate, especially the 
coimtless cahiers of towns and parishes, we understand how the founda- 
tion of the power of the Church in the good-will of the laity had been 
shaken, and how the actual state of the Church excited the anger of 
many whp were not conscious of rejecting her doctrines. The cahiers 
seldom contain anything relating to doctrine or worship. The desire 
for complete religious freedom is generally expressed in the cahiers of the 
bofUliages, the work of a class possessing considerable cultin-e. But alike 
in them and in the ruder statements of grievances drawn up by the 
primary assemblies, the material condition of the Church and its share in 
the national wealth are perpetual themes of complaint. The parochial 
clergy, it is true, are usually mentioned with respect, often with affection, 
as hardworking, pioua, and benevolent men ; and it is desired time after 
time that they should have a better livelihood. If they were properly 
endowed they could dispense with the casuel^^tlie fees for marriages, 
baptisms, etc. — and the qtiete or glcme- — the periodic demand of dues from 
their parishioners. But it would be hard to find any cordial mention of 
the Bishops and Archbishops. The regular clergy are more unpopular 
still. They are again and again denounced as wealthy, idle, and avari- 
cious, drawing large sums in tithe a,nd rent from parishes where they 
dispense no charity, and will not even contribute to the stipend of the 
priest or the repair of the fabric Some cahiers insist that the tithes 
they hold should be restored to the respective parishes and used for 
religion, charity, and education. Others wish to see dwindling commu- 
nities more rapidly suppressed ; and a few would do away with all religious 
Orders not engaged in active teaching or benevolence. Their estates 
might then be sold to pay off the public debt. Tithe, to whomsoever 
paid, was naturally disliked by the peasants, who ask to have it extin- 
guished or at least reduced. A few carry thrift so far as to complain of 
all payments to the Court of Rome or even to suggest the institution of 
a French patriarch. Now and then a cahier anticipates the National 
Assembly by demanding that the State should enter upon the endow- 
ments of the Church and should pay a fixed stipend to all the clergy 
whose services may be thought necessary. 

But it is in regard to the agrarian system that the cahiers of the 
Third Estate differ most materially from those of the clergy and the 
nobles, who usually demand the full recognition of their proprietary 
rights, including all manorial ckims. The Third Estate on the contrary 
expresses a general desire for the extinction of feudal rights. And when 



1789] Rural grievances. 143 

we pass from the cdhiers of the bailliages and sinichanssies to the original 
cahiers of the country parishes, we find that the feudal rights are the 
peculiar object of the peasant's hate. In some of these cahiers little is 
said about any other grievance. Among the manorial burdens perhaps 
the most odious were the so-called banalitis, the lord's exclusive right to 
have a mill, oven, winepress, or oilpress for the use of the tenants. The 
lord's right to have a dovecote was almost as great a grievance. Many 
of the village cahiers ask that if this right be retained, the pigeons may 
at least be shut up in seed-time and harvest, or that the peasants may 
be allowed to shoot them. A long list of manorial rights prevailing in 
different neighbourhoods, such as a right of the lord to use the peasants' 
cattle in drawing stones for the mill or a right of the lord to employ the 
peasants in clearing out the moat round his house, and others, of which the 
nature is sometimes obscure, are recorded and denounced in these cahiers. 
The various payments to the lord in money or in kind are of course 
unpopiilar. Usually it is proposed to commute all manorial rights having 
a definite money value at so many years' purchase, although in some 
cases the offer of compensation is omitted. Occasionally a cahier proposes 
other agrarian reforms, such as the aboUtion of entail or the enforcement 
of equal or nearly equal partition between children. But in most cases 
the cahiers of the peasants are confined to grievances which they felt 
directly. Among these the over-preservation of game must not be for- 
gotten. The cahiers of Paris outside the walls affirm that during the 
last twelve years the country-folk have been forced to sow their com and 
vegetables twice over, and in winter have had to guard their vines and 
trees against the teeth of the hares by wrapping them round with straw. 
The grievance was still greater when the animals thus protected were 
fierce and destructive. 

Few burdens are so often denounced by the peasants as that of 
the militia service. Time after time the cahiers complain of the loss 
incurred by those who have to attend the balloting, of the subscription 
which, contrary to law, the young feUows who had escaped made for their 
comrade on whom the lot fell, and of the discredit attaching to those 
who served in the militia. At least one cahier asserts that men had been 
known to mutilate themselves in order to avoid service. Many cahiers 
suggest that the parishes should be allowed to hire an equivalent number 
of volimteers. When we think how few recruits were taken and how 
easy was the service required, and how patiently the French have since 
endured the severest conscription with far greater chances of death and 
disablement, we are almost forced to conclude that the rhetoric of the 
cahiers was somewhat overcharged. It is true that unjust exemptions 
from the baUot and other abuses might make them impatient of a 
burden in itself not very grievous. 

Many of the other reforms demanded in the cahiers are of the highest 
significance. They anticipated Napoleon in desiring the career open to 



144 The general character of the demands. [i789 

talent, for they ask over and over again that all citizens should be equally 
eligible to all preferment, civil, military, or ecclesiastical, that nobles 
should be enabled to practise any profession or engage in commerce 
without derogating, and that the gilds and all other forms of restraint 
on the free exercise of ability should be extinguished. They ask, often it 
is true in vague terms, that education should be reformed and provided 
at the public expense. They demand the suppression of mendicity, and 
an orderly system for relieving distress without encouraging idleness. 
They desire the reform of hospitals and prisons. They claim the eman- 
cipation of the last remaining serfs at home and the abolition of the slave 
trade in the colonies. These and many other fruitful ideas are to be 
found in caMers, not only of the Third Estate, but also of the nobles 
and clergy. For the spirit of improvement was widely diffused, and the 
love of mankind which was on the lips of all was in the hearts of many. 

He must be wanting in human sympathy who feels no response 
in his own soul to this generous ardour of a great people, this zeal to 
redress inveterate injustice and set order in place of confusion. The 
wide sweep of the French Revolution was the secret of its charm for 
mankind as well as a cause of its partia,l failure. The French undoubt- 
edly attempted far too much, and with means the most imperfect; for 
a working parliamentary system is the slow result of time and labour. 
Practice, discipline, party organisation, the feehng of responsibility raised 
in those who censure by the knowledge that they may presently have to 
govern, the control exerted by a public accustomed to hear all sides and 
to learn from aU — these are barely enough to secure judgment and fore- 
thought in a parliament working under normal conditions. In 1789 a 
new assembly of untrained men was set between a weak, discredited, 
bankrupt government and a people rapidly passing beyond control, and 
in the midst of anarchy essayed not merely to govern but to create a 
government, nay more, to reconstruct a society which had lasted many 
centuries and numbered many millions of citizens. The enterprise was so 
much beyond human power that we cannot wonder if the National 
Assembly succeeded in destroying far more than it could rebuild. 



145 



CHAPTER VL 

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, AND THE SPREAD 
OF ANARCHY. 

The place of meeting for the States General had been discussed in 
the Royal Council. With a foreboding of the danger which might 
ensue if they met in Paris, Barentin, the Keeper of the Seals, had 
suggested Soissons or some other provincial town conveniently situated. 
Necker demurred to the expense of removing the Court in the actual 
distress of the Treasury. He would have preferred Paris as the place 
of assembly, because in Paris the fund-holders were most numerous and 
had most power over public opinion — a weighty recommendation in the 
eyes of a financier who desired the convocation of the States General 
chiefly as a means of restoring the national credit. But the majority of 
the councillors wished the States General to meet at Versailles, where 
the King, Court, and Ministers were already established, thus saving 
time and trouble and causing no break in the comfortable tenoiu: of 
their own lives. The King decided in favoin: of Versailles, and the 
palace of Louis XIV became the birthplace of modern democracy, as 
it afterwards became that of the German Empire. 

As to the graver question, what should be done with the States 
General when they met, the King and his Ministers were still without 
a policy and lost in the forms and traditions of the past. They had not 
even determined how far they would go in resisting the fusion of the 
three Estates. The officers of the Court had considered the etiquette 
suitable to a session of the States General, and, guided only by precedent, 
had chosen all the forms most apt to emphasise the distinction between 
the Orders, and therefore to incense those whom it was so important to 
conciliate. Men of the middle class are naturally disposed to prize the 
condescension of a sovereign, and Frenchmen have always been sensitive 
on points of ceremony. Prudence therefore enjoined extreme courtesy 
towards the Third Estate and the quiet suppression of such antiquated 
usages as might wound their new sense of power and dignity. The 
contrary course was taken ; and the deputies of the Third Estate were 
made to feel that they were deemed inferior to the clergy and the nobles. 

C. M. H. VIII. 10 



146 TTie meeting of the States General. [i789 

These deputies, already convinced that the fusion of the Orders was the 
only means of securing the vast reforms which they desired, were not 
cowed but exasperated by treatment so injudicious. They immediately 
engaged in a conflict with the nobles and the superior clergy, who took 
their stand upon tradition, and, encouraged by the demeanour of the King 
and his Ministers, sought to preserve for themselves a separate existence 
and equal power. The King, at length interposing, did far too little to 
decide the issue, but far too much for his own popularity. It was not 
until many weeks of precious time had been lost, until party feeling had 
been fearfully embittered, until the Crown had lost the little influence it 
still retained^ and France had passed the verge of dissolution, that the 
Third Estate carried its point and turned the ancient States General 
into a modem Constituent Assembly. 

On Monday, May 4, 1789, took place the religious ceremony which 
preceded the opening of the session. The deputies of the Three Estates 
met at the church of Notre Dame and marched in procession to the 
church of St Louis, where mass was celebrated and the Bishop of Nancy 
preached a sermon. Although the deputies assembled at seven, the 
King did not appear until ten o'clock. Agreeably to ancient usage, 
the members of the Third Estate were plainly attired in black, a morti- 
fying contrast with the splendid garb of the nobles and prelates. The 
clergy of Versailles led the way, then came the Third Estate, then the 
nobles, and after them the clerical deputies, and last of all the King and 
Queen, surrounded by the Princes and Princesses of the Blood Royal. 
An immense multitude thronged the streets, the balconies, and the roofs 
of Versailles. It received the Third Estate with loud applause, the 
nobles and clergy with indiflference. It gave a cordial welcome to the 
King, but to him alone, for the Princes passed without notice, and 
the Queen was deeply wounded by the too apparent disfavour of the 
public. The Bishop's sermon reflected the inconsistent feelings of many 
among his audience. WTiile he exhausted his art in describing the 
misery of the people, especially the intolerable burden of the taxes, 
he was careful to remind the Third Estate that they must not expect 
too much, and that the surrender of privilege must always be a matter of 
grace, not of compulsion. But the deputies, who were not yet in an 
irritable frame of mind, listened with facile enthusiasm. Indeed the 
men of our colder age can ill comprehend the ecstasy which was then 
all but universal. " Tears of joy flowed from my eyes. My God, my 
coimtry, my fellow-citizens had become myself." Such were the emotions 
of the plain, sensible Ferrieres, a Marquis and a conservative. 

On the following day the King opened the session of the States 
General. The authorities of the palace, inexperienced in the needs of 
a parliament, had not been judicious in their preparations. For the 
place of assembly they had chosen the Salle des Menus Plaisirs, merely 
because it was an enormous room and could be spared. It had been 



1789] Necker's statement. 147 

hastily fitted up; and no provision was made to separate the deputies from 
mere spectators. Although the deputies had been summoned for eight 
o'clock, the ceremony did not begin till ten ; and, while the nobles and 
clergy passed freely through the great door, the men of the Third Estate 
were kept waiting in a narrow corridor until the roll of the hailliages 
had been called. When at length all the deputies had taken their 
places, the King entered, and in a few words declared the session open. 
At his command, the Keeper of the Seals then delivered a long oration, 
in which he dwelt upon a number of reforms proper to employ the 
attention of the Estates. But the most significant passage weis a 
declaration that the King left the Orders free to determine whether 
they should sit and vote jointly or separately. When the Keeper of 
the Seals had ended, Neeker began to read his report on the state of the 
finances; but it was so long that he found his voice fail and handed it to 
a secretary. The report was neither candid nor politic. It was not 
candid, because Neeker in his eagerness to show how much had already 
been done to restore the finances, put the deficit at 56,000,000 Uvres, . 
little more than a third of the figures given by Brienne the year before. 
He did this by ignoring cei-tain expenses styled extraordinary and certain 
reimbursements of loans contracted by the State, although both were 
matters of obligation. Nor was the report politic, because Neeker, 
instead of suggesting large reforms, proposed to cover the deficit by 
a number of expedients, some of them judicious, but all too petty to 
impress a popular assembly. Like the Keeper of the Seals, he invited 
the deputies to consider a long list of subjects, and dwelt on the mo- 
mentous character of their labours, yet spoke of joint deliberation by 
the three Orders as a procedure which might be useful in some cases, but 
must in all cases be voluntary. He was applauded as a matter of course ; 
but, when the ceremony was over and the deputies of the Third Estate 
had time to reflect, they could not but be disappointed ; and from this 
day, although at first by slow degrees, Necker's popularity began to 
abate. 

It should be noted that on this memorable occasion the Ministers, 
while inviting the deputies to an immense range of discussion, did not lay 
before them any definite proposals on behalf of the Crown. No bills were 
brought into the States General by the King's advisers. No attempt 
was made to utilise for the States General the skill and experience 
of the public ofiices. No provision was made for guiding debate into 
useful channels. The Crown neglected to take that initiative which is 
of such invaluable consequence in legislation, and left the dearest interests 
of France at the mercy of a raw, unpractised assembly of twelve hundred 
men, who were not agreed even upon the primary matter of their own 
constitution. Yet we should err if we ascribed this procedure, in English 
eyes so unreasonable, to perversity or to a deep-laid scheme for rendering 
the States General futile and ridiculous. It originated in nothing worse 

10—2 



148 Verification of powers. [i789 

than blind adherence to the traditions of a remote age. As we have 
seen, the States General had never been a legislature in the true sense, 
nor had the King's Ministers ever sat in the States General. To petition 
for the redress of grievances had been the function of the States General; 
to grant or to withhold redress had been the prerogative of the Crown. 
When, therefore, the States General were revived after long disuse, it 
seemed enough that the King through his Ministers should encourage 
them to ask for reforms and promise his most serious consideration of all 
their requests. To guide the debates seemed needless ; to influence them 
seemed improper. When certain Breton deputies, more alive to the 
spirit of the time, assured Bertrand de Molleville of their anxiety to 
support the Crown and asked for guidance, he consulted Necker, who 
declined on principle all private communication with members of the 
States General. As during the elections, so in the first days of the session, 
the government remained passive and left to chance that direction which 
it refused to assume. It was soon to learn the consequences of reviving 
obsolete institutions in a society where everything had become new. 

Before the deputies could act, it was necessary that their powers 
should be verified : in other words, that each should satisfy his colleagues 
of his right to the character which he claimed. The conflict between 
the Estates therefore took the form of a dispute as to whether the 
verification of powers should be joint or separate. On the morning of 
May 6 the deputies of the Third Estate found themselves alone in the 
Salle des Menus Plaisirs, the nobles and the clergy having assembled in 
their respective Chambers. The clergy resolved upon separate verification 
of powers, but only by 133 voices to 114, a few of the prelates and a 
great number of the curSs voting in the minority. The nobles resolved 
upon the same course by the decisive majority of 188 to 47, and promptly 
began the work of verification. As the men of the Third Estate were 
determined to enforce joint verification, they were in a singular position. 
For they could not act, they could not even debate without organising 
themselves in some degree; and they were afraid lest in giving themselves 
an organisation they should seem to siccept the position of a separate 
Chamber. They were, moreover^ a mere crowd of persons unknown to 
one another, and with less Parliamentary experience than most English 
schoolboys. Under these difficulties they behaved with constancy and 
astuteness. They agreed to name the senior deputy present their doyen, 
and began an informal debate on the question of the hour. Then and 
afterwards they had an advantage in occupying the hall which had been 
dedicated to the use of the collective States General, and which was 
spacious enough to admit the public; while the First and Second Estates, 
sitting elsewhere and in private, seemed mere fragments of the national 
representation. 

Parties and leaders could not exist in an assembly altogether new, 
but men soon learn to measure themselves and others in debate, and in 



1789] Mounier. — Malouet. — Miraheau. 149 

a few days certain members took an acknowledged ascendancy over their 
fellows. Among these was Mounier, perhaps the best known politician 
in France, esteemed an oracle upon all questions of Parliamentary pro- 
cedure, and Sieyes, whose pamphlets had signalised him as the champion 
of the Third Estate. Among those of a conservative temper Malouet 
speedily gained a distinction due even more to his character than to his 
abilities. But these men were presently overshadowed by one who had 
no recommendations save genius and courage, whose reputation was 
not far removed from infamy, and who, though it was impossible to 
despise and difficult to hate him, was deeply distrusted by almost all his 
colleagues, Honore-Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau, the scion of 
an ancient Proven9al house, was now in his forty-first year. His father, 
the Marquis de Mirabeau, a man of rare though perverse talent, and 
of the strangest, most gnarled character, half feudal lord, half modern 
philanthropist, was a voluminous writer upon political and economical 
subjects, a worshipper of Quesnay, a fanatic among the Physiocrats. 
From early years young Mirabeau gave proof of an overflowing energy, 
a boundless versatility, a unique power of fascinating men and women, 
but also of a most irregular and ungovernable temperament. He was 
incessantly at war with his father, who procured several lettres de cachet 
for his confinement. He made an unwise and unhappy marriage which 
resulted, after ten years of scandal, in a judicial decree of separation. 
By the abduction of Madame Monnier he brought upon himself a capital 
sentence, never meant to be executed, and a rigorous imprisonment of 
more than three years in the castle of Vincennes. When he regained 
his freedom, it was only to break finally with both wife and father. He 
escaped to a wandering life in England, Prussia, and elsewhere, earned 
his bread now as a hack writer and now as a secret agent of the French 
Foreign Office, and came to be recognised by ministers as a useful if not 
very trustworthy instrument. Seldom has any man destined to greatness 
led a life not only so immoral but so ignoble as Mirabeau led until he 
had reached middle age. That he pursued his amours without shame or 
scruple might admit of palliation in so dissolute a society. But he 
was lacking in every form of delicacy. Careless of truth, abounding 
in profusion, unmeasured in his language of enmity or friendship, and 
too often stooping to dishonourable tricks, such as the unauthorised 
publication of his correspondence from Berlin when serving the French 
government, he almost deserved the bitter gibes and reproaches with 
which his father coupled every mention of his name. And yet Mirabeau 
had a warm, expansive nature, capable of high ambitions and sensitive 
to great ideas. Austerely moral men such as Malouet and Romilly were 
convinced of his disposition to goodness; and, indeed, without some 
genuine worth he could not have won so many devoted friends. 

In the depths of poverty and shame Mirabeau was sustained by a 
patrician arrogance which sorted oddly with his later character of tribune. 



150 Miraheau and his assistants, [i789 

by a most sanguine spirit, and above all by the consciousness of extra- 
ordinary powers. From the time when the King promised to convoke 
the States General he felt the assurance of an illustrious career. When 
Provence recovered its Estates, he offered himself as the champion of the 
popular party against his own order. In retaliation the nobles denied 
his claim to a seat among them, on the ground that he was not possessor 
of a fief, the qualification required by usage in Provence. Their enmity 
only endeared him the more to the common people. At the time of the 
elections for the States General he quelled by mere personal influence 
two formidable outbreaks, in Aix and in Marseilles respectively, and was 
elected by both cities a deputy for the Third Estate. He preferred to 
sit for Aix, and returned to Paris already a conspicuous public man. 

Mirabeau's true bent was to action. Although he always read 
greedily, especially when a prisoner, it was without method and without 
making himself master of any subject. Although he was a facile writer, 
turning out translations, histories, essays, pamphlets, and economic 
dissertations in endless succession, none of his works has any lasting 
value beyond the light which it sheds on the author. He possessed an 
extraordinary art of using other men's minds and appropriating the 
fruits of their labour. It is impossible to say how much of his books 
was written by himself. Thus the main drudgery of his famous work On 
the Prussian Monarchy under Frederick II was done by a certain Major 
Mauvillon, and Mirabeau only set the impress of his thought and style 
upon the material. In his brief political career he had many assistants, 
such as Dumont, Duroveray, Claviere, and Reybaz, who fed his untiring 
activity with information, with drafts of laws and pamphlets, and even 
with notes of speeches. Aulard thinks that we cannot positively ascribe 
to Mirabeau any of the orations which he read in the tribune ; only the 
improvisations being certainly and entirely his own. Yet none can say 
that Mirabeau owed power or fame to plagiarism. Nobody has ventured 
to dispute his genius as an orator. He was a true rhetorician, rhetorical 
even in his familiar letters, with the full-flowing, vehement rhetoric of the 
South ; but, in spite of all his fire and facility, he was not a debater, for 
he poured himself forth in a single efibrt and did not excel in reply. 
His biographer, Lomenie, endorses Macaulay's epithet of a Wilkes- 
Chatham as descriptive of Mirabeau's peculiar eloquence. A large and 
powerful frame, a species of heroic ugliness, mobile and expressive 
features, and a thick mane of dark hair, made up a presence which held 
and overawed his hearers ; and he had the true orator's voice. 

K Mirabeau was original as an orator, he was still more original as a 
statesman. His natural insight had been sharpened in a life of struggle 
and adventure. He neither had the small, systematic mind of the coimtry 
curi or lawyer, nor shared the illusions of the courtiers and prelates 
who basked in the splendour of Versailles. The fuller knowledge which 
we now possess clears him from the old reproach of apostasy, and enables 



1789] u4ims of Mirabeau. 151 

us to see that his political tendencies remained the same throughout. 
From the first he perceived that the Revolution was irresistible, and 
would be far-reaching. He saw that the ancient form of society, and 
above all the privileged orders, were doomed to disappear. At the same 
time he honestly desired a real government. "Do not multiply 
vain declamations; revive the executive power." In this spirit he 
desired to preserve the monarchy, and restore to it as much strength 
as would be compatible with the Parliamentary system. He looked 
down upon his colleagues with a disdain, partly of birth, partly of 
conscious power; and he foretold that they would not stop until they 
had plunged Prance into chaos. As early as May, 1789, he had ofifered 
the Crown his services to guide and control the Eevolution. But his 
inward tendency was obscured by many outward circumstances. A poor, 
discredited adventurer, he felt that he must play the demagogue in order 
to reach the position which he knew himself able to fill. Though proud 
of his rank, he knew himself despised and rejected by his brother nobles ; 
and his scorn for their incapacity was embittered by resentment. His 
endeavours towards an understanding with the King and the Ministers 
were all in vain; they knew his vices, they could not understand his 
powers, and they saw in him little more than an agitator trying to raise 
his price. It must be acknowledged too that, with all his energy of 
character, Mirabeau was unstable. His angry father once declared that 
for a soul he had only a mirror where everything painted itself and 
disappeared in an instant. We must not expect to find in Mirabeau's 
career that high consistency to which statesmen of firmer and pxu-er 
nature and less severely tried have sometimes risen. 

His first act as a deputy was to pubhsh a journal entitled Journal 
des Etats ghnerauic with the significant motto "Noims rerum nascitwr 
ordoy In the first number, published on May 5, he had complained of 
the irritating etiquette imposed on the Third Estate, and had criticised 
the sermon of the Bishop of Nancy. In the second he made a fierce 
onslaught upon Necker's address to the States General. As he had asked 
no permission to set up his journal, and Ministers were not wont to be 
thus roughly handled, there forthwith appeared a decree of the Council 
suppressing it, and another announcing that the actual press regulations 
woiid be enforced until the Estates had considered the subject and the 
King had determined what changes were desirable. Mirabeau replied by 
bringing out a new journal, Lettres du Comte de Mirdbecm a ses commet- 
tants, thus sheltering himself behind his character of deputy, and began 
with a fiery denunciation of ministerial despotism. The ever-retreating 
government then announced that journals and periodicals might publish 
all that passed in the States General, but must abstain from comment. 
This proviso was ignored from the first by Mirabeau, and soon by 
everybody. 

Even in the first day's discussion some hasty spirits among the Third 



152 Conferevices of the three Orders. [i789 

Estate proposed that they shotild constitute themselves a National 
Assembly and proceed to business forthwith. Malouet proposed that 
they should send deputations to argue with the clergy and the nobles ; 
but Mounier objected that by taking this course they would seem 
to acknowledge themselves a separate Chamber. On the second day 
Mirabeau, for the first time addressing his colleagues, urged that they 
should remain passive, but Mounier, changing his mind, supported 
Malouet and advised negotiations with the nobles and the clergy. The 
nobles had adjourned until May 11, but the clergy returned an en- 
couraging answer and announced that they would choose representatives 
to discuss the subject of verification with the other Estates. The nobles 
when they reassembled declared themselves a separate Chamber, but 
accepted the proposed conference. The Third Estate was divided on 
this point. Le Chapelier, a deputy from Rennes, with Breton vehemence 
proposed to cut short the controversy by declaring that they would 
recognise as lawful representatives only those persons whose powers had 
been verified in a joint assembly. But, after a debate which lasted imtil 
May 18, commissioners were nominated to confer with the commissioners 
of the nobles. 

The conferences took place on May 23 and 25, in presence of the 
representatives of the clergy acting as friendly neutrals. The nobles 
alleged history and precedent in favour of the separation of the Orders. 
The commissioners of the Third Estate replied that history and precedent 
could be quoted for either course, but that reason and justice were in 
favour of the Orders acting jointly. Neither party was convinced, and 
the conferences ended without result. The Third Estate, who had 
meanwhile been considering their own organisation and procedure, now 
resolved to try an appeal to the clergy. On May 27 they solemnly 
invited the clergy to a joint verification of powers, and many of the 
inferior clergy were visibly disposed to join them at once ; but the leaders 
had enough influence to prevent immediate action, and the favourable 
impulse cooled. At the desire, doubtless, of those who wished to gain 
time, the King now interposed to enjoin a renewal of the conferences in 
the presence of the Keeper of the Seals and commissioners specially 
appointed. The clergy assented at once; the nobles and the Third 
Estate were for opposite reasons more reluctant ; but Mirabeau, faithful 
to the principle of deference for the Crown, persuaded his colleagues to 
acquiesce, and at the same time to appoint a deputation which might lay 
before the King the reasons for their conduct. The conferences were 
thus renewed and lasted from June 1 to 9; but, none of the middle ways 
proposed finding favour with both parties, no result ensued beyond loss 
of time and further exasperation. Meantime the King had treated the 
Third Estate with singular want of tact. The illness of his eldest son, 
which presently proved fatal, was a valid reason for delay in receiving 
their deputation; but the reluctance to cast aside forms of etiquette which 



1789] The Third Estate a "National Assembly" 153 

were considered humiliating was at such a crisis puerile. It was not 
until June 6 that the deputation was admitted to the royal presence. 

The conferences having failed, Sieyes, encouraged by Mirabeau, moved 
on June 10 that the Third Estate should for the last time invite the 
clergy and nobles to a joint verification of powers, announcing at the 
same time that they would proceed to verify forthwith. The proposal 
was carried by an overwhelming majority ; and it was agreed to send a 
second deputation to the King to state the reasons for this decisive step. 
As neither the nobles nor the clergy responded to the summons, the Third 
Estate took action on June 12. BaiUy, who chanced to be then acting as 
doyen, was named provisional President; the roll of the hailliages was 
called ; and the work of verification began. All through that day the 
deputies were left to themselves ; but on the next they were joined 
by three cures from Poitou, and on June 14 six other clergymen 
followed the example. On that day the verification of powers was 
completed; and the Third Estate, now regarding themselves as an 
actual parliament, had to consider what title they should assume. 

The new debate thus begun lasted three days. It was difficult indeed 
to find an appellation which should express all that the Third Estate 
and their few adherents claimed to be, and yet not wholly ignore the 
rights of the other Orders who might possibly come to terms. Various 
titles, sometimes verging upon the grotesque, were proposed. Sieyes 
moved that the house should style itself "The Assembly of the known and 
verified representatives of the French nation." Barere, objecting to this 
style on the ground that it assumed too much, offered as an alternative, 
"legitimate representatives of the majority. of Frenchmen." Mounier, 
studying accuracy more than effect, gravely suggested that they should call 
themselves, "The Lawful Assembly of the Representatives of the majority 
of Frenchmen acting in the absence of the minority." Always anxious not 
to push matters to a breach with the King, Mirabeau advised that the House 
should entitle itself, "The Assembly of the Representatives of the People." 
But the deputies did not relish the appellation of representatives of the 
people, because "people" might be taken as the equivalent of "populace." 
In vain Mirabeau urged that the friends of freedom had often assumed 
names far less honourable, even names devised by the malice of their 
enemies, and had turned these into badges of glory. Far from having 
any efifect upon jealous and distrustful colleagues, his arguments called 
forth a storm of abuse and contradiction which even Mirabeau could 
not encounter. In the midst of this hubbub Legrand, a deputy from 
Berry, proposed that they should denominate themselves " The National 
Assembly." The term had already been applied to the States General 
in various pamphlets and cahiers and even by the King himself. It did 
full justice to the pretensions of the deputies; it was short, dignified, 
and popular, and, in a word, had so many advantages that Sieyes, 
catching the sense of his hearers, withdrew his original motion and 



154 Action of the National Assembly. [i789 

adopted the term proposed by Legrand. On the morning of June 17, 
after a long and fierce debate, the amended motion of Sieyes was carried 
by 491 voices to 90, although Malouet asserts that the minority would 
have been far larger but for intimidation. 

The die was now cast, and the Revolution had begun. Whatever 
differences of opinion might be possible regarding the constitution of 
the ancient States General, it was certain that a single Estate, in assum- 
ing the character of a national assembly, did something altogether 
new and altogether exceeding its legal powers. Although it allowed the 
deputies of the clergy and nobles to enter as individuals, it denied a 
separate existence to those Estates which in law were its equals. In 
taking its new title, it shook off all the restraints which tradition had 
imposed on the action of any one Estate, or of all the Estates together. 
By doing this without the sanction of the Crown, the supreme legislator 
for centiuies, it advanced a claim to recast the constitution of the 
kingdom. The spokesmen of the Third Estate could defend their policy 
only by an appeal to abstract reason and justice, in other words by deny- 
ing validity to the actual institutions of France. Their favourite argu- 
ment that the representatives of twenty-four millions of men should 
prevail over the representatives of two hundred thousand implied, indeed, 
that no government other than extreme democracy can ever be legitimate, 
and involved consequences which most of them would hardly have cared 
to acknowledge. Yet it must be admitted that there were very cogent 
reasons for this momentous decision of the Third Estate. The historic 
constitution of the States General was obsolete, and the attempt to 
revive it was a grave error. Such were the hindrances to reform that 
a revolution of some kind was perhaps unavoidable. But it was natural 
that Mirabeau, in his desire to abridge that revolution and to save the 
authority of the Crown, should have preferred a more modest title. 
Many months afterwards he said to Dumont, " Ah ! my friend, how 
right we were in our unwillingness that the Third Estate should term 
itself 'The National Assembly'!" 

The Assembly showed itself aware of the true nature of its action by 
the measures which it now took against a possible attack from the Crown. 
These measures had been indicated by Mirabeau on June 15, but they 
were actually drafted and proposed by Target and Le Chapelier. It was 
decreed that all the existing taxes, although unlawful, not having been 
sanctioned by the people, should continue to be paid as formerly until the 
day on which the National Assembly should first separate, after which all 
taxes not expressly authorised by the nation should cease and determine. 
The Assembly further declared that, immediately after fixing the principles 
of the constitution, it would proceed to examine and consolidate the 
public debt, and that it placed the public creditor under the guarantee 
of the honour and loyalty of the French nation. It also promised an 
enquiry at the earliest possible date into the causes and remedies of the 



1V89] The Oath of the Tennis-Court. 155 

scarcity. The first of these resolutions made it hopeless in the actual 

state of Fi-ance for the Crown to levy any taxes unless it remained on 

good terms with the Assembly. The second enlisted all the fund-holders 

in the popular cause ; and the third appealed to aU who were hungry, 

or who feared to be so. It is true that the assertion of the unlawfulness 

of the actual taxes made the taxpayers more bold than ever to delay or 

refuse payment. The revenue became more and more difficult to collect ; 

and the deficit, quite curable at the opening of the States General, 

became enormous. But the Assembly distrusted the King too much to 

regret this disorder, and soon found in the confiscation of the Church 

lands a resource which it fondly thought inexhaustible. Its resolutions 

were admirably adapted to their immediate purpose, and its skill and 

vigour contrasted with the slow and feeble measures of its antagonists. 

The efFect upon the divided and wavering clergy was soon apparent. 

On June 19 they decided by 128 voices to 127 in favour of the joint 

verification of powers. The nobles, more united in defence of their 

privilege, still held firm and voted an address to the King condemning 

the usurpations of the Third Estate. The King, though displeased, had 

remained inactive. It was not until the evening of the 17th, when the 

great debate was over, that his reply to the address voted by the Third 

Estate on the 10th had come into the hands of Bailly. It contained 

little more than a censure of the term " privileged Orders" as applied to 

the clergy and nobles, and a reproof to the Third Estate for failing in 

deference to their sovereign. Their adoption of the title of " National 

Assembly "" and their subsequent resolutions could not but alarm Louis. 

He resolved to hold a "royal session" and to command the Estates 

to lose no further time in controversy. For this purpose preparations 

in the Salle des Menus Plaisirs were needful, and the sittings of the 

Assembly would have to be interrupted. But, instead of giving formal 

notice to BaiUy as President, the Ministers with discourteous foUy 

sent the workmen into the haU on June 20 and caused placards to 

be posted, announcing the 22nd as the day of the royal session. 

Only at the last moment did de Breze, Grand Master of the Ceremonies, 

inform Bailly by letter that he was about to proclaim the royal 

session by the voice of heralds. Bailly took no heed, but went with 

the deputies to their accustomed hall; and, finding the doors shut, 

adjourned with them to a neighbouring tennis-court. There the 

deputies, incensed at the discourtesy with which they had been treated 

and suspecting a resolution on the part of the government to interrupt 

their sittings, or even to dissolve their assembly, acclaimed Mounier's 

proposal that they should take a solemn oath not to separate until the 

constitution had been established. Only a single deputy, a certain 

Martin of Auch, refused to swear ; and the Oath of the Tennis-Court 

became one of the most memorable incidents of the French Revolution. 

No notice was taken of the oath and no attempt was made to check 



156 The Royal Session. [i789 

the debates of the Assembly, which presently removed its sittings to the 
church of St Louis. Here, on June 22, the bulk of the clergy, headed 
by the Archbishops of Vienne and Bordeaux and the Bishops of Rodez, 
Chartres, and Coutances, came to take their seats beside the commons. 
Even the nobles were now shaken, and on the same day the Marquis de 
Blafons and the Comte d'Agoult joined the National Assembly. Mean- 
time the royal session had been postponed to the 23rd, for the King was 
as usual irresolute, and his advisers were at variance regarding the tenour 
of his declarations to the Estates. Necker and his liberal colleagues 
wished the King to accept with some reserves the principle of joint 
deliberation, and to announce an ample programme of reform. The 
conservatives, led by Barentin, altogether rejected joint deliberation and 
would have had the King promise as few reforms as possible. Necker 
had the worst in the debate ; and the royal declaration, which he had 
drafted, was modified in Barentin's sense. Necker did not resign, but, 
after some hesitation, resolved not to appear at the royal session, thus 
saving his credit with the people, though rendering himself odious to 
the King and Queen. 

On the morning of the 23rd the deputies reassembled in the Salle 
des Menus Plaisirs, but not until the Tliird Estate had suffered a new 
affront in being forced to wait for some time after the clergy and nobles 
had taken their seats. The streets of Versailles were lined with troops, 
and the crowd for the first time received Louis in gloomy silence. After 
the King had explained the reasons for his interference, a Secretary of 
State read the royal declaration " with respect to the holding of the 
present States General." It made known the King's will that the 
distinction between the three Estates should be observed as an essential 
part of the Constitution, although they might by mutual consent and 
with his approval deliberate together when convenient. It annulled the 
resolutions taken by the Third Estate on June 17, and all directions 
given by electors to their deputies with regard to joint deliberation and 
vote by head. From the subjects which might be jointly considered by 
the three Estates it excluded the form to be given to the next States 
General, as well as the feudal property and the privileges of the clergy 
and nobility. The separate consent of the clergy it declared indis- 
pensable to every decision afifecting the Church. Another Secretary of 
State then read " a declaration of the King's intentions," setting forth 
the reforms which he promised to his people. No new tax was to be 
imposed, no loan contracted, without the consent of the States General ; 
the accounts of revenue and expenditure were to be published ; and the 
sums appropriated to each department to be fixed beyond possibility of 
variation. Immunities from taxation were to cease, and the most 
impopular taxes to be abolished or amended. Personal servitude was 
to be suppressed. Provincial Estates were to be established through- 
out the kingdom. The States General were invited to consider the 



1V89] The King and the Assembly. 157 

suppression of lettres de cachet, the grant of a certain liberty to the press, 
the reform of the law, and the mitigation of the militia service. But 
the King expressly reserved to himself entire authority over the army. 

When the second declaration had been read the King spoke for the 
last time, announcing that, if he were abandoned by the States General 
in the beneficent work of reform, " alone he would ensure the happiness 
of his people," and enjoining the Orders to repair the next day each to 
its separate Chamber. The King and his train then retired, and the 
bulk of the nobles and some of the clergy withdrew ; but the rest of the 
deputies remained motionless in their seats. The Grand Master of the 
Ceremonies thereupon came forward and said, " Gentlemen, you know 
the intentions of the King." Mirabeau (whose words have been 
variously reported) answered for the Assembly and said, " If you have 
been charged to make us quit this place, you must ask for orders to use 
force, for we will not stir from our places save at the point of the 
bayonet." As de Brez^ declined to take an answer from a private 
deputy, Bailly, the President, replied that he had no power to break up 
the Assembly imtil it had deliberated upon the royal session just over. 

Thus ended the royal session of June 23, memorable as the most 
striking display of the King's weakness. At the advice both of Necker 
and of Necker's enemies, Louis had at length abandoned his merely passive 
part and had come forward to declare both the Constitution and the 
business of the States General. So far he had only done what it might 
have been prudent to do earlier. But he acted too late and under the 
influence of those whom the Assembly could not fail to distrust. More- 
over the reservations which accompanied the King's promises were serious. 
His concessions did not expressly include periodic States General, or 
the recognition of legislative power in the States General, or the 
responsibility of ministers. Louis took his stand upon his ancient and 
undoubted prerogative; the National Assembly took theirs upon the 
abstract sovereignty of the people. Where principles were so sharply 
opposed, extraordinary wisdom and temper would have been required to 
effect a compromise. Moreover the King did not enact any reform, he 
merely declared his intentions ; and experience had shown that, if the 
intentions of Louis were generally good, they were often ineffective. 
A year earlier his declaration would have been applauded; it now 
provoked minrmurs ; and the Assembly held on its course as if he had 
not spoken. 

We may wonder more that Louis should have suffered his wishes 
so solemnly announced to be treated with contempt. Some of his 
advisers may have thought of using force ; but, when de Brez^ informed 
the King of the contumacy of the deputies, he replied that, if the 
gentlemen of the Third Estate did not choose to quit the hall, there 
was nothing to do but to leave them there. No further interference 
was attempted. The roll of the Assembly was called, and every 



158 Union of the three Estates. [i789 

member of the Third Estate answered to his name. The clergymen 
whose powers had been verified claimed to sit and vote ; and those who 
had not yet undergone that formality asked that their names might be 
entered on the journals as present. The debate on the royal session then 
began ; and, after one or two members had spoken, Sieyes rose and said 
in his dry, incisive manner, " Gentlemen, you are to-day that which you 
were yesterday." The applause was loud and general; and the resolution 
of Camus that the Assembly persisted in its foirmer decrees was adopted 
without a division. Mirabeau then proposed that the Assembly 
should declare the persons of its members inviolable. This motion was 
carried by 493 voices to 34, and the House adjourned to the following 
day. 

Meantime the commotion was great in Paris and Versailles. In 
Versailles crowds continued to grow and to display a menacing temper. 
On a report that Necker had resigned, his house was beset with anxious 
citizens, begging that he would resume office. In Paris men of business 
were panic^struck, and rushed to the Caisse d'Escompte to get gold for 
their paper. They even prepared a deputation to remonstrate with the 
King. The clubs in the Palais-Royal held more violent language than 
ever, and the seditious talked of a march on Versailles. Necker had in 
fact resigned after the royal session ; but the King and Queen were forced 
to entreat that he would come back, and he consented. He returned 
home from the palace through a rejoicing multitude. According to his 
own account, generosity forbade him to ask for the dismissal of his 
opponents ; but, according to Barentin, he asked for it in vain. The 
King's humiliation confirmed his dislike of Necker, and he readily 
accepted Necker's promise to retire at the first intimation and in such 
a way as to attract the least notice possible. Within three weeks Necker 
learnt how precarious was his tenure. 

Now that the impotence of the Crown was beyond dispute, events 
marched rapidly towards the total union of the Three !l^tates. On 
Jime 24 the Comte de Clermont-Tonnerre had moved the nobles, though 
in vain, that they should join the commons. The next day he and his 
supporters to the number of forty-seven, with the Duke of Orleans at 
their head, passed over to the National Assembly. Presently other 
noblemen followed their example. The clergy continued to come in. 
The Archbishop of Paris, the most obstinate opponent of union, was set 
upon by a band of ruffians when leaving the chamber of the clergy, and 
would perhaps have been murdered had he not consented to do likewise. 
Although he had promised under duress, he felt bound by his word and 
went. The irresolute King accepted defeat, and at Necker's prompting 
wrote to the Cardinal de La Rochefoucauld, President of the clergy, 
and the Due de Luxembourg, President of the nobles, inviting both Orders 
to join the National Assembly. As the Cardinal and the Duke hesitated, 
Louis summoned them to his presence and by personal solicitation 



i'789] Movement of troops. 159 

extorted their consent. The clergy now professed themselves willing to 
obey the King if the nobles would do the like. But among the nobles 
many, with Cazales and d'Esprdmenil at their head, remained obdurate 
imtil the King had invoked the help of his brother, the Comte d'Artois, 
the chief of the high aristocratic party. A letter from the Count, 
alleging that the King's life was in danger, silenced opposition ; and all 
the remaining nobles and clergymen took their seats in the Assembly. 
Yet a few days later the Cardinal de La Rochefoucauld made a de- 
claration reserving the right of the clergy in future sessions to sit and 
vote separately. So late as July 8 eighty-nine nobles signed a declaration 
in favour of upholding the distinction between the Orders. Other 
symptoms, trivial in themselves, showed that many of the nobles and 
tiie clergy regretted the surrender which they had made at the instance 
of the sovereign, and would take the first opportunity of recovering 
their independence. 

By July 2 the powers of all the deputies had been duly verified 
and the National Assembly was at length complete. On the following 
day Talleyrand, Bishop of Autmi, made a motion that all imperative 
instructions given by the electors to their representatives should be 
cancelled ; and, after a long debate, the substance of his motion was 
adopted. The royal declaration had set a precedent for this vote 
which effaced yet another peculiarity of the old States General and 
vested in the National Assembly the plenitude of sovereign power. The 
Assembly was at length free to begin " the regeneration of Prance." On 
July 6 it appointed the first Committee of the Constitution. But 
unforeseen events occasioned a brief crisis, and gave the Revolution a 
more violent character. Louis must have regarded the course of the 
Assembly with as much indignation as was possible to his sluggish 
nature. The Assembly had scornfully ignored what he must have 
deemed his lawful and justifiable intervention ; and it had forced upon 
him the indignity of having to exact that very vmion of the Orders 
which be disapproved. Yet left to himself Louis might have accepted 
this rebuff and continued to drift on the stream of chance. But those 
who had prompted his action and saw more clearly every day the scope 
of the Revolution that was impending, were not inclined to yield so 
easily. They determined to get rid of Necker and of the Ministers who 
followed him, and probably to put an end to the National Assembly. 
As the dismissal of Necker might lead to an insurrection, a large force 
of troops, especially of the foreign regiments in French pay, was directed 
upon Paris and Versailles imder the command of Marshal de Broglie, 
a trusty veteran of the Seven Years' War. The recent outbreaks of 
disorder in and near the capital afforded a pretext for this concentration, 
but the Assembly at once divined its real purpose. The deputies of the 
Third Estate, who were in constant correspondence with their electors, 
spread the alarm and set on foot an agitation throughout the kingdom. 



160 "Spontaneous anarchy." [i789 

But the centre of resistance was the capital ; and from this time forward 
Paris becomes the focus of the Revolution. 

For many months past the fabric of French society had been falling 
into ruin. The bold and successful resistance of the Parlements to 
Brienne had made manifest the irresolution and weakness of the sovereign 
and his ministers. The bad harvest of 1788 and the severe winter which 
followed had brought many thousands to the verge of starvation and 
filled the land with vagabonds and beggars. The elections for the States 
General had made political discussion universal, had given even the most 
ignorant a vivid notion of the wrongs which they endmred, and had 
possessed the minds of all who were wretched with the thought of 
change and the hope of a great deliverance. Although the electoral 
assemblies were as a rule orderly and decorous, the period of the elections 
had been marked by many acts of riot and outrage. Taine has reckoned 
upwards of three hundred outbreaks of disorder between March and 
July of 1789. Most of these might be described as bread or com riots. 
The populace rose to prevent grain being carried out of their district, 
or to seize the com stored in magazines or religious Houses, or to force 
the bakers to sell at less than the market price, or to seize the bread 
without paying any price at aU. All such acts of violence tended to 
make corn scarcer and bread dearer, and so to multiply themselves. 
Sometimes the rioters wreaked their grudge on the feudal system by 
sacking country-houses or burning manorial records. Sometimes they 
ventured on niore direct rebellion, destroying the town barriers and 
refusing to pay the octroi or even the King's taxes. Almost all these 
acts of lawlessness went unpunished. For the police, both in town and 
country, was weak ; the soldiers were becoming disaffected, and the 
officers, as well as the magistrates and Intendants, swayed either by fear 
or by philanthropic sentiment, were most unwilling to take severe 
measures. Their forbearance was construed as weakness, and the law 
continued to be broken as before. The condition of France in the 
summer of 1789 is best described by Taine's phrase of "spontaneous 
anarchy," 

No less alarming was the state of Paris. Then, even more than now, 
Paris was the centre of French political life, the source of French political 
ideas. The victory of the Parlements over the Crown had nowhere been 
more complete than in Paris. Idle and starving people had been drawn 
to the capital in the hope of sharing in its profuse charity. The relief 
works set on foot by the municipal authority had attracted thousands 
who did nothing useful, yet could not be turned away without extreme 
danger of an insurrection. Among the upper class the fund-holders, as 
we have seen, despairing of the solvency of the government, put aU their 
hope in a political revolution. Men of all conditions were in such a 
ferment as had never been known before. For to that age of inex- 
perience political life had the wonder and the charm of a newly 



1789] The Clubs. — The Duke of Orleans. 161 

discovered continent. There everything seemed possible to eager and 
restless minds. Every enthusiast might hope that the public would 
take his prescription for freedom and happiness. Every adventurer 
might feel assured that a boundless career awaited his ability and 
daring. Political discussion was therefore general and unceasing. As 
yet newspapers were only beginning to appear, and Camille Desmoulins, 
the cleverest journalist of the Revolution, was still in quest of a pub- 
lisher. But pamphlets still poured from the press, and speakers could 
everywhere find a forum. In many of the districts formed for the 
elections of the Third Estate the citizens had continued to meet and to 
discuss the questions of the hoiu". Out of one of these assemblies grew 
the famous dub of the Cordeliers, where Danton made his first essays 
as a public speaker and gained his first adherents. Beside the district 
assemblies there sprang up a multitude of clubs, mostly small and 
shortlived, but in their day full of zealous disputants. For the labour- 
ing classes there were the popular societies which met in the tavern or in 
the open street. In such obscure and irresponsible gatherings doctrines 
were often upheld and methods were often suggested which no deputy 
would have ventured to name at Versailles. Republicans on principle 
like Desmoulins were still few ; but many were prepared for any violence 
against the enemies of the Third Estate. 

The Duke of Orleans had already conceived the project of supplant- 
ing Louis on the throne, and made his own palace the asylum of all 
the most reckless among the politicians who then swarmed in Paris. 
There the most seditious clubs held their meetings; there the most 
inflammatory speeches were delivered; and as all the attractions of 
sauntering, gambling, and prostitution were added, the orators never 
wanted an audience, and the Palais-Royal was crowded day and night. 
That the Duke and his friends did more than countenance the revo- 
lutionary party, that they spent pains and money in making serviceable 
adherents and recruiting among the destitute and criminal class seems 
certain, although the details can never be known. So early as the 
time of the elections the eiFect of aU these disorganising agencies was 
seen in the formidable riots associated with the name of R^eillon. 
ReveiUon was a manufacturer of waU-papers, a successful and, so far as 
is known, an estimable man; but he was alleged to have said (such 
reports were incessant in the revolutionary period and usually murderous) 
that a workman could live on fifteen sous a day. Accordingly, on April 27 
and again on the 28th, his house was attacked and pillaged by a furious 
mob, at one time numbering thousands ; and the sack lasted till all the 
available troops had been called out and many of the rioters had been 
killed or wounded. The authors of the riot were never traced, but they 
probably had some aim beyond that of injuring a private individual. 

While disorder in Paris was coming to a head, the force available' for 
keeping the peace was insignificant. The ordinary police, the watch 
0. H. H. vni. 11 



162 Insubordination in the Gardes Frangaises. [i789 

mounted or on foot, numbered little over one thousand men. It could 
be reinforced by two regiments of the line, the Gardes Suisses and the 
Gardes Fran^aises, which had permanent quarters in the capital. The 
Swiss regiment might be trusted to obey orders, but the French regiment 
was not to be counted upon. Many of the men had married Parisian 
women and were bound by family ties to the lower class of townspeople. 
The Duke of Orleans and the partisans of violent revolution seem to 
have employed every means of seduction upon the regiment. The new 
colonel, the Due de Chatelet, was a martinet, harsh and doubly un- 
popular with soldiers who had been living under a relaxed discipline. 
After many acts of insuboi'dination, there was discovered in the regiment 
a secret society whose members had bound themselves to obey no orders 
directed against the Nationeil Assembly. Several of the culprits were 
put under arrest and sent to the prison known as the Abbaye. On 
June 30 the mob rose and released the prisoners, and some dragoons 
and hussars who had been ordered out to suppress the riot fraternised with 
the mob. Matters could not rest here; and the revolutionary clubs, 
alarmed at their own boldness, sent a deputation to beg that the 
Assembly would intercede. The Assembly having solicited the King 
to show clemency and soothed the populace, the prisoners of their own 
free will returned to the Abbaye, whence they were presently released by 
royal order. Such an incident showed that the troops could not be 
trusted, and that the power of the Crown in Paris was merely nominal. 

The municipal authority was equally infirm. In Paris, before the 
Revolution, the municipal officers were named by the Crown, and the 
citizens had no real voice in the administration. An elective munici- 
pality was generally desired, and had been demanded in the cahiers of 
Paris. Its germ already existed. The electors of the Third Estate 
in Paris had resolved that they would keep together after the elections 
in order to correspond with their deputies and to watch over the 
interests of the city; but for a time they had so far deferred to the 
government as not to hold any meeting. At length, alarmed by the 
royal declaration "of June 23, they asked for the use of a room in the 
Hotel de Ville; and, failing to get it, they met in a hall in the Rue 
Dauphine. After some heated speech and the suggestion of a civic 
guard, the electors voted an address to the National Assembly, which 
was carried to Versailles and received with gratitude. Although the 
electors in the eye of the law were mere private men, the municipal 
officers, conscious of their own weakness and unpopularity, and expecting 
soon to be superseded, were glad to call in such powerful auxiliaries. 
On the 27th, accordingly, they granted the electors the use of a room in 
the Hotel de Ville. On July 1, after the rescue of the soldiers from the 
Abbaye, the electors published an address to the townspeople, urging 
them to respect the law. They next took into consideration the estab- 
lishment of a civic guard. Their motive at this time seems to have been. 



1789] Dismissal of Necker. 163 

not so much jealousy with regard to the King's intentions, as a wish to 
ensure the safety of Paris, then lying at the mercy of the lowest 
populace and of the disaffected soldiers. On July 11 the formation 
of such a guard was resolved upon. 

Meantime the Marshal de Broglie had been making ostentatious 
preparations 'at Versailles. He had, writes Besenval, turned the palace 
into a headquarters and the gardens into a camp. He had put a regiment 
into the orangery, and he openly avowed his fears for the safety of the 
King and the Royal family. The Assembly took alarm, and on the 
motion of Mirabeau voted an address to the King asking that the troops 
might be withdrawn. Louis replied on the 10th that the disorders of 
Paris and Versailles had made it necessary to assemble the troops, but 
that nothing was designed against the freedom of the Assembly. If the 
deputies were stiU uneasy, he was willing to remove the session to Noyon 
or Soissons, and to take up his abode at Compiegne, where he could 
readily communicate with them. The Assembly refrained from any 
discussion of the royal letter, thus tacitly persevering in its request for 
the departure of the troops. But on July 11 the King sent Necker a 
note dismissing him from his office and enjoining him to quit the 
kingdom. Those of his colleagues who had generally acted with Necker, 
Montmorin, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Puysegur, Secretary for 
War, La Luzerne, Secretary for the Navy, and Saint-Priest, Minister of 
the King's Household, were dismissed at the same time. The Baron de 
Breteuil, well known as one of the Queen's friends, succeeded Necker as 
chief minister, Marshal de Broglie took the place of Puysdgur, and 
Foulon and Laporte replaced Saint-Priest and La Luzerne respectively. 
The party hostile to the National Assembly had thus prevailed with the 
King ; but their success was momentary and their overthrow decisive. 

On July 12 the dismissal of Necker became known in Paris, and 
Caraille Desmoulins at the Palais-Royal gave the signal for insurrection. 
The rioters, reinforced by a crowd of deserters from the Gardes Frcm^aises, 
had one or two trivial and almost bloodless encounters with the troops. 
Although many thousands of soldiers were at this time assembled round 
Paris and although the Champ de Mars and the Champs Elysees were 
held in force, nothing serious was done to check the rising. A great 
number of the privates had been debauched by the democratic party, 
and the chiefs behaved with the same irresolute forbearance which had 
been so often displayed elsewhere. Besenval, who commanded in Paris, 
being left without orders and shunning responsibility, remained motion- 
less until the mob had made such apparent way in seducing his men 
that he resolved to evacuate the city altogether. Meantime the in- 
surgents beset the Hotel de ViUe, where the electors were sitting, and 
clamoured for their authorisation to repel by force the danger which 
hung over Paris. The electors would not go to that length, but could 
not hinder the mob from seizing all the arms in the Hotel de Ville. 

11—2 



164 The fall of the Bastille. [i789 

Order was now at an end in Paris. The lawless multitude, which had 
been so long gathering there, plundered the gun-shops, broke open the 
prisons, burnt the octroi barriers, assailed the houses of unpopular 
persons, and attacked and robbed the passers in the streets. The electors 
could do nothing save decree the convocation of the districts. On July 
IS they met and, as the imminent peril overbore all scruples of formj 
were joined by de Flesselles, Provost of the Merchants, and the other 
officers of the old municipal body. A standing committee was chosen 
and began to organise a civic guard of sixty battalions, one for each 
district. But it was impossible to master the rioters, who were hourly 
joined by crowds of deserters from the regular troops. All through 
that day Paris had the aspect of a town taken by storm. All com- 
munication with Versailles was stopped, all letters were opened, and the 
electors working at the Hotel de Ville were in constant peril from 
the excited crowd which filled every part of the building. By evening 
the new civic guard were under arms, patrols were sent out, the streets 
were lighted, and a measure of safety was afforded to peaceable citizens. 
But the insurrection was not at an end. On the morning of July 14 
one party attacked the Hotel des Invalides, whence they carried off a 
large quantity of arms and ammunition. Another party with the same 
object attacked the BastiUe. 

The Bastille, once a fortress but for many years no more thaji a 
State prison, was ill qualified to stand a siege. Its high and massive 
walls were indeed impregnable to such artiUery as the assailants had 
seized. But the garrison was small, amounting to eighty-two invalides 
and thirty-two Swiss. The cannon were of little use except for firing 
salvos, and there were provisions for two days only. De Launay, the 
Governor, behaved much like other officers at the same time. He made 
a hesitating defence ; he received with courtesy the deputations which 
came to demand a surrender ; and at length, finding that his men had 
no stomach to fight, he surrendered on promise of safety for himself and 
for them. The deserters from the Gardes Fran^aises, who had done 
most of the fighting that there was to do, tried hard to bring the 
prisoners along in safety, but before they could reach the Hotel de 
Ville de Launay and several others were murdered in the most brutal 
fashion. 

With the fall of the Bastille the insurrection may be said to have 
ended, as there was no longer any position in Paris held by the King's 
troops. But all through the day the tumult and confusion at the Hotel 
de Ville were indescribable ; and in the evening the murder of Flesselles 
gave a fresh proof of the lawlessness which reigned without. It was only 
by degrees, as the civic guard took a more regular shape and the worst 
ruffians who infested Paris were disarmed, that some degree of order was 
restored. 

At Versailles the news of the dismissal of Necker and the outbreak 



1789] The first emigration. 166 

in Paris had caused the Assembly to vote an address to the King, asking 
for the withdrawal of the troops and the formation of a civic guard. 
As the King returned a negative answer, the Assembly passed a decree 
repeating its demands, expressing its regret at the dismissal of Necker, 
and declaring the actual ministers responsible for any attack on the 
rights of the nation. When informed of this decree, the King still 
replied evasively. But, realising at length that the army could not be 
trusted and that the insurgents were masters of the capital, he came in 
person to the Assembly on the morning of July 16, and announced that 
the troops would be withdrawn. The dismissal of Breteuil and his 
colleagues and the return of Necker and his friends were necessary and 
immediate consequences of the revolution in Paris. Those who had 
been most actively hostile to Necker and the National Assembly felt 
that they were no longer safe. The Comte d'Artois, the Prince de 
Conde, the Prince de Conti, the Due de Bourbon, Marshal de Broglie, 
and other coimcillors and courtiers of the same party went into exile. 
They were the first of the Emigres. A quarter of a century was to 
pass before the few survivors could retrace their steps. Whatever the 
danger to which they were exposed, Louis might justly complain of 
those kinsmen who, after importuning him to ill-advised action, set the 
example of flight, and whose restless intrigues contributed not a little 
to his final ruin. 

The electors of Paris, in their new character of municipal authority, 
had deputed some of their body to inform the Assembly of the late 
events and to ask for its protection. In return, the Assembly sent a 
deputation consisting of all the members for Paris and twenty-four 
others. They were greeted with effusion at the Hotel de Villcj where by 
a sudden impulse BaiUy was chosen Mayor of Paris and the Marquis 
de Lafayette Commandant of the National Guard. At the Archbishop's 
suggestion a Te Devm was sung in the cathedral. Bailly and his brethren 
then returned to Versailles to give an account of their mission. As the 
new municipality desired a visit from the King, Louis, after making 
his will and communicating, undertook a journey which was not without 
danger. The new Mayor presented the keys of the city, and, in words 
not meant to woimd, referred to Henry IV, who had reconquered his 
people, whereas now the people had reconquered its King. But it will 
not seem strange that, when Louis had reached the Hotel de Ville, 
embarrassment and humiliation should have disabled him from making 
the required harangue, which Bailly had to supply as best he could. 
Louis confirmed the nomination of Bailly as Mayor and Lafayette as 
Commandant, put the newly-devised tricolour cockade in his hat and 
set out on his return to Versailles through crowds shouting " Long live 
the King." 

The Marquis de Lafayette was now in his thirtieth year. While yet 
a youth he had been led by a vague love of liberty and a longing for 



166 Lafayette and the National Guard. [i789 

adventure to join the Americans in their revolt against Great Britain, 
and the Americans had repaid him with the rank of Major-General. 
His courage and popular manners gained their hearts. Even Washington 
became his close friend. After the surrender of Yorktown Lafayette 
returned to enjoy the applause of the Com-t and capital and took a 
foremost place among the liberal nobility. He sat in the Assembly of 
the Notables, where he demanded the summoning of the States General. 
Through his friend Duport he concerned himself in the resistance of the 
Parlements, to the ministers. When elected to the States General by 
the nobles of Auvergne, he had shown his good-will to the Third Estate; 
and after the union of the Orders he was one of the most highly con- 
sidered men in the House. He had been the first to ofiFer a draft 
Declaration of Rights. The office of Vice-President had been made for 
him to fiU. As an officer of high rank and of some reputation, who was 
also zealous in the cause of freedom, he was marked out for the command 
of the new civic guard of Paris. He thus became a great power in the 
State, but he proved unequal to his task. Although honourable and 
well-meaning, he was vain and self-conscious ; he wished to reconcile 
liberty with order, but wished still more to hold the balance of parties ; 
andyetjiwith all his political ambition, he had no definite policy. He 
could not work in harmony with other men ; he let precious occasions 
pass unused, and he wasted even that popularity which he loved so 
dearly and which might have been so serviceable. Within two years he 
had become impotent, and within three years he was an exile. 

As Commandant, Lafayette had to organise the new civic guard, 
which took on his motion the name of National Guard. This force was 
to serve two purposes. It was to maintain order in Paris, the police and 
regular troops being no longer available. It was also to ensure the 
party of reform against any risk of military invasion for the future. The 
electors had at first fixed its strength at two hundred men from every 
district, or twelve thousand in all. If properly paid and disciplined 
such a force might have been able to keep the peace in Paris. But a 
much larger force might seem necessary to resist a counter-revolution. 
Accordingly the strength of a battalion was now fixed at 800 men, giving 
a total of 48,000. It has been said that Lafayette wished to recruit the 
National Guard from the middle class only and therefore made all the 
men enlisted provide themselves with a costly uniform. Since however a 
force of 48,000 would be fully one-third of all the men in Paris able to 
bear arms, it must have been very largely composed of men below the 
middle rank in life. To each battalion there was attached a more select 
company of chasseurs and another of grenadiers. A regiment of volunteer 
cavalry was formed, each trooper finding his own horse and arms. The 
Gardes Fran^aises were incorporated with the National Guard as a paid 
battalion. The officers of the lower grades were elected by the privates, 
but the staff officers were named by Lafayette. Lafayette used every art of 



1789] Progress of anarchy. 167 

popularity to get and keep control over his men ; and well he might, for 
in an unpaid volunteer army discipline was scarcely known, and the 
National Guard was not really under the command of any authority 
whether military or civil. 

Bailly remained in a most difficult position. The King had confirmed 
him in the office of Mayor ; but he had no regular council to help him, 
for the assembly of electors was in truth an unauthorised body of private 
men. Their self-imposed duty was most laborious, dangerous and thank- 
less. At the end of July they made way for a new body elected two by 
each district and therefore 120 in all ; a number afterwards raised to 300. 
The new municipality met with as much resistance as the old assembly 
of electors. In Paris, as Bailly lamented, all wished to command, none 
were willing to obey. Those districts especially in which the democrats 
were powerful paid no heed to the orders or entreaties of the municipal 
coimcil, but behaved as little republics ; and, amid the dissolution of the 
State, there was no supreme authority, executive or judicial, to which 
the Mayor or his advisers could appeal. 

In every great revolution some petty incident becomes symbolical, 
and thenceforward holds in the imagination of mankind a place 
altogether disproportionate. So it was with the fall of the Bastille. 
The BastiUe was of slight strategic consequence ; its capture was not a 
brilliant exploit, and was dishonoured by infamous cruelty. Only seven 
prisoners, most of them detained for good reason, were found within its 
walls. But to popular feeling both in France and abroad the Bastille 
was the embodiment of all that is most hateful in arbitrary power ; and 
the fall of the Bastille seemed to announce a new age of freedom, 
justice, and humanity. Moreover the example of the Parisian insur- 
rection was followed throughout France. In all the cities and towns the 
old mxmicipal authorities were overturned and new elective authorities 
took their place. All the cities and towns enrolled their National 
Guards. At the same time the administrative and judicial system of 
the Monarchy broke down altogether. With the disappearance of the 
Intendants and sub-delegates, police, public works, and the collection of 
revenue came well-nigh to an end. The old Courts of Justice, from the 
manor Court to the Parlement, ceased to sit. The dwindling of the 
revenue made it almost impossible to pay or feed the troops, and so 
gave the last shock to expiring discipline. Insubordination became so 
general that the officers could no longer keep their men together, much 
less control their conduct. And, now that all means of repression were 
gone, the peasants in most of the Provinces rose in savage revolt. The 
country houses were pillaged and birnit, and the seigneurs with their 
families were driven by thousands into the towns or across the frontiers, 
happy indeed if they could escape, for some were murdered with every 
refinement of cruelty. It is unnecessary to recount the details which 
Taine has collected with so much industry and described with so much 



168 State of Paris. — TTie journalists. [i789 

power. The strange and terrible sight of a great civilised people 
returning to chaos might have taught the philosophers of that age 
what the dissolution of the social compact signifies. Against this 
anarchy the municipalities and the National Guards struggled, often 
with zeal and courage; but they were novices, and their task might 
have appalled the maturest wisdom. 

The state of Paris under its new Mayor and Commandant is typical 
of this period of the Revolution. It was the first task of BaiUy to 
ensure the daily bread of seven hundred thousand human beings, amid 
such disorder within and without that commerce was dried up and the 
markets were never sure of forty-eight hoxn-s' supply. To maintain 
order was the chief business of Lafayette. This may not seem difficult 
for an experienced and popular general commanding thousands of troops, 
mostly drawn from classes interested in upholding the law. But soldiers 
seldom make an efifective police, and of all soldiers volunteers are least 
suited to police duty. Many recruits, who had been attracted by a 
showy uniform and the roll of the drum, did not care to patrol distin-bed 
quarters under volleys of stones and curses. Some of the National 
Guards sympathised with riot and outrage, and others did not abhor 
riot and outrage sufficiently. The deserters from the regular army, who 
came in great numbers, expected licence as the reward of patriotism, 
and the fashionable ideas of the hour made discipline impossible. There- 
fore, although Lafayette meant well and worked hard, he could not make 
Paris orderly or prevent murders like those of Foulon and Berthier. 
Nor could he expect any help from without. The National Assembly 
from time to time issued an idle proclamation, inviting the citizens to 
obey the law, or sent a deputation to implore mercy from murderers; 
but it had neither the will nor the means to employ the only arguments 
which criminals understand. 

After the insurrection of July the press was free from all restraint 
and newspapers were multipUed in Paris. They were very small, it is 
true, for they gave very little information and were rather daily or weekly 
essays on political subjects than what we should term newspapers ; yet 
some of them achieved a great sale and had a memorable influence. 
Every party had its own organs, but those which were most revolu- 
tionary sold best. Loustallofs journal. The Revolutions of Paris, which 
first appeared July 17, 1789, is said to have reached a sale of 200,000 
copies. From it CamiUe Desmoulins took the hint for the title of his 
own paper, The Revolutions of France and Brabant, which began in 
November. For wit and style, if not for reason and humanity, he held 
the first place among the journalists of that age. The still more notorious 
Friend (^ the People by Marat first came out on September 12. Marat 
was at this time forty-seven years old ; he was a doctor, a man of cultm:e, 
and claimed to have made discoveries. But he was diseased in body and 
mind and embittered by ill-success and unfriendly criticism. As such 



1789] The position of the Assembly. 169 

men sometimes will, he took suspicion for wisdom, ferocity for public 
spirit, and hatred of a dass for love of mankind. He has found apolo- 
gists ; but the Friend of the People will always be the most telling 
indictment against Marat. These and many other journals now forgotten 
inflamed the people of Paris and prepared the next and more violent 
phase of the Revolution. In the meantime they prompted continual 
resistance to the law and the municipal authority, and kindled disorder 
as fast as Bailly or Lafayette could put it out. 

The National Assembly had no longer anything to fear from the 
King. The general anarchy disabled him from raising revenue, ad- 
ministering justice, or moving troops. So far from being able to assail 
others, he could not, as the events of October 5 and 6 showed, defend his 
own personal freedom. If a government could stiU be said to exist in 
France it was to be found in the Assembly and its Committees rather 
than in the sovereign and his Ministers. But the Assembly had van- 
quished the Crown only to pass under the yoke of the disorderly populace. 
Especially after its removal to Paris it was captive in fact although 
supreme in form. True wisdom would have disposed the Assembly to 
narrow the field of debate, to fix as soon as possible the principles of the 
new Constitution, and thus to shorten the painful period of suspense, 
during which France could have no rest within and no security abroad. 
The Assembly in its heat and inexperience took the opposite course. 
Before we touch upon its constructive labours, a brief notice of its 
procedure, its debates, and its party divisions seems necessary. For in 
all these respects it differed much from the parliaments with which we 
are best acquainted, and its peculiarities were of considerable moment 
in the history of the Revolution. 

The maintenance of order in the National Assembly was for several 
reasons difficult. The Assembly, while it remained at Versailles, numbered 
about twelve himdred members — almost twice as many as the British 
House of Commons — men of a highly-stnmg race, whose education had 
in nowise hardened them to the rude shock of Parliamentary conflict; 
men without experience of public life, over-worked and over-excited. 
The Salle des Menus Plaisirs afforded room for a crowd of spectators 
who had never been trained to silence and respect. Noise and inter- 
ruption were therefore incessant, and the speaker who would be heard 
had to strain his voice — an almost fatal hindi'ance to calm debate. After 
the migration to Paris in October, 1789, the Assembly met in a some- 
what smaller room, the mam&ge, or riding-school, of the Tuileries. By 
that time, however, so many members had fled or ceased from attending 
that there was still space for five or six hundred of the public, who 
were as unruly as before. Hence the sittings of the Assembly usually 
resembled a disorderly public meeting, and seldom maintained the 
dignity of a senate. 

The Third Estate, we have seen, delayed to organise itself until it 



170 Disoi-der in the Assembly. [i789 

began the verification of powers. It was only on June 12 that it elected 
its first President. The President held office for a fortnight, and was 
assisted by six Secretaries, who were elected for a month. As yet there 
was no code of procedure. Mirabeau deposited on the bureau a printed 
copy of a digest of the rules of the House of Commons, which he had 
obtained from Romilly, and which might have been useful at least for 
suggestion, but the deputies would none of it. We are not English, 
they said, and we have no need of the English. Bailly tells us that he 
introduced three rules. A call of the House, hitherto incessant, was to 
be reserved for special occasions. In eveiy case a member wishing to 
speak was to ask for leave. No member was to speak after the matter 
had once come to taking votes. It was only towards the end of July 
that the Assembly adopted its first body of rules, which occupies only 
eight octavo pages. Even so it contains some rules which were never 
observed, such as that forbidding all expressions of applause or dissent 
by the public. The Assembly, always afraid of the expiring power of 
the Crown, was too anxious to court the favour of the populace; and 
the sentimental politics of the time regarded every knot of idlers or 
ruffians as the French people and entitled to corresponding deference. 
A worse mischief than noise was the way in which the gallery politicians 
marked unpopular speakers for the vengeance of the Palais-Royal and 
the mob. At the close of the debate on the motion to assume the style 
of National Assembly, Malouet was assaulted by a stranger on the floor 
of the House; and several of those who voted with him received an 
intimation that their houses would be burnt down. " For every impartial 
man," he writes, "the Terror dates from July 14"; and, though he 
certainly was no dastard, he rarely went to the debates of the Assembly 
in Paris without his pistols. Throughout the French Revolution 
the party which claimed to be most democratic tried to silence 
discussion by fear, and showed the utmost contempt for freedom of 
conscience. 

The deputies themselves often displayed the natural courtesy of 
Frenchmen, but had little self-command in debate. Disorder was 
frequent. "More than once to-day," Young wrote on June 15, 1789, 
" there were a hundred members on their legs at a time, and Monsieur 
Bailly absolutely without power to keep order." The majority was 
overbearing and the minority petulant. As time went on many of the 
deputies of the Right ceased from regular debate, laughed, and talked 
aloud, went out of the hall when the question was put, and affected to 
regard the proceedings as despicable. Had the Assembly taken occasional 
rest, irritation might have subsided ; but, doubtless with good intentions, 
it worked too hard, sat long hours every day, even on Sunday, and 
allowed itself few and brief adjournments. Little economy of time was 
practised, and every irrelevant digression was welcome if it flattered the 
prevailing sentiment. A still graver nuisance were the deputations 



1789] Bureaux and Committees. 171 

— ' _ J — 

from every part of the kingdom and from all ranks of the people upon 
every conceivable topic. At first encouraged as an expression of popular 
sympathy in the struggle against the Court, they were afterwards endured 
from the motives which led the majority to connive at the disorder in 
the galleries. They reached their crowning absurdity in the deputation 
of the human race led by Anacharsis Clootz, which appeared on June 19, 
1790, and was decreed the honours of the sitting. 

For the more thorough discussion of legislative proposals the Assembly 
was divided into a number of hureauac, formed without election by taking 
from the alphabetical list of deputies certain numbers such as the 1st, the 
31st, the 61st and so forth, and renewed every month in such a way that 
the old members should not come together again. These bureaux served 
some of the purposes of Committees in the British Parliament. Every 
legislative motion, after having been made and seconded, was discussed 
in the Assembly and either rejected or sent to the bureoMX, where it was 
discussed again and sent back to the Assembly for the final debate and 
vote. Still more important were the Committees properly so called. 
There was a Committee for almost every department of State and for 
almost every branch of legislation, finance, army, navy, diplomacy, tithes, 
currency, feudal rights, etc. Several of these Committees encroached upon 
the ministerial departments; and the mutual ill-will of Ministers and 
Committees increased the disorders of the State. For the Committees 
often disdained to avail themselves of the special knowledge possessed by 
Ministers ; and the Ministers and their subordinates, thwarted by those 
whom they regarded as intruders, often took refuge in sullen inaction. 
Even Necker after a time foimd his figures and arguments ignored by 
the Committee of Finance. The Committee of Reports, formed to 
receive and consider all petitions, letters, and addresses coming from aU 
parts of France, became, says Ferrieres, a species of departmept for 
Home Afiairs; and the Committee of Researches, formed to unravel all 
conspiracies against the nation, was accused of employing the methods 
of the cmcien rigime against its friends. But it should be remembered 
that many of the Committees did legislative work of a high order. 

The style of speaking current in the Assembly had also its effect on 
business. Under the old monarchy there had been no scope for political 
eloquence, but the orator might exert his powers either in the pulpit or 
at the bar or in academic harangues on various subjects. As the style of 
the clergyman or lawyer was professional and therefore in some degree 
imsuited to a popular assembly, it was the academic style which found 
most vogue in the debates. Each member who wished to speak chose a 
theme, framed a harangue, gave in his name, and when the time arrived 
went up into the tribune and spoke often with little or no regard to what 
others had said or to the actual stage of the discussion. Thus debating 
in oiu" sense of the term was almost unknown. In the absence of party 
organisation, there was hardly any means of suppressing dunces or bores. 



172 Parties in the Assembly. [i789 

-J— . — 

and the loss of time was enormous. Even the patient reader, who does 
his best to place himself in the circumstances of that age, will be fatigued 
and disgusted with the perpetual strain of artificial emotion. In those 
days men worked hard to feel as much as possible, and wore every feeling 
on their sleeve. Consequently, when they thought themselves most 
natural they were most rhetorical ; and when they wished to be pathetic 
or sublime, they too often ended in fustian. Although it is allowable 
and indeed necessary for the orator to flatter his audience, the pitch of 
adulation in these harangues would move the laughter of a modern senate. 
The Assembly is reminded at every turn that it has outshone the wisdom 
of all former ages, and that the eyes of the world are fixed in admiration 
on its proceedings. But the worst fault of all is the terrible want of 
matter. Scarcely any of the speeches have the substance and variety 
which comes of a true interest in concrete things and a rich experience of 
life. We find instead the endless manipulation of " principles," for the 
most part half truths imperfectly understood. The excited crowd which 
filled the galleries and domineered over the speakers doubtless enjoyed 
this resonant verbiage, and patronised it in preference to what Aulard 
scornfully terms "familiarity of language, the aridity of statistics, and 
the dryness of arguments." 

Parties in the full sense of the word did not exist in the National 
Assembly. As parliamentary institutions were new in France, there 
could be no connexions with a long history and a slow growth, firmly 
united in support of definite principles, and powerful in their submission 
to acknowledged chiefs. In the National Assembly there were only such 
parties as arise in all large bodies of men with common business £o 
discuss. Its members were brought together by general resemblance of 
opinion or even by agreement on a single issue; but these alliances 
were unstable and imperfect. 

Originally the deepest division in the Assembly was between those 
who had desired and those who had resisted the union of the Three 
Estates. But when that conflict was over, a number of groups began to 
appear. The Extreme Right wished to preserve the ancient institutions 
entire with few, if any, improvements. It was a small party and did not 
contain .a single statesman. D'Espr^m^nil, once the champion of the 
Parlement against the King, and the Vicomte de Mirabeau, brother of 
the renowned orator, were its most notable leaders. Another group, 
sometimes described as the Right simply, wished for restraint upon the 
royal power, but preferred to efiect this by reviving what they called the 
ancient Constitution of France. They would have given the States 
General the power of levying taxes and making laws, so long as the dis- 
tinction between the Orders was upheld; but they refused to base the royal 
prerogative on parhamentary sanction. They were in fact Legitimists, 
who desired an aristocratic Constitution. Cazales, the worthiest and 
sincerest leader of this group, stood high among the orators of the 



1789] The Bight Centre. 173 

Assembly. The Abbe Maury was its stoutest and most unwearied 
fighter ; yet he never impressed any man with the conviction that he was 
in earnest. The so-called Right Centre, otherwise the Monarchiens or 
Impartiauas, was a still more numerous body, but it presented various 
shades of opinion. All, however, aimed at a constitutional monarchy 
approaching more or less to the English, as described by Montesquieu 
and Blackstone, with the monarch still wielding considerable power 
and without the cabinet system. The ablest man in this party was 
Mounier, who was discouraged by his experience at Versailles, and, after 
the removal of the King to Paris, went into exile. The firmest was 
Malouet, once Intendant of the Navy at Toulon, an official of the 
best type, thoughtful, enlightened, and humane. He fought his losing 
battle with a temper unusual anywhere, most unusual in the National 
Assembly. On the same side were Lally-Tollendal, Clermont-Tonnerre, 
and Bergasse. But, in spite of talent, character, and numbers, this party 
made little impression. It was weakened in the first instance by its own 
divisions. It was weakened still more by the perversity of the high 
Royalists, who did not see that union was necessary to save the Crown, 
and denounced statesmen like Malouet and Mounier as traitors and in- 
cendiaries. It was also weakened by the circumstance that its ideal was 
at variance with the ciurent political philosophy. For, while the English 
polity, resting on a balance of opinions and interests, has a historic source 
and a practical aim, the philosophy of Rousseau''s Contrat Social, a tissue 
of abstractions above either practice or history, treats aU modified forms 
of self-government as deceptions. Another weakness lay in the fact that 
this party cared most for political reform, while the bulk of the people 
cared most for social and economic changes. Finally, the Right Centre 
was exposed without defence to the methodic terrorism of the popular 
party. It has been seen at what risk Malouet discharged his duty. For 
voting in favour of the royal veto in legislation, Clermont-Tonnerre 
received a letter assuring him that his house would be burnt. When 
Clermont-Tonnerre and his friends opened the Club of the Friends of 
the Monarchical Constitution, the democrats raised a riot which terrified 
the municipality into closing it. Constantly defeated in the House and 
menaced in the street, the party dwindled away, Malouet reckoned, 
perhaps with some exaggeration, that in October, 1787, they could muster 
three hundred votes ; a year and a half later they had shrunk to fifty. 
To the Right Centre the term Royalist is often applied in a way apt to 
mislead, as they were neither the only nor the most zealous Royalists. 

On the other side of the House, the Left was roughly coincident 
with the Constitutionals, so-caUed because they made the Constitution of 
1791. This party was also known as the Ministerials, a name adopted 
when in May, 1790, they founded the Club of 1789, and as the Feuillcmts, 
a name given when they founded the Club of the FeuiUants in July, 1790. 
Including the greater part of the Third Estate and for a long time the 



174 The Left and its divisions. [i789 

greater part of the curis, it was from the first very strong ; and, as its 
opponents more and more withdrew from public life or even fled the 
country, its strength increased till in the later months of the National 
Assembly it could do as it pleased. Its political principles may be 
gathered from the Constitution of 1791, and can best be dissected 
when we trace the growth of that Constitution. It was not consciously 
destructive, except in the case of privileges. It wished to preserve the 
Monarchy, which it rendered null ; the connexion of Church with State, 
which it made oifensive to Catholic consciences; and the rights of 
property, which it allowed to be swept away wholesale. At the same 
time its social prejudices, its temper, its political philosophy, were aU far 
more revolutionary than it knew; and, while it imagined itself to be 
preparing a stable order of society, it made almost inevitable the state 
of anarchy which ensued. It was full of grudge against the First and 
Second Estates, imbounded in its optimism and contempt for experience, 
chUdlike in its acceptance of the Contrat Social as the textbook of political 
wisdom. As time went on, an internal change took place in this party. 
The group which at one time led in revolution, the group which com- 
prised Duport, Alexandre Lameth, and Bamave, and was termed by 
Mirabeau The Thirty Voices, came to see that they, had overshot the 
mark in trying to reduce the executive power, and tried, though vainly, 
to raise it up again. The Extreme Left, the virtually republican group, 
were at first very few. Among them were several men who afterwards 
filled a great place in the Revolution, Buzot, Dubois-Crance, Petion, and 
Robespierre. The son of a respectable lawyer of Arras, Robespierre had 
been left an orphan at a very early age, had been adopted by his maternal 
grandfather, and had found a patron in the Bishop of his native city. 
After passing with credit through school and college, he had been 
appointed criminal judge of the diocese of Arras, but had laid down his 
office rather than pass a sentence of death. He had then made a practice 
at the bar and had gained some small literary successes. In 1789 he was 
elected a deputy of the Third Estate of Artois. But his style struck the 
House as provincial and drew from the Right jeers and sarcasms which 
were not forgiven. By dint of practice Robespierre formed a style to 
which the Assembly would listen ; and by dint of concentration he gained 
a certain influence, although he was never popular. That absolute as- 
surance of his own purity and of the truth of every proposition in the 
Contrat Social, which he kept to the end, was already unmistakable, and 
could not fail to impress hearers so full of sentiment and of dogma. But 
the Extreme Left as a party had very little power and had hardly any 
influence until after the flight to Varennes ; nor did they find an oppor- 
tunity of giving effect to their principles imtil after the dissolution of 
the National Assembly. 

In this brief enumeration of parties and of groups no place has been 
found for the greatest member of the National Assembly, Mirabeau. 



1789] Position of Mirabeau. 175 

Mirabeau was never the recognised leader of any party, although at 
times he swayed the whole House. For this there were several reasons. 
He was, we have seen, a practical man, not a man of system, where 
almost every man was systematic. For, while he wished to combine 
parliamentary freedom with a powerful executive, and in this approached 
Moimier and the Right Centre, he had no particular bias in favour of 
the English system ; he took account of the national temperament, and 
he saw that what attracted the masses was not so much self-govern- 
ment as the destruction of privilege. Hence his political action was 
not controlled by party ties, it was prompted by circumstances ; he 
aided or opposed different parties in turn, often overpowering resistance 
but never winning full confidence; and, though he set his mark on 
French history, he never fulfilled his ambition either as parliamentary 
chief or as administrator. We can never understand Mirabeau's career 
in the National Assembly if we conceive of him as of English states- 
men, who by a regular course of promotion rise to the command of 
a disciplined party, and rule the State by the will of the people in the 
name of the sovereign. Mirabeau was only an adventurer of genius in 
a dissolving society. 



176 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE CONSTITUTION OF 1791. 

We have seen that almost all the cahiers expressed a desire for 
political self-government, and that the cahiers of the Third Estate at 
least demanded the making of a new Constitution. Many of the cahiers 
entered into some detail regarding its provisions. Many also required 
that its principles should be enacted before any supply was granted to 
the Crown. As soon, therefore, as the fusion of the Orders had been 
effected, the Assembly undertook to give France a Constitution. The 
task seemed light, for the spirit of the majority was confident to excess. 
" Politics," said Sieyfes, " is a science which I believe myself to have 
completed." " The Constitution," said Barfere, " is already made in the 
minds of all. There can be no laborious travail here ; the Constitution 
is perhaps the work of a day, because it is the result of the enlighten- 
ment of an age." Dumont has remarked that " every member of the 
Assembly thought himself capable of everything ; there have never been 
seen so many men imagining that they were all legislators, and that they 
had come there to redress all the wrongs of the past, to remedy all the 
errors of the human spirit, and to assure the happiness of future ages." 
Nor will any person conversant with the memoirs and speeches of that 
time think that Dumont has exaggerated. In reality the business of 
framing a constitution proved very arduous, and the failure of the 
National Assembly was well-nigh complete. 

The difficulty did not arise from the strength of the old institutions 
of France. Within the space of two years from the meeting of the States 
General these had been almost totally destroyed, in part by legislative 
action, still more by popular violence. The royal authority went to 
pieces after the insurrection of July in Paris and the Provinces, which 
ended the old administrative system and studded the land with new 
municipalities. The same insurrection showed that no trust could be 
put in the regular army, and raised up an innumerable militia devoted 
to the cause of the Revolution. The rising of the peasants in so many 
Provinces, the burning of manor-houses and manorial records, and the 
hue and cry raised after the seigneurs, ended the ancient agrarian system 



1789-91] The Assembly in legislation. 177 

and led directly to the memorable sitting of August 4, when the feudal 
tenures, and the privileges of Onlers, cities, and Provinces, were virtually 
abolished. The feudal Courts of justice were thus swept away; and the 
royal Courts of justice, even the Pofrlements, were extinguished without 
effort in the following year. With equal ease all the ancient historic 
divisions of France were effaced and the land laid out in a new system of 
departments, districts, and cantons. The abolition of tithe and the 
confiscation of Church lands destroyed the wealth of the clergy; the 
suppression of the religious Orders reduced their numbers; and the 
" civil constitution " caused a schism among them and among the laity. 
Never has an ancient civilised people in so short a space of time made 
such wholesale havoc of its old institutions. The Assembly had little need 
to use force or skill in clearing the groundj for its adversaries were weak, 
timid, and ill-judging, and the insurgent masses constantly forestalled 
its decrees. Society seemed to dissolve itself, the better to receive an 
entirely new mould from the legislature. 

The obstacles to sound legislation were, however, most formidable. 
Even the wisest and firmest statesmen might despair of reducing to order 
a people which had so utterly lost all respect foi? law and was rent by 
such savage hatreds. The inexperience and presumption of the majority" 
in the Assembly were still worse evils. Their political philosophy was 
little more than unreflecting reaction against the past. Because France 
had been oppressed by absolute monarchy, they denied to the executive 
that strength without which no citizen can be safe. Because the French 
people had been almost without means of expressing its wants, they 
multiplied elective assemblies until the orderly despatch of business 
became impossible. Knowing almost nothing about public affairs, they 
did not suspect with what reserve the lawgiver should apply the maxims 
of speculative writers ; and when they found in books a formula which 
flattered their passions they took it for absolute truth and framed their 
measures accordingly. Thus, although they cared little for Montesquieu, 
who was conservative in his temper and inductive in his method, they 
were fascinated by his doctrine that the separation of the legislative, 
executive, and judicial powers one from another is the primary condition 
of political liberty. It is true that no general maxim can restrain the 
love of power, and that in practice the Assembly was always encroaching 
upon the executive sphere, which in words it left to the King. But in 
the Constitution of 1791 the principle of the separation of powers was 
applied with the most uncritical stringency. The Assembly seems to 
have combined it with the more extravagant assertion of Mably, that 
the executive power always has been and always will be the enemy of 
the legislative. Still stronger and more mischievous was the influence 
which Rousseau exerted over a legislature, like himself dogmatic and 
sentimental. In his other writings Housseau sometimes showed a 
sense of the complexity of real politics, but in the Contrat Social, the 

c. U. H. VIII. 12 



178 Declaration of the Bights of Man. [i789 

Bible of the Constituent Assembly, he set forth an absolutely rigid 
and impracticable ideal. He emboldened the majority to scorn experi- 
ence, to treat men as though they were all equivalent quantities, to 
think that a great society can be moulded and remoulded at the 
legislator's will. The Constitution of 1791 was not, and could not be, 
conformable to Rousseau's maxims; but it was too much imbued with 
his spirit to be useful or permanent. 

A Committee was named on July 6, 1789, to consider the procedure 
advisable in framing the Constitution. The Constitution was, after a 
final revision, enacted on September S, 1791. More than two years, 
therefore, were spent in the work ; and debates on the Constitution were 
interspersed with debates on the many other topics discussed in the 
National Assembly. The new Constitution of France must be sought 
not only in the document which bears that name, but in a number of 
statutes which changed the distribution of political power. . To trace 
the histor}'' of each in detail would require several volumes. It is 
enough here to note the conflict of opinions on a few cardinal points, 
and to sketch the outline of the new Constitution. We can thus judge 
the spirit and character of the whole, and measure its effect upon the 
history of France. 

Moimier was reporter of the preliminary Committee. Following the 
suggestion of certain cahiers, and the wish of some of his colleagues, 
rather than his own judgment, he proposed to begin with a declaration 
of the rights of man. The Assembly approved, and the matter was soon 
taken out of bis hands, for a crowd of speculative politicians offered 
their projects. On July 14 the Assembly chose the first Committee to 
draft the Constitution. It consisted of Mounier, Talleyrand, Sieyes, Cler- 
mont-Tonnerre, Lally-ToUendal, Le Chapelier, Bergasse, and Champion 
de Cice, Archbishop of Bordeaux, who ceased to be a member when 
called to the Royal Council. On this Committee the admirers of English 
institutions were strong, and Mounier, still at the height of fame, was 
the master spirit. He also drew up a Declaration of the Rights of 
Man, to be published only as the preface to the new Constitution. On 
August 1 the Assembly began to discuss these drafts, over which it 
wearied itself for many days, while France was without a government 
and French society was in dissolution. In vain Mirabeau, who had 
acted as reporter of a special committee chosen to examine all the 
draft declarations, advised that they should adjourn the subject of the 
Declaration until the Constitution had been finished. It was not until 
August 27 that the Assembly accepted a form of Declaration differing 
more or less from all the original drafts. It contained some useful 
maxims of legislation, mixed with vague and unproved propositions, 
which could be of little use save as pretexts for disorder. No doubt the 
Assembly wished to gain fresh impetus from the nation by a solemn 
publication of the principles on which it hoped to remodel France. 



1789] The sitting of August 4,. 179 

But a still more powerful motive was the childlike belief in every kind 
of efiusion — oaths, addresses, orations, and declarations — which was 
almost universal in 1789. During the next ten years the plainest rights 
of man were so often and so grossly outraged that the public came to 
feel very differently. 

The proceedings on the night of August 4 were of more moment for 
French institutions than anything yet effected by the Committee. A 
report on the disorder in the Provinces had been presented on the 
previous day; and the Assembly was considering a declaration, which 
might appease the miiltitude, when two noblemen, the Vicomte d^ 
Noailles and the Due d'AiguiUon, proposed that the Assembly should 
solemnly proclaim the equality of taxation for allj the suppression of 
some of the " feudal " biu'dens, and the right to redeem the rest at so 
many years' purchase. Other nobles rose to support this proposal, which 
called forth a series of motions all tending to the relief of the people. 
The Vicomte de Beauhamais demanded that criminal punishments should 
henceforward be the same for all offenders^ and that all citizens should 
be admitted alike to the whole range of the public service. The Bishop 
of Chartres moved the abolition of the game la,ws. The Due de La 
Rochefoucauld urged the enfranchisement of all the serfs remaining in 
the kingdom. Thibaultj a curi, asked the Assembly to approve the 
suppression of the camel. The Archbishop of Aix proposed the abolition 
of the gabelle and the aides. The Due de Chitelet demanded that 
tithes in kind should be commuted ; and the Bishop of Uzes recognised 
the right of the nation to dispose of the possessions of the Church. 
Other demands and propositions poured in. In aU quarters of the 
House deputies rose to renounce privileges on behalf of tibe Provinces or 
cities which they represented. The Assembly, now at the highest 
pitch of enthusiasm, embodied a number of these motions in decrees. 
Dupont of Nemours, the Economist, was almost the only person to hint 
a doubt as to such haste in making laws about matters so various and so 
weighty. Lally-Tollendal passed up to the President a note : " Nobody 
any longer has any self-control ; break up the sitting." It did not close, 
however, till the Archbishop of Paris had proposed a Te Deum of 
thanksgiving, till the Due de Liancourt had moved that a medal be 
struck to commemorate the Foiulh of August, tUl Lally-ToUendal 
himself had moved to proclaim Louis XVI the " Restorer of French 
Liberty," and until the Assembly had decreed all these motions. 

On this memorable night many of, the nobles and clergy displayed 
the best and most generous impulses of the French character. When 
we think of the doom for which these patriots were too often reserved, 
we cannot refuse our deepest compassion as well as our respect. Yet 
such is not the way to legislate. Nothing was gained for public order 
by announcing all at once the abolition of so many laws and so many 
forms of property. Even as the declaration that ajl the existing taxes 

12—2 



180 Discussion of the daraft Constitution. [i789 

were illegal had far more effect cm the taxpayer than the injunction to 
pay them while the Assembly was sitting, so the declaration that 
feudalism was abolished had far more effect on the peasant than the 
reminder that certain territorial claims were valid and must continue to 
be satisfied until the Assembly had provided for their redemption. The 
actual consequence was that- the seigneurs lost everything, and that 
thousands were reduced to beggary. If the Assembly wished to extinguish 
manorial rights in an equitable manner, it should have fixed the terms of 
redemption, arranged Ijhe procedure, and guaranteed the necessary funds, 
before proclaiming that these rights' no longer existed. When it came 
to deal with the details, it was fettered by the language of its own 
decrees. Dumont was justified in observing of the Fourth of August 
that " never had such an immense work been despatched in a few hours. 
What would have required a year of pains and meditation was proposed, 
discussed^ voted, determined by acclaimation.'" Mirabeau had not been 
present, but,. hasty as was his own temperament; and averse though he 
was to privilege^ he saw the error. " Jiist like our Frenchmen,'" he 
remarked : " they are an entire month wrangling over syllables, and in 
a night they ovCTtum the whole of the ancient order of the kingdom." 

The sitting of August 4^ therefore, like the insurrections which led 
to its decrees, was purely destructive in its results. We may date from 
that night the disappearance of French feudalismi The nobles lost in 
their seigniorial Courts the last remnant of public ftmctions spared by 
ages of royal encroachment; and the extinction of their manorial 
revenue took from them a very great part of their riches. At the 
same time the way was opened to a still more formidable invasion of 
the property of the ChurA All these economic and social changes 
prepared the way for a simple and highly democratic Constitution ; and 
to the labours of the constitutional Committee we must here return. 

On August 28, as soon as the debate on the ' Declaration of Rights 
had closed, Mounier reported to the Assembly the order of discussion 
recommended by the Committee, and presented the draft articles on the 
first topic, the Crown and its powers. Three days later Lally-Tollendal 
read the report of the same Committee upon the organisation of the 
legislature. It was to cansist of three parts : the King, a Senate, and 
a Representative Chamberi The Committee, wavering between royal 
nomination and various elective methods, had left ■fche mode of choosing 
the senators vmdetermineA It proposed that the King should have in 
legislation an absolute veto, although no initiative. Thus the creation 
of a Senate and the royal vieto became the first subjects of ccmstitutional 
discussion in the National Assembly. 

A Senate, or Second Chamber, was for different reasons unacceptable 
to both sides of the Assembly. That the Left should dislike it was a 
direct inference from their political theory. Rousseau's Contrat Social, 
which regards the assembled people as alone sovereign and denoimces 



1789] A single Chamber. 181 

even the representative system as a fraud, implicitly condemns any check 
on, or delay of, popular resolutions. The Left were haunted with a fear 
of royal and aristocratic reaction, which seems hardly intelligible now 
that we can measure the incapacity of the King, the weakness of the 
privileged orders, and the revolutionary ardour of the masses. They 
deemed that a Senate even of the Americtin type might hinder Idie 
fulfilment of their principles; and a House of Lords like the English 
they of course rejected. 

But the Right were also hostile, or at least indifferent, to the esteb- 
lishment of a Second Chamber. The fanatifcs were against it, lest it 
should steady and save the Revolution. "If you were to set up two 
Chambers," said Maiu-y, "your Constitution might last." These men, 
despairing of any good save from the excess of ill, wished things to come 
to the worst in order that they might come to reaction after. Many 
more were influenced by jealousy. A Second Chamber, if it were to 
have a conservative force, would be laigiely if not entirely composed of 
great nobles and prelates. But the French noblesse, although it might 
look down upon the Third Estate, had a keen feeling of ^kjuality within 
its own circle. Holding that one gentleman is as good' as .aiiother, the 
lesser nobles highly resented the superiority affected by the great, and 
thought it intolerable that the duke or marquis should gain all the 
power which a seat in a Second Chamber implies, while the squire was 
to descend to the level of a common citizen. The majority, which had 
come into the Assembly against its will, disliked the minority which 
had come of its own accord ; and since these liberals, full of admiration 
for England, were the warmest upholders of a Second Chamber, the 
conservative nobles, always destitute of political insight, gratified their 
spleen by helping to throw out the proposal. In like manner the 
inferior clergy, hating their chiefs and sj^mpathising with the popular 
party, had no mind to create a Second Chamber, which would exalt 
the Bishop still further above the owrk As for the large number of 
deputies who had no very strong opinion, they were cowed by the 
threats of violence which resounded in all the popular clubs and news- 
papers. The result was seen in the final division. On September 10, 
849 deputies voted for a single Chamber; 89 only for two Chambers, 
and 122 declared themselves "insufficiently informed." This was the 
first crushing defeat sustained by the admirers of the English Con- 
stitution. 

It was speedily followed by another. For some time past the 
questions. Shall the King have an absolute veto .'' or a limited, a suspen- 
sive veto? or no veto whatever? had been under debate. Here again 
the majority of the Left were adverse to the recommendation of the 
Committee. If the principle of the separation of powers were rigidly 
applied, the King, as wielding the executive, must be refused the smallest 
measure of legislative power. On the priWbiples of the C&ntt-at Social, 



182 The suspensive veto. [i789 

the royal veto was equally to be rejected, as an encroachment on the 
soyereignty of the people; in Sieyes' phrase, a lettre de cachet directed 
»g£^inst the general wiUi Will, said Rousseau, cannot be delegated, 
although power may j^ aiid the people cannot, even for a moment, part 
with its soyereigntyj If this were admitted, the King might, be an 
agent to execute the will of the legislature, but he could have no voice 
in legislation. Apart ftomi these . speculative considerations, the Left 
distrusted the King much, the Ministers more, the Queen and courtiers 
most of aU. They were afraid that the absolute veto might bar all 
further progress, and did not pause to reflect that, the legislature having 
complete control over the revenue, the King could hardly use his negative 
voice except in cases where he might with some hope of success appeal 
to the nation from its ilepresentatiyes. 

Those who,, like Mounier, valued .English pretedents, do not seem to 
have noticed that the King of Eugland had in reality lost the power of 
rejecting Bills. Hardly any foreigner then understood that, apart from 
the existence of a Second Chamber, the only real check upon capricious 
legislation in England is the responsibility of the Cabinet, which controls 
the majority in the , Coiftmons. Yet Mounier might expect far more 
support for the absolute veto than he had gained for the Second 
Chamber. Prudent men had already begun to note the impulsive 
temper of the Assembly, still more its submission to clamour from 
without, and were anxious to give, these failings a counterpoise. Among 
such men was Mirabeau, who had declared in the debate of June 15 that 
he would rather live at Constantinople than in France, if the legislature 
were to, dispense with the royal sanction. On this point at least all the 
high royalists, all who had opposed the union of the Orders, agreed 
with Mirabeau and Mounier. The opposing forces were therefore well 
matched ; and: the debate was kept up for several days. Sieyes spoke 
with all his usual point against allowing the King any veto whatever. 
Moimier put forth aU his powers in defence of the recommendations 
of the Committee, Mirabeau spoke on the same side, although the 
feeling that he had to maintain an unpopular cause seems to have 
damped his natural fire, a,nd he refrained from voting in the final 
division. The event was perhaps determined by Necker's excess of 
cautioij. Lafayette, who wished to be popular and was swayed by 
American precedent, wrote earnestly to Necker and Mounier in favour 
of the suspensive veto, warning them of the disasters which might occur 
if they tried to obtain more for the King. Barnave, Duport, Alexandre 
Lamethj and other, leaders of the Left, repeated these prayers and 
warnings. Mounier was unshaken; but Necker and some of his col- 
leagues told their , friends in the House that, unless the absolute veto 
could be carried, by a decisive majority, it would be better to vote for 
the suspensive .veto. Necker persuaded the Council to declare for the 
suspensive yeto, and to sen4 to the Assembly a memorandum stating 



1V89] T%e banquet at Versailles. 183 

this resolution. Mounier, who divined its import, induced the Assembly 
to decide that the cover should not be opened until after the division. 
But Necker's known irresolution and the menaces of the democrats 
ensured Mounier's defeat. The division took place on September 11. 
That the King should have a veto was resolved by 730 voices to 143 ; 
that the veto should be merely suspensive was resolved by 673 voices to 
325. This was the second defeat of the party which derived its political 
principles from England, and it was decisive. 

Mounier, Bergasse, Lally-Tollendal, and Clermont-Tonnerre now 
resigned their seats on the Constitutional Committee ; whereupon their 
colleagues, who had diifered with them regarding the veto, did likewise. 
The first Constitutional Committee thus came to an end. On Sep- 
tember 15 the Assembly named a new Committee, including, besides 
Sieyes, Talleyrand and Le Chapelier, Thouret, Target, Desmeuniers, 
Rabaut-Saint-Etienne, and Tronchet. The new Committee contained 
not a single representative of the nobles, and Talleyrand was only in 
name a representative of the clergy. It represented the main body of 
the Left, who desired to preserve the form while destroying the substance 
of monarchy. The Constitution of 1791 was in the main its work. 

Soon after the second Committee had been formed the removal of 
the King and the National Assembly from Versailles to Paris gave the 
Revolution new energy. The insurrection of October 5 and 6 has been 
described by diflFerent witnesses with countless difierences of detail, but 
its object and character are clear. The extreme popular party was 
enraged at the slow progress made by the Assembly and full of distrust 
of the King. The King might well listen to those among his family and 
friends who pressed him to quit Versailles for some place where he might 
regain his freedom of action and appeal to the loyalty of the Provinces. 
Enough was known to raise suspicion ; and one or two incidents, small 
in themselves, served as the pretext for a tumult. Since the troops 
assembled under Marshal de Broglie had been sent back to their quarters, 
the palace of Versailles had been entrusted to the garcks du corps and 
the National Guard of the town. These were now reinforced by the 
Flanders regiment. On October 1 the officers of the gardes du carps 
gave a banquet in the palace theatre to the officers of the Flanders 
regiment and of the National Guard. After the banquet the King, 
Queen, and Dauphin appeared for a few moments, while the company 
drank their healths with fervour. When the royal party had retired 
the guests grew clamorous, xmcivil things were said about the National 
Assembly, and white cockades were offered by gardes du corps to the 
officers of the National Guard, and accepted by some of them in lieu of 
the tricolour badges. As the story of the banquet got about, it was 
adorned with many circumstances more or less fabulous ; and the public 
was given to understand that traitors were hatching a grave military 
plot against the Assembly and the nation. That there weis such a plot 



184 The fifth and siocth of October. [i789 

has never been proved, and that plotters worth considering would betray 
themselves in this boyish fashion is most unlikely. 

But nothing more was needed to raise Paris. There the causes which 
had kept up disorder were still at work. Although the harvest of 1789 
had been bounteous, the lawless state of the countiy and constant inter- 
ference with the com trade rendered food dear. Many rich inhabitants 
had left Paris, and foreign visitors were dwindling. Great numbers of 
domestic servants and artisans were thus thrown out of work and in risk 
of starvation. What with idleness, hunger, zeal for the Revolution, or 
mere love of mischief, there were thousands ready to riot when the 
orators of the clubs, the agents of the Duke of Orleans, and the 
newspapers should give the signaL Had the orderly citizens, the 
National Guards, and their chief, been resolute to suppress tumult, this 
might have mattered little ; but the weakness of their action suggests 
that they likewise wished to see the King and the Assembly at Paris, and 
under their own influence, Oa tiie morning of October 5 a crowd, in 
the first instance chiefly of women, although afterwards supported by 
men, assembled in the Place de Greve and began an assault on the Hotel 
de Ville. Feebly resisted by the National Guards on duty, they forced 
their way in, seized a quantity of arms and were about to hang an abbe 
whom they chanced to find there, when a certain Stanislas Maillard, who 
had taken part in the attack of the Bastille, raised the cry "To Versailles." 
The women followed him, and on the march were joined by crowds of 
male rioters. Lafayette had been sent for, and had arrived after the 
women had left the Hotel de Ville. He had put the National Guard 
under arms, but, they were divided in mind. Many of the battalions, we 
are assured by Tliiebault, would have obeyed an order to close the roads 
leading to Versailles, and such an order must have baffled the insurrection. 
Lafayette did not give the order but sat on horseback for several hours 
in the Place de Gr^ve, vainly haranguing the National Guards and the 
populace, tiU it became known that other riotous crowds were following 
the first to Versailles, when the municipality authorised Lafayette to lead 
his forces thither also,. He set out a little before five o'clock. 

Meantime the horde of men and women had reached Versailles, had 
forced their way into the hall where the Assembly was sitting, had 
demanded a decree lowering the price of bread, and showed themselves 
determined to remain there all night. The King had come back from 
hunting to find Versailles in an uproar. The women had sent him a 
deputation which be received graciously; but, when the deputation 
returned, they w^e nearly murdered by the rest. About midnight 
Lafayette arrived with his troops. Amid rain and mud the National 
Guards and the mob bivouacked in the avenues and open spaces of 
Versailles ; and Lafayette, after taking what proved ineffectual measures 
. for the safety of the palace, retired to rest just before daybreak. A little 
later the Paris mob found an unguarded door, made their way into the 



1789] Removal of the King and the Assembly to Paris. 186 

palace, and assailed the Queen's apartment, killing two of the gardes 3u 
corps who strove to withstand them. Marie-Antoinette had barely time 
to fly to the King's apartment, when the rioters rushed into her room, 
and stabbed the bed with their pikes. But now the alarm had been 
given ; and a detachment of the National Guards appeared in time to stop 
further violence and save a number of the gardes du carps fi'om instant 
death. At length Lafayette himself came and induced the King and 
Queen to show themselves on a balcony to the crowd that filled the 
comi;. By announcing the King's resolution to confirm the Dedaration 
of the Rights of Man and to come to Paris he turned the fury of the 
mob into momentary good humour. On receiving this intelligence the 
Assembly declared itself inseparable from the person of the King and 
prepared to accompany him. Part of the rioters returned at once, 
bearing their trophy, the heads of the murdered gardes du carps. The 
King and the royal family left Versailles at noon and, moving slowly 
with the mixed horde of populace and National Guards, did not reach 
Paris till nightfall. They took up their abode in the Tuileries and were 
soon followed by the National Assembly, which established itself in the 
mamege or riding-school. A judicial enquiry into the events of October 5 
and 6 could not be avoided, but had no practical result, although it cast 
the deepest suspicion upon the Duke of Orleans, who fell into general 
discredit and presently accepted a mission to England as the least 
shameful manner of retreat. 

The removal of the King and the Assembly from Versailles to Paris 
opens a new period in the Revolution. On July 14 Louis may be 
said to have lost his crown ; on October 6 he lost his personal 
freedom, and the Assembly, deliberating in the clutch of the Parisian 
mob, was almost as much a prisoner as the King. It did not yield 
without a struggle. For a little while strenuous efibrts were made to 
enforce order. When the mob hung a baker named Francois, two of 
the murderers were promptly tried and executed. Mirabeau's bill 
giving the municipal authorities extraordinary power to deal with un- 
lawful assemblies was voted by a large majority. But the respite thus 
gained was short; and all who were unpopular felt themselves in constant 
peril. A new emigration began, and more than two hundred deputies of 
the Right asked for passports ; so that the Assembly resolved to denv 
them to all who could not assign sufficient cause. Mounier, having 
returned to Dauphine and vainly tried to raise the provincial Estates 
against the Assembly, spent the winter in retirement and afterwards 
took refuge at Geneva. 

From this period also dates the growing power of the Jacobin Club. 
It had its origin in a small group of Breton deputies who, while the 
Assembly was yet at Versailles, had met occasionally to discuss the 
questions of the horn-. This Breton Club, when the Assembly came to 
Paris, held its meetings in the convent of the Jacobins and opened them 



186 The Jacobin Club. [iveg 

to the public. It thus became a large popular society. It had always 
been a gathering of the Left, but for a long time was not exclusive. 
Bamave and the Lameths were at first the favourite speakers. Mirabeau 
himself was president of the Club so late as December, 1790. But that 
tendency of the democratic party to grow ever narrower and more 
fanatical, which might be seen in so many other places, was at work 
among the Jacobins also. Before the dissolution bf the Assembly the 
Lameths and Bamave had seceded from the Club, and Robespierre and 
Petion had gained the ascendancy. Meanwhile the Club had, by means 
of its affiliated societies, spread its influence far beyond Paris. It abetted 
all the disorders of the capital and the Provinces and did its best to 
make government impossible, 'pending the time when its leaders should 
governi 

These events completely changed the relation of parties in the 
National Assembly. Outnumbered and hopeless, the Right might pro- 
long the struggle, but could not hope for victory ; while the Left had to 
encounter only so much resistance as kept them eager and united. 
Mirabeau, indeed, was convinced that the Revolution could not be 
brought to a happy end unless some authority were restored to the 
Crown. Almost immediately after the October insurrection he had 
begun that secret correspondence with the King and Queen which paints 
so vividly the disorders of the time and the workings of his own powerful 
but unequal genius. In the Assembly he might snatch an occasional 
success, as when he carried a decree that the regency should always vest 
in the eldest male relative of a King under age; but he had no following 
and could exert no steady power. Nay, he fell under the suspicion of 
the popular party, and had to redeem the votes and speeches most in 
accord with his own opinions by outbreaks which aroused the distrust of 
the King and Queen, He thus failed entirely to control the coiu-se of 
events. 

The relation of the King's Ministers to the National Assembly was 
the next subject of grave constitutional debate. The familiar maxim of 
the separation of powers led to the inference that the chiefs of the 
executive should be excluded from the legislating, and the American 
precedent might be quoted on that side. Yet the exclusion had already 
proved inconvenient. In July the Assembly, while disclaiming ex- 
ecutive power, had expressed its regret at Necker's departure, and had 
asked the King to dismiss his new Ministers. Since then Louis had 
bestowed office on three well-known members of the Assembly, the 
Archbishop of Bordeaux, whom he made Keeper of the Seals, the Comte 
de La Tour du Pin, whom he made Minister of War, and the Archbishop 
of Vienne, whom he admitted to the Coimcil; and the Assembly had 
thanked him for this mark of confidence, although it excluded the 
persons preferred from any further share in its proceedings. In his 
secret correspondence with the King, Mirabeau had recommended him to 



1789] The Ministry and the Assembly. 187 

form a Ministry entirely of men chosen from the Assembly. Some of 
the most distinguished chiefs of the Left, the Lameths, Duport, and 
Bamave, agreed with Mirabeau on this subject, and wished to replace 
the actual Ministers, including Necker, who had lost much of his 
popularity, by deputies of known liberal opinions. They encouraged 
Mirabeau to concert measures with Lafayette ; and Lafayette, while he 
thought that Necker could not be spared, raised no objection to the 
principle that Ministers should sit in the legislature. In a plan for a 
new Ministry, which Mirabeau submitted to Lafayette, he proposed to 
retain Necker as chief, with the Archbishop of Bordeaux and La Tour 
du Pin, but to fill the other ministerial offices with deputies, reserving 
for himself only a seat in Council without a department. Counting on 
Lafayette's good-will and on his own ascendancy, now at its height, 
Mirabeau felt strong enough to raise the question in the House; and 
on November 6, in the course of a financial debate, he took the oppor- 
tunity of asserting that the Ministers would never be in real accord 
with the Assembly until they had seats there. The State, he said, 
must be helpless, while the legislative and executive powers, regarding 
each other as enemies, feared to discuss the public interest in common. 
He therefore moved that, pending the settlement of the Constitution, 
the King's Ministers should have a consultative voice in the Assembly. 
Such admirers of the English system as remained, notably Clermont- 
Tonnerre, welcomed the suggestion ; and nobody had condemned it, 
when the debate stood adjourned. 

But the English practice of choosing the Ministers from the 
legislature was for opposite reasons distasteful to the Right and the Left. 
Many of the Right regarded it as a means of yet further weakening the 
Crown. The King would be forced to take the most popular deputies 
for his Ministers, and his executive power would be transferred to the 
Assembly. On the Left many feared that Miiiisters, who were members 
of the Assembly, would possess means of terrifying or corrupting their 
colleagues, and that the ablest deputies would be seduced from their 
principles by the hope of office and favour. Some rumour of a parlia- 
mentary Ministry, in which Mirabeau would find a place, had got abroad 
and had alarmed jealous patriots. Nothing is stranger in the French 
Revolution than the all-pervading suspicion at work under the fair 
surface of public spirit and fraternal love; and nothing did more to 
blight the promise of a better and happier order of society. When the 
debate was resumed on the following day, a young member, named 
Lanjuinais, who lived to earn an honourable fame, moved a decree to 
the effect that no deputy should be allowed to accept any place or 
pension from the executive during the existence of the legislature or for 
three whole years after. A reference to the aims of Mirabeau aroused 
all the jealousy of his colleagues ; and Mirabeau felt that there remained 
no hope of success. He closed a speech of scorn and defiance with an 



188 The treaty-making power. [i789 

amendment narrowing the prohibition to " M. de Mirabeau, deputy of 
the commons of the sinhhaiisaie of Aix." The Assembly adopted an 
amendment to the original motion, by which deputies were to be 
excluded from office only so long as the Assembly should last. Mirabeau, 
who ascribed his defeat to the iU faith of Lafayette and the enmity of 
the Ministers, hoped for some time that it might be reversed ; but the 
opportunity never came, and the principle asserted by Lanjuinais was 
embodied in the Constitution. 

How little the principles which guided the Assembly in forming the 
Constitution would admit of any real ponder in the executive, was seen 
in the debates upon the right of making treaties and declaring war. 
In the spring of 1790 the dispute between the English and Spanish 
governments over the region adjoining Nootka Sound on the western 
side of North ABaerica had reached such a height that war seemed 
probable, and a naval armament was set on foot in England. Spain 
clainayed the help of France under the Family Compact, and her claim 
was acknowledged by Louis and his Ministers. Moiitmtwrin therefore 
informed the President of the Assembly that, as the English preparations 
menaced Prance, the King had ordered fourteen sail of the line to be 
got ready for sea. He might well hope that the ancient enmity against 
England would impel the Assembly to support the King, and that the 
outbreak of loyal and patriotic ardour would impart new life to the 
government. But the Assembly, without bestowing a thought on the 
immediate need, took occasion to discuss the primciples which should 
hereaftCT guide France in her foreign relations. If treaties are acts of 
sovereign power, and if the people cannot alienate its sovereignty even 
for a moment, no treaty can be valid unless made with the express 
consent of the people. Since none of the treaties, by which France was 
actually bound, had received the express consent of the people, none of 
them could be binding in itself, although theme might be reasons of 
JTistice or expediency for acting as though it did bind. Thus France 
was free to take her own course in foreign affairs, unfettered by previous 
obligations. Robespierre, Petion, Bamave, and other orators of the 
Left, proposed that the nation should solemnly renounce all thought of 
conquest, When other nations had regained their freedom, they would 
do the same and wars would cease ; for all wars had hitherto arisen out 
of the ambition of Kings, and no nation would take up arms save in a 
just cause. Diplomacy and ambassadors were useless ; general alliances 
were out of date; and nothing more was needed than national pacts 
with just peoples. The National Assembly should itsdf undertake the 
negotis.tion of treaties and exercise the power of war and peace. In 
vain Mirabeau observed that popular assemblies were as subject to 
passion as Kings, *nd not subject to a.ny responsibility like Ministers. 
In vain he asked whether,, because France had suddenly changed her own 
political system, she woqld fwce all oth^ nations to change theirs. In 



1789-90] Spain and the Family Compact. 189 

vain he urged the madness of disarming before Europe in arms. In 
vain he annexed all imaginable safeguards to his proposal that the King 
should still have the power of making war and peace. The King on 
declaring war was immediately to notify the fact to the legislature, 
which might call the Ministers to account or refuse the necessary 
credits, or at any time in the course of the war require the executive to 
make peace. All treaties with foreign Powers were to be negotiated 
and signed by the King and approved by the legislature. The 
Assembly manifested its preference for Bamave's proposal that the 
legislature should have the power of concluding treaties and making 
war or peace, and that the King should merely have the right to 
recommend such a course of action as he thought expedient. The 
debate aroused a new agitation in Paris, and a fly-sheet entitled The 
Treason of the Comte de Mirabeau dUscovered was hawked all through 
the streets. Mirabeau thought it necessary to retreat from his position, 
and in a second speech two days later accepted an amendment by Le 
Chapelier, which was in effect the same as Bamave's project, although it 
expressly reserved to the King the sole initiative of proposals for war or 
peace. The Assembly added to its decree a declaration that the French 
people renounced all wars of conquest, and would never employ its 
forces against the liberty of any other nation. 

The Assembly gave a new proof of its resolve to keep foreign affairs in 
its own immediate charge when it cancelled the permission given by the 
Ministers to the Comte de Mercy- Argenteau, the Austrian ambassador, 
for the passage of some Austrian troops from Luxemburg through 
France to Belgian territory. It then named a Committee of six, in- 
cluding Bamave and Mirabeau, to review all treaties to which France 
was a party. Meantime the English government continued its pressure 
upon the King of Spain (Charles IV), and he renewed bis appeal for 
help to his kinsman. Mirabeau prevailed on the Diplomatic Com- 
mittee to turn the Family Compact into a national compact, at the 
same time omitting the offensive clauses. On August 26 the Assembly 
invited the King to equip forty-five sail of the line, and to tender to 
Spain the revised treaty as the basis of a new alhance. But the 
Spaniards had not asked the French to conclude a new treaty ; they had 
called for help under an old treaty, which the Assembly had cancelled 
without asking their leave. Feeling how vain it was to trust an ally of 
this kind, they preferred to make terms with their enemy, and, by the 
Treaty of the Escurial, October 12, 1790, they yielded all the points 
which they had disputed with England. The impotence of the French 
Crown was now as patent in foreign as in domestic affairs. It may 
excite some surprise that the Assembly, which acknowledged the nation 
liable for the King's debts, should have treated the nation as not bound 
by treaties which the King had concluded. But the majority was im- 
pelled, not so much by scruples about the sovereign rights of the nation, 



190 The new Departments. [i790 

as by deep jealousy and distrust of the Crown, and by fear lest the 
emergencies of foreign affairs should enable it to regain somewhat of its 
power and dignity. 

As the basis of the new Constitution, the Assembly decreed a new 
division of the territory. The old territorial divisions of France, the 
growth of ages, were in many respects ill suited to the needs of a modem 
people. Most ancient of all were the dioceses, in part at least dating 
back to the time when Gaul was embraced in the Roman Empire. Next 
came the Provinces, formed chiefly in the period of feudal dispersion. 
They were very imequal in size, most irregular in form, and sometimes 
interlaced in a highly awkward manner. The Crown had from time 
to time instituted new modes of division for administrative purposes, 
governments, genSralitis, elections. Lowest came the towns and rural 
communes, many of them defined in a very remote period. In making a 
new division the Assembly was prompted partly by the wish to form 
areas convenient for a new and uniform system of administration and for 
the election of deputies to the legislature, partly by the wish to extirpate 
along with the Provinces the last traces of that provincial feeling which 
had found utterance even in the elections for the States General. Even 
in 1789 some of the Provinces regarded themselves as united on equal 
terms with the French monarchy and affected the style of a nation, 
the Breton, Beamese, Proven9al, or Franc-Comtois nation. According 
to the scheme settled by the Constitutional Committee, France was to be 
divided into about eighty Departments, as nearly as might be of the 
same size, each Department into Districts averaging six or seven, and 
each District into Cantons averaging eight or nine. The Cantons were 
made up of municipalities, that is, of the old communes, the only 
historical divisions preserved, in number upwards of forty thousand. 

As the scheme was iinaUy carried out there were eighty-three 
Departments. In forming them a certain regard was paid to provincial 
boundaries and provincial sentiments. A small Province sometimes 
became a Department by itself. A large Province was usually divided 
into a number of complete Departments ; and, only where strong reasons 
of convenience could be alleged, was a Department formed out of two or 
more Provinces. Nevertheless there vanished all that was left of old 
• provincial institutions as well as of the old administrative system 
devised by the Kings of France and their ministers. The new Depart- 
ments, Districts, and Cantons, had no history, no associations, no inner 
life or bond of common feeling, and presented a smooth blank surface 
upon which the legislator might impress whatever pattern he thought 
proper. Some writers have blamed the Assembly for thus wasting the 
force which immemorial local ties and instinctive local patriotism might 
have given to a new system of self-government. But the Assembly was 
saturated with the doctrine that esprit de corps is the enemy of public 
spirit, and that the attachment of the citizen to any smaller group conflicts 



1790] The fdddrds. 191 

with allegiance to the commonwealth. In this matter the Assembly 
partook far more than it suspected of the jealous temper of the old 
monarchy and, without knowing it, cleared the field for a new despotism. 
Englishmen, who know how impossible it would be to blot out the 
English counties, may wonder at the ease with which the Assembly 
effected these territorial changes. But it was characteristic of the French 
Revolution that the people seemed to find a pleasure in renouncing their 
history, and in destroying even the names and forms which recalled the 
past. 

During these debates France continued to ofifer the strange sight of 
a people almost without a government and in the highest tension, 
sometimes of amiable, sometimes of savage excitement. Characteristic 
of the time were the so-called "federations" in which the National 
Guards of neighbouring districts met to swear mutual friendship and 
obedience to the decrees of the Assembly. These federations began in 
the south towards the close of 1789. The friends of the Revolution saw 
their value. The mimicipality of Paris proposed and the Assembly 
decreed on June 6, 1790, a general federation of the whole of France, to 
be consummated on the anniversary of the captiure of the Bastille. Depu- 
tations from all the National Guards of the Provinces, from all the 
regiments of the army, and from the fleet, were to assemble on that day 
in the Champ de Mars, together with the National Guard of Paris, and 
to swear fidelity to the nation, the law, and the King. As the labourers 
employed could not finish the earthen amphitheatre in time for the 
ceremony, people of both sexes and of all ages, ranks, and conditions, 
came to their help, tiU, it is said, two hundred thousand men, women, 
and children were digging and delving. On July 14, in the presence 
of the King, the Queen, the National Assembly, and an innumerable 
concoiurse of spectators, including fourteen thousand representatives of 
the National Guard and eleven thousand representatives of the army, 
Talleyrand, Bishop of Autun, assisted by two hundred priests in tricolour 
scarves, celebrated Mass at the altar raised in the midst of the amphi- 
theatre. Lafayette, the hero of the hour, was the first to take the oath. 
He was followed by the president of the National Assembly and by the 
King. Then followed the oaths of the deputations. The electric shock 
of the enormous crowd, the pageant, the strains of mihtary music, and 
the incessant salutes of artillery wrought up the onlookers to what 
Ferrieres terms " a delicious intoxication." The National Guards from 
the Provinces showed much good- will to the King personally ; but their 
zeal for the Revolution was refreshed by their visit to its centre. Nor 
did the fraternal scenes enacted in Paris and other cities and towns 
hinder the outbreak of passions of a very different nature. 

The federations completed the dissolution of the regular forces by 
bringing them under the direct influence of the revolutionary clubs. 
The soldiers everywhere chose regimental committees to manage their 



192 The regiment of Chdteau-Vieux in mutiny. [i79o 

affairs, and sent deputations to their commanders to ask for redress of 
their grievances, which were often very real. Garrisons sent deputations 
to each other or to the National Assembly. Sometimes the men went 
further, put their officers under restraint, helped themselves from the 
regimental chest, and spent the money in taverns and brothels. This 
licence nowhere went further than with liie gawisoH of Nancy, consisting 
of two French regiments and the Swiss regiment of Chateau- Vieux. 
When the Marquis de BouiUe, general of the army of the East, had 
failed in bringing them back to obedience, the National Assembly had 
interposed and sent an officer of high rank, M. de Malseigne, to carry 
out its decree. But the soldiers and mob of Nancy set him at defiance 
and he barely escaped from their hands to Luneville. There he was 
seized by another mutinous regiment and handed over to the rebels at 
Nancy. Bouille, having mustered a small but faithful body of regular 
troops and a few National Gkiards, summoned Nancy on August SI. 
After some parleying the rebels obeyed and the mutinous regiments 
began to defile out of the city. But then the armed populace fired on 
Bouille's men, who answered by stbrming the gate; and the mutineers at 
the sound of the cannon hurried back to help their late allies. After a 
furious combat of three hours, in which he lost forty officers and four 
hundred men, Bouille forced his way into the town and compelled a fresh 
surrender. The mutiny of Nancy had caused such alarm that not only 
the King but the National Assembly returned thanks to BouilM and the 
troops which had served under him. In accordance with the privilege of 
the Swiss raiments in the service of France, the Swiss officers sat in 
judgment upon the mutineers of Ch^teau-Vieux. Twenty-two were 
sentenced to death and some fifty to the galleys. The French regiments 
were disbanded, but suffered no further penalty. Regimental clubs were 
forbidden but throve none the less. Danton^ Marat, and all who like 
them desired to prolong anarchy as the means to a more thorough 
revolution, clamoured against the general, the Minister for War, and 
the Assembly itself, and at length got an amnesty for the Swiss soldiers 
condemned to the galleys. Desertion continued to thin the rank and 
file. The officers emigrated in crowds. Even the firm Bouille found 
that he could not trust more than a remnant of his troops, and outside 
his command there was no more than the shadow of an army. 

The navy had fallen into equal disorder. Both the workmen in the 
royal dockyards and the sailors had their grievances, which they expected 
the National Assembly to redress, and both were skilfully urged to mutiny 
by the clubs and the newspapers. So early as November, 1789, the 
workmen at Toulon broke out into riot because Comte d' Albert de 
Rions, the director of the port, had forbidden them to wear the tricolour 
cockade, or to enlist in the National Guard. As the only means of 
saving his life he was hurried off to prison. The commissioner sent 
down by the Assembly reported that there was no reason to punish 



i79o] The navy. — The colonies. 193 

anybody. A new director of the port was appointed. At Brest in 
September, 1790, the sailors mutinied because a drunken man was 
ordered off the Patriate for insulting one of the officers. The popular 
club at Brest took up the cause of the mutineers. The municipality 
interfered to protect them. The Assembly sent commissioners to restore 
discipline, but they availed nothing. Although the mutiny was in part 
directed against the new penal code for the navy, a committee report 
ascribed it to the misconduct of the Secretary for the Navy and the delay 
in adopting the tricolour flag. But the resignation of the Minister and 
the use of the tricolour did not satisfy the culprits, who forced the 
Assembly to repeal the unpopular clauses of the penal code and to give 
formal, thanks to the Jacobin club at Brest. There could no longer be 
any question of discipline in the French navy. Here also the officers 
emigrated and the men deserted. But here the mischief was not repaired 
as it was in the army. Neither the Republic nor the Empire could form 
such a navy as had disputed the command of the sea with England in 
the American War. 

On the colonies the Revolution in France had consequences grave in 
themselves, but rendered terrible by the perverse handling of the National 
Assembly. In the French West India Islands the governors were jealous 
of the Intendants who had charge of the finances ; the planters and the 
merchants stood to each other as the nobles to the bourgeoisie at home ; 
the mulattoes were a large and discontented class ; and the white popu- 
lation was outnumbered by the iiegro slaves in the proportion of one to 
eight. Some representatives of the planters had fotmd seats in the 
National Assembly, and the events of July had led the colonists, 
especially in the great island of San Domingo, to set up municipalities 
and enrol National Guards. An assembly of planters at Leogane went 
further and claimed for San Domingo the right to give itself a constitution 
which would only need to be confirmed by the King. But this assembly 
could not resist the new governor, the Comte de Peynier, and its ring- 
leaders fled to France in August, 1790. Then the commander of the 
regular troops at Port-au-Prince, the capital, disarmed the National 
Guards and imprisoned the colonial committee. Next the mulattoes 
raised a rebellion to gain the rights of citizenship. They were put down, 
and their leader, Vincent Oge, was broken on the wheel. Early in 1791 
the arrival from France of some troops tainted with the spirit of mutiny 
emboldened the mean whites and the colonial troops at Port-au-Prince 
to rise and make themselves masters of the city. When these events 
were reported at home the National Assembly, without taking any 
measure to enforce order, decreed the abolition of slavery and bestowed 
civic rights on all the inhabitants of the colonies. Six months later the 
negroes of San Domingo, learning that they were free, took up arms and 
began the most terrible servile war of modem times, ending in the ruin 
of the colony. Martinique and Guadeloupe underwent miseries less in 

C. M. H. VIII. 13 



194 Church and State. [i789-90 

degree but the same in kind. Even the isles of Bourbon and Mauritius 
and the French settlements in India were shaken by the disorders of the 
mother country. 

In the beginning of September Necker resigned. Very soon after his 
return to office in July of 1789 he had lost all popularity and power. 
The course of events had disproved his pretension to be considered a 
statesman, and the .Assembly neglected to use even his skill as a man of 
business. Its committees did his work without listening to his advice ; 
and his position, which had long been painful and humiliating, became 
dangerous after the affair of Nancy. On September 2 his house had to 
be protected by the National Guard against the mob, which shouted 
" Down with the Ministers ! Death to Bouille ! " The next day he 
tendered his resignation, which the Assembly accepted without a word of 
thanks or regret. He returned to his native country, but not without 
having been twice arrested on the way. 

The utter ruin of the ancient institutions of France, the determination 
of so many of the principles of the new order, and the redivision of the 
territory, left, as it might seem, no more than the details of the Consti- 
tution to be enacted. But the aspect of public affairs, the temper of 
parties, and the relation of the King to the Assembly, matters of so much 
consequence when an absolutely new system of government was to be 
elaborated and brought into working, were all changed for the worse by 
the attempt of the Assembly to reform or rather remodel the Church of 
France. 

A change in the relations of Church and State, a reduction in the 
number, wealth, and political power of the clergy were indeed inevitable. 
Many of the cdhiers, we have seen, touched upon these subjects, although 
they rarely or never raised questions of doctrine or worship^ The bulk 
of the French people were orthodox, if not zealous Catholics ; but the 
Assembly contained a majority, hostile in different degrees as Jansenists, 
Protestants, or freethinkers, to the existing ecclesiastical order, and im- 
patient to requite all that they had suffered from the intolerance of 
Rome. It was thus that the Assembly approached the most delicate 
and difficult part of its task in a harsh and unsympathetic spirit. It did 
not dissolve the connexion of Church and State, but rendered that con- 
nexion intolerable to most of the clergy, even as it had preserved the 
monarchy whilst making the King's position as humiliating as possible. 

The merely political power of the clergy was abated by the union of 
the three Estates in one assembly, for it was certain that a constitution 
framed by a majority of laymen would never restore their separate po- 
litical existence. The night of August 4 witnessed the first inroad upon 
the wealth of the clergy, inasmuch as the suppression of feudal rights 
would affect prelates and monasteries as well as lay seigneurs, and the 
suppression of tithes would affect almost all the clergy. But in that 
feverish sitting it had not been determined what ancient rights should 



1789-90] Church land and tithe. — Religious Orders. 195 

be commuted for money and what should be merely cancelled. On 
several occasions the heads of the Church declared their readiness to 
make considerable sacrifices, but they always tried to avert the assertion 
of the principle that the wealth of the Church was the property of the 
nation, and this principle the majority was resolved to enforce to its 
uttermost conclusions. First it was decided, against the arguments of 
Sieyes, that the tithes should be suppressed without any compensation. 
A sum of at least 70,000,000 livres, nearly £3,000,000 a year, was thus 
divided among the landowners of France in proportion to their wealth ; 
and perhaps two-fifths of all the ecclesiastical revenues were swept away 
at a single stroke. Meantime disorder had risen to such a height that 
scarcely any revenue could be collected ; and, as nobody would lend to 
the State, bankruptcy seemed approaching. On October 10, therefore, 
Talleyrand proposed that the nation should take the Church lands into 
its possession and sell them in order to pay its debts. Mirabeau moved 
the Assembly to declare that these lands belonged to the nation, subject 
to the duty of making a provision for the clergy, and that no cure should 
have less than 1200 livres a year as stipend. A law embodying these 
proposals was voted on November 10 ; and by a law of December 19 
a sale of lands was actually ordered. At the same time the first issue of 
assignats was sanctioned. It is unnecessary here to trace the subsequent 
measures by which the vast wealth of the French Church was dissipated. 

The numbers of the clergy were reduced by the law of February, 1790, 
which deprived monastic vows of all legal force, leaving the inmates of 
religious Houses free to return to the world, suppressed the existing 
religious Orders, and forbade the introduction of any new ones. All the 
monastic property now became available for secular purposes, but pensions 
were assigned to the Religious. Those who wished to continue their 
former way of life were allowed to do so in Houses set apart for the 
purpose ; and the Orders engaged in charity or education, as well as the 
convents of women, were left undisturbed. Many monks and friars 
availed themselves of their new liberty, but the nuns generally preferred to 
remain in their convents. As anarchy grew in France, and political and 
religious hatreds became more venomous, the condition of those who kept 
to their vows became most painful. Their pensions were irregularly 
paid, they were harassed by the municipalities, and threatened, sometimes 
brutally maltreated, by the mob. All this, however, lay in the future. 
So tepid was the Catholic feeling of the time, so useless had most of the 
monasteries become, and so unpopular were most of the religious Orders, 
that the dissolution called forth little resistance. The Assembly might 
have acted more wisely in continuing that gradual suppression of decayed 
communities which the Crown had begun ; but so far it had not raised 
up any formidable religious opposition. 

It was the new form imposed upon the relation of the clergy to the 
State which broke the alliance between the cures and the commons, and 

13—2 



196 The civil constitution of the clergy. [1790 

hastened the conflict between the French Revolution and the See of 
Rome. The majority of the Assembly was imbued with the notion 
that all independent corporations are evils to society; and its leaders had 
committed themselves to the principle that the clergy shpuld be regarded 
as a branch of the public service employed to teach morals and dispense 
charity. In the Ecclesiastical Committee the prevailing temper was 
deepened by the influence of the Jansenists, especially of Camus and 
Treilhard ; and the " civil constitution of the clergy " presented on its 
behalf to the House in May, 1790, was a direct challenge to the feelings 
and traditions of orthodox Roman Catholics* 

By this constitution the ancient ecclesiastical dioceses and provinces 
were set aside. Henceforward there was to be one Bishop and no more 
in each Department ; and the Metropolitans were reduced to ten. All 
French citizens were forbidden to recognise the authority of any Bishop 
or Metropolitan whose see lay outside the kingdom, although by a later 
amendment a new Bishop was allowed to write to Rome as a testimony 
of unity of faith and communion with the head of the Church. The 
cathedral Chapters were suppressed, and to each Bishop was assigned a 
council of vicars, whose concurrence was needed for every act of jurisdic- 
tion* A reduction was also made in the number of parishes. All 
ecclesiastical offices became elective. The Bishop was to be chosen by 
the electors of the Department, and the curi by the administrative 
assembly of the District ; while no man was to be disabled from voting 
by the circumstance that he was not a Catholic. Only persons who 
had been in orders for a time fixed by law were eligible; and when 
elected they had to undergo examination by the Bishop or Archbishop ; 
but his power of rejecting was severely limited. The stipends of all the 
clergy were fixed. The Bishop of Paris alone was to receive 50,000 
livres a year; the rest were to have from 20,000 to 12,000 Uvres 
according to the size of their diocese. The parish priests were to re- 
ceive in Paris 6000 Uvres, and elsewhere from 4000 to 1200 livres; 
and the curates from 2400 to 700 livres. Residence was enforced by 
placing the clergy under the control of the local authority. In order 
to absent himself for more than a fortnight the Bishop must obtain 
leave from the Directory of the Department, the cur& from the District 
Directory. 

The advocates of the civil constitution of the clergy maintained that 
it did not touch doctrine or worship, but merely reformed discipline, and 
that it did not therefore encroach on freedom of conscience or go beyond 
the rightful province of the secular authority. The commanding in- 
fluence in the affairs of the Church, formerly enjoyed by the Crown, 
might fairly be claimed for the nation. If the King had formerly 
nominated the Bishops, and the King and other laymen had enjoyed the 
patronage of many livings, why should not the general body of French- 
men now exercise the same powers by way of election ? The Jansenists, 



i79o] Religious insurrection. 197 

who swayed the Ecclesiastical Committee, were apt to magnify the 
authority of the State in the hope of effecting a reformation of the 
Chiu-ch. " A State," said Treilhard, " can admit or exclude a religion ; 
ajhrtiori it can declare that it wishes a particular establishment to exist 
in a particular place or in this or that manner. When the sovereign 
believes a reform necessary, no opposition is admissible." But, what- 
ever might be alleged in favour of the civil constitution of the clergy, 
it did undoubtedly shock the consciences of a great number of Frenchmen. 
They held the established discipline of the Church to be an essential 
part of the Catholic religion. They felt that the election of Bishops 
and parish priests by laymen, who need not even be members of the 
Church, and the implied denial of papal jurisdiction, would involve 
them in the guilt of schism. Some clerical members of the Assembly 
proposed the convocation of a national council to reform the Gallican 
Church and a negotiation with the Pope ; but this did not satisfy the 
majority, who wished to enforce the absolute, unconditional prerogative 
of the legislature in matters ecclesiastical. Although the Assembly had 
adopted the principle of freedom of conscience and the principle of a 
State Church, it forgot in regulating the Church all deference to the 
scruples of the faithful, and returned unwittingly but siu-ely to despotic 
precedents and the old contempt for human liberty. 

Early in the year the Pope had taken alarm at the ecclesiastical 
measures of the National Assembly. He coidd not but condemn the 
civil constitution of the clergy, which extinguished his authority in 
France, and he warned Louis that its acceptance would be an act of 
schism. Louis, with the deepest reluctance, but wholly unable to resist, 
gave his sanction to the ecclesiastical decrees on August 27. The clergy, 
already incensed by the confiscation of Church lands and the suppression 
of the religious Orders, were more stubborn in resistance. Many of the 
Bishops had protested against the civil constitution ; the parish priests 
condemned it ; some outbreaks of violence against the Protestants in the 
south betrayed the rekindling of fanaticism, and for the first time a 
popular movement counter to the Revolution became discernible. At 
Montauban, where the Protestant middle class formed a large part of 
the National Guard, while the municipality was Catholic, the Catholic 
mob on May 10 attacked the unarmed National Guards, killed or 
wounded sixty, and imprisoned the rest until they were set free by a 
commissioner from the National Assembly. A month later the two 
religions came to blows in Nimes ; and the Protestants, with the help of 
the fanatic peasants from the mountains, gained the victory, killing over 
three hundred Catholics. Then the Catholic priests and nobles of the 
neighbouring departments planned a " federation " of Catholic parishes 
for August 18 on the plain of Jales; upwards of thirty thousand 
National Guards met there on the appointed day, heard mass and agreed 
to petition the Assembly that the Catholics of Nimes should be allowed 



198 An oath exacted from the clergy. [1790-1 

to arm, that those who had been imprisoned after the faction-fight 
should be set free, and that those who h3,d suffered in their property 
should receive compensation. The. Assembly denounced the federation 
of Jales as unlawful, but its promoters kept banded together. : . 

These warning symptoms only hardened the imperious temper of the 
National Assembly. On November 26 the Ecclesiastical Committee 
reported in favour of compelling all beneficed ecclesiastics to swear that 
they would maintain to the utmost of their power the Constitution 
decreed by the Assembly and accepted by the King. After a fierce 
debate, in which Mirabeau outstripped the intolerance of thje Ecclesi- 
astical Committee, the proposition was carried. The unhappy King 
hesitated, tried to gain time, appealed to the Pope ; but at length, 
overborne by the urgent summons of the Assembly and by threats of 
instant violence against the clergy, if not against himself, he yielded and 
signed on December 26 the decree which was to bring so many evils 
upon France. The clerical members of the Assembly were now re- 
quired to take the oath. On January 4, 1791, the roll was called; and 
Bishops and priests with grave dignity declined.. The majority then 
retorted with a decree depriving all ecclesiastics who persisted in their 
refusal. Everything that could be devised to induce the people to 
malti-eat the refractory clergy was done by the popular clubs and 
newspapers. Yet only four prelates would swear, and they carried little 
weight ; for the Archbishop of Sens and the Bishop of Autun lacked 
charsicter, and the Bishops of Viviers and Orleans lacked talent. One 
hundred and twenty-eight prelates and a large proportion of parish 
priests were deprived for refusing the oath. The election of their 
successors caused yet more rancour; and the persons chosen, although 
generally respectable, were not of such commanding, merit, as to, make 
men forget how they had obtained preferment. Henceforth there were 
in the GaUican Church two hostile bodies of clergy : the one upheld by 
all the power of the State and all the violence of the mob ; the other 
supported by whatever was left in France of Catholic zeal and orthodoxy. 
Bitter religious discord was added to all the other plagues of the time ; 
and the mischief begim by the National Assembly was made irreparable 
by the Legislative Assembly and the Convention. 

The decrees of the Assembly regarding the Church drove the; King 
once more into active, although not open resistance. Since the failure 
of his attempt to use force in July of 1789, Louis had waited passively 
upon events. It is impossible that he should have approved of recent 
changes. Holding himself King by the grace of God, and knowing that 
he had meant well and made large concessions to the spirit of the time, 
he must have resented the loss of power and liberty, and he must have 
discerned in the anarchic and miserable state of France the assured 
retribution of revolt against lawful authority. Yet so indolent, so 
irresolute, so honestly averse from civil bloodshed was Louis, that it was 



1790-1] The King meditates flight. 199 

long before he concerted any measures against the National Assembly. 
He put no trust in his kinsmen who had emigrated, and he had no hope 
of aid from without. But the Assenably, in forcing him to approve the 
civil constitution of the clergy, ha4 made him do, what he believed to be 
wrong, what the Pope had condemned, what might imperil the souls of 
millions of faithful subjects as well as his own. In forcing him to 
approve the decree which exacted an oath to that constitution, the 
Assembly had driven him to take part in persecuting men whom he 
revered for a resistance believed by him to be a duty. " I would rather 
be King of Metz than remain King of France in such a position," he 
observed after signing the decree ; " but this shall not last long." Louis 
could not indeed shake oflF those weaknesses which made him the most 
futUe of conspirators. StiU less could he measure the forces which had 
issued in the Revolution. To him it seemed that an unscrupulous 
faction had misled his good people, had all but deposed himself, and had 
oppressed his clergy and nobles. He meditated escaping from Paris, 
appealing to the sound part of the nation, and with the help of a display 
of force by friendly Powers restoring his authority and giving effect to 
his forgotten declaration of June 23, 1789. With more activity and 
courage, but with even less judgment, the Queen adopted these plans 
and looked round for help from abroad. Little was known, but much 
was suspected by the partisans of the Revolution ; and from the autumn 
of 1790 events moved, steadily towards the issue foretold by Mirabeau, 
the abolition of the, monarchy, and the death of the King and Queen. 
Mirabeau had strongly dissuaded recourse to foreign Powers, but 
Mirabeau had lost any little credit he ever possessed with the King by 
the rancour which he had recently displayed against the clergy. His 
death on April 4, 1791, made no change in the projects entertained at 
Court. But none of the foreign Powers was disposed to intervene in 
French affairs, or to help in ending that paralysis of French power in 
which, all found their own advantage. The King and Queen therefore 
resolved to accept with seeming good-will whatever measures the Assembly 
might tender. There was only one submission which, even to gain time, 
the King would not make. Convinced that the priests who had taken 
the oath were schismatics, he would not avail himself of their minis- 
trations, but had the chapel of the Tuileries served by recusants. The 
revolutionary party insisted that, he must receive the Sacrament from a 
" constitutional " parish priest. When Louis tried to evade the difficulty 
by leaving Paris and spending Easter at St Cloud, the National Guards 
who were on duty at the Tuileries would not allow his departure. The 
mob rose in their support ; the municipal authority would not interfere ; 
and Lafayette cotdd do nothing. Louis and his family had to return to 
the Tuileries. Two days later he had to appear in the Assembly and 
solemnly declare himself in the enjoyment of liberty. Even the phleg- 
matic Bourbon must have felt the unutterable degradation of that 



200 The flight to Varennes. — Martial law proclaimed. [1791 

moment. Yet such were his embarrassments and so tardy his resolution 
that two more months were lost in plotting and preparation. On June 20 
Louis attempted to fly with his family to Metz and the army of BouilM, 
leaving behind him a proclamation in which he rehearsed his griefs and 
retracted his consent to all the measures which had been tendered to 
him since the loss of his freedom. On the following day the fugitives 
were arrested at Varennes, and all hope of aid from the army, or from 
foreign governments, was extinguished. The Comte de Provence, who 
had taken another route, and adopted better measures, reached Brussels 
in safety. 

Such was the awe which had long surrounded the royal office in 
Prance that the first emotion of the public, on learning the King's flight, 
was one of fear. The alarm was soon dispelled by the news of his 
capture ; but then the question arose how- he should be treated. A few 
Republicans wished to depose Louis, nor did they lack solid arguments ; 
for what settled quiet could men expect with a King who had in truth 
to be kept a prisoner, if he were to acquiesce in his place under the 
Constitution ? . The main body of the Left, however, were monarchical 
in their peculiar fashion; they were weary of change and saw that the 
extreme democrats who would have dealt hardly with the King desired 
another and a more destructive revolution in which all who had anything 
to lose would alike suffer. The Assembly was satisfied therefore with 
decreeing that until the King had accepted the Constitution he should 
be suspended from his office. In fact he remained a prisoner as before. 

The club of the Cordeliers with Danton at their head called not only 
for the deposition but for the trial of the King. A petition to that effect 
was laid for signature on the altar of the nation in the Champ de Mars. 
Two foolish persons whom curiosity led to hide themselves under the 
steps of the altar were found out and murdered. The National Assemblyj 
hearing that it was to be attacked, ordered Bailly to take measures for 
the safety of Paris. The municipality then proclaimed martial law, and 
Bailly and Lafayette went to the Champ de Mars, where Bailly read the 
proclamation enjoining the crowd to disperse. The crowd replied with 
stones and a few shots; and the National Guards fired, killing or wounding 
several persons. A panic ensued and many were trodden under foot in 
the tumult. Such was the incident which, became celebrated as the 
"massacre of the Champ de Mars," July 17, 1791, for the Jacobins 
regarded all endeavours of the authorities to put down riot as partaking 
of murder and treason and afterwards dealt with Bailly accordingly. 

Time and experience had brought the leaders of the Left, Barnave, 
Duport, and the Lameths, to those political opinions which they had 
combated in Mirabeau. At length they saw like Mirabeau that the 
Revolution could not be closed until the executive had regained some 
power. Like Mirabeau they tried to reach this end by coming to terms 
with the King and restoring so much of his prerogative as wbuld enable 



I'zgi] The Constitution voted. 201 

him to resist further encroachment. Like Mirabeau they were doomed 
to fail. In order to strengthen themselves against the Crown they had 
flattered extreme opinions and connived at lawless deeds ; and, now that 
the fanatics and ruffians turned against them, they had no defence save 
the shadow of an executive power. They could expect no help from the 
Right who, since the capture of the King, had taken no part in the pro- 
ceedings of the Assembly. They could not gain the confidence of the 
King and Queen, who were only the more embittered by the failure of 
their attempt at flight and merely sought to gain time by playing with 
the parliamentary leaders. Yet Bamave and Le Chapelier addressed 
themselves to Malouet as the most reasonable member of the Right ; 
assuiing him that they would support any fair amendment of the 
Constitution, if they could count upon the votes of his friends. Malouet 
had little hope of satisfying this condition, but he undertook to criticise 
the Constitution in the tribune, so as to give Bamave and Le Chapelier the 
opportunity of declaring themselves already convinced of the necessity 
for certain changes. On August 8 therefore Malouet ascended the 
tribune and began a speech to which the House listened so attentively 
that the Extreme Left grew impatient, and Le Chapelier suddenly moved 
that he should be no longer heard. Having found that scarcely any of 
the Right would support Malouet, Le Chapelier and his friends had 
determined not to bear alone the enmity of the Extreme Left, but to 
gain favour by silencing the very criticism which they had invited. By 
some strange fatality every attempt to control the Revolution seemed 
only to make it more violent. 

All hope of restoring vigoin* to the executive was thus lost; and 
the faults of the Constitution were only enhanced in revision. The 
Constitutional Act was finally voted on September 3. Throughout its 
proceedings the Assembly had claimed a plenary constituent power and 
denied to the King any voice in determining the Constitution. His 
acceptance of the Constitution was necessary, not to its validity, but to 
his continuing to reign. After consulting many of the most eminent 
deputies, from Maury and Cazales to Bamave and Duport, Louis bowed 
himself to unconditional assent. The ceremony of tiie King's oath to 
the Constitution took place on September 14 in a solemn sitting of the 
Assembly. Most of its members believed or hoped that the Revolution 
had run its course, and that the new order of things was solidly estab- 
lished. They were weary of their long toil, and the people were weary 
of them. On September 30 the National Assembly came to a close. 

The Constitution of 1791 has for its preface the Declaration of 
Rights, a curious mixture of law, morals, and philosophy. Those clauses 
of the Declaration which may be termed legal ordain that no man shall 
be arrested or imprisoned save in the cases and according to ,the forms 
prescribed by law; that every man shall be deemed innocent until he has 
been judged guilty; that no ex post facto penalty shall be inflicted ; that 



202 The Comtitution of 1791. 

no man shall be troubled for any expression of opinion which does not 
trouble public safety; and that there shall be freedom of speaking, 
writing, and printing. Among the philosophical clauses those which 
assert that all sovereignty resides in the nation, and that every citizen is 
entitled to concur in person or by his representatives in making laws and 
imposing taxes, are the most noteworthy; the former as an express contra- 
diction of the ancient absolute monarchy, the latter because contradicted 
by the terms of the, Constitution itself. The Constitution begins with 
reenacting the laws which had abolished titles and orders of nobility, the 
purchasable and hereditary character of public offices, privileges of all 
kinds, all associations of members of trades or professions, and the 
binding force of religious vows. It goes on to confirm the new territorial 
division and municipal organisation, declares marriage a civil contract, 
and establishes civil registers of births, deaths, and marriages. Only 
then does it begin to determine the distribution of political power. 
Although sovereignty is inalienable in the nation, the nation can exercise 
its powers only by delegating them. The representatives of the nation 
are the legislature and the King. 

The legislature was to consist of a single Chamber ; and the 
number of representatives was fixed at seven hundred and forty-five. 
These were distributed between the Departments, on the threefold > basis 
of extent, of population, and of the amoimt paid in direct taxes. Two 
hundred and forty-seven representatiyes were apportioned according to 
territory, two hundred and forty-nine according to population, and as 
many according to the amount of taxes paid. The indirect method of 
election was retained. The Primary Assemblies were held in towns and 
cantons. TTiey were composed of "active citizens," that is to say, men 
aged twenty-five and pa,ying direct taxes equal to the. value of at least 
three days' labour in that district, inscribed upon the rolls of the 
municipality and the National Guardj and not engaged in domestic 
service. They had to take the civic oath of fidelity to the nation, the 
law, and the King. No man could exercise the rights of an active 
citizen in more than one place. The Primary Assemblies thus com- 
posed were to choose electors in the proportion of one for every 
hundred active citizens. For the electors a higher qualification was 
fixed. Besides fulfilling the other conditions of active citizenship, they 
must be owners or usufructuaries of property assessed to the taxes; if in 
a town of more than, six thousand inhabita,nts, at the value of at least 
two hundred days' labour; if elsewhere, at the value of at least one 
hundred and fifty days' labour. In a town of over six thousand in- 
habitants the tenant of a house valued at one hundred and fifty days' 
labour, and elsewhere the tenant of a house valued at one hundred days' 
labour, were qualified to be electors. So was any farmer or mitai/eft 
whose holding was assessed at four hundred days' labour. The electors 
chose the members of the legislature, who were only required to satisfy 



The legislature. — The King. 203 

the conditions of active citizenship. Persons holding office in the 
administration or in the Courts of justice might be elected, but had to 
choose between a seat in the Assembly and their place in the public 
service. A member of the legislature might be reelected once ; but 
after his second term two years must elapse before he could again offer 
himself as a candidate. The King and the servants of the Crown were 
excluded from any share in determining disputed points relative to the 
elections. Before taking their seats the representatives had to swear, 
in the name of the French people, that they would live free or die, and 
that they would maintain the Constitution. 

The legislature was to last two years, and the King had no power to 
prorogue or to dissolve it. At the end of two years a fresh election 
followed as of course. It might adjourn itself at discretion, and during 
the adjournment the King might and in certain junctures must convoke 
it. A deputy could not be Minister during his term of service or for 
two years afterwards. But Ministers of the Crown had an entry and a 
place assigned, might demand a hearing on matters concerned with their 
respective departments, and might on other occasions be granted a hear- 
ing by the House. The legislature had fall legislative power, qualified by 
the King's suspensive veto, which did not extend to financial laws. A 
Bill was not to pass until it had been read three times with intervals of 
at least eight days. The legislature had executive authority in so far 
that its consent was necessary to proclaiming war, and its ratification to 
treaties of peace, commerce, or alliance ; but it was debarred from any 
exercise of judicial power. 

The King , was styled " King of the French by the grace of God and 
the will of the nation." Royalty was to be indivisible and hereditary 
in the male line of the House of Bourbon,, according to the rule of 
primogeniture. At his accession or, if a minor, when he came of age, 
he was to take an oath of fidelity to the nation, the law, and the 
Constitution. His person was to be inviolable and sacred, but he was 
to vacate his office if he failed to take or if he retracted his oath of 
fidelity, or if he led a military force against the nation, or did not 
formally condemn such an enterprise begun by others in his name, or, 
lastly, if he quitted the kingdom and did not return within a time fixed 
by the legislature. After vacating or resigning the throne he was to 
become a simple citizen, liable for unlawful acts committed since he 
ceased to be King. At a King's accession his private estate was annexed 
to the national domain, and a Civil List was settled upon him for 
life. He was allowed a guard not exceeding 1200 foot and 600 horse, 
and paid out of the Civil List. It was to be recruited either from 
the regular army or from citizens who had served one year in the 
National Guard, and its members could obtain no promotion outside 
their own body. In case of a minority the nearest male relative became 
Regent if he satisfied certain conditions, and the custody of the King's 



204 The power of the King. 

person was entrusted to his mother. Eighteen years was to be the age 
of majority. 

The King was the supreme executive power. As such he was the 
head of the administration, and the chief of the army and navy; he 
was charged with the external safety of the kingdom; he named all 
ambassadors and diplomatic agents ; he chose the commanders of fleets 
and armies, and conferred the rank of marshal or of admiral. In the 
lower grades he had a more limited patronage. He appointed one-half 
of the lieutenant-generals, one-third of the colonels and lieutenant- 
colonels ; two-thirds of the vice-admirals, half of the captains, and 
one-sixth of the naval lieutenants ; subject in all cases to such laws as 
might regulate promotion. He also appointed to the various branches 
of the civil service. The annual list of pensions and gratifications to be 
laid before the legislature was drawn up by his command. The King 
fixed the distribution of the forces by Itod and sea, conducted, negotia- 
tions, and signed treaties, subjett to ratification by the legislature. Thus 
the kingly office, though far different to what it had been a few years 
before, might appear to retain considerable force and dignity. But the 
restraints upon it were stringent. The King had no control over the 
duration of the legislature, for the elections took place irrespective 
of his wiU and he could neither dissolve nor prorogue. He ha:d no 
initiative in making laws, although he might invite the legislature to 
take any subject into consideration. He had, it is true, a suspensive 
veto upon bills. Should he exercise this veto, the measure could not 
be brought forward again in that Assembly; but^ if it were passed 
without alteration in the two following, it became law without his 
consent. The King might not select his Ministers from among the 
deputies, and therefore the deputies were likely to regard his Ministers 
as dangerous men, to be suspected and thwarted. The Ministers were 
deprived of control over the local authorities and the National Guard, 
and in a great measure of control over the regular army. The King 
might propose a war to the legislature, but could not undertake one 
save by its decree. If the case called for immediate action, the King 
was to inform the legislature of what had been done, and, if it 
happened not to be sitting, was bound to convoke it at once. Should 
it disapprove of the recourse to arms, he mxist arrest the campaign. 
Not only was the King debarred from any exercise of judicial power, 
but he could not name the judges, who were to be elective. To these 
substantial checks upon his power we must add the change of forms 
intended to impress upon himself and all the world that his position 
was now a subordinate and a regulated one. 

The remodelling of the administrative system ensured the impotence 
of the sovereign. For, although he had Ministers, he no longer had 
local agents or representatives. The local authorities founded upon the 
new subdivision of France were all elective. Each Department had an 



Local government. — The municipalities. 205 

administration of thirty-six persons, chosen for a term of two years by 
the electors out of such active citizens as paid in direct contributions at 
least the value of ten days' labour. The administration was renewed by 
one-half every year. It consisted of a smaller part, the Directory,' 
and a larger part, the Council, of the Department. The Directory, 
consisting of nine persons, was the executive, and was always in action. 
The Council, consisting of aU the other members, was deliberative, and 
held its session once a year. In every District the administration was 
similarly chosen and similarly < divided, the whole body consisting of 
twelve members, four of whom acted as the Directory. Below the 
District came the Canton, which had no administration, and below the 
Canton the communes or municipalities. All active citizens here took 
part in the election, but the conditions of being elected were the same as 
in the District or Department. As the mimicipalities varied in popula- 
tion from the smallest village to the largest city, the number of 
representatives was graduated from three, including the Mayor, where 
the population was under five hundred, to twenty-one where it exceeded 
one hundred thousand. These formed the permanent municipal body ; 
but the active citizens also chose notables, who were in each municipality 
twice as many as the representatives, and who sat with these iu the 
Council General of the commune, summoned only for certain important 
affairs. The ofiicers of the mimicipal body were the Mayor, the Pro- 
cureur, and, in the larger communes, the Procureur siibstitut. The 
executive of the municipal body, known as the Bureau, consisted of 
one-third of the members, always includitig the Mayor. A special 
constitution was framed for Paris. 

The administration of the Department apportioned its quota of the 
direct taxes between the Districts ; and the administration of the 
District apportioned its quota of these taxes among the municipalities. 
The authorities of the Department and the District were also supposed 
to exercise on behalf of the State a control and surveillance over the 
municipsllities. But, since they were elected in their own neighbourhood, 
not appointed by the Crown, they were not in any real sense agents of 
the executive power. Nor had they strength of their own to make their 
control and surveillance eifective. The Department and the District 
were of comparatively little moment, and all real force was in the 
municipalities. The municipalities possessed not only the usual powers 
of local administration, but also certain powers which in every other 
country have been retained by the State. They might almost be said 
to inherit the all-pervading authority of the Intendant and his sub- 
delegates. They had the direction of public works and the management 
of public property. To them the National Assembly entrusted the 
Church lands for sale. They made out the roll of tax-payers, assessed 
the direct taxes, undertook the collection, and forwarded the sum paid 
to the District and Department, whence it reached the Treasury. The 



206 Elective Judges. — The Courts of justice. 

municipalities alone could call out' the troops, the National Guards, or 
the gendarmerie. The State, having no local representative, could 
neither collect its revenue nor defend its subjects. Nor had it any effective 
ineans of compelling the municipalities to do either. The King might 
indeed annul the acts of the local authority if contrary to law; he could 
suspend it if it were obstinate in disobedience. But this was an empty 
form, since he had no command of physical force, and the judges were 
elective. Accordingly the municipal authority did as it pleased, paid in 
the smallest sum it could, wielded its military power with the freedom 
of a prince, arrested travellers, opened letters, occupied forts, and laid 
hands on national property at its good pleasure. Thus the revenue 
shrank to the merest pittance, and the government became more helpless 
every day. Public order depended on the concurrence of more than 
forty thousand independent bodies ; and the head of the State, virtually 
imprisoned by the municipal authority of Paris, was an apt symbol of 
the condition of the whole commonwealth. At the same time the 
municipalities, having no external support, were commonly helpless 
against insurrection and had to take their orders from the local club. So 
extreme a dispersion of power has perhaps never been witnessed in Europe. 
The judicial system was entirely renewed in conformity with the 
doctrines of the sovereignty of the people and the separation of powers. 
Neither the legislature nor the King had any part in the administration 
of justice. The judges indeed acted in the King's name, but they were 
all elected by the people. In each Canton and town one or more juges 
de paix were established. These were chosen by the " active citizens " 
out of the citizens eligible to the local administrative bodies. They 
held office for a term of two years and could not be reelected. In every 
District there was a civil tribunal of five judges, elected for a term of 
six years and reeligible. Only professional lawyers of a certain standing 
could be appointed. The different District tribunals in the same 
Department acted mutually as Courts of Appeal to each other. A supreme 
Court of Cassation, elected by the Departments, was to sit in the same 
place as the legislature. There were three degrees of criminal jurisdic- 
tion. The municipality heard petty police cases ; the juge de paix and 
his assessors dealt with what we should term the lighter misdemeanoiu's ; 
and heinous offenders were tried by the Criminal Tribunal of the 
Department, which consisted of a president and three judges chosen 
by the electors. A High National Court was created to try persons 
accused by the legislature of political offences. Its members were chosen, 
two by the electoral Assembly of each Department, No judge could be 
deprived of his office unless on conviction of crime. Viewed as a whole, 
the new system had the merit of bringing justice within the reach of 
allj but afforded no sufficient guarantee for independence. TTie judgfes 
were numerous ; they were poor ; they were elective ; and they occupied 
their seats only for a time. None of the ordinary Courts was in a 



The army. — The navy. — The National Guards. 207 

position to withstand the stress of piiblic feeling ; and no judge could 
afford to despise popular solicitation or popular threats. He had 
nothing to fear from the government ; but the government could not 
protect him if he honestly discharged his duty. The adoption of the 
jury in criminal cases, however excellent in itself, certainly gave no 
better chance of equity in a time of revolution. But all must approve 
the grant of counsel to accused persons, the mitigation of criminal 
punishment^ and many other real amendments of criminal law and 
procedure. 

The armed forces of the nation were withdrawn from the King's 
authority, as far as was compatible with their continued existence. In 
the regular axmy the non-commissioned officers, at each vacancy in their 
number, agreed on a list of names. The captain selected three from the 
list, and the colonel chose from these. Sub-lieutenants were elected 
by the officers of the regiment. The lieutenants and captains and 
two-thirds of the colonels and lieutenant-colonels were appointed by 
seniority. In the navy the King's power of choice was similarly 
restrained. Juries partly composed of privates and non-commissioned 
officers were introduced into the niilitary Courts, thus taking from the 
commanders their last means of enforcing discipline. Although the 
Crown had power to distribute and to move the regular troops for the 
defence of the kingdom, it could not employ them to maintain order 
within. Over the National Guards the Crown had no control whatever. 
The Constitution expressly declared that they were not a military corps, 
or an institution in the Statie, being simply the general body of citizens 
under arms. No man could be an "active citizen" unless, he were 
enrolled in the National Guard. All the officers were elected for one 
year only and not reeligible until a certain interval had elapsed. Like 
the other armed forces, the National Guards could act only on the 
requisition of the municipality, but, since it was they who chose the 
municipal councillors, this rule put no restraint on their action. Up- 
wards of four millions of men were thus permanently in arms under 
officers elected by themselves, with no discipline beyond that which they 
chose to undergo, and answerable to no civil control save that of their 
own creatures. Anarchy was thus enrolled, armed, made universal and 
incurable. 

The National Assembly ended many gross abuses and proclaimed 
many sound principles, but failed to endow France with a stable consti- 
tution. The blame does not lie altogether with its members. To give 
a new form to a great kingdom, which had endured for many centuries, 
was a gigantic undertaking; and yet there was scarcely a single insti- 
tution in France which did not need to be renovated. More was 
required than merely to amend and purify, as in England a hundred 
years earlier, a political system in the main adequate to the wants of 
the people and rooted in its affections. Even in England it had been 



208 Flaws in the Constitution of 1791. 

needful to change the dynasty. In France, moreover, reform had been 
so long delayed that, when it came, society broke in pieces. With 
tumult raging all around, a numerous assembly could not attain the 
quiet and singleness of mind necessary to wise legislation. But whatever 
the excuses which may be made for the Constituent Assembly, its work 
was full of flaws. It conceded too much to theory, yet failed to satisfy 
logic. It preserved some fragments of the old polity, but did not har- 
monise them with what was new. In its fear of reaction it ensured a 
new revolution. 

All these errors may be traced in its treatment of the King. The 
institution of hereditary monarchy, if tried by the principles of the 
Contrat Social, must be pronounced absurd and immoral. The force of 
habit and tradition and the fear of involving Prance in yet worse con- 
fusion at home and abroad caused it to be retained. But it was stripped 
of all power and usefulness, and abased in a way that stung even the 
inert Louis. He had no means of winning the confidence of the legisla^ 
ture, for he might not take its chiefs to be his Ministers. He had no 
means of appealing from the legislature to the country, for he had no 
right of dissolution. His veto on Bills was meirely. suspensive; his part in 
foreign relations was merely subordinate. He was the chief of an 
administration which would not act, and of an armed force which would 
not obey. The Assembly might have retorted that the King of England 
lay under restraints almost as rigorous; but then the English Cabinet 
more than supplied his place. The Assembly was open to Censure, not 
for refusing to pamper a prince, but for refusing to establish a fit 
executive. Either the French legislators thought that a weak executive 
is essential to freedom, or they regarded the King as a disarmed and 
imprisoned enemy who must be kept impotent. In the one alternative 
they were assuredly mistaken ; in the other they crowned their labours 
with a fatal self-contradiction. 

The Assembly was no happier in the constitution which it gave to 
its successor. In deference to the teaching of the Contrat Social it 
expressly declared that every citizen has a right to concur in making 
laws and granting taxes. At the same time it retained the method of 
indirect election which had been followed in choosing the deputies to the 
States General. It required a property qualification for the "active 
citizen" and a higher one for the elector, thus reducing many to the 
condition of "passive citizens." Inexperienced as the members of the 
National Assembly were, they could not help seeing that a large part of 
the population, poor, grossly illiterate, and unused even to the humblest 
form of political Ufe, were quite unfit to exercise the suffrage. They 
were not niggardly in bestowing the franchise, for the " active citizens " 
numbered upwards of four millions, and must have amounted to two- 
thirds of all the adult males. But, however wise and temperate the 
restriction, it stood condemned out of their own mouth. Yet it was 



The admimstrative system. 209 

the only safeguard which they would tolerate. For they refused to 
institute a Second Chamber, and they carefully took from the King all 
means of influencing the representative body. They did not reflect 
that, in their eagerness to keep down the power of the executive, they 
had exposed the legislature to the dictation of the nearest body which 
possessed physical force, of the municipality, or even of the mob of the 
capital. 

The administrative system established by the Constitution of 1791 
was likewise an unhappy blending of the old with the new. The 
public, weary of the so-called ministerial despotism, the all-absorbing 
action of the Intendants, the numberless and tedious references to the 
Council, desired local self-government without knowledge of its limits or 
conditions. Vague recollections of medieval liberties, an enthusiasm for 
small republics gained in the course of a classical education, and loose 
notions of modem federal commonwealths, such as the United States of 
America, were all that men had to supply the want of experience in the 
management of local affairs in their own town or district. Even 
Mirabeau could so far misapprehend the French character as to declare 
himself convinced "that a great empire cannot be tolerably governed 
save as a confederation of small states, and that oin:s will be constituted 
thus or will be dissolved." These feelings led the Constituent Assembly 
to aboUsh all the local organs of the national government, and to set up 
a pxurely elective administration. It multiplied elections until they took 
up a considerable part of the life of an active citizen, and elective 
councils until, according to one estimate, twelve hundred thousand 
Frenchmen had a part in managing local affairs. Yet even here we can 
trace the influence of tradition. In old France, so far as free institutions 
had extended, the principle that, though deliberation is for many, axition 
is for one, had never been recognised, and much administrative work had 
been done by comparatively clumsy assemblies. The Constitution, as 
we have seen, assigned to local administrations much that we should term 
national business. But for this also there were precedents. The old 
provincial Estates had taken a large part in the assessment and collection 
of the royal taxes. The new provincial assemblies set up by Necker and 
Brienne had like functions. The assessment and collection of the faille 
within the parish had always been left to the inhabitants. It is true 
that the only argument in favour of such a system had disappeared with 
absolute monarchy. It is also true that industrious citizens could not 
afford the time demanded by the new self-administration, and that the 
new elective bodies came to be filled by professional politicians of the 
most dangerous kind. Here again the Assembly was biassed by its dread 
of reaction and its eagerness to disable the Crown and the fallen clergy 
and nobility. An Englishman may think it strange that legislators so 
partial to local self-government should have been uniformly hostile to 
voluntary association. But here the doctrine which the Assembly 

C. 11. H. Yin. li 



210 The failure of the Constitution ensured. 

derived from Rousseau, as Rousseau had derived it from Hobbes, blended 
with the tradition of despotic monarchy. Even a practical man like 
Mirabeau could say, " Particular societies placed in the general society 
break the unity of its principles, and the equilibrium of its forces." 
The number of rich and powerful, but obsolete and useless, corporations 
in the France of 1789 had contributed to ingrain this prejudice in those 
who deemed themselves lovers of liberty. 

The French might rid themselves of their old institutions, but not 
of their national character, fashioned by ages of Catholic orthodoxy, 
absolute kingship, and administrative centralisation. That character 
was not in accord with the theories of the time or with the new Con- 
stitution. The dissolution of public order, the impoverishment of so 
many citizens, the schism in the Church, the restless intrigues of the 
emigrants, the distrust felt for the King, were more than enough to ruin 
a system so weak and iU-contrived. The Assembly itself supplied the 
only thing needed to ensure failure. On Robespierre's motion it had 
decreed that its members should be incapable of sitting in the next 
legislature. All the dear-bought experience of the last two years was 
thus wantonly cast away, and France was again entrusted to novices in 
government. The Constitution of 1791 was overthrown within a 
twelvemonth. 



211 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY. 

The acceptance of the Constitution by the King was welcomed by 
contemporary France as the term of the Revolution, rather than as an 
epoch in it. The vast majority of Frenchmen both desired to end 
the Revolution and took it for granted that the Constitution would 
end it. AU that the men of 1789 had fought for was won ; the 
grievances of the ancien rSgime were removed, and the Constitution 
secured to Prance a modified form of that monarchical government to 
which the majority were sincerely attached. Men were tired both of the 
drudgery and of the excitement of politics, and desired to return to 
their civil occupations. Nothing was further from the heart of France 
than the deposition of Louis or the declaration of a guerre a outrance 
against Europe. 

It is necessary to enquire how it came about that, in spite of the 
wishes of the majority, both these misfortunes occurred. Not least 
among the causes was the composition of the new Assembly, in which 
the extremists managed to secure an influence totally out of proportion 
to their numbers. The Jacobin Club, the only powerful political 
organisation in France, with headquarters in Paris and numerous affiliated 
branches, had been for many months battling for this end ; and its 
elaborate organisation and the fear inspired by its violence enabled it 
to exercise an imforeseen and disastrous influence on the comrse of the 
elections ; but long before this it had been at work in the Constituent 
Assembly, and had craftily forced through that body measures calcu- 
lated to secure for it the mastery in the Legislative. The imposition 
on all electors of the civic oath had the effect of disfranchising a great 
number of the more respectable voters ; for in the civic was comprised 
the ecclesiastical oath, which no devout Catholic could accept. If 
thousands were disfranchised by this measure, miUions were kept away 
from the polls by the wanton and deliberate complication of the electoral 
machinery, which was all a part of the Jacobin plan. Added to the 
fact that a certain distaste for politics had already come over men, this 
over-elaboration of the electoral arrangements kept all busy men — in 

14—2 



212 The elections to the Legislative Assembly. [1791 

other words, all respectable men — away from the ballot, and handed it 
over to idlers and vagabonds. 

The legal means of influencing the elections being thus exhausted, 
the Jacobins did not hesitate to exercise illegal influences; and 
violence and terrorism were let loose upon all moderate citizens. 
Possessed of the only political organisation in PVance, they were 
resolved to keep their monopoly ; and the word was given from Paris for 
an attack on all constitutional associations, both there and in the 
provinces. The Reunion des Amis de la Constitution Monarchique, of 
which Malouet was the guiding spirit, and which had been formed with 
the avowed and perfectly legitimate object of counteracting the influence 
of the Jacobin Club, was forcibly broken up by order of the latter ; and 
similar violence was employed against all such institutions throughout 
the kingdom. Not only this, but on the opening of the polls France 
was subjected to a systematic Jacquerie ; and domiciliary visits, dis- 
armament of " aristocrats," violence, and miu:der, were the weapons 
employed to keep — ^not the nobles and priests — but the respectable 
bourgeois from registering their votes. Sifted by the restrictive decrees 
of the Constituent Assembly, barred from the polls by the excessive 
elaboration of the elections, the remnant of the moderate vote was thus 
driven away by sheer violence. 

It was not only on the electors that pernicious influences had been at 
work, but also on the candidates for election. France had, politically 
speaking, fallen into a state of apathy ; the majority of those leisured 
dasses from which the ranks of politicians are naturally recruited had 
emigrated; and the middle classes who remained had not, speaking 
generally, the time, the money, or the taste for politics ; while 
members of the Constituent Assembly were excluded from the Legis- 
lative by the decree of May 16, 1791. The better class of citizens 
were thus trebly deterred from becoming candidates for the Legislative 
Assembly. The government consequently passed in the period on which 
we are entering into the hands of a new type of politician — men with 
ambition but without experience, and with little or no stake in the 
country. Most of the members elected were, as one would expect under 
such conditions, barristers or journalists, most of them quite young, and 
few of any mark or recognised worth. 

It is strong testimony to the real feeling of the country that, for all 
their activity, the Jacobins yet found themselves in a minority when, on 
October 1, tiie Legislative Assembly met. It was at fii*st impossible to 
tell how parties in the new Assembly would arrange themselves ; but, of 
the 745 deputies, while 136 only were enrolled members of the Jacobin 
Club, 264 were on the books of the FeuiUants. These numbers, it is 
true, did not accurately indicate the strength of parties, for many who 
were not Jacobins sat and voted with the Left of the Assembly, while 
not a few of the Constitutionalists on the Right tended to drift into 



1791-2 J Parties in the Legislative. 213 

the Centre, where sat some 400 deputies professing no fixed political 
opinions. 

Prom the outset the dividing line between the two extreme parties 
was definite. The Right (or FeuUlants) was loosely united in favour of 
constitutional government, though not of the present Constitution with- 
out amendment ; it was in fact on the question of how the Constitution 
should be amended that the party split up into hopeless divisions. Nor 
had they any single leader within the walls of the Assembly to heal 
these divisions: Ramond, Hua, Jaucourt, Gouvion, Daverhoult, Vaublanc, 
Pastoret, Mathieu Dumas, and Bigot de Preameneu, all sat on the 
Right, and all were men of courage and distinction : and yet the Right 
was not led by any of them, but by Bamave, Duport, and the Lameths 
from the FeuUlants' Club — led that is from without. 

The Left, who desired the total overthrow of the Constitution and 
the continuance of the Revolution, was in the meantime united in its 
policy of destruction. For the present there was no distinction between 
the Jacobins proper and the Brissotin Jacobins, who were afterwards to 
split off and form the " Gironde." For the time being the Left was 
simply Jacobin ; and it was not till the early months of 1792, when the 
question of the war came to the front, that the cleavage between the 
Brissotins and the "Enrages^ became apparent. 

In the Legislative, the Brissotins far outnumbered their colleagues ; 
and very few notable Enrages sat in the Assembly. Of the latter the 
most prominent were Couthon, an eloquent hamster, who gradually 
identified himself with the most violent section of the party and became 
eventually the most faithful satellite of Robespierre, Thiuiot, also a 
barrister and the mouthpiece in the Assembly of Danton, and Chabot, 
an unfrocked Capuchin. With them sat Bazire, anoliier barrister, and 
Merlin of ThionviUe, a man who was afterwards to make his mark in 
the Convention. But the majority of those who were eventually to lead 
the Jacobins had no seats in the Legislative ; Danton, Robespierre, 
- Marat, to name only the three most prominent, were all excluded ; and 
the leadership of the Left thus fell into the hands of the Brissotins, of 
v/hom at that time the most notable were, in the Assembly itself, 
Brissot, and outside it Madame Roland and Sieyes. Brissot is an 
extreme example of the t3rpe of frothy mediocrity into whose hands the 
government of France was now to falL The son of a pastrycook at 
Chartres, he had adopted journalism as a profession. Having been 
unsuccessful in a candidature for the States General he was aU the more 
eager to grasp at power on his election to the Legislative ; and he was 
able to use the specious and subterranean knowledge of European 
politics, which he had picked up during an exile in England, and 
during his editorship of the Courrier de VEurope, to pose as a great 
authority on foreign affairs. Thoroughly insincere and self-seeking, he 
desired the overthrow of the King, not as a matter of principle but as 



214 T'he phenomena of the Legislative. [1791-2 

a step to power for himself, and the outbreak of war simply as a means 
to that end. Brissot being chieHy occupied with foreign affairs, it was 
Madame Roland and Sieyes who directed the internal policy of the party. 
Ruled by spite, vanity, and love of power, Madame Roland associated 
herself with the extremists — with Danton and Robespierre, be it 
observed, as well as with Brissot and Sieyes, piurely for the gratification 
of those passions : she had set her heart on the downfall of the throne, 
not so much from any political conviction as from the desire to gratify 
her feminine hatred for Marie-Antoinette, against whom she believed 
herself to have a personal grudge. It was probably due more to her evil 
influence than to any other cause that the party, instead of devoting 
itself to internal legislation, now embarked on a further crusade against 
the monarchy. Her colleague, the Abbe Sieyes, was also firmly deter- 
mined on the overthrow of the existing order of things, with which, as it 
was not of his own designing, he was thoroughly discontented. He 
seems to have been convinced that such an overthrow was bound to create 
an opportunity for a man of his genius to dictate a new constitution 
to France. But there were a number of members of the Brissotin party 
who quickly outshone the regular leaders. Chief among these was 
Vergniaud, the greatest orator produced by the Revolution ; inferior 
only to him were Guadet and Gensonne. All these were deputies of the 
Gironde, and the fact that the name Girondins came to replace that of 
Brissotins is a proof of the prominence of this section of the party. 
Amongst the Brissotins sat also men so conspicuous as Isnard, Condorcet, 
Fauchet, and Valaze. 

Between these two opposing parties lay the Centre, in which sat 
an actual numerical majority of the members. To the youth and 
inexperience which characterised the whole Assembly was here added 
an absence of definite policy which made the Centre open to every 
kind of persuasion or compulsion ; and on it the Jacobins brought all 
their sinister influence to bear. 

Their first step in this direction was to persuade the Assembly to 
open its galleries to the public, and their next to fill them with a noisy 
mob of their own supporters, drawn easily enough from the slums which 
surrounded the Tuileries. Terrorised within the Assembly, hustled and 
insulted at its doors, even the more courageous members of the Right 
lost heart ; and the Centre, at no time courageous, very soon ceased to 
be able to identify itself with any Moderate measure. It was bad enough 
when the votes were coimted by show of hands ; but when the Jacobins 
had persuaded the Assembly to adopt the "appel nominal,'''' and each 
deputy had to declare his vote aloud, the ordeal became altogether too 
great for the members of the Centre ; and after a time a large number 
simply abstained from voting out of sheer terror. This e^el nominal 
was indeed a powerful factor in the history of the Legislative, making a 
difference of about 100 votes on a division. Proof of this may be found 



1791-2] Attitude of the Court. 215 

in the result of the elections to the Presidential chair, which continued 
to be decided by show of hands. The fact that as late as July 23, 1792, 
the name of a Moderate (LafFon de Ladebat) was carried is a proof that 
at heart the Assembly remained Moderate to the end. 

Such were the phenomena of the Legislative Assembly. It now 
becomes necessary to pass in review the other members of the body 
politic; and first the Court. The King and Queen had accepted the 
Constitution with reluctance. The loss of prerogative was probably 
welcome to Louis, relieving him as it did of much of the labour 
and responsibility that was so distasteful to him ; but the Civil Con- 
stitution of the clergy, to which he had been obliged to swear as 
well as to the Constitution of 1791, had for the first time, but finally, 
alienated him from the Revolution ; while in the Queen's eyes the altered 
position of the throne under the new rigime was an intolerable degra- 
dation. The Court therefore accepted the Constitution in the hope and 
belief that it would soon become unworkable. 

It is plain that there was much in common between the attitude of 
the Court and that of the FeuUlants. Both desired the amendment of 
the Constitution, and both the maintenance of the monarchy. But 
unfortimately the King could not bring himself to cooperate with the 
FeuiUamts. He reproached them, and more especially he reproached 
Lafayette, who must now be regarded as a FeuUlamt, with the 
authorship of the present situation. Louis, seldom able to confide in 
anyone, was incapable of making use of men in whom he did not 
confide. He now probably distrusted the FeuUlants more than the 
Jacobins, for whUe he considered the former to be traitorous friends, 
the enmity of the latter was at least open ; and, as in his opinion the 
Jacobins were all corruptible, they were more to be despised than 
feared. The Court was thus cut off from the one party that could 
have helped it; nor was it able to avail itself of the only feasible 
plan of action. The one preliminary to all schemes for the security 
and rehabilitation of the monarchy was still the withdrawal of the King 
and Queen from Paris. Time after time in 1792 Louis' wisest counsellors 
implored him to take this step, but were unable to prevail upon him. 
Reluctance to risk another such fiasco as the flight to Varennes was not 
indeed unnatural, but none the less it was most disastrous. The Court 
had fallen back on the expedient of a peaceful intervention of the 
Powers ; and for that purpose Marie- Antoinette was urging the Emperor 
to summon a great Congress, and back it with a display of force. War 
between the Powers and France she neither desired nor contemplated; 
while to Leopold and to Einrope both war and Congress seemed useless, 
and even harmful, so long as the King and Queen were prisoners in 
Paris. 

The misfortune was that by entering into negotiations with foreign 
Powers, even although he contemplated nothing more than an armed 



216 The Feuillant Ministry. [1791-2 

demonstration, Louis could easily be painted by unscrupulous politicians 
who desired his downfall as plotting for the restoration of the ancien 
rigime and as calling in the armed forces of Europe against his own 
people. On neither of these charges was he guilty, yet it was easy thus 
to mistranslate his most impolitic attitude. And these were the two 
very things which would rouse all the real soul of France to resistance ; 
Frenchmen would never give up their new-found liberties, nor would 
they ever suffer the invasion of their country, whereas they had no idea 
of fighting for the downfall of the monarchy, the thought of which 
was actually distasteful to them, or even for the maintenance of the 
Constitution of 1791, for which no one greatly cared. 

The private advisers of the Court at this time were Bamave, Malouet, 
Dupont of Nemours, and Mallet du Pan ; but to none of them was 
extended the complete confidence which might have rendered him really 
serviceable. And, if he would not trust his confidential advisers, stiU 
less would the King repose confidence in the Ministers, who indeed were 
little worthy of it. Delessart, the Minister of the Interior, was a well- 
intentioned, mediocre person, much hampered by ill-health ; Tarbe, the 
Finance Minister, Duportail, the War Minister, and Duport-du-Tertre, 
the Minister of Justice, were aU absolute nonentities. Montmorin, 
who continued temporarily at the Foreign Office, was a man of some 
distinction; and when he resigned, November 27, 1791, the King lost 
the last of the old Court party ; but even Montmorin had never enjoyed 
his master's complete confidence, and it was this feeling, combined with 
the fact that the King " would never answer letters," that drove him 
from office. Before his resignation, however, the Ministry had been 
considerably strengthened by the accession of Bertrand de MoleviUe to 
the Admiralty. Bertrand had been Intendant of Britanny, and brought 
to his department much of the administrative ability with which so 
many of the Intendants were endowed : he also brought to the King a 
perfectly loyal and devoted attachment, and, so far as this can be said of 
anyone, he enjoyed his master's confidence. The fact that the King and 
Queen were sorry when he took office because they esteemed him, illus- 
trates both the despairing attitude of the Covirt, and the unfortunate 
position in which Ministers were placed by the Constitution. But 
Bertrand's capacity was that of an intriguer rather than a statesman ; 
and he must share with the King the responsibility for refusing to 
cooperate with the FeuUlants, and for thus abandoning the last chance 
of preserving the monarchy. 

After this preliminary survey of the state of affairs at the com- 
mencement of the period, we are in a better position to understand the 
motives and import of the initial measures of the Legislative Assembly. 
The opening sittings were naturally devoted to matters of procedure and 
etiquette, but soon the Assembly found itself obliged to consider two 
administrative questions of great urgency. The crisis in the Island of San 



irsg-gi] San Domingo. — Avignon. 217 

Domingo first engaged its attention. The decree of liberation (May, 
1791) had been followed in September by another, which seemed to 
threaten revocation, and was the signal for a fresh outbreak of hostilities 
in the island; and the whites had been attacked with great ferocity 
and determination. It was obviously the duty of the government 
to secure safety of life and property by sending a sufficient body of 
troops. The Ministry would gladly have done so, but was too feeble to 
take so bold a step in face of the opposition of the Brissotins, who had 
fostered the rebellion and desired its continuance as a weapon against 
the executive. The crisis in San Domingo was not without effect at 
home, for France was dependent on the plantations for sugar, coffee, and 
cotton. The dearth of these commodities created the first cry for the 
regulation by government of the prices of necessaries which was soon to 
become important. Much of the time of the Assembly during its first 
stage was employed in wrangling over the policy to be adopted in the 
unhappy island, while the reign of terror and massacre was permitted to 
continue unchecked. 

The other seat of trouble was Avignon. This city and the dependent 
territory of the Venaissin had, since the fourteenth century, been subject 
to the Popes. The mild government of their distant ruler had given 
the inhabitants little cause for grievance, but the agitation of 1789 had 
spread into this enclave. In March, 1789, a food riot had occasioned 
the establishment of a garde bourgeoise; and the fever which spread 
through France after August 4 occasioned several risings in the later 
months of 1789, and a "French party" began to manifest activity. 
In February, 1790, the time-honoured consular government had been 
overthrown; and in April a new municipal government was formally 
established, and maintained itself in power in spite of the opposition of 
the Pope. In June, owing to the manoeuvres of the French party, civU 
strife broke out ; and the National Guard of the neighbouring town of 
Orange intervened. On June IS, the citizens assembled and passed a 
resolution declaring the union of their country to France, which was 
communicated to the Constituent Assembly. The influence of Mirabeau 
was exerted to prevent the recognition of this illegal act; and the 
question remained long in suspense, while the condition of the city and 
county grew constantly worse. In April, 1791, an armed force set out 
from Avignon and laid siege to Carpentras, but was repulsed by the 
garrison. The Constituent Assembly thereupon sent a Committee to 
Avignon, which reported in favour of union, and on September 13 the 
union of Avignon and the Venaissin to France was decreed ; but con- 
siderable delay ensued befoi-e the arrival of armed forces. 

Meanwhile, the army of bandits which had gathered on the 
pretext of supporting the union of Avignon with France had seized 
the papal castle, a fortress perched on a rock above the Rhone, from 
which they were able to dominate the entire town, and had proceeded to 



?18 Decrees against dmigr^s and priests. [i79i 

establish a reign of plunder and anarchy. But the Moderates of Avignon 
were no cowards, and resisted their oppressors ; and when Lescuyer, one 
of the leaders of the anarchical party, began to plunder the Mont-de- 
PUte, they fell upon him and killed him. Determined to avenge their 
leader and to conceal all trace of their crime before the arrival of the 
government troops which were daily expected, the bandits, headed by a 
fierce desperado called Jourdan, descended on the city, and, arresting 
many of the respectable citizens as " suspects," thrust them into prison 
and there massacred them, to the number of 110, in cold blood. This 
atrocious deed took place on October 16 and 17, but it was not till 
November 9 that government troops entered the unhappy city, which 
during the interval had been at the mercy of Jourdan and his satellites. 
Under the protection of the troops the moderate reaction, so long 
stifled, at once broke out ; Jourdan narrowly escaped with his life, and 
was sent for trial to Paris, where his experience in murder found scope 
in the following September. Two thousand of the bandits were driven 
out of Avignon, and the old municipality weis reinstated. The question 
of sending troops to Avignon was much discussed- in the Assembly 
during October ; and that body must share with the Ministry the blame 
of the unpardonable delay in their despatch both before and after the 
massacres, by which the lives and properties of respectable citizens were 
pleiced at the mercy of a gang of murderers. No better proof is needed 
of the incapacity of the government than the apathy and dilatoriness 
displayed in these two cases of Avignon and San Domingo. 

Having disposed of these matters the Assembly might have been 
expected to turn its attention to the work of internal legislation. But, 
with an absolutely cynical indifference to the necessity for such work, it 
turned aside to decree a series of penal measures against the hnigris and 
the pritres non assermentis. Of these measures those directed against 
the hnigris, although they at the same time contravened a provision of 
the " rights of man," and also disregarded the political amnesty decreed 
by the Constituent, had certainly some justification. It is true that the 
^migrh were not sufficiently numerous to carry out the threats of which 
they were so prodigal. It is also true that their attitude as advocates of 
the ancien regime was bitterly resented both by the King of Prance, 
who wrote repeatedly to his brothers remonstrating with them for their 
extravagant pretensions, and also by the Emperor Leopold, who regarded 
their policy as likely to frustrate the eiForts which the Powers were 
making for the help of Louis. And it is absiu:d to suppose that 
any serious politician can really have regarded the hnigris as a menace 
to France. In number a paltry 4000, their organisation was honey- 
combed with intrigue, and they attained no cohesion before the outbreak 
of war. At the same time their fulminations were extremely irritating, 
and would probably have provoked reprisals from any other Power 
similarly situated. The idea of reprisals was not indeed a new one ; and 



i79i] The King vetoes the decree against the Emigres. 219 

in attacking the kraigrh the Legislative was only following the example 
set by the Constituent. The question was raised on October 20, and on 
November 9 a decree was passed appointing January 1 as the date before 
which the hntgrh must return to France, and condemning to death aU 
the Princes and officials who did not then return, as well as all who 
"took part in seditious meetings." The real object of this decree was 
to keep the imigres out of France, for they were the most valuable asset 
the revolutionaries possessed; and it was of the utmost importance to 
them that the eflForts of the King and the Emperor to dissociate them- 
selves from the Smigres should not succeed. The decree of November 9 
was admirably calculated to have this effect. Louis was a humane man 
with very strong domestic affections, and it was in the highest degree 
unUkely that he would sanction a measure which was equivalent to a 
death sentence on his brothers ; but if he placed his veto upon it he laid 
himself open to the accusation of participating in the designs of the 
emtgris for the restoration of the ancwn rigime and for the initiation of 
violent royalist reaction. And this is exactly what happened, for on 
November 12 he vetoed the decree, and in doing so started on the 
inclined plane of unpopularity which had been prepared for him. 

The action of the King in vetoing this and subsequent decrees 
against the imigrh was impolitic if natural. His relations never 
showed any consideration for him, and by their extravagant pretensions 
had done much to jeopardise his throne and life ; they were, in 
fact, as he knew, his most dangerous enemies, perfectly callous to his 
dreadful position, and, indeed, making capital out of it. Had Louis 
been wise he would have paid these men back in their own coin ; and it 
was sheer folly to sacrifice his slender remnant of popularity to a 
sentimental scruple. 

It now only required energy and rapidity of action to foist the 
character of traitor on the King. With this object there was passed on 
November 29 a second decree, directed this time at a still more vulnerable 
part in his armour — at the non-jiuing priests. By its provisions all 
priests who did not take the oath within a week were to be removed 
from their benefices by the Directories of their respective Departments, 
and their stipends to be confiscated for the Treasury. In their desire to 
provoke the King to a second veto, the revolutionaries had thus passed a 
measure, which was not only barbarous and unwarranted to a far greater 
degree than its forerunner, but was impolitic also, because it ran counter 
to the religious feelings of the peasantry of France. It touched the 
King, however, at his most tender point. He was already conscience- 
stricken at his share in the Civil Constitution, and on December 19 he 
placed his veto on the decree. He thus did exactly what his enemies 
had expected and desired. 

Meanwhile, on November 29, a matter of even more serious moment 
had come up for decision. So long as France was at peace it would be 



220 Steps toward war. [i79i 

impossible to accuse the King of assisting a foreign invasion ; France 
must therefore go to war. Here, in a nutshell, we have the foreign 
policy of Brissot. It was by his influence that a decree was carried 
authorising the King to demand the disbandment of the imigris by the 
Elector of Trier, to fix the amount of compensation for the dispossessed 
Princes, to rearrange the diplomatic corps, and directing him to mass 
troops on the frontier to support his demands. Such a decree would 
practically commit the country to war; and the wisest of the King's 
private advisers implored him not to consent to it. Unfortunately 
circumstances had combined to unite, although from very different 
motives, a majority of all parties in favour of war. Brissot, as we 
know, advocated war as the simplest means of overthrowing the King ; 
but there was a party which desired it from the very opposite reason — 
for the rehabilitation of the monarchy. Of this party the guiding spirit 
was Lafayette, who, having resigned the command of the National 
Guard (October 8), and having been defeated for the post of Mayor by 
Petion (November 14), had been appointed at the end of December to 
the command of the Army of the Centre. He was determined to use 
his position to effect the rehabilitation of the monarchy under his own 
protection by means of a brief and glorious war. Lafayette's opinion 
had the greatest weight with the Moderates in the Assembly ; and so it 
came about that, when he declared for war, the decree of November 29 
was carried with practical unanimity. One party alone shared the 
anxiety of the Court to avoid hostilities — the extreme Jacobins ; because 
they feared that a war, if successful, would only strengthen the executive. 
It was then that the cleavage between them and the Brissotins began to 
show itself. The Court, however, in view of the practical imanimity of 
the Assembly, decided that it was useless to resist ; and the first steps 
on the road to war were taken. Duportail, who was pledged to peace, 
thereupon resigned, and was replaced at the War Office by Narbonne. 
By December 14 Louis was able to announce to the Assembly that 
the decree had been executed, and an army of 150,000 men ordered to 
the frontiers. It was with feelings of despair that the King and Queen 
foimd themselves thus drifting into war : the monarchy was now in their 
opinion manifestly doomed. War having once broken out, Louis would 
be in the impossible position of a King conducting a campaign in which 
he himself was forced to sympathise with the enemies of his country, for 
with the policy of a restoration by the help of Lafayette and Narbonne 
he would have nothing to do. 

Louis, Comte de Narbonne, was a man of brilliant but somewhat 
unsteady talents. Almost certainly a grandson of Louis XV, he was by 
accident of birth and almost of necessity an adventurer; so at least 
he seems to have struck contemporaries. It was by the influence of 
Lafayette, Talleyrand, and Madame de Stael that he entered the Ministry; 
and the policy which he introduced may be regarded as their attempt 



1791-2] The policy of Narbonne. 221 

to end the Revolution. The plan comprised the amendment and 
strengthening of the Constitution, and this of necessity involved some 
rehabilitation of the Royal prerogative ; it was to be effected by means 
of a European war, which could easily be provoked by an attack on 
Clement Wenceslas, the Elector of Trier, and through him on the 
Empire. Diplomacy and their own interests would hold back the other 
Powers, Prussia in particular. Louis XVI, under Lafayette's guidance, 
would lead his army to victory, and in a short time the new regime 
would be established amidst a blaze of military glory, a fair share of 
which would in the nature of things accrue to the victorious general 
and the successful war minister. It was an attractive scheme ; and, 
as Sorel has well pointed out, it was in its essentials the very policy 
which triumphed in 1799 and again in 1814; but the time was not 
yet. 

Narbonne's policy threw him into alliance with the Brissotins. They 
welcomed him as a fomenter of war, and used him as such only to throw 
him over by converting the war, which he aimed at the Elector of Trier 
and the Empire alone, into a crusade against Europe ; so that the 
monarchy was ultimately felled by the very weapon that was to have 
restored it. His schemes also brought him into opposition to Bertrand 
and the majority of his colleagues ; and to his haughtiness and inability 
to combine with them may be traced the ruin of the Feuillant Ministry 
and with it that of Narbonne himself. 

On his entry into the Ministry his energies were at once directed 
to the acceleration of the warlike preparations. He demanded a grant 
of 20,000,000 litires and started in the middle of December on a 
personal inspection of the army. 

Meanwhile the Assembly continued its legislation against the 
hnigris. On January 1, 1792, the Princes and Calonne were " decreed 
accused " of high treason ; and on February 9 a decree was passed con- 
fiscating all the property of the imigris. This last was in the main a 
financial expedient, for by this time the position of the Treasury was 
exceedingly critical. Taxes had almost ceased to be paid: there had 
been a deficit in the revenue for the four months ending November 30, 
amounting to a quarter of the estimated income ; assignats had de- 
preciated at least 40 per cent. ; yet here was the War Minister demanding 
a grant of 20,000,000 livres in specie: the confiscation of the goods 
of the hnigris, which handed over to the government property of 
considerably greater value than the confiscated Mens du clergi, was thus 
a most welcome windfall. The object of the measure was no doubt 
largely fiscal ; but it was also a reply to the announcement by the 
Emperor that he would support the Elector of Trier, which had been 
communicated to the Assembly on the previous day. On January 25 an 
imperious note was addressed to the Emperor, demanding an explanation 
of his attitude. On March 1 Kaimitz' reply was read : it contained an 



222 Proposed escape of the King. [1792 

attack on the Jacobins and was, in fact, an insolent interference in the 
internal affairs of France. The task of reading the note fell to 
Delessart. He had always been an advocate of peace, and it was said 
that he read it with undue emphasis. This fanned the suspicion that 
the Court or the Ministry had prompted it ; and from that moment the 
outcry against the Ministry came to a head. 

Meanwhile within that body the original dissensions had been widening. 
Bertrand stood aloof from the other Ministers as an out-and-out King's 
man; directing the affairs of his department with consistent ability, 
adopting a brusque and haughty attitude towards the Assembly, and 
devoting his spare time to widespread if somewhat ineffective bribery. 
He adopted the attitude of the Court with regard to the war, and 
opposed it with aU the means in his power. Of the other Ministers, 
Delessart and Tarbe desired the rehabilitation of the monarchy and the 
amendment of the Constitution, but above all desired to avoid war. The 
same desire in a less degree governed Duport-du-Tertre, the Garde des 
sceaux^ and Cahier de Gerville, who had succeeded Delessart as Minister 
of the Interior, when Delessart replaced Montmorin at the Foreign Office 
(November 30). Duport and Cahier represented the views of Bamave 
and the Lameths, and were the orthodox FeuUlards of the Ministry. 
Narbonne, as we have seen, desired the same object, but proposed 
to adopt totally different methods; for, while the FeuUlants proper, 
reverting to the plans of Mirabeau, advocated the removal of the Court 
to some provincial town and the dissolution of the Assembly by means 
of agitation in the Departments, Narbonne and his friends did not 
scruple to make use of the majority in the Assembly to bring on the 
war by which they hoped to restore the prestige of the monarchy. 

But the escape of the King from Paris was an item in Narbonne's 
plan, as it was and had been in every plan of the friends of the monarchy, 
before or after. The idea was that the royal family should escape in 
Madame de Stael's carriage and take refuge in Lafayette's camp, when the 
general would at once take steps to restore the monarchy as the centre 
of the military pride of France. But the whole scheme was rash and 
ill-judged. Narbonne's colleagues opposed it, while the Queen merely 
laughed at it. Exasperated by this failure, Lafayette now returned to 
Paris determined to purge the Ministry of the FeuUlants; and on March 3 
he informed the Ministers that Narbonne could no longer serve with 
Bertrand. But if Narbonne and Lafayette were determined to get rid 
of the FeuUlants, the FeuUlants were no less determined to get rid of 
Narbonne, and they had the advantage of possessing the ear of the King. 
Narbonne now made a deliberate attempt to use military influence to 
gain his own political ends. He published in the press letters to 
himself from the three commanders-in-chief at the front, Lafayette, 
Rochambeau, and Luckner, in which they deplored the prospect of his 
resignation. The only effect of this indiscretion was to provoke the 



1792] Fall of the Feuillant Ministry. 223 

King to dismiss its author ; and on March 10 Narbonne was superseded 
by the Chevalier de Grave. 

It was a most unfortunate moment for a ministerial crisis. The 
course of events during the early days of March seemed to betoken a 
change in the attitude of some of the Powers : Spain and Prussia seemed 
to be falling away from Austria, and on March 9 came the bewildering 
and wholly unexpected news of the Emperor Leopold's death. The 
maintenance of peace now seemed certain and the funds rose 16 per 
cent. ; but this prospect only roused Brissot and the war party, who saw 
the cup slipping from their lips, to fresh paroxysms of warlike fury. 
On the 10th Brissot and Vergniaud fell furiously upon Delessart, ac- 
cusing him of treasonable relations with Austria. On the same day his 
impeachment was decreed by a huge majority; and that very night 
he was arrested and sent to Orleans. Narbonne's dismissal was now 
condemned in the Assembly as an act of treachery on the part of the 
Court. The regrets of the Assembly were voted, and in face of the 
outcry against them the other Ministers resigned (March 10-20). 

The crisis which had thus arisen placed the Court in a lamentable 
dilemma. The FeuUlcmts, so far from profiting by the dismissal of their 
colleague, had fallen with him ; so that, while the Court was in violent 
opposition to both Lafayette and the Jacobins, all hope of effective 
support from the Feuillants was removed. The Palace was for the 
moment unprotected, pending the installation of the Garde Constitution- 
nelle, which did not take place till March 16. The National Guard 
favoured Lafayette, and the armed mob was whole-hearted for the 
Jacobins ; Vergniaud in his speech of the 16th against Delessart had 
breathed iU-veiled threats against the Queen herself It is not to be 
wondered at that the King now "behaved like a man preparing for 
death." On March 24 he decided to summon a Ministry from among 
the Brissotins. The motives which impelled him to this step have often 
been discussed. It is probable that he was influenced solely by the terror 
which the situation inspired, deserted as he was by everyone and with 
the terrible threats of Vergniaud ringing in his ears. It is possible, 
however, that he was influenced by some of his private advisers who 
were advocates of the English Constitution, or that he yielded to the 
dictation of a Central Committee of Twelve, which had been appointed 
by the Assembly to guide matters during the ministerial crisis. De 
Grave, who, though he had been appointed by Delessart, was closely 
connected with the Brissotins, remained at the War Oflice. Duranton 
became Garde des sceauac, Claviere took the Finances, Roland, who was 
entirely in the hands of his wife, the Interior, Dumouriez the Foreign 
Office, and Lacoste, a nominee of Dumouriez, the Admiralty. The new 
combination was wholly Jacobin in tone. Had he chosen Robespierre 
and Danton, the King could not have chosen (with the one exception of 
Dumouriez) men more hostile to himself or more anxious for his 



224 Dumouriez. [1792 

downfall. Of the new ministers Roland was a vain and narrow-minded 
pedant, who was constantly boasting of his own virtue and courage. 
He was ill-equipped for his important office and brought to it the quali- 
ties of a clerk rather than a statesman ; and the chief importance of his 
appointment was the power which it gave to his wife. Claviere had 
been a protSgS of Mirabeau and to him belonged the doubtful honour of 
having invented assignats. But by far the most important member of 
the ministry was Dumouriez. The exclusion of members of the Assembly 
from office tended to throw the portfolios into the hands of clever 
adventurers : thus from the adventurer Narbonne the leadership of the 
Cabinet passed to the adventurer Dumouriez. 

Charles-Fran9ois Dumouriez was bom in 1739 and had served in the 
Seven Years' War. After this he had entered the service of Choiseul 
and had taken part in various secret missions, in the course of which he 
visited many European countries and obtained an extensive personal 
knowledge of the lower channels of diplomacy. Passing under the 
influence of Favier, he had next found congenisd employment in the 
secret diplomacy of Louis XV. His intrigues in Poland in 1771 and 
1772 led to a two years' incarceration in the Bastille. On his release he 
had become Commandant at Cherbourg. Though fifty years of age when 
the Revolution broke out, he was young enough in spirit to welcome 
it as a field for his versatile talents and to greet it as the opening of 
his career. In 1790 he was sent on a mission to Belgium. It was there 
that his restless ingenuity seized on the idea of uniting that country to 
France, which now became the basis of his ministerial policy. His wide if 
not exalted experience, his keen political vision, his marvellous genius for 
expedients, and his natural talent for intrigue, marked him out — especially 
in his own eyes — as the man to gtiide France in the impending crisis. 
But he lacked statesmanship and character, and above aU that rare 
quality by which statesmen gauge the drift of popular feeling. He had 
determined upon war ; it was as necessary for his career as it had been 
for Narbonne's ; but, like Narbonne, he did not contemplate a war with 
Europe ; on the contrary he intended to isolate Austria by winning over 
England, Prussia, and the States of the Empire, to the side of France. 
It is impossible not to admire the penetrating vision, the clear-cut plans, 
and the acuteness and energy with which he set about his task. War, 
however, as he planned it, was a political expedient, by no means a 
crusade ; and it was a cnisade upon which France was now embarking. 
Dumouriez' ingenuity was at fault when he found himself playing with 
living chessmen; for now, convinced that they were confronted with a 
great conspiracy for the reestablishment of the ancien rSgime — ^the 
hnigrks had taken care to leave no doubt of this and the Brissotins had 
encouraged the idea — the people of France rose as no other European 
nation had ever before risen, and upset the designs of their enemies 
together with the calculations of the Minister. 



1792] The state of France and of Paris. 225 

But in truth neither King, Ministers, nor Assembly had much option 
in the matter of peace and war after the decree of January 25. A few 
acrimonious notes between the two governments, a great debate in the 
Assembly, and war was finally declared on April 20. 

We must now leave the administration and the Assembly to 
sxurvey the internal aifairs of the kingdom. The distvurbances at 
Avignon, which have already been noticed, were only an extreme example 
of what was taking place in many other parts of France. Discontent 
and reaction in the provinces were fomented by three principal causes. 
Firstly, the continued depreciation of the assignats and the disap- 
pearance of specie had dislocated all trade, and had roused a great 
outcry against "usurers," as those merchants were termed who refused 
to receive payment in paper. Secondly, the want of bread, and, above 
all, the fear of approaching want, had made the poorer classes nervous 
and excitable ; and in spite of the abundance of work and the high 
rate of wages, in some towns every market-day was the occasion of a 
bread riot. It was in such a riot on March 3 that Simoneau, the Mayor 
of Etampes, lost his life in consequence of his courageous refusal to 
grant the tariif of fixed prices demanded by the rioters. Thirdly, the 
persecution of the non-juring priests added to these economic causes 
of disturbance the even more dangerous element of religious dissension. 
In Paris also the signs of anarchy were on the increase ; and the 
composition of the various bodies, which were responsible for the 
administration of the city, encouraged rather than restrained the forces 
of disorder. The Commune, whose functions had not been interfered 
with by the Constitution, continued to superintend the food supply of 
Paris, and had now the additional duty of negotiating the sale of Church 
property within the limits of the capital. In November a considerable 
change was effected in its persomnel. Bailly having resigned the ofiice 
of Mayor, a contest for that post took place between Lafayette and 
Petion, resulting on November 14 in the election of the latter. Two 
points concerning this election are remarkable — first, that only 10,300 
electors recorded their votes ; secondly, that the Court, still cherishing 
their pique against Lafayette, supported the Jacobin candidate. Petion, 
who now became the most prominent man in Paris, was both stupid and 
malicious; and in the elevated position he now occupied his stupidity 
was as dangerous as his malice. He was another specimen of the 
Brissotin type, vain and "virtuous," the vanity obvious, but the 
"virtue" questionable. No more undesirable head could have been 
found for the municipality, and to his ineptitude and malevolence may 
be traced many of the troubles of the summer of 1792. In January, 
when one-half of the Commune had to be renewed, the democratisation 
of its officials was completed by the election of Manuel, a furious 
Jacobin, to the position oi Procureur General Syndic, and of Danton 
to that of Procureur Substitut. At the same time Sergent and Panis, 
c. M. H. vni. 15 



226 The regiment of Chdteau-Vieux. [im 

two of the most desperate characters in Paris, obtained seats ; and on 
March 10, by the opening of its galleries to the public, the Commune 
came directly under the influence of the mob. It is plain that it was 
impossible to rely on a body such as this, working under such con- 
ditions, for the maintenance of order. 

But, if the attitude of the Commune was increasingly favourable to 
disorder, that of the departmental authority must be reckoned as wholly 
and sincerely on the side of order. The Department of the Seine was 
organised in the same way as the other Departments of France; its 
Conseil Gen6ral numbered 36 members, but they only sat during one 
month of the year, and the real work was done by a committee of eight, 
known as the Directoire. of the Department, presided over by the Due de 
La Rochefoucauld. Nominally the Department was the highest authority 
in Paris; it even had supervisory functions over the Commune itself; 
but these functions were so ill-defined, and the means of exercising them 
so inadequate, that the Directoire, though governed by the best inten- 
tions, was practically powerless. 

Such being the condition of the bodies to whom the government of 
Paris was entrusted, it is not siu:prising that anarchy and mob-rule 
began to lift their heads. The outcry against usurers and accapareurs 
— the name applied to any who laid up a store of bread or other neces- 
saries — was made the excuse for arming the proletariate ; and during 
November and December many thousands of pikes were manufactured 
and served out to the lower classes. The wearing of the red cap of 
Liberty, a custom the origin of which is somewhat obscure, became so 
popular also that Dumouriez thought fit to don this head-gear in the 
Jacobin Club a few days after his entry into the Ministry. But the 
culminating sign of the trend towards lawlessness was the fHe held on 
April 16 in honour of the convicts of the Swiss r&giTnent de Chdteau- 
Vieux. These men, it will be remembered, had been sent to the galleys 
for insubordination. The Swiss government, on being consulted as to 
whether or no they should be included in the general amnesty of the 
Constitution, begged that the convicts might not be liberated ; and, on 
December 22, 1791, the Assembly had actually refused to extend any 
pardon to them. It is a striking indication of the increase in the 
forces of anarchy, which marked the early months of 1792, that the 
very men whose guilt was acknowledged by the Assembly in December 
were awarded a public reception in the following April. It was CoUot 
d'Herbois, a retired actor, to whose histrionic taste the absurd theatrical 
staging of the fSte appealed, who took up the cause of the Swiss, 
personally conducted them to Paris, and introduced them to the Assembly 
(April 12). Not content with the admission of the Swiss to the honours 
of the Seance, which was the greatest compliment the Assembly could 
bestow, their patrons proceeded to organise a public yefe in their honour. 
The Commune, guided by Potion, sanctioned the plan; and the opposition 



1V92] Dumouriez in power. 227 

of the Department was overcome by the dedication of the fete to 
Liberty. Thus on April 15 was celebrated, in honour of these liberated 
convicts, the first of the many revolutionary yeto. An attempt was 
made by the FeuUlants' club to organise an opposition yefe, dedicated to 
la Lot, in honour of the heroic Mayor of liltampes. Although strenu- 
ously opposed by Robespierre, it was decreed on May 6 and took place 
on June 1. But the FeuUlants did not command the rascaldom of 
Paris ; the idea had lost its novelty, and the FSte de la Loi was a dismal 
failure. 

Meanwhile divisions in the Brissotin Ministry had become apparent. 
Dumouriez, whose masterful spirit dominated it, was not a Brissotin at 
all ; nor had he the slightest desire to establish that party in power at 
the expense of the King. He was, in fact, only content to sit in the 
same Cabinet with his colleagues because they favoured his war policy. 
To them, however, this policy was merely a means of overthrowing the 
King ; and now, in the month of May, with a view to this overthrow 
they endeavoured to increase Louis' unpopularity by provoking him to 
further vetoes. In the first place they redoubled their blows at the 
pritres non assermentis. Secondly, on May 29, almost before it had 
been installed, they proposed the abolition of the King's constitutional 
guard ; and thirdly, on June 4, Servan, who had succeeded de Grave as 
War Minister on May 9, proposed the formation of a camp of 20,000 
federis beneath the walls of Paris, ostensibly to train these men for 
active service, but in reality as a support for insurrection and a standing 
threat to the Moderates of the city. 

It was characteristic of Louis' unselfish but stupid nature that of 
these proposals he accepted that which weis most directly dangerous to 
himself — the abolition of the body-guard — and placed his veto on the 
other two : upon the legislation against the priests, because it was a 
matter of conscience, and upon the decree for the camp, because of 
a great petition of 8000 citizens protesting against it. On this a 
ministerial crisis immediately arose ; Roland, acting under the influence 
of his wife, presumed to lecture the King ; and Dumouriez, who was not 
in sympathy with his colleagues, was glad enough to advise Louis to 
dismiss them (June 12), and to entrust him with the reconstruction 
of the Ministry. This rebuff to their vanity was more thaji the 
Brissotins could bear, and from the moment of their dismissal they 
plotted immediate insurrection. 

The King was now in the hands of Dumouriez, who moved to the 
War Office. The Minister, to whom the vetoed decrees were in nowise 
-distasteful provided they seemed likely to further his own schemes, 
now desired his Majesty, in return for his services during the crisis, to 
withdraw the vetoes. He afterwards, in his Mhnoires, asserted that 
Louis had promised to do so and then went back on his word ; this was 
no doubt false. Dumouriez probably expected to persuade the King of 

Ifi— 2 



228 The insurrection of June 20. [ivsa 

the necessity of sanctioning the decrees ; and it was the disappointment 
of this expectation that led him to resign on June 15, when he took 
over the command of the Army of the North. A new Ministry took 
office drawn from among the friends of Lafayette ; none of them, with 
the possible exception of Terrier de Monciel, Minister of the Interior, 
being of any note or capacity. 

Up to the fall of their Ministry the Brissotins had only vaguely 
thought of insurrection. They now threw themselves into it as heartily 
as the most violent of their Jacobin colleagues. Already in the early 
days of June a knot of conspirators had begun to meet ; but, insurrec- 
tion being still a somewhat uncertain business even in Paris, the more 
prominent politicians abstained from direct participation. Danton, it 
is true, seems to have been consulted on every point, but the real work 
of organisation was done by Santerxe, Saint-Huruge (expert in insur- 
rections), Alexandre, Foumier (afterwards notorious as the butcher of 
Versailles), Rossignol, Legendre, and Lazowski, a Polish refugee. Assured 
of the cooperation of the Brissotins, the insurrectionaries now applied 
to the Commune for leave for an armed deputation to plant a "mai"" 
in the Tuileries Gardens on the 20th. This request placed Petion in a 
dilemma ; as a politician he favoured the insurrection, but its success 
being doubtful he was unwilling to compromise himself in his capacity 
as Mayor by any appearance of supporting it; he therefore absented 
himself from the meeting of the ConseU Ghieral of the Commune, which, 
in reply to the deputation, pointed out the illegality of armed pro- 
cessions. The Directoire of the Department, which, as we have seen, 
was a superior authority to the Commune, now intervened with energetic 
exhortations to the latter to see to the preservation of order, but both 
the Assembly and the Commune ignored this interference. In spite of 
much wavering and vacillation on the part of the time-serving Mayor, 
the preparations for the procession were proceeded with, and on the 
morning of the appointed day two great crowds were organised, one on 
the Place de la Bastille and one on the Place de la Salpetriere, which 
united under the leadership of Santerre, and, arriving at the mcmege at 
about 1.30 p.m., presented their demand for admittance. 

Meanwhile the Assembly was debating on the attitude it should 
adopt. Vergniaud, while deprecating the introduction of armed petitions, 
maintained that it was too late to stop this one. While the debate was 
in progress the petitioners were clamouring at the doors of the Assembly ; 
and, after a long wait, during which the mai (a large poplar) was 
incongruously planted in the adjoining garden of the Capuchins, they 
were at length admitted to the Assembly, where their petition was read, 
and through which they slowly filed. 

On emerging from the Assembly the crowd was introduced by the 
organisers of the revolt into the garden of the Tuileries, probably with 
the idea of attacking the palace on that its most vulnerable side ; but 



1792] The mob in the Tuileries. 229 

the presence of ten battalions of National Guards lining the gard«i 
terrace decided the ringleaders on an alteration of their plan of attack, 
and they led the crowd round the palace by way of the quays and through 
the Guichet de Marigny into the Place du Carrousel, where the artillery 
of the battalion Val-de-Grace, which had marched with the insurgents, 
had been left in the morning. The square, which was not very large and 
was much encumbered with buildings, was very soon blocked with people, 
but there was no spontaneous attempt to break into the palace : at no 
time indeed during the day did the crowd betray any consciousness of 
the purpose for which it had been brought to the Tuileries. The crush, 
however, soon became vmbearable, and the ringleaders used it as a 
pretext for demanding entrance to the court-yard of the palace through 
the Porte Royal, against which the crowd was now pressing. For a 
time the gendarmerie declined to consider this request, but they seem to 
have been without definite orders ; and Ramainvilliers, the commander, 
was paralysed by the presence in the palace of municipal authorities, 
who went about in their official garb, lecturing the soldiers and giving 
contradictory instructions. The ccmonniers of the battalion Val-de-Grace, 
instructed probably by the promoters of the insurrection, now brought 
forward their artillery ; and, in face of this display of force, the gates 
were thrown open, and the crowd rushed into the Tuileries. The King, 
surrounded by a few faithful attendants and personal friends, met the 
intruders in the (Eil-de-Boeuf. 

Confronted by a most grave and terrible ordeal, Louis behaved with 
the utmost courage and sang-ficnd. Withdrawing into an embrasure, he 
bore for some hours the insults and threats of his tormentors with admir- 
able coolness and phlegm ; twice he invited one of his protectors to feel 
whether his heart was not beating calmly ; and, although he consented 
to place a red cap on his head, to drink the health of the nation, and 
to wave a sword round his head, he betrayed no weakness in the matter 
of the vetoes and made no promises to the crowd. 

After this state of affairs had lasted a considerable time with no 
further result, it began to occur to the authorities that the insurrection 
was hanging fire, and that if, as now seemed likely, it was to end in 
failure, they had better pose as the champions of order. The first to 
arrive were some of the deputies, including Vergniaud and Isnard ; but 
their efforts to persuade the mob to leave the CEil-de-Boeuf were un- 
availing. About 6 p.m. Petion, who had given no sign since 11 a.m., 
forced his way into the King's presence, and at length, though not 
without great difficulty, persuaded the rioters to withdraw; so that at 
about 8 p.m. the King was able to leave the hall and rejoin the Queen, 
who had been undergoing similar treatment in another apartment. 
Thus ended the insurrection of June 20. That it had been deliberately 
planned there can be no doubt ; its direct object had been to terrorise 
the King into the withdrawal of the vetoes ; but its promoters must also 



230 7%e Department.-^— LqfayeUe. [1792 

have contemplated the possibility of his assassination. Neither of these 
objects had been gained ; the King had been cool enough to refrain from 
any promises about the vetoes, and had been saved by his own calmness 
and the fidelity of his few protectors from the danger of assassination. 
Yet the events of the day had not been without profit for the insur- 
rectionaries. The violation of the Assembly and the Tuileries had been 
effected ; and time and further organisation would accomplish their ends. 
From this date the eyes of all parties were opened to the realities of the 
situation ; and the ensuing fifty days were given up to preparations on 
both sides for the final struggle. 

On June 22 the King made a dignified protest to the Assembly, and 
on the following day a proclamation to his people. The result was a 
strong reaction in his favour. Addresses of sympathy poinred in from 
the Provinces. Some of the Sections of Paris dissociated themselves from 
the insurrectionaries. In the Commune itself men complained of the 
conduct of the Mayor. Finally, on July 1, a great petition, backed by 
nearly 20,000 signatures, condemning the attitude of the Commune and 
the behaviour of the Commandant General of the National Guard, was pre- 
sented to the King. In addition to this general expression of sympathy, 
definite aid seemed likely to come from two quarters. The Directors of 
the Department, the ambiguity of whose position had alone prevented 
them from averting the catastrophe, now set themselves to stave ofi^ a 
second crisis. They summoned Ramainvilliers to explain his inaction, 
instituted an enquiry into the events of June 20, and approached Petion 
with a view to the appointment of a new Commandant Gen&ral. The 
enquiry was prolonged until July 7 and resulted in the suspension by the 
Department of Petion and Manuel. It so happened that July 7 had 
been marked by a melodramatic scene of pacification in the Assembly. 
Upon the suggestion of Lamourette all the deputies had effusively 
fraternised ; and, to seal the reconciliation, the King had been sent for 
and received with cries of " Vive le Roi." The atmosphere being charged 
with pacification, the King decided to refer the Department's decree 
of suspension to the Assembly. When they ungraciously declined to 
have anything to do with the matter, Louis was obliged to confirm the 
decree, for to have vetoed it would have been to encourage a repetition 
of June 20. The decree, however, was quashed by the Assembly on 
July 13; and Petion and Manuel were reinstated. This was a signal 
defeat for the Department, whose members now one by one resigned: 
and from this time forward it ceased to be a force in Paris. 

Meanwhile, however, succour seemed to be forthcoming from another 
source. Even before June 20 Lafayette had written protesting against 
the violence of the Jacobins and demanding the closing of their club. 
The news of the insurrection therefore came as a personal affront ; and 
he determined to go to Paris and use his influence to destroy the faction. 
Everything seemed to point to the success of the enterprise. Lafayette 



1792] The fdddrds. 231 

came with the prestige of a famous soldier; he was still dear to the 
National Guard which controlled Paris ; the Ministers were his nominees ; 
the majority in the Assembly was in sympathy with him, and, what was 
even more important, was ready to give expression to that sympathy 
by its votes. He was open, however, to the reproach of deserting his 
army in the presence of the enemy. This accusation, though not literally 
true, as his army was not in touch with the Austrians, was made the 
most of by his enemies ; and the shafts of Guadet's caustic eloquence were 
quickly directed against this weak point in his armour, when on June 28 
the general presented himself at the bar. But Lafayette seems to have 
had a curious power of inspiring the timid Moderates with courage ; and 
Guadet's proposals, that the War Minister be asked if he had permitted 
the general to leave his army and that the Committee of Twelve report 
on the right of generals to petition, were rejected by 339 votes to 234). 
More fatal than the charge of desertion was the fact that his assistance 
was utterly distasteful to those to whom it was proffered. It is not 
indeed extraordinary that the Court looked askance on Lafayette, since 
many of their troubles could be traced to him ; but it was more than 
vmfortunate that at this critical jimcture the King and Queen were 
unable to swallow their resentment and make use, if it were only for a 
time, of the one man who might have saved them. But it was not in 
their natiu-e to do so. Lafayette was received with chilly politeness ; and 
it was the Queen herself who warned Petion of a review of National Guards, 
at which the general hoped to win over the armed force for a blow at 
the Jacobins. Thus the contemplated covp d'etat was wrecked by those 
whom it had been destined to benefit ; no advantage had been taken of 
the Moderates' victory in the Assembly, and the Court had rejected the 
advances of the general. With his departure on June 30, and the 
revelation of his impotence, the forces of anarchy and disorder emerged 
from their dens. The tide turned finally in favour of the insurrection- 
aries. 

The arrival in Paris of the armed bands, which had been summoned 
ostensibly to celebrate the feast of the Federation on July 14, was a 
considerable reinforcement for the conspirators. The Constitutional 
Guard having been disbanded and the loyalty of the National Guard 
being at best doubtful, it was obvious that the attitude of these 
"J^dh-is " would be of the first importance. Every effort was therefore 
made by the insurrectionaries, and especially by Barbaroux and the 
Rolands, to introduce a large body of desperadoes into the city, and by 
the Minister of the Interior to prevent their introduction. Terrier de 
Monciel on June 30 ordered the Departments to keep theiv fidhSs at 
home ; and in reply the Assembly offered free quarters in Paris from 
July 14 to 18, after which they were to be camped at Soissons. In spite 
of this, the firm attitude of the Minister so far had effect and so far 
succeeded that by July 14, the date of the Federation, not more than 



232 Danton. — The Marseillais. [1792 

^OOfidh-is had arrived; and it must be remembered that many of them 
were genuine volunteers, and that between July 14 and 30 more than 
5000 left for the front. Umfortunately, their departure merely weeded 
out all the respectable men, and left none but those who had never intended 
to go to the front at all, but had come to Paris for the chance of 
excitement, adventure, and plunder. Of these ^eoAo-fiderh the most 
violent contingent was that sent from Marseilles, and it was the delay in 
its arrival that postponed the crisis. Meanwhile a fresh " Directory of 
Insurrection '" was meeting, drawn mainly from the subordinate ranks of 
the Jacobins. It included Carra, Santerre, Antoine, Lazowski, Foumier, 
Guillaume, and Westermann ; but both its actions and the whole organi- 
sation of insurrection were controlled by Danton from his position as 
Procureur Svhstitut of the Commune. 

Danton's antecedents had given little indication of the part he was 
now to play : he was a fairly successful barrister of thirty when the 
Revolution began. Bom in 1759 of hourgeois parents at Arcis-sur- 
Aube, his first political enterprises had been somewhat inglorious ; but 
the outbreak of war seems to have tapped latent springs, which now, on 
his reentry into pohtics, supplied an undercurrent of true patriotism 
beneath the eddies of ambition and intrigue. Danton's character, for 
all its blemishes, rings true: the blemishes were conspicuous, for he 
was wholly unartificial. Cruel, regardless of human life, imscrupulous, 
probably corrupt, he was yet a true patriot; and it was patriotism, 
even more than the ambition natural to a man so conscious of his 
power, that threw him into politics at this juncture. While he was 
passionately patriotic he was also intensely practical; and to a large 
extent this accounts for, though it does not condone, the unscrupulous 
means which he used to gain his ends. To him the end was everjrthing, 
the means nothing ; but the end was not self-seeking '■ or cowardly, 
however base the means. 

With Danton's approval, and under the guidance of the Directory 
of Insurrection, several abortive outbreaks now occurred. The first of 
these took place so early as June 25 ; another premature attempt on 
July 21 had been stopped by the warnings of Petion ; a banquet given 
to the fideris on July 26 had been a critical moment. Finally, on the 
30th, the Marseillais marched into Paris. It had been intended to lead 
them straight against the Tuileries ; but exaggerated rumoiu's of serious 
preparations at the palace cooled the ardour of the insurrectionaries, and 
once more the catastrophe was postponed. 

Two great instruments were in fact in course of preparation to ensure 
the success of the outbreak. The meetings of the Sections were being 
organised to counterfeit the voice of the people; and the National 
Guard was being further democratised. The forty-eight Sections or 
primary Assemblies of the electors of Paris, which should have been 
entirely dissolved after the completion of their electoral fimctions, had 



1792] The Sections. — The National Guard. 233 

quite illegally resumed their sittings. Their very illegality was indeed 
of a certain advantage to them, for it gave them, as unofficial bodies, 
the right to petition, which was withheld from legally constituted 
authorities, and of this they made free use ; but it also put them at a 
disadvantage; for when on July 11 the country, on the motion of 
H^rault, was declared in danger, all legally constituted bodies began 
vpso facto to sit "en permanence^ but the Sections having no legal 
status could not do so. This leave to sit "cm permanence"" was greatly 
coveted, as it would leave the Sections at the mercy of the Emragh. 
At the regular meetings the Moderates in many Sections still possessed 
a majority and were able to cany Moderate resolutions, and to 
present positively reactionary petitions, some even refusing to open 
their galleries to the public. But when on July 25 the Assembly 
decreed that the Sections were to sit " en permanence^ the Moderates 
could be worn down by sheer physical fatigue. When the respectable 
members were compelled by exhaustion to retire, incendiary motions 
could be carried by a handful of ruffians; and a small but energetic 
minority could represent its will as that of a whole Section. The result 
of the decree of July 25 was the announcement three days later by 
Carra that forty-seven of the forty-eight Sections favoured the deposition 
of the King. 

Equally important were the changes now introduced in the organisa- 
tion of the National Guard. The insurrectionaries were determined that 
the disloyalty of that body should no longer be ambiguous. A decree 
was therefore carried on August 1, on the motion of Camot, opening its 
ranks to passive as well as to active citizens, and sanctioning the temporary 
arming of recruits with pikes. At the same time the etat-major was 
reorganised on democratic lines; officers were forbidden to give any orders 
save those sanctioned by the Commune ; the artillery was organised by 
Sections and the special " compagnies d'ilite'" suppressed; while, by order 
of the Mayor, the duty of guarding the Tuileries was handed over to an 
agglomeration of drafts from all battalions with the result that all sense 
of unity and mutual confidence were destroyed. Finally a number of 
fidhrks were introduced into the ranks. There could be little doubt 
after these changes which way the National Guard would lean when the 
rising broke out. 

Meanwhile Paris was in a state of ferment. On the decree of "Patrie 
en danger'" (passed July 11, carried out July 22 and 23), a black flag 
was hoisted over the Hotel de Ville, and recruiting bureaux were 
established at every street comer, while two corteges of officials patrolled 
the town at regular intervals to the sound of the trumpet. Every day 
saw the arrival of fresh bands o{ fideris and the departure of more 
volunteers for the front. On July 30 the formidable and long-expected 
Marseillais marched in through the Porte St Antoine amidst great 
enthusiasm. To Paris thus excited by marchings and recruitings there 



234 Action of the Sections. [1792 

came on August 3 a manifesto from the Duke of Brunswick. This 
astoundingly impolitic document, while disclaiming all desire of conquest 
and all intention of meddling in the internal affairs of France, and 
calling on the sane majority of the French people to declare themselves 
against the "odious schemes of their oppressors," threatened with all 
" the rigour of the laws of war " those who dared to defend themselves 
against the invading troops, and the citizens and town of Paris in the 
event of a further violation of the Tuileries with an " exemplary and 
never-to-be-forgotten vengeance," by "giving up the town to military 
execution and total subversion, and the guilty rebels to the death they 
had deserved." The only effect of Brunswick's indiscreet language was 
to divert to the side of the insurgents many hundreds of moderate men. 
The very next day there was a further alarm ; and, though it came to 
nothing, everyone in Paris now knew that the great insurrection would 
not be long delayed. 

Both sides were now making their final preparations. On July 25 
the terrace of the FeuiUants, which gave access to the gardens of the 
Tuileries, was placed under the control of the Assembly. The Directory 
of Insurrection, feeling itself too small and unauthoritative to carry out 
its programme, in face of the rather half-hearted attitude of the Commune 
and the Assembly — for the Brissotins were by this time inclined to side 
with the King, if only he would restore their Ministry — determined 
(August 9) that the Sections, which had already (July 17) a central 
" Bureau de Correspondance " sitting at the Hotel de Ville, should elect 
a body of commissioners " to consider the measures to be taken in the 
existing circumstances.'" This body would have, what no private body 
of conspirators could have, the semblance of having been freely chosen 
by the citizens of Paris in their primary Assemblies. As a matter of 
fact, the Sections being en permanence, it was arranged for the elections 
to take place at night after all moderate members had retired; 
indeed, many of the Section halls were found deserted save by a few 
ruffians slumbering on the benches. Twenty at least of the Sections 
declined to elect; others elected but gave their representatives no 
mandate; in the Arsenal Section only six members were found, who 
promptly elected three of their number ; but, in spite of irregularities 
and obstacles. Commissioners began to arrive at the Hotel de Ville at 
about 1 a.m. (August 10) ; and, when Danton looked in at S o'clock, he 
found nineteen Sections represented, Huguenin in the chair, and Tallien 
secretary. Amongst the Commissioners were Panis, Sergent, Robert, 
Bossignol, H^ert, Marat, Simon, Lhuillier, and Leonard Bourdon. 
Robespierre, Fabre d'J&glantine, and Billaud, were also elected, but with 
characteristic caution seem to have refrained from taking their seats till 
the insurrection was over. No reliance, however, can be placed on the 
lists of those present on this critical occasion, as they were drawn up on 
the following day, when the names of many who had not actually been 



1792] Preparations at the Tuileries. 235 

present were incorporated. Thus in the small hours of the morning 
of August 10 this sinister body installed itself under the same roof with 
the legal Commune, ready, should occasion arise, to usurp the authority 
of that body, and armed with the semblance of a popular mandate. 

Meanwhile, with the slender forces at their disposal, the defenders of 
the Tuileries were making what preparations they could. Mandat, who, 
as Commcmdant General of the National Guard for the current month, 
was responsible for the protection of the palace, and the maintenance of 
order in the city, was an absolutely loyal and devoted man. It is difficult 
to estimate the forces under his command. In addition to the ordinary 
guard he had issued summonses to sixteen extra battalions (10,000 men); 
but very few responded, and little reliance could be placed on those who did. 
With them was a small force of mounted gendarmerie, but it was evident 
that the brunt of the defence would fall on the Swiss Guard. An attempt 
had been made (July 17) to disband that force, but the Ministers had 
managed to keep it at hand ; and now on August 9, to the number of 
950, it took up the defence of the Tuileries. The total force of the 
defenders was probably about 2500. 

In his preparations Mandat had been much hampered by the duplicity 
of Petion. That functionary was ostensibly on the side of order ; in his 
heart of hearts, however, he favoured the revolt. Thus it was by his 
directions that the Swiss were admitted through the barriers, but also by 
his order that they were supplied with only thirty rounds of ammunition 
per man, and the remainder of the garrison with only three. Hampered 
as he was, Mandat nevertheless made his dispositions with considerable 
skUl, and issued his orders with clear determination. To prevent the 
junction of the crowds from St Antoine and St Marcel, he posted a 
guard on each of the bridges; and it was against these, especially against 
that which held the Pont Neuf, where the alarm-gun was stationed, that 
the first efforts of the insurrectionaries were directed. By means of 
orders extracted from the Commune, and aided by the disloyalty of the 
gunners, the bridges were at last secured and the alarm-gun was fired. 
But, in spite of this prehminary success, there were signs of some 
hitch in the insurrection. The results of the efforts made to gather a 
great crowd were disappointing. The tocsin which began to ring at 
about 12.45 on the morning of the 10th brought a few recruits and the 
alarm-gun a few more, not enough, however, to ensure success in a 
conflict with a man of Mandat's determination. The leaders of the 
insurrection therefore decided to secure the person of the Commcmdant. 

Mandat was at the Tuileries, where the apparent failure of the riot 
had, after 2.30 a.m., created a more hopeful feeling. At about 5 a.m. 
he received a summons — the second — from the Commune. At this 
time there was no information at the Tuileries as to the true state 
of affairs at the Hotel de Ville, where the Commune had become a 
mere tool in the hands of the Sectional Commissioners; yet Mandat 



236 The King leaves the Tuileries. [1792 

did not wish to leave his post. Roederer, however, who, with other 
officials of the Department and the Commune, was present in the palace, 
persuaded him that he was constitutionally bound to obey. The Com- 
mamdant therefore reluctantly proceeded to the Hotel de Ville and 
presented himself before the Conseil GSnSral of the Commune. His 
examination before that body was neither long nor important ; but, on 
emerging from the council-room, he was seized and hurried into the hall 
of the Sectional Commissioners, where began the real business for which 
he had been brought. Interrogated as to the garrison of the Tuileries, 
he courageously deceived the Commissioners as to its strength, and, 
on being invited to sign an order directing one-half of the defenders to 
withdraw, heroically declined. This was the signal for his arrest, and 
his arrest was the signal for the interference of the Commune. That 
body protested that the Commissioners were exceeding their powers; the 
Commissioners replied by voting the suspension of the Commune and 
proceeded to occupy the Coimcil haU and to establish themselves — were 
they not the elect of the primary Assemblies? — as the Provisional 
Commune of Paris. The full import of this coup de main was at once 
seen. Mandat was ordered to the Abbaye prison, and on his way there 
was done to death on the stairs of the Hotel de ViUe; and Petion, whose 
equivocal attitude was no longer sufficient, was, greatly to his own relief, 
placed in confinement. The conduct of the insurrection, and with it the 
future government of France, thus passed into the hands of the Sectional 
Commissioners 

Meanwhile at the Tuileries the weakness of the defence, after 
Mandafs departure, had been manifested by the very mixed reception 
given to the King, when he descended to the courts and the gardens to 
review the troops. It may have been this disaffection, combined with 
the appearance of the first rioters with twelve pieces of artillery on the 
Place du Carrousel, that convinced the King's advisers that it would be 
best for him to proceed to the Assembly for protection ; or it may have 
been, as Roederer's very frank narrative seems to indicate, the fear that 
the troops might make a stout resistance, and that, having driven off 
the rioters, they might attempt some coup on the Assembly. Louis at 
first hesitated, urging that he saw very few people in the Carrousel ; but 
he had lost his military adviser, and ultimately the argument of the 
" twelve cannon " persuaded him at about 8.30 a.m. to leave the 
Tuileries for the Assembly, accompanied by the Queen, the royal family, 
and a few attendants. 

The retreat of the King was the signal for the desertion of the great 
majority of the National Guard ; and the Swiss, finding that they were 
left alone to defend the Tuileries, abandoned the outer courts and with- 
drew into the palace itself. The mob was thus able to enter the Cour 
Royale, where it found the few remaining National Guards and the 
gendarmerie ready to fraternise with it. The Swiss, however, presented 



1792] Massacre of the Swiss. 237 

a resolute front and resisted the blandishments of Westermann, who 
harangued them in their own tongue. Who fired the first shot was 
never known ; if it came from the Swiss it must be remembered that 
they were being subjected to the greatest provocation. It was followed 
by a volley from the Swiss on the grand staircase and another from the 
first-floor windows. The crowd hastily retreated across the Carrousel 
and found shelter among the buildings that encumbered the square. An 
ineffective exchange of shots continued for about three-quarters of an 
hour. The Swiss then cleared the square by a sally and had almost 
obtained a comparatively bloodless victory over their cowardly opponents, 
when an order arrived from the King that they should cease firing and 
withdraw to their barracks. 

It seems that Louis thought that he had, before he left the palace, 
given orders for the Swiss to withdraw ; but when he heard the volleys 
he should have known that it was too late for them to obey ; and his 
actual written order, coming when it did, was a piece of culpable foUy 
and simply handed over the lives of his devoted body-guard to the mob. 
The Swiss withdrew in good order by way of the garden; and the 
rioters, though not without hesitation, took possession of the palace and 
put practically every living male found within it to the sword. The 
retreating Swiss were shot down as they crossed the garden, and the 
remnant, 200 or 250 men, obedient to a further order from the King, 
laid down their arms and were imprisoned in the Church of the Feuillcmts, 
where many of them were massacred on the following day. The loss on 
the popular side during the fighting has been estimated at 100 killed 
and 60 severely wounded. Of the defenders it may be said that 
practically no one was killed during the fighting. A few escaped by 
way of the Louvre and a tiny remnant of the Swiss survived ; ihe rest 
perished after the order to withdraw. 

The King meanwhile and the royal family had been lodged by the 
Assembly in a reporter's box, where they actually remained from 10 a.m. 
on the 10th till 3 a.m. on the 11th, while the Assembly discussed their 
fate. In face of the ascendancy of the insurrectionary Commune, the 
Assembly was in a very cowed condition : only 284 members were present 
as against 630 two days previously. A deputation from the Commune, 
which practically ordered them to depose the King, was received with 
unctuous flattery. At 11 a.m. on the 10th, however, Vergniaud pro- 
pounded the Brissotin plan. He proposed that a " Convention " should 
be simimoned to produce a new Constitution, that the King should be 
not deposed but suspended from his office, that the Civil List should be 
abolished, but that &t the same time a gouverneur should be appointed 
for the Dauphin, and that the King should be lodged in the Luxembourg 
with an allowance for expenses. These proposals, which the Assembly 
accepted, show that the majority of the Brissotin party had been 
playing all along not for a Ilepublic, but for a change of King which 



238 Vacillation and flight of Lafayette. [1792 

should put the power in their hands by the reestablishment of a 
Brissotin Ministry. The next step therefore was to vote the recall of 
Roland, Claviere, and Servan, to whom were added Lebrun, a subordinate 
of Dumouriez, for Foreign Affairs, Monge for the Admiralty, and 
Danton, the organiser of the insurrection, for the Ministry of Justice. 
This "Provisional Executive Council" was to hold office until the 
Convention met. 

But it soon became clear that these measures would not satisfy the 
Commune. It was this body that had borne the actual burden of the 
revolt; and it had no intention of relinquishing its newly- won powers or 
of countenancing any form of monarchy, the reestablishment of which 
would not only secure the Brissotins in power, but would bring retribution 
to the ringleaders of the revolt. The Commune therefore was doubly 
committed to the establishment of a Republic. It was not, however, 
supported in this by a majority of Frenchmen, not even by a majority of 
Parisians. Paris, the nation, the Assembly itself, were all at heart 
monarchical. In Paris the very Sections, in spite of the domination of 
the faction, had some of them dared to protest against the attacks on 
the throne. To the strength of monarchical feeling throughout the 
country the pitition des vingt-mille is eloquent testimony ; if 20,000 
Frenchmen were ready to risk their necks, as they literally did, in the 
interests of the Constitution, it is only reasonable to believe that there 
was a vastly greater number who shared the views but not the courage 
of the signatories. Finally, the Assembly itself, when protected by the 
prestige of Lafayette, had betrayed its monarchical leanings by refusing 
on August 8 to impeach the General for his support of the Monarchy 
in June. 

The Commune would therefore have to fight hard to gain its ends. 
Two immediate dangers confronted it: the attitude of Lafayette, and 
that of the bourgeoisie of Paris. Once more, as after the insurrection 
of June 20, it seemed likely that Lafayette would become the arbiter 
of the situation ; everything appeared to be in his favour ; he was 
supported, as we have seen, by a majority in the Assembly ; he was at 
Sedan, within a few days' march of Paris ; the Prussians were far away 
on the Moselle ; the Departments were on his side, the National Guard 
in his favour; all seemed therefore to point to the success of a coup 
de mam. 

But Lafayette dreaded civil war, and was at any rate too good a 
patriot to resort to it in face of the enemy, nor was he inclined to repeat 
the experiment of a visit to Paris. He therefore determined to make 
himself the centre of the monarchical feeling which he knew to exist in 
the Provinces. With this object he summoned the Mayor of Sedan and 
other local magnates, and received from them assurances of support, 
readministered to his troops the oath of fidelity to the Constitution, 
and directed the other generals to do the same. The Commissioners, 



1792] Robespierre and the Commune. 239 

sent by the Assembly to exact an oath of fidelity to the new government, 
were arrested (August 14) by the miuiicipality of Sedan. But Lafayette 
took no further active steps to carry out his plan : his sensitiveness to 
the accusation of treachery rendered his actions half-hearted. The 
occasion, however, was one where hesitation was fatal. The Executive 
Coiuicil promptly superseded him; and the general decided that there 
was nothing for it but to cross the frontier. He fell into the hands of 
the Austrians and remained a prisoner tiU 1797. 

The first and most pressing danger to the new order of things dis- 
appeared with the flight of Lafayette. It was clear that the Provinces, 
unorganised, bewildered, and unled, would not make open resistance. 
They still trusted the Assembly, and it was the knowledge of this that 
decided the Commune to retain that body while riding rough-shod over 
it. A message was now sent through the Departments to say that 
Louis XVI was overthrown, and that there was no fear of treachery at 
home "because the Commune of Paris was watching over the Assembly." 
All the departmental authorities who had shown signs of reaction were 
suspended by the Executive Council; and, the submission of the Provinces 
being thus assured, the Commune was able to turn its attention to the 
danger that threatened it from the bourgeoisie of Paris. On the 11th, 
the issue being no longer in doubt, Robespierre took his seat in that 
body ; and it was he, Billaud-Varennes, and Marat (who, though not a 
member, wa^ granted a special tribune and the right to take part in the 
debates), that guided the Commune in the ensuing struggle. 

Maximilien Robespierre now steps to the front as a figure of first- 
rate importance. After his arrival in Paris as a deputy of the Third 
Estate, his energies had at first been chiefly confined to the Jacobin 
Club, where his long-winded and self-conscious oratory had a vogue for 
which it is difficult to account. His own self-denying ordinance kept him 
out of the Legislative Assembly, and left him free to devote his talent 
for intrigue to the overthrow of the existing order. The ascendancy 
of this narrow, fastidious, insignificant, provincial barrister is one of the 
most curious facts of the period, a problem beyond the power of 
historians to solve. That he was unconcerned for his own pocket, and 
therefore free to use his ingenuity for the furtherance of his political 
ambitions, is proved beyond all doubt; in a period so utterly corrupt 
this incorruptibility no doubt told heavily in his favour. Over and 
above this, in spite of his narrow ignorance, Robespierre had yet all the 
attributes necessary for posing as an intellectual and literary genius: 
a refined appearance, a fastidiousness in dress uncommon in the circle in 
which he moved, an air of superior wisdom, and a command of language, 
which, because it was not eloquence, had all the more effect on audiences 
sated with rhodomontade and rhetoric. These advantages combined to 
give him that ascendancy over his blunt and brutal colleagues, which 
an appearance of refined taste, dialectical skill, and ingenuity, so often 



240 The Commune and the Assembly. [i792 

attains over simpler and coarser natures. Thus, while amongst the 
Vergniauds and Condorcets of the Assembly Robespierre would have 
been a laughing-stock, at the Jacobin Club, especially after the ejection 
of Brissot (October, 1792), his intellectual equipment^ slender as it 
was, combined with his frigid and austere pose, and a certain feline 
fascination, won for him an influence which gradually became absolute. 

Robespierre and his allies, convinced that they were in a minority, 
now determined to secure themselves in power by terrorising their 
opponents. On August 11 the signatories of the two famous petitions 
of huit-miUe and vmgt-miUe were excluded from the exercise of public 
functions. On the 12th reactionary journals were suppressed ; and, by 
closing the barriers and tampering with private correspondence, the 
Commvme created an atmosphere of uneasiness in the city. The question 
now arose, how far would the Assembly allow the Commune to go ? The 
majority of the deputies were not Republicans, nor were they on the side 
of disorder: most of them belonged to that very class at which the 
Commune was striking, and thus the contest of the Commune with the 
bourgeoisie resolved itself into a struggle with the Assembly. 

But the Assembly was now but the shadow of its always shadowy self. 
Of its 745 members only about a third registered their votes, and it was 
by this time only too well accustomed to submit to the noisy dictation 
of galleries and deputations. The first struggle was over the custody of 
the King. The Commune was unwilling that any but itself should have 
the keeping of so valuable a hostage ; and the Assembly on August 13 
gave way, and handed over its prisoner to the Commune, by whom he 
was incarcerated in the Temple. After this first victory, the Commune 
looked round for some means of getting control of the lives of individuals. 
Events played into its hands. On August 11 the new police-law, long 
under consideration, had been passed by the Assembly. It handed over 
to the Commune the duty of "recherche des crimes contre la s&reiS de Vitat^ 
and authorised all active citizens to drag before the authorities persons 
suspected of such crimes. Thus the life of every individual in Paris was 
placed at the mercy of the Commune. The Assembly made haste to 
remedy the harm done by this iU-considered measure, by reviving the 
power of the " Conseil du dipartement " ; but the furious outcry provoked 
by this step, and the appearance of Robespierre at the bar, overawed 
it into restricting the power of the revived Conseil to the assessment 
of taxes. The policing of Paris was thus secured to the Commune. 

The next encroachment was upon the judicial authorities. Already 
the functions of juges de paix had been usurped by the Sectional 
Assemblies imder the supervision of a " Comity de surveillance " of fifteen 
members of the Commune. Unlimited power of imprisonment had been 
accorded to certain Communal Commissioners, and a list of " opponents 
of the Revolution " had been handed to the tribunals. But this was not 
enough; and the Commune set itself to extort from the Assembly a 



1792] Preparations for massacre. 241 

special extraordinary tribunal. On August 11a court-martial had been 
appointed to try the military prisoners of August 10; and the more 
important civil prisoners, including the ex-ministers, had been sent before 
the High Court of Orleans. At the dictation of the Commune the 
Assembly now abandoned the court-martial and ordered the election of 
new juries to tiy these cases in the criminal Courts. Robespierre upon 
this again appeared at the bar (August 16) and demanded a special 
tribunal, elected by the Sections, with unlimited power, from which there 
should be no appeal. The Assembly fought the matter point by point ; 
but on the 17th, overpowered by the threats and persistence of the 
Commime, they were criminal enough and weak enough to decree the 
creation of a special tribunal. 

The reason of all this revolutionary activity is not far to seek : the 
primary elections for the Convention, which the Assembly had decreed 
on August 10, were to commence on August 27, and the secondary on 
September 2. Aware that they were supported by but a smaJl minority 
of the electors, the Commune employed these measures of terror simply 
to secure for themselves a majority at the polls ; and by August 26 at 
any rate, not to suggest an earlier date, it had been decided that, to 
complete the Terror, a general massacre of the prisoners should take 
place to coincide with the opening of the secondary elections. Events 
on the frontiers played into the hands of the faction. On August 26, 
just at the critical moment when, on the eve of the primary elections, 
signs of a more determined resistance both from the Assembly itself 
and from some of the Sections were disclosing themselves, there arrived 
the news of the fall of the frontier town of Longwy. With the French 
armies intact this reverse was of trifling importance — so at any rate 
it was regarded by the generals at the front — but it was sufficient for 
the demagogues. On the 28th Danton, in the name of the Ministry, 
demanded permission for the Commune to subject the city to domiciliary 
visits, ostensibly in search for muskets, of which he alleged there were 
80,000 in Paris, in reality to secure the arrest of all reactionaries. 
This was the crowning item in the great scheme for delivering over the 
Moderates of Paris to the faction. From the morning of the 28th to 
the evening of the 31st these visits were in progress ; of the promised 
80,000 muskets only 2000 were secured, but, in their real object, the 
arrest of Moderates, the result of the visits was all that could be desired; 
and by the evening of August 31 every prison was full to overflowing. 

Meanwhile, however, people had begun to suspect ulterior motives in 
this revolutionary energy of the Commune; and some of the Sections 
petitioned against the continued usurpations of that body. The result 
was that on August 30, just when its plans were reaching consummation, 
the Commune found itself dissolved by decree of the Assembly. Set 
only on preserving for a few days its existence and that of its Comiti 
de Surveillcmce, which was superintending the actiial preparations for 

0. M. H. VIII. 16 



242 The September massacres. [1792 

the massacres, the Commune went the length of restoring Petion to the 
chair ; and he now headed a deputation to the Assembly, where a long 
memoir prepared by Robespierre was read, enlarging on the services of 
the Commune. During the whole of the 31st the Assembly stood firm, 
but on September 1 Thuriot, prompted by Danton, persuaded it to 
reinstate the Commune. 

The very next day was that on which the faction had decided to strike. 
It was hoped that the news of the fall of Verdun might arrive in time 
to serve as a pretext for the massacres; but it only reached Paris on 
September 4. The conspirators, therefore^ had to. make the most of the 
investment of that town and the probability of its fall ; and Manuel 
proposed that, in view of the military crisisj the tocsin should be rung, 
the alarm-gun fired, the "ghih-ak'''' sounded, and all able-bodied citizens 
convoked to the Champ-de-Mars. The Assembly took up the cry, 
Vergniaud delivering an eloquent speech, and Danton the most famous 
of aU his fiery orations. Meanwhile the ComitS de Surveillance emhaxkeA 
upon the immediate preparations for the massacres. Coopting a number 
of kindred spirits, it first moved the arrest of Roland, Brissot, and thirty 
other Brissotins — a deliberate attempt, though it proved unsuccessful, 
to include the Brissotins in the massacres ; next it sent emissaries to 
some of the more violent Sections to extort a demand for the destruction 
of the prisoners. In two Sections (Poissonniere and Luxembourg) this 
was successful. Thus, when, at 2 p.m., the tocsin began to ring and the 
populace to flock to the Champ-de-Mars, the bands of assassins already 
gathered by the ComitS started on their mission. 

The first victims were twenty-fom- priests who were awaiting exami- 
nation in the cells of the Maine itself. These imfortunates were bundled 
into carriages and conducted towards the Abbaye. On the way their escort 
oifkdhrks tried to provoke the populace to attack them, and, when they 
refused, set upon the victims themselves. On their arrival at the Abbaye 
the butchery was soon completed. The murderers now split up into 
detachments and distributed themselves among the various prisons. To 
give colour to the legend of "popular justice," no doubt also to save any 
friends of the assassins, informal tribunals, on which the murderers 
themselves sat, were established : before these the miserable prisoners 
were dragged: aU priests, royalists, and "aristocrats," were condemned 
at once and thrust out of the Salle de Justice on to the pikes of the 
murderers in the courtyard without. That no attempt at any kind of 
justice was made by these self-constituted tribunals is proved by the 
fact that many of the victims were common criminals, whose very crimes 
one might have thought would have commended them to such judges ; 
43 were boys under eighteen, and at least 35 were women. 

Amidst eveiy circumstance of horror this carnage continued, with 
little interference from without, for four whole days. In Paris alone 
1400 people perished. But the massacre was not confined to Paris ; on 



1792] The circular for the Departments. 243 

the contrary, to extend it to the Provinces, where the danger of reaction 
was very threatening, was one of the first objects of its promoters. 
Many of the most important lof the State prisoners were at Orleans; 
and on August 30 the Assembly, on the demand of the Commune, had 
sent Foumier, an agent of the ComiU de /Surveillance^ to fetch them- — 
43 in number — to Paris. On September 3, seeing what would be the 
fate of the prisoners if they entered Paris, the Assembly ordered 
Foumier to take them to Saumur. He disobeyed and condiicted them 
to Versailles, where he was met on September 9 by a detachment of the 
expert Paris murderers, who made short work of the prisoners. 

This massacre had been devised as early as August 30, but it was not 
until September 3 that the idea of a general massacre throughout the 
Provinces was developed. On that day a circular was sent by the hands 
of Commissioners of the Commune to all the Departments, announcing 
the fact that a "portion of the fierce conspirators detained in thie 
prisons had been put to death by the people," and suggesting that the 
entire nation should hasten to adopt a measure so necessary for the 
public safety. Fortunately this incitement had but little effect; and 
the massacres at Lyons, Meaux, Rheims, Charleville, and Caen, were 
comparatively insignificant. This, however, in no way exonerates the 
authors of the atrocious manifesto. It has been suggested that the 
entire document was forged by Marat, who had long openly cried out 
for wholesale massacres ; but there is nothing in the antecedents of 
Panis, Sergent, and the other members of the Comiti de SurveiUance, 
whose signatures were attached to it, to make it improbable that these 
signatures were genuine. The fact that the circular went out in the 
ofiicial covers of the Ministry of Justice has been used as an argument 
to prove that Danton and Fabre d'Eglantine were privy to it, though it 
lacked their countersign and the ministerial stamp. The suspicion 
against them is indeed strong; and when we remember Danton's attitude 
towards the Paris massacres, and the fact that he never denied, but 
rather took credit for, his share in both circular and massacres, it is 
difficult to acquit him. 

So much for the circular; as to the responsibility for the Paris 
massacres the ComiiS de SurveiUance must bear the direct and chief 
blame, but the Commune itself must have been aware of the acts of its 
committee. Entrusted as it was with the control of the armed force, 
and responsible, therefore, for the safe-keeping of the prisons, it could 
and should have ordered the National Guard to protect them ; but the 
National Guard did nothing, and doubtless had its orders to do nothing. 
It could and should have thrown itself between the assassins and their 
victims ; on the contrary, such of its members as entered the prisons 
entered them to encourage the murderers. Petion, newly restored to 
power, was doubtless afraid for his own skin on account of his connexion 
with the Brissotins. On Thursday, the last day of the massacres, he 

16—2 



244 Responsibility of Danton and Roland. [1792 

actually went to the prison of La Force, was horrified, and remonstrated ; 
but he regarded the ignoring of his remonstrances merely with mild 
surprise and went away. He certainly, however, went to Santerre and 
ordered him to use the National Guard ; and on the whole, though his 
action was quite ineflFective, he comes out of the matter better than the 
other authorities. 

As to the Assembly, it did little to stop the massacres ; it had, it 
is true, half-heartedly tried to avert them, but had given way to the 
Commune on every point before they began ; and, now that they were in 
progress, it was not till September 4 that it called (quite ineffectively) 
upon the Sections to take steps to ensure the security of life and 
property. It must not be forgotten, however, that the Brissotins, who 
after August 10 constituted the large majority of the Assembly, had 
themselves been threatened, and doubtless it was fear for their own lives 
that made them loth to interfere. 

With regard to the Executive Council, Danton and Roland were the 
Ministers directly responsible for the security of prisoners. As to the 
former it is impossible to believe that he was ignorant of what was 
being prepared by his intimates of the Commune, and circumstantial 
evidence accumulates round him from every side. It weis he who fiUed 
the prisbns, reinstated the Commune, ordered the tocsin to be rung. As 
Minister of Justice he was responsible for the life of each prisoner, and, 
himself the only truly strong man in Paris, he could have saved them. 
Yet his attitude was at best one of cynical indifference ; and, if complete 
proof of his direct complicity in the massacres is stiU wanting, he is at 
least responsible for never having lifted a finger to stop them. Roland, 
the other responsible Minister, thoi^h his conduct was no whit more 
courageous, has at least this excuse, that his interference would almost 
certainly have been useless. This, however, scarcely justifies him in not 
interfering, and his talk of " drawing a veil " and of " events perhaps 
necessary " was as disgusting as it was cowardly ; he had been directiy 
threatened by Marat, and was doubtless afraid to move. 



245 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE NATIONAL CONVENTION TO THE FALL OF THE 

GIRONDE. 

All eyes were now fixed on the approaching elections to the National 
Convention, which had been decreed by the Legislative Assembly on the 
morning of August 10, 1792. 

The fate of the Republican party was staked upon the result ; if the 
true feeling of France were allowed expression at the polls, the ascendancy 
of the Commune and the demagogues would be at an end. The leaders 
of that party were fuUy alive to the danger ; they laboured imder no 
illusions as to the real mind of the people of France, and they set 
themselves, with the vigour and imscrupulousness of men who know that 
not only their careers but their lives are at stake, to muzzle the expres- 
sion of that mind. Above all it was necessary to prevent the Moderates 
from carrying the capital. To gag the whole country was a gigantic 
task ; it would be attempted, but success was more than doubtful ; in 
Paris, on the other hand, the demagogues had their chance. The city 
was already in a suitable state of paralysis; the forces of anarchy and 
terror were already at work ; the Jacobin Club, the Commune, the 
armed bands, and the Radical press were so many instruments in the 
hands of the faction. If by their aid it could secure the retuin of a 
compact body of its adherents, it would be sure of the nucleus of a 
party in the Convention, and, if it could not hope for an actual 
majority there, it could make up for its numerical deficiency by the 
vigour of its actions ; but, if Paris went Moderate, all was lost. Every 
nerve, therefore, was strained for a grand effort in that city. 

The arrangements for the elections had been made by the Legislative 
Assembly. Manhood suffrage had been proposed, but not carried. The 
property qualification for electors indeed had been abolished, but at the 
same time the age limit (25 years), the disfranchisement of domestic 
servants, and the system of double voting, by primary and secondary 
elections, had been maintained. Under these provisions the primary 
elections took place in Paris between August 26 and Septentiber 1. 
There were in tiie capital and its environs some 200,000 voters ; and it 



246 The elections to the Convention. [1792 

was certain that, if a reasonable percentage of them were to register 
their votes, the days of the faction would be numbered. It was there- 
fore once more necessary to keep away from the polls as many of the 
respectable voters as possible. One can hardly help admiring the 
ingenuity and minute care for detail with which this disfranchisement 
was managed. The Sections had already claimed, and the Assembly 
weakly admitted the claim, that they should manage the details of the 
elections in their own way. Robespierre, making use of this concession, 
persuaded his own Section (des Piques), and, through it, the remainder 
of the Sections, to abolish the secrecy of the ballot and adopt the vote- 
d-haute-voix. In the excited and nervous condition of a city whose 
barriers were closed, and whose citizens were being subjected to domi- 
ciliary visits and other inquisitorial measures, it is difficult to over- 
estimate the effect of this innovation ; for each Section was easily filled 
with axmed ruffians who would rage against every' Moderate vote ; and 
it must be remembered that all Paris was by this time dimly conscious 
of the approach of some murderous crisis, and every man who gave a 
Moderate vote felt that he might next day be on the list of the 
proscribed, It, is not, therefore, astonishing that the polls were sparsely 
attended by the respectable classes. 

; In spite, however, of aU the precautions adopted by the faction in 
the primary elections, it seems that they were by no means confident of 
the pure republicanism of the 900 secondary electors chosen. Robespierre 
had already caused it to be decreed that the voting at the secondary 
election should also be public, and that it should take pla«e in the hall 
of the Jacobin Club, where the public galleries were gigantic and easily 
filled with a suitable mob, and where the very atmosphere would be 
favourable to the demagogues. Finally, lest in spite of all these precau- 
tions some undesirable names should creep in to mar the unity of the 
" Paris Deputation," the right of ostracism, in other words the right to 
revise the roll of the deputies elected,; was reserved to the primary 
assemblies, a provision which entirely contravened the principle of 
double , election. 

It was, as had been arrangedj under the terrible shadow of the 
September massacres that the 900 secondary electors gathered, on 
S^temb^ 2, in the Archiepiscopal Palace ; and it was through an 
alley of corpses — the victims of the Ch^telfet prison— stacked upon the 
Pdnt-au-Change, that Robespierre led them to the Club in the Rue 
St Honor^, and there proceeded to sift them like wheat, ejecting from 
the h^U all who had signed either of the two petitions (" huit-miUe^ and 
" vmgt-mille "), and all who " had been members of anti-civic societies." 
Murder without and unbridled proscription within soon reduced the 
remaining electors to a sufficiently plastic i condition; and on September 5 
they elected Robespierre himself first deputy for Paris, and after him 
Dauton, Collot d'Herbois, Manuel, and Billaiud-Varennes, all men of 



1*792] The Paris deputation to the Convention. 247 

the most violent republicanism. One wonders how, in spite of all the 
precautions taken, any Moderates had managed to slip in ; perhaps only 
because even Paris in September, 1792, could not provide 900 ruffians 
" au nvveau de la Revolution " as conceived by Robespierre^ and his 
friends ; yet both Kersaint and Priestley — men of pronounced Moderate 
opinions — were nominated ; and it was only by dint of allowing public 
discussion of the merits of each candidate that Camille Desmouliris and 
Marat were preferred to them. The election of Marat, the instigator of 
the horrible outra;ges which were being perpetrated almost under the 
eyes of the electors, seemed to set a seal on the ignominy of the 
proceedings ; but an even greater depth of ignominy was reached in the 
election of Philip, Duke of Orleans. This miserable man owed his 
election to the good offices of Marat, to whom he had rendered financial 
assistance ; and it is probable that the subtle ingenuity of Robespierre 
prompted him to agree to his inclusion, in order that, should the 
Repubhc collapse, as it seemed at the time likely that it would, the 
faction should not be without a candidate for the throne. As soon 
as the continuance of the Republic was assured, Orleans was cast aside 
like dirt. He was the last deputy elected for Paris, and it may here be 
noted that on September 15, by permission of the Commune, he changed 
his name to Philippe Egalite. The names of the 24 members of the Paris 
deputation were as follows :-^Robespierre, Danton, CoUot d'Herbois, 
Manuel, Billaud-Varennes, Camille Desmoulins, Marat, Lavicomterie, 
Legendre, Ralfron du Trouillet, Panis, Sergent, Robert, Dusaulx, Frerbn, 
Beauvais de Preaux, Fabre d''Eglantine, Osselin, Augustin Robespierre 
(brother of Maximilien), David the painter, Boucher, Laignelot, Thomas, 
and Philip of Orleans. The majority of them were mere nominees 
of Robespierre; and the result of the election was as much a personal 
triumph for him as a political victory for the faction. From this time 
forward he must be reckoned as one of the most important powers in 
the Revolution. 

It was not to be expected that the faction would sweep the board 
in the Provinces so easily as it had in Paris ; yet in some places, in 
the great industrial centres especially, it was able by means of its 
local organisations to apply what may be called the Parisian methods. 
Although only in ten of the Departments was the vote-a-haute-voix 
imposed on the electors, in most places secondary electors with mandates 
in favom: of the Monarchy or of the Constitution of 1791 were success- 
fidly — though quite illegally — ostracised. A remarkable feature of the 
provincial elections was the dearth of respectable candidates, another 
proof that what the majority of the middle classes wanted was simply 
peace to enjoy the fruits of 1789. The consequence was that many 
obsciu-e men were sent up to the Convention, as well as many professional 
politicians totally unknown to their constituents and elected only on 
newspaper reputa,tioiis. But the number of votes recorded gives the best 



248 Last measures of the Legislative. [i792 

indication of the character of the elections. Of the 7,590,000 primary 
electors in France, it is reckoned that not more than 630,000 registered 
their votes, while of the secondary electors 25 per cent, abstained. The 
conclusion is that the Convention was elected, the Republic proclaimed, 
the King executed, and the Terror established on the mandate of about 
6 per cent, of the electors of France. 

While these elections -were in progress Paris had been given up to 
pillage ; and stolen property to the amount of many millions had fallen 
into the hands of the Commune. On the 16th the Garde-Meuble was 
broken into and property to the value of 24,000,000 livres was stolen, 
including the Crown diamonds. The expiring Assembly meanwhile was 
concerned with financial affairs, and by decrees of September 5 and 
September 16 forbade the export of specie and plate, the fabrication 
of paper-money having been renewed on September 1. But now, 
in , view of the reactionary attitude of the Provinces, the failure of 
the Circular, the non-success of the faction at the polls, and the 
increasing courage of the Moderate Sections of Paris, the Assembly at 
last took heart and passed decrees restricting the powers of Commis- 
sioners of the Ministry, and ordering the arrest of any persons posing 
as Commissioners of the Commune. Next, tardily enough it is true, an 
attempt was made to restore order and security in the capital. On 
September 17 arbitrary arrests and violation of houses were forbidden, 
and the Communewas held responsible for the lives of prisoners. Finally, 
on the last day of its existence, the Legislative decreed that every 
citizen must be provided with a carte de dvisme from his Section — a 
measure which, by driving strangers out of the city, at first worked for 
order, but was afterwards converted into a powerful weapon of terror. 
New municipal elections were also ordered. The Assembly took control 
of the tocsim and alarm-gun, and reserved to itself the exclusive right 
to employ all armed forces other than the National Guard — a blow 
specially directed at the federis from the Provinces, many of whom were 
still in Paris. After this tardy but yigorous effort for the restoration 
of order the Legislative dissolved itself, and on September 21 was 
replaced in ^e Manege by the National Convention, which had already 
held two preliminary sittings in the Tuileries. 

Of the 782 members of the new Convention, 75 had sat in the 
Constituent and 183 in the Legislative. There were many lawyers and 
members of local administrations, some retired ofiicers, and 48 of the 
Constitutional clergy. The electioneering campaign of the faction had 
so far failed that it was found to control no more than about 
50 members, of whom the Paris deputation accounted for 24 ; while the 
Brissotins, or Girondins as they should now be caUed, mustered some 120 
supporters, the remainder {i.e. the majority) of the deputies not being 
identified with either side. The Girondins, however, haid so little desire 
to be considered Moderate, that they were unwilling at first to occupy 



1792] Parties in the Convention. 249 

the benches upon which the FeuUlants of the Legislative had sat, which, 
although always known as the " Right," were, after the changes made on 
December 27, 1791, actually on the left of the President's chair ; and it 
was only after considerable hesitation, and when the breach between 
themselves and the faction had widened, that they finally identified them- 
selves with the Right side of the House. Opposite to them, high upon the 
extreme " Left," sat the little knot of Enrages, the Mountain as it came 
to be called ; while on the lower benches on the floor of the House, the 
Morals or Plain, sat the great mass of independent deputies. Amongst 
the MontagfMrds, in addition to the Paris deputies, with whose names we 
are already familiar, sat many men who were afterwards to become 
famous, the two Prieurs, Camot, Merlin of ThionviUe, Robert Lindet, 
Jean Bon-Saint-Andre, Philippeaux, Carrier, Fouche, Tallien, Le Bas, 
Saint-Just, Herault, Lacroix, Chabot, and Bazire. These men, afterwards 
to be so widely separated, were for the present united by the bond of 
joint responsibility for the dethronement of the King. They were 
Republicans, not so much from principle, as because a Republic, and a 
Republic controlled by themselves, was the only form of government in 
which their lives would be safe. 

Amongst the Girondins sat nearly all the Brissotins of the Legislative ; 
Condorcet, Gensonne, Guadet, Brissot, Vergniaud, and Isnard being 
the most prominent. These men had before August 10 been divided 
on the question of a RepubUc. Vergniaud, Guadet, and Gensonne, 
in particular, had not desired the fall of the throne, and had in fact 
made secret advances to the Court after Jime 20 ; but there had always 
been among them a small band of determined Republicans centring in 
the s(don of Madame Roland; and these were now recruited by the 
advent of a number of young and hot-headed deputies, the most con- 
spicuous of whom were Buzot, Lou vet, Rebecqui, and Barbaroux. 

The Plain, which constituted the large majority of the Convention, 
contained many notable men, Gregoire, Sieyes, Larevelliere-L^peaux, 
Letoumeur, Treilhard, Camus, Merlin of Douai, Boissy d'Anglas, and 
Barras; worthy of special mention is Cambon, who for two years was to 
control the finances of France ; but the typical man of the Plain was 
Barere, who by his vivid imagination, fluent tongue, and constant 
readiness to speak, combined with his dexterity in concealing his motives, 
in choosing phrases of double meaning, and in explaining away his own 
words without apparent inconsistency, acquired a most sinister influence 
over his colleagues. Drawn for the most part from the lower middle 
and small professional classes, the men of the Plain were naturally 
inclined at first to look for their lead to the Girondins rather than to 
the Mountain, whose violence, and especially their participation in the 
recent atrocities, horrified them ; Lanjuinais' phrase, " Qiumd Je suis 
arrive a Paris fai Jremi,'" well expresses the attitude of the more 
respectable deputies of the Plain. 



250 Struggle between the Gironde and the Mountain. [1792 

Here, then, lay the Girondins' chance ; if: they could turn this 
anti-anarchical feeling against the, faction, the future of France was in 
their hands. , . 

During the first dsiys of the Convention nothing seemed more 
probable ; the majority of the deputies leant by predilection towards the 
Gironde. The first President and aU the Secretaries were Girondins ; 
the Ministry, since Danton, having resigned on September 29 in order 
to take his seat in the Convention, had been replaced by Garat, was 
strongly Girondin, and was dominated by Roland, who, though obstinate 
and pedantic, yras not vithout traces of that courage of which he con- 
tinually boasted. There were at least 5000 regular troops in Paris at 
the disposal of the government. A strong revulsion of feeling against 
the excesses of August and September was evident, not only in the 
Provinces but in the capital itself, where some even of the more 
revolutionary Sections petitioned against the continued tyranny of the 
illegal milnicipality. The cards therefore seemed to be all in the hands 
of the Gironde ; the question was, would they have the courage to lead 
them ? 

The very first decree of the Convention showed that the Girondins 
had decided to disavow their monarchical leaning, and to outbid their 
Republican rivals in order to secure control of the government; for 
on September 21 all parties united in a decree abolishing the Monarchy 
in France. 

The ground was now dear for the struggle of the Gironde against the 
Mountain and the Commune. The Gironde, who had prepared the 
Revolution, were not inclined to allow their rivals who had executed it 
to reap all the fruits. Their first blow was delivered through the 
medium of a report of the Minister of the Interior on the condition of 
France (August 23). Into this report Roland introduced covert allusions 
to the massacres and the evil influence of the Commune, even hinting 
that the attitude of Paris was becoming injurious to the Revolution. 
There followed eight days of personal recrimination, during which 
Robespierre was categorically accused by Rebecqui and Barbaroux of 
aspiring to a dictatorship— sufficient proof of the outspokenness of 
his opponents. After this, issue was joined on the question of the 
misdeeds of the ComiU de SurveiUcmce of the Commune. So fierce was 
the outcry against this body, and so shaken were the Montagnards by 
the courage of their opponents, that the ConseU G&nlrcH of the Commune 
on September 29 was fain to cut its committee adrift, and even consented 
to allow the approaching elections for the renewal of half the members 
of the Commune itself to be ante-dated. 

The Girondins now fell into the blunder, which was always to dog 
their footsteps, of sacrificing vigour of action to violence of invective. 
They seem to have taken fright at their own temerity, and, instead of 
breaking the Comite de SurveiUcmce at once, contented themselves with 



1792] The Garde Ddpartementale. — The camp. 261 

tamely demanding its accounts. Marat cleverly threw odium on Roland 
by suggesting that his accounts also might not be the worse for a little 
auditing; and the attack on the Committee died tamely away. 

Very similar was the conduct of the Gironde in their treatment of 
another matter of importance which came up on September 24. On 
that day: a letter from Roland announced a renewal of atrocities in 
Chalons-sur-Marne; this news provoked a succession of outspoken protests 
from Kersaint, Vergniaud, and Lanjuinais ; but it was Buzot who 
proposed the formation of a Committee of Six to report on the condition 
of the country and the capital, to draw up a law against instigators of 
murder, and to propose steps for the provision of a Garde Departementale 
to protect the Convention. This Committee, reporting on October 8, 
recommended the summoning of 4470 guards from the Departments for 
the purpose indicated. The report was the object of a general attack 
in the Radical press, especially in the organs of Robespierre, Prudhomme, 
and Marat; it also provoked a great outcry in the Jacobin Club, 
and was instrumental in getting Brissot expelled — an incident which 
definitely marks the secession of the Girondins from the Jacobin party. 
Finally on October 19, the Sections, at the instigation of Chaumette, 
Vice-President of the ConseU General of the Commune, presented an 
insolent petition to the Assembly, denouncing the formation of the 
Garde as an insult to Paris. Gensonne replied in brave words that the 
Assembly could only receive orders from the people of France ; but 
once more timidity of action followed on temerity of speechj and the 
Girondins themselves hastened to shelve the very measure which they had 
proposed with such parade of com-age. 

More successful was their struggle against the camp which had been 
established after August 10 in the northern suburbs of Paris. This 
camp had been designed, not only as a training ground for volunteers, 
but as a fortification for the defence of the capital, to which every 
patriot might contribute his laboiu-. During the month of August it 
had been the fashion for men and women to go and dig on the ramparts, 
but in September the enthusiasm had died down ; all the serious 
volunteers had gone to the front, so that thei camp was no longer 
necessary; and after Valmy the immediate need for fortifications had 
disappeared... But the camp was useful to the Commune; accordingly 
a daily wage was awarded to every idle rascal who would consent to 
make pretence of working with a spade, with the result that innumerable 
loafers both from Paris and from the neighbouring country flocked 
thither; and the camp became a splendid recruiting-ground for the 
forces of disorder. The Convention now boldly demanded the imposition 
of piece-work, a system that strikes a loafer in his tenderest place ; and 
when, after a long wrangle, this innovation was decreed, the camp was 
doomed, and on November 3 the works ceased. 

But the greatest triumph of the Convention over the Commune was 



262 Election of a Mayor. — The new f(^ddrds. [1792 

in the elections for a new Mayor, which took place between October 4 
and November 30. These votings are most interesting, both as the last 
victory of the Moderates before July, 1794, and also as a further proof 
of the utter indifference, or utter cowardice, of the voters of Paris and of 
the true numerical weakness of the faction. Of the 160,000 voters in 
the city not more than one-tenth was attracted to any one of the 
numerous elections which now took place. It is hardly possible that 
many of the absentees can have been men of extreme views; all such 
were carefully gathered to the polls, as the faction was now fighting 
with its back to the wall. Yet, not only was the faction consistently 
unsuccessful at each of the elections, but the sum-total of its poll 
never rose over 5000. After Petion had been elected and had refused, 
no less a person than d'Ormesson, an ex-ContrSleur-Ginercd of the ancien 
rigiine, was elected by a majority of some 500 over Lhuillier, the Jacobin 
candidate. When he also refused, Chambon, a physician of the Sal- 
pStriere, a Moderate almost of the Bailly type, was chosen by 8358 votes 
to 3900. It was most unfortunate that the Moderates were unable 
to keep their poll up to this level in the elections to the ConseU Ginh-al 
of the Commune, which commenced on December 2. It was the usual 
story; respectable men were too busy to spare the time for prolonged 
elections. On this occasion not one in twenty voters came to the poll, 
with the result that, although it had a Moderate Mayor, the new 
Commune was as much in the hands of the faction as the old. Twenty- 
eight only of the members of the old Commune were reelected, but these 
included all the ringleaders. Chaumette and Hubert, who had led the 
insurrectionary Commune after the translation of Robespierre and Billaud- 
Varennes to the Convention, were made respectivdy Procureur and 
Procureur Substitut ; the new blood was if possible inore ruffianly than 
the old, and thus the renovation of the Commune brought no profit to 
the Moderates ; rather, by legalising what had been illegal, it left them 
worse off than before. 

Still, although there were plentiful signs of growing weakness in the 
Girondin party, it had managed to get through the first month with 
a fair degree of success. One very important access of strength it 
received in the shape of a new band oi fidhis from Marseilles, who 
this time were to be on the side of order. On October 21 a deputation, 
introduced by Barbaroux, expressed the attachment of these Marseillais 
to the Gironde. But here again opportunities were not utilised; and 
instead of organising the new arrivals the Gironde allowed the Jacobins 
to tamper with them, and thus carelessly threw away what might have 
been a great access of strength. 

Meanwhile, although their actions were vacillating, the oratorical 
courage of the Girondins seemed only to increase. The personal attacks 
on the formidable leaders of the Mountain grew daily more virulent, and 
culminated on October 29 in a great denunciation of Bobespierre. 



1792] Louvefs accusation. — Weakness of the Gironde. 253 

Louvet, the author of this attack, was a new acquisition to the party ; 
he had entered the Convention as a novice to politics, and had allied 
himself with the Rolands. He now seized the opportunity of a report 
of the Minister of the Interior on "the state of the capital since 
August 10," to bring grave and specific charges against Robespierre, 
reviving in his rhetorical attack all the accusations that had been 
brought against the demagogue by Rebecqui and Barbarous on Sep- 
tember 25. Louvet's action, though not without courage, only served 
to display the inherent weakness of his party. The Girondins were 
without leaders and organisation, and the younger members of the 
party, being uncontrolled, continually broke away and ran riot. This 
■was what now occurred. Louvefs attack took his party by surprise, with 
the result that, instead of the charges being pressed home at once, five 
days were allowed for the preparation of the defence. In this interval 
Robespierre was able to mould in his own favour such public opinion as 
existed ; and, when on November 5 he read his reply, the galleries were 
packed with his adherents and he had little difiiculty in refuting Louvet's 
charges. It was a serious reverse for the Gironde, and the first clear 
indication that the future was not theirs but the Mountain's. They 
had shown their inability either to attack or to resist their opponents 
with anything save words; and it now only remained to be seen how 
far their opponents would be able to carry them whither they would 
not. 

If we ask how it was that the Girondins failed when all seemed so 
much in their favour, the answer is foimfold. In the first place they lacked 
moral force. They had played all along for their own hand. Posing 
-as men of principle they were in reaUty swayed only by overpowering 
ambition. Without any general conviction in favour of a Republic they 
had exposed the monarchy to attack, simply in order to recover power 
for themselves. To efiect this selfish end, they had not scrupled to arouse 
anarchic forces which they both disliked and knew to be immoral. The 
violence of these forces had carried them beyond the limits of their 
original designs; and they were now to find that they must either march 
with their anarchical allies or surrender the government to them. They 
were in fact no longer able to control the forces which they had set in 
motion; moreover, by their employment of these forces they had violated 
their own political conscience and so undermined their political position. 
In the second place the Girondins lacked cohesion, were indeed 
entirely without the organisation of a party. They had many promi- 
nent, even preeminent men, but no leader; and what the unconvinced 
Plain required was a definite lead. The eloquence of Vergniaud, the 
erudition of Condorcet, the biting sarcasms of Guadet, the cold irony of 
Gensonne, the reckless courage of Louvet, the complacent self-confidence 
of Brissot, and the shallow superiority of the Rolands, did not compensate 
for want of political capacity, not to say statesmanship ; and time after 



254 The Gironde and the Mountain. [i792 

time in the autumn of 1792 these men foiled one another for want of 
proper discipline and control. 

In the third place the Gironde had little popular support in the 
country, none at all in Paris. AVhat the majority of Frenchmen desired 
was a return to moderation; and such a return was hardly to be expected 
from men so long identified with a policy' of violence. Most men there- 
fore favoured neither party and were content to watch the internecine 
struggle with no more than the languid interest of spectators, rightly 
regarding the Girondins as even more responsible than the Montagnards 
for the overthrow of all that, politically speaking, they held most precious. 

Lacking moral force, lacking leadership, and lacking popular support, 
the Girondins also lacked a common policy. Violence and anarchy having 
served their turn, they certainly now desired a return to order, to 
security for life and property, and to legal and civilised methods of 
government ; but they had no common plan for translating these wishes 
into facts, and above all no determination to force through the necessary 
measures. We have seen how the Garde Departementale was decreed and 
the decree never carried out ; how the fidh-is, who had at first favoured 
the Gironde, were allowed to fall awja,y and become the servants of the 
Montagnards ; how the trial of the September criminals was constantly 
threatened and as constantly postponed ; how men were denounced only 
to be exonerated, and accusations raised only to be dropped. We are 
now to see the Girondins vote the King's death against their will, thereby 
alienating for ever all moderate opinion both at home and abroad ; and 
we shall watch them forge one by one the instruments by which they 
were themselves to fall, and by which their rivals were to be established 
in power. 

With quick discernment the Mountain had seen that the question of 
the King's life was the key to the position. There was no real urgency 
in the matter; but, rather than incur a suspicion of Royalism, every 
politician could be made to vote urgency. If the Gironde were brave 
enough, when the matter came up for discussion, to avow their real 
feelings and protect Louis, the Mountain would be able to attack them 
for Royalist leanings; if on the other hand they could frighten the 
Gironde into acquiescence, and so compel them to share the stigma of 
regicide, they would finally isolate their opponents from the support of 
moderate France, while at the same time they would create a European 
crisis demanding a strong and unscrupulous government, which the 
Mountain could provide, but the Gironde could not. Calculatino- on 
the cowardice of their opponents, the Montagnards entrusted to them 
the preliminary investigations into the charges against Louis; and a 
Girondist Committee was appointed to examine the Royal papers seized 
on August 10 ; the most important of which were those of the officials 
of the Civil List. The report of this Committee was introduced by 
Valaze on November 3, and was marked by that total disregard of justice 



1792] Preliminaries of the Kiri^'s trial. 265 

which was to characterise every stage of the proceedings. Among other 
reckless charges, for instance, Louis was accused of accaparement, that 
is of buying up grain, sugar, coffee, etc., in order to create famine. 
Three days later Mailhe presented the report of the Committee of Legis- 
lation in which the legality of the trial was discussed. It had been a 
difficult task for the Committee to find legal justification for the pro- 
ceedings. It was patent that Louis was doubly cleared from all crimes 
committed before 1791 by the amnesty of that year as well as by the 
doctrine of responsibility of ministers ; while from those committed after 
his acceptance of the Constitution, he was. exonerated by the inviolability 
which that Constitution guaranteed him. Over and above this, for 
bearing arms against France, the one " crime " of which by a stretch of 
terms Louis might be considered guilty, the allotted penalty was 
deposition ; and this he had already suffered. Thus both as an act of 
justice and as a constitutional act the trial fell to the ground at once. 

With plausible sophistry therefore the report of Mailhe argued that 
the matter was one of State necessity, and that the nation being sove- 
reign could override its own Constitution. Louis must consequently be 
tried by the nation ; and, as the Convention was the nation's fully ac- 
credited representative, it was the only possible tribunal. The debates 
which arose out of this report showed the attitude of parties. They 
were envenomed by insinuations of Royalism on one side and of 
"Orleanism" on the other, with the result that neither party dared to 
support Louis, and that many of those who at heart wished to save him 
were terrified into denouncing him. Of all the prominent politicians 
Lanjuinais alone lifted his voice, as he lifted it in all righteous causes, 
against the specious arguments of Mailhe's report ; but Lanjuinais was 
not a Girondin but a non-party man, and, what the Girondins have so 
often been wrongly deemed, a true lover of freedom and justice. Honour- 
ably associated with him were Fauchet, constitutional Bishop of Calvados, 
and Morisson, a Vendien deputy. The chief exponents of the opposite 
view were Saint-Just, a young deputy who was at present a mere 
satellite of Robespierre but who afterwards became his right-hand man, 
and RobespieiTe himself. Their attitude was entirely logical; and 
Robespierre's speeches of November 30 and December 3 were, compared 
with the shifty and illogical reasoning of the Girondins, both cogent 
and consistent. The Convention were not judges, he said, nor was Louis 
accused ; Louis was condemned on August 10 ; " Le proces diu tyran d'est 
rinsurrection, son Jtigement d'est la chyie de sa puissance, sa peine celle 
qyHexige la liberti du peuple.'''' If it was a mere matter of policy — and it 
seemed that it was so because on grounds of justice the proceedings could 
not be defended — then there was no need for a trial. ^^ Louis doit 
mourir parce qu'iljaut que la patrie vive."" Pressing his arguments to 
their logical conclusion, Robespierre demanded that sentence should be 
immediately passed without the formality of a trial. Louis must simply 



256 Louis at the bar. [i792 

be killed as a matter of political expediency. The Convention indeed 
had no power to try him. 

Meanwhile in the middle of these debates a sensational incident of 
some importance occurred. On November 20 Roland entered the haU 
and deposited on the bureau some bundles of papers. These, he said, 
were the contents of an iron press discovered that very morning in the 
Tuileries; a cursory inspection had shown him that they incriminated 
many members of the Constituent and Legislative Assemblies. This 
announcement threw the Convention into the utmost agitation; so many 
of its members had either touched Court gold or had offered to do so, 
that few felt safe. Roland was at once accused of tampering with the 
papers for his own benefit and that of his friends ; but the main result 
of tlie incident was that men became eager to discount by the violence 
of their present republicanism the impending revelations of their past 
venality. Thus the discovery of the iron press became an important 
factor in sealing the fate of the King. 

For all this, the majority of the Assembly shrank from adopting the 
revolting, if consistent, policy advocated by R,obespierre and Saint- Just ; 
and on December 3 it was decreed that Louis should be tried by the 
Convention. A Committee of Twenty-one was entrusted with the pre- 
paration of the counts of accusation. 

The Gironde took advantage of the ensuing delay to propose a 
'^scrutin ipuratoire"" of the Convention, by which the name of every 
deputy would be referred to his constituents in the primary assemblies. 
This would have been tantamount to an appeal to the people and was a 
deliberate attempt to avoid the responsibility of trying the King ; but 
the weakness of the Gironde was by this time chronic, and, on some 
protests arising, Guadet withdrew the motion. On December 10 Robert 
Lindet reported for the Committee of Twenty-one ; and on the following 
day the King was brought to the bar to hear the counts of his indictment. 

From the date of his confinement in the Temple Louis had been 
subjected to every form of hardship and degradation, but had retained 
the calmness, forbearance, and devoutness, which were always his strongest 
characteristics. To be suddenly confronted, amidst every circumstance 
of contumely and insult, with a list of charges which, since he had received 
no copy of the indictment, came to him as a complete surprise, placed 
the King in a predicament with which his slow wits and unready tongue 
were little fitted to cope. He made no attempt to question the legality 
of his trial, and to most of the charges was content to give a simple 
denial. Chief among the counts of the indictment were : (1) complicity 
in Bouill^'s so-called " plots against the nation," (2) payment of wages 
to emigrated body-guards, (3) favouring of and payment of money to 
hnigris, (4) buying up of corn and other monopolies, i.e. accaparement, 
(5) breach of his oath by attempting to reverse the Constitution. After 
denying these charges and expressing ignorance of aU the papers save 



1792] The decrees of November 19 and December 16. 257 

one in the iron press, the King asked for counsel to defend him, and, on 
this request being grudgingly granted, selected Target and Tronchet. 
The former declined, but Malesherbes was appointed at his own request ; 
and he and Tronchet, aided by a younger advocate named Deseze, 
undertook the King's defence. 

In the interval allowed for its preparation two skirmishes took place 
between the Mountain and the Gironde. On December 14 an attempt 
was made to regulate entrance to the galleries by insisting on the 
production of tickets. Later events showed that the adoption of this 
measure might have altered the result of the trial ; but once more the 
courage of the Girondins oozed away, and the motion was tamely with- 
drawn. On the 16th a further quarrel arose over the motion of Buzot 
for the expulsion of all the Bourbons from France. This measure 
was expressly directed against Orleans; but once again the Girondins 
retreated and fatuously agreed to exempt the very man whom the 
measure had been designed to strike. 

One other decree of the ' first importance, marking as it does a 
new departm-e in revolutionary politics, falls within this period. On 
November 19 the Convention had offered its protection to all nations 
struggling for freedom; but they had very soon found that with a 
depleted treasury it was impossible to undertake this mission gratuitously. 
Hence, on the report of Cambon, who had by this time become the trusted 
financial adviser of the Convention, it was decreed that the expenses of 
the wars of liberation should be transferred to the shoulders of the 
liberated countries. France thus ceased to be the volunteer, and became 
the mercenary of the cause of " freedom." But the decree of December 15 
went further than this ; it made " liberty " compulsory, and imposed 
the revolutionary nostrums of France on all the liberated countries. 
"Malheur au peuple^'' said the report of Cambon, "qui essaiera de 
iaffranchir iil ne rompe au mime instant toutes les chaines!" This decree 
was the manifesto of the war of conquest ; and the " liberty " which it 
heralded was in fact an unmitigated tyranny. 

But now on December 26 the hoiu" arrived for the King's second 
appearance at the bar; and at 9 a.m., escorted by Santerre, Com- 
mandant of the National Guard, he entered the hall. Deseze at once 
commenced his speech for the defence. One by one the advocate refuted 
the charges against Louis, and then boldly accused the Convention 
of injustice and of prejudging the case. " I look round," he said, " for 
judges and I find accusers"; "you take away from Louis not only his 
prerogative as a King, but his rights as a citizen." There followed an 
eloquent appeal to the judgment of posterity. "History will judge 
yoiu- judgment, and hers will be the verdict of generations to come." 
On the conclusion of his counsel's address the King withdrew ; and the 
Mountain cried out for immediate sentence of death. Lanjuinais with 
admirable sang-froid denounced the iniquity of such a proceeding, even 

C. M. H. VIII. 17 



258 The trial of the King. [1792-3 

entreating the Assembly to reconsider its determination to sit in 
judgment, since so many of them were personal enemies of the accused. 
" I and my friends," he added, " prefer to die rather than to condemn 
to death in violation of the law even the most abominable tyrant." 
Unfortunately, though Lanjuinais himself may certainly have preferred 
death to dishonour, he was wrong in thinking that his friends shared 
either his conscience or his courage. 

After this the Convention gave itself over to a prolonged tumult, 
during which the fierce outcry for instant sentence was broken at rare 
intervals by protests from the few deputies who, in face of the threats of 
the Mountain and the clamour of the galleries, had any courage left. 
On December 28 Robespierre, in a speech which has been described as 
both smelling of oil and reeking of blood, retimied to the theory of the 
salut public, denouncing the proposal that there should be a referendum, 
or appeal to the people, as the "rally-cry of royalism," and avowing, 
candidly enough, that it would mean the downfall of the Republic. On 
the other side Vergniaud eloquently urged the appeal to the people, and 
was supported by Brissot and Gensonne, of whom the former pleaded 
the disastrous efiects on foreign relations of a precipitate sentence, and 
the latter made a bitter and satirical attack on Robespierre. 

Up to this point there was nothing to indicate what would be the result 
of the division on this vital question of a referendum. On the whole it 
seemed probable that, in spite of the publicity of the voting, the violence 
of the spectators, and the agitation of the Assembly, the humanity and 
sense of justice of the majority would yet assert themselves. It was at 
this juncture that Barere rose, on January 3, to express the feeling of 
the Centre. In addition to his power, already noted, of seeing both 
sides of a question, Barere had an infallible intuition as to which way 
the wind was blowing, and an ingrained desire to sail with it. His facile 
and persuasive eloquence enabled him to gloss over the brutal violences 
of the Mountain with subtle and refined arguments appealing to the more 
fastidious taste of the Plain. Identifying himself with the Moderates by 
contemptuous references to Robespierre and Marat, he now proceeded to 
justify the policy of the very men whom he seemed to be denouncing, 
and by a totally different line of argument arrived at their conclusion, 
to wit, that the condemnation of Louis was not a matter of justice, but 
a great measure of public safety. 

Barere's speech closed the debate. It left the Convention with three 
questions to decide: first, was Louis guilty: secondly, if guilty, what 
should be his punishment: and thirdly, should there be an appeal to 
the people. It was of the utmost importance to all who did not desire 
the King's death that the last of these three questions should be taken 
first ; and, when the Girondins, yielding to the clamour of the galleries 
and to further specious arguments from Barere, agreed to take the 
question of guilt first, they went far to settle the fate of Louis. 



1793] Questions of the King's guilt and of the referendum. 259 

Of the result of this first vote there could be no doubt. The 
Girondins had from the outset made up their minds that they could not 
openly declare a belief in the King's innocence; while the Plain was 
in its usual plastic condition, and would follow the winning side. Mean- 
while the Montagnards were not idle. They had found a useful ally in 
Pache, who in October had succeeded Servan as War Minister. Pache 
had been a protigi of Roland, by whose influence he had obtained the 
portfoUo. No sooner, however, was he established in power than he 
deserted his patron and allied himself with the Moimtain. Thence- 
forward, at a time when an efficient War Office was of the most vital 
importance, he was far more occupied in playing the game of the 
Jacobins in Paris than in organising or caring for the armies at the 
front. It was indeed to protest against the inefficiency of Pache, as well 
as against the decree of December 15 and inter alia to save the King, 
that Dumouriez on January 6 arrived in Paris. He remained there until 
the 26th without being able to get a hearing; and when he returned 
to his army he had lost his popularity and prestige, and from that time 
ceased to be a factor in the Revolution. 

Through the influence of Pache the Jacobins were now able to get 
the regular troops removed from Paris; and at the same time they made 
attempts to gain over the Jedh-es, while by dark threats of further 
massacres the capital was once more reduced to a state of teiTor. The 
result was that of the 739 deputies, the large majority of whom certainly 
believed the King to be innocent, not one — not even Lanjuinais — could 
be found to say so in the tribune. The acme of courage w£is abstention, 
and only five deputies reached this pitch of valour. It should be noted 
that the simple voting of guilty or not guilty on the 34 charges en bloc 
was contrary to the principles of the Criminal Code of September 16-29, 
1791, which had insisted on each charge being separately put to the 
jury. Amongst all the lawyers of the Convention not one was found 
to demand the observance of the forms of justice established by the 
Constituent. 

Issue was now. joined on the question of the referendum. With 
characteristic cowardice the Girondins had chosen this as the ground for 
their battle, for it would both save them from accusations of Royalism, 
and at the same time relieve them from the responsibility of pronouncing 
sentence. To the Jacobins on the other hand the referendum was even 
more distasteful than absolute acquittal. Any appeal to the people 
would, as they knew, and even had the candour to acknowledge, be 
the signal for their overthrow. The result of the vote, announced at 
10 p.m. on January 15 by Vergniaud, who was in the chair, was disas- 
trous. Only 284 of the 717 members present voted for, and 424 voted 
against it ; the want of imity and leadership in the Gironde had once 
more shown itself. Of the 60 most prominent Girondins, thirteen, 
including Condorcet, Ducos, and Boyer-Fonfrede, had voted against the 

17—2 



260 The King sentenced to death. [1793 

motion ; and this internal division in the party had undermined their 
ihfluence over the Plain. 

Meanwhile, in view of the approaching vote on the penalty, the 
Motmtain had been busy; and a determined effort had been made to 
foment disturbances in the capital. Once more the Sectional Assemblies 
became the centres of disorder. Inflammatory petitions poured in to 
the Assembly; incendiary mobs surrounded the barriers and the prisons; 
182 pieces of cannon were handed over by Pache to Santerre. The 
Mayor himself complained to the Assembly of the dangerous condition 
of Paris, and pleaded that the armed force should be put under the 
control of the CcmseM exieat^. Thus the Moderates of the Convention 
Were made to feel not only that they were surrounded in the Convention 
by hostile and dangerous crowds, but that outside all was prepared for 
another emeute, even for another September, should- the voting on the 
final question not commend itself to the Mountain. 

Undismayed by these threats Lanjuinais moved that a two-thirds 
majority should be necessary to carry the death-penalty. Danton, 
newly returned from the front, marked his reappearance by securing the 
tejection of this proposal. The voting on the supreme question then 
began and continued for thirty-seven consecutive hours amidst circum- 
stances of unparalleled disorder. An attempted intervention by the 
Spanish ambassador — the second he had made during the trial — was 
swept aside ; and at last the result was proclaimed. Of 749 members, 
28 were absent; 321 had voted for penalties other than death, mostly 
for imprisonment, but two, of whom one was Condorcet, for the galleys ; 
26 in voting death had demanded a debate on the postponement of the 
sentence; IS had made postponement a condition of their vote for 
death ; and 361, that is an absolute majority of 1, had voted for death. 

In view of the narrowness of this majority, the Moderates were 
encouraged to take a further vote on the question of a respite ; and on 
January 19, on the proposal of Buzot, the Convention embarked on 
its fovu^th and last appel nominal. But by this time the Gironde was 
thoroughly demoralised, and the leader of the opposition to Buzofs 
motion was the Girondin Barbaroux. Thus the respite, although 
Buzot, Brissot, Louvet, Valaze and Biroteau voted in favour of it, was 
defeated by 380 votes to 310, not however before Manuel had, with con- 
spicuous courage, tendered his resignation on the ground that he had been 
assaulted within the Assembly in consequence of his vote. When we 
remember that Manuel, as Procurewr of the Commune, had actually been 
present in the prisons during the September massacres, it is certainly 
surprising to find him courting death in a courageous attempt to save 
the King. He eventually lost his head for refusing to give evidence 
against the Queen, and his conduct indicates a strange alternation of 
violence and compunction. 

The motion for respite having been lost, the execution was now fixed 



1793] Execution of the King. 261 

for the following day. The King was granted a confessor; and the 
Assembly voted that the French nation should take his family into their 
care — a decision which probably disturbed the King far more than his 
own approaching end. Louis had indeed long given himself up for lost, 
and met the announcement of his sentence with composure. After a 
painful farewell with his family, he spent the remainder of his time 
with his confessor, the Abb^ Edgeworth. On the morning of the 21st 
he was driven in the company of Santerre and Garat to the Place de 
la Revolution. Although there were rumours of plots to save him, one 
in particular organised by the Baron de Batz, and although the attitude 
of the crowd was on the whole sympathetic, the Jacobins managed 
everything so well that no incident occurred. Louis' behaviour on the 
scaffold was marked by perfect composure and piety. His attempt to 
address the crowd was cut short by the roll of drums. At 10.20 a.m. 
on January 21, 1793, his head was held up to the crowd by Sanson the 
executioner ; and another epoch of the B.evolution was over. 

Responsibility for the fatal result of the King's trial must be dis- 
tributed between the Mountain, the Plain, and the Gironde. Of these the 
attitude of the first was the most logical as it was the least cowardly ; 
the Mountain avowedly desired the King's death as a measure of political 
expediency ; that they identified the safety of the body politic with their 
own continuance in power need provoke no sinprise ; they were honestly 
and openly in favour of instant death. 

Far other was the position of the Gironde. At the beginning of the 
trial it is probable that not a single Girondin either desired or anticipated 
the King's death ; but they had once more determined to sacrifice principle 
in order to secure popularity. They could not see that the time had now 
come when the chasm between the bourffeoisie and the proletariate could 
no longer be concealed ; nor had they perhaps sufficient political acumen 
to see that by their condonation of the Jacobin policy they really stood 
to lose and not to gain popularity. It cannot be denied that the power 
to save the King had lain in the hands of the Gironde ; they still pre- 
dominated in the Convention — witness the continued presence of their 
candidates in the chair and at the secretarial bureau, witness also the 
Girondist tone of the various committees. But they had long lost the 
power to use their majority ; and during the trial their faults of character 
worked upon their faults of discipline and organisation, as the division 
lists prove. It is diflicult to characterise the votes of some of the 
Girondins (e.g: those against death, but also against respite) as anything 
but the doubling of hunted animals; but the considerable amount of 
cross-voting, which not only destroyed the consistency of the Gironde, 
but also undermined the confidence of the Plain, shows, in addition to 
cowardice, a radical want of party discipline. 

As to the Plain, the individual members revolted from the idea of so 
needless a crime and looked appealingly to the Gironde for leadership. 



262 Parties after the King's death. [1793 

But, as we have seen, all the lead they got was from Barere. He, no 
doiibtj if he had been satisfied that the Gironde would vote solid, would 
have declared himself for them ; but his unfailing sagacity had shown him 
that the Gironde was not a winning party ; he foresaw the victory of the 
Mountain ; and it was not in his character to put himself into opposition 
to any party which was likely to come into power, least of all to a party 
so well armed and so imscrupulous as the Mountain. Barere knew that 
the success of the Mountain would be the signal for a general proscription 
of their opponents ; and, whoever was to be proscribed, he was determined 
to be safe. The cunning with which he carried the votes of the Plain to 
the side of the Mountain has already been noticed. If the Mountain is 
convicted of brutality and the Gironde of selfish cowardice, the Plain 
cannot be absolved from the accusation of both weakness and criminal 
opportunism. 

The tragic events which have just been narrated did not at once 
affect the balance of parties. The death of Louis had certainly been a 
victory for the Jacobins ; but it remained to be seen whether they 
would be able to reap its fruits. As to the Girondins, their attitude 
during the trial had destroyed their cohesion within the Assembly and 
their influence without ; but they were still, just as the Feuillants had 
been up to the very end of the Legislative, in command of a majority in 
the Convention ; and outside, in spite of their loss of prestige, a firm 
stand for the maintenance of order and property would have ensured 
to them the support of a Moderate majority, even in Paris itself. 
During the early months of 1793 indeed the Moderates were greatly in 
the ascendant in the capital ; and there was still a considerable force of 
ftdhrh in the city. The anarchical policy of the Jacobins and the 
brutality of Marat and Hebert had alienated the great hourgeois class. In 
fact, by this time everyone who had any property was a Moderate. In 
spite, therefore, of their discomfiture over the King's trial, the prospects 
of the Girondins in the spring of 1793 seemed by no means black ; what 
they lacked was not supporters, but the power to organise their supporters 
and the active courage to strike down their adversaries with the weapons 
which they undoubtedly held. Their opponents, however, were not with- 
out arms of their own for the coming struggle. Within the Convention 
itself they had the potent influence of the galleries and the fear inspired 
by the murderous record of Marat ; while in Paris the two great clubs. 
Cordeliers and Jacobins, were theirs, and the Commune, and with it the 
National Guard, were subject to their influence. 

Confronted with a life and death struggle at home, the Girondins 
had to meet an insreasingly alarming situation on the frontiers. The 
death of Louis was the signal for war with England, Holland, and Spain. 
It also heralded a general repulse of French arms at all the seats of war. 
For guidance in this double crisis the Gironde had to rely on the 
weakest Ministry , that had held oflice since 1789. The War Office 



1793] The Comitd de Defense Odndrale. 263 

passed on February 3 from the incapable and dishonest hands of 
Pache into those of Beurnonville, equally incapable, though more honest. 
Roland resigned on January 23; and his departure took away such 
backbone as the Ministry possessed, and implied the abandonment by the 
Girondins of the idea of governing through a ministry at all. Roland's 
successor, Garat, was of all men the most incapable; a man of letters 
not of affairs, of theory not of practice, he was content to contemplate 
events which he was intended to control. It was a culminating mis- 
fortune for the Gironde that at this critical jimcture in their fortunes 
authority in the capital should have fallen into such hands. Lebrun, at 
the Foreign. Office, brought a certain amount of reason and intelligence 
to the conduct of foreign affairs ; but Claviere was anything but a sound 
finance minister. The fact was that, with the passing of Danton and 
Roland from the Ministry, the disastrous effects of the exclusion of 
deputies from the Cabinet again came to light; and the Convention 
returned to the experiment of a Central Committee to coordinate the 
work of the numerous special Committees, and to assist — not yet to 
override — Ministers. Such a Committee had already several times been 
constituted during the many periods when weak Ministers had held 
office, but had each time disappeared as soon as the Ministry received any 
renewal of strength. Thus a Committee of Twelve had been appointed 
on March 9, 1792, at the moment of Narbonne's resignation, but had 
effaced itself before the Brissotin Ministry, which came into office a few 
days later, only to be reorganised on June 18 as the Committee of 
Twenty-one, after the fall of that Ministry on June 12. Each increase 
of members having increased its Jacobinism, the Committee had displayed 
great activity during the August crisis. After August 10 its members 
were increased to 25, but it had once more effaced itself before the 
Ministry of Danton ; and only now after Roland''s retirement did it 
become necessary to reorganise it afresh. On January 4, 1793, it was 
renewed as the "Comiti de Defense G^rUrale.'" Numbering as it did 
twenty-five members, it was very unwieldy ; and, as it was open to all 
deputies to speak, though not to vote, at the debates, it fell into a 
condition of weakness and disorder. 

It now became a question whether the Gironde would be able to find 
other resources with which to face its enemies at home and the Allies on 
the frontier. Aid seemed likely to come from one most efficient quarter. 
Danton, dming the critical months of the previous autumn, had given 
proof of his superlative force and ability as an administrator ; since that 
time he had been gaining experience on missions to the armies. What 
he had seen of warfare, however, had given him food for reflexion. It 
was he who had been largely responsible for giving to the war its colossal 
scope, who had conjured up the dream of " natural frontiers," who had 
thundered against all kings, and offered the fellowship of France to all 
nations struggling for freedom. The promulgation of such grandiose 



264 Danton, the Gironde, and the Jacobins. [1793 

ideas had probably been to him but a device for provoking enthusiasm. 
He was ever unscrupulous of means, he was not a man of theories, and, 
if he had ever believed in his own programme, he at any rate never felt 
bound by any rule of consistency ; with his eyes on the future, he was 
ever ready to break with the past. Whether experience and contact 
with war really altered his views, or whether his formulae had only 
been adopted to serve a temporary purpose, he was now in the early days 
of 1793 convinced of the necessity for giving fixity to the Revolution, 
and of the hopelessness of continuing a revolutionary crusade against the 
Powers of Europe on the lines laid down by the decree of December 15, 
1792. Determined on a policy of settlement at home and alliances 
abroad, he began to look round for the nucleus of a new party wherewith 
to carry out his designs. Both expediency and his own tastes pointed to 
the Gironde. That party stUl held a majority in the Convention and 
still, as compared with its rivalsj might commend itself to the people of 
France. Danton's powerful personality might weld the party together, 
galvanise the paralysed majority into life, and use it for the restoration 
of order at home and the introduction of reason into foreign relations. 

But the Girondins, in addition to a certain conceited rigidity of 
temperament which forbade their entering into relations with men 
who had once been opponents, were quite imwilling to accept the 
domination of Danton, of whose masterful character they had already 
had experience. They had been fighting all along for power for them- 
selves and were not prepared to hand that power, or any part of it, to 
an outsider. Accordingly, when Danton offered his alliance, they drew 
back from him with jealous suspicion. This rebuff threw Danton on his 
own resources. Unscrupulous as he was, he must have shrunk from a 
fresh alliance with the Jacobins. Yet what alternative was open to 
him .'' Only by their aid could he establish the strong government that 
he required. But his association with the Mountain gave to that party 
just tiie access of strength which enabled it to wrest from him the 
weapons of his own forging, to turn them to his destruction, and set up 
the Terror which those weapons had been designed to prevent. 

During the month of February the lists were being cleared for the 
great straggle. The Gironde fulminated against the Mountain, and the 
Mountain plotted against the Gironde. It was not until the following 
month that the reverses to French arms put a new and fruitful opportunity 
into the hands of the Jacobins. During February they had to make bs 
much capital as they could out of the cry of famine. By means of the 
armed bands which were now organised on a permanent footing under 
the directions of the notorious MaUlard, and through the Sectional 
Committees, aided also by Pache, who, on leaving the War Office, 
had been elected Mayor of Paris, they raised a series of alarming breeid 
riots and got threatening petitions introduced into the Convention. 
By such means they extorted from the public treasury large grants of 



1793J The VevMe. 265 

money, ostensibly for the purpose of feeding the capital, and also created 
that outcry for a maximum, or fixed price for bread and other necessaries, 
which afterwards came to a head in April. The Convention, during these 
latter days of February, was engaged on the report of its Constitutional 
Committee, which had been presented by Condorcet on February 15. 
The Constitution proposed by the Committee was Girondist in tone and 
closely modelled on the lines of the Constitution of 1791 ; it did not 
commend itself to the Jacobins and was never passed into law. 

Meanwhile the Commune and the Jacobin and Cordeliers' Clubs were 
busily plotting the downfall of their opponents ; and in the early days of 
March an informal Committee of Insurrection, which included such 
desperadoes as CoUot, Guzman, Desfieux, Proly, Lazowski, and possibly 
TaUien, began to meet at the Caf^ Corazza. The existence of this 
Committee seems to have been a matter of general knowledge ; but the 
authorities were too weak or too stupid to take any cognisance of it. 
Events at the front played rapidly into the hands of the conspirators. 
On March 5 arrived the serious news that Aix-la-ChapeUe had fallen, 
and that the siege of Maestricht had been raised. From the west there 
came news even more alarming. For some time past the retired country, 
immediately south of the estuary of the Loire, had been much agitated 
by the course of the Revolution. The affected area varied greatly in 
social and geographical character; its geographical centre, the centre 
also of disaffection, was the large upland region lying along both banks 
of the Sevre-Nantaise. This region, far from being mountainous, can 
hardly even be called hilly, its highest point being no more than 900 feet 
above sea-level. It spreads in pleasant but featureless undulations over 
some 4<00,000 acres. A cattle-rearing district, divided into innumerable 
small enclosures, tilled by small farmers holding for the most part from 
resident landowners, it took its name of the Bocage as well from the 
wealth of high hedgerows crowded with hedgerow timber which gave it 
the appearance of a vast rolling woodland, as from the frequent small 
forests and the impenetrable scrub with which the pasturage was 
interspersed. With a thick population its towns were few and small; 
chief among them were ChatiUon, Les Herbiers, La Chataigneraie, 
Saint-Fulgent, Clisson, Tiffauges, and Montaigu. 

Below and aroimd this irregular, pear-shaped, upland district lay a 
wider, flatter country, where a larger and more elaborate tillage, includ- 
ing the cultivation of vines, was practised, and whose inhabitants were 
more in touch with the rest of France. This Plaine formed a com- 
plete circle round the Bocage, but the marches between the two were 
extremely ill-defined. 

Westward between the Plaine and the Atlantic lay a district of yet 
another character, a strange area of land reclaimed from the sea. This 
country was divided by a wedge of the Plaine, which penetrated to the 
coast at Les Sables d'Olonne, into two parts, one extending round the 



266 Insurrection in the Vendee. [1793 

mouth of the Loire and the other round that of the Sevre-Nantaise. 
Fertile to a high degree, the " Marais " was intersected by a network 
of ditches and canals so elaborate as to make locomotion a fine art. and 
in winter impossible save in boats, conditions which rendered military 
operations a matter of extreme difficulty. 

By the inhabitants of these retired districts the abolition of feudalism 
was greeted with but slight enthusiasm, for their feudal relations with 
the resident seigneurs left little to be desired. It would be untrue, 
however, to say that there was any resistance to the changes. Active 
opposition was only provoked when the Legislative Assembly com- 
menced its persecution of the priests arid hnigris. The measures 
against the clergy in particular provoked widespread discontent amongst 
a people religious to the point of fanaticism; the downfall of the 
throne enhanced the discontent ; and after August 10 the malcontents 
were provided with the double cry of "Church" and "Crown." By 
the spring of 1793 the whole countryside was on the verge of insurrec- 
tion; and the decree of February 23^ which imposed the ballot for 
the army on the whole of France, only set a match to a train which 
had long been laid. 

The insurrection broke out simultaneously and spontaneously among 
the peasantry of the Marais and those of the Bocage. Cathelineau, a 
poor hawker of woollen goods, took the lead in the latter ; and Gaston, 
a barber, in the former — sufficient proof that the insurrection was not 
fomented by the seigneurs ; but no sooner had the peasants risen than 
they txu:ned to their seigneurs to lead them, and these nobly responded 
to the appeal. Charette, a retired naval lieutenant and a resident 
proprietor in the Marais, assumed the command in that district ; 
Bonchamps, a seigneur residing near Saint-Florent, a man of extreme 
courage and military ability, and d'Elbfe, a retired cavalry officer, 
residing on his property near Beaupr^au, became the organising spirits 
of the insurrectionaries of the Bocage. With them were associated 
Cathelineau and a gamekeeper named Stofflet ; and they were soon joined 
by a whole host of brave and devoted colleagues. No army perhaps 
before or since could boast of more heroic leaders than this rabble of 
peasants which now set its face against the full tide of the Revolution ; 
to read the exploits of de Lescure, Henri de La Roche] aquelein, Charette, 
Stofflet, Cathelineau, and Bonchamps, is to understand, in part at any 
rate, the reasons for the success which attended the insurrection. 

At first the rebels, opposed only by the raw levies from the sur- 
rounding districts and the National Guards of the country towns, 
carried all before them ; Les Herbiers, Montaigu, Chantonnay, Cholet, 
and Vihiers all quickly fell into their hands ; and by the end of March, 
after a decisive victory at Graverau, which placed Fonteriay, Lu^on, 
and Niort, towns of the southern and western Plaine, at their mercy, 
the insurgents were masters of all the towns of the Bocage, and had 



1793] The conspiracy of' March 9. 267 

even pushed out into the Plaine; while in the Marais Challans and 
Noirmoutier were occupied by Charette, whose victorious career was only 
checked by the obstinate resistance of Les Sables d'Olonne. 

The news of this formidable rebellion was now beginning to reach 
Paris; coupled with the news of disasters on the eastern frontier, it 
was indeed serious. Few but the rawest troops were available for service 
in the west, and these preliminary successes made the insurgents daily 
more formidable. The Republic, therefore, found itself in the month 
of March in a most perilous position. France's extremity became once 
more the Jacobins' opportunity, and they hastened to use for their own 
ends the consternation which the news created ; but their attempt to 
clear Paris for fresh insurrections by getting the fidSres sent to the 
front was only partially successful, and their demands for a Revolutionary 
Tribunal were temporarily rejected. 

On March 8 Danton and Lacroix arrived in Paris from their mission 
to the armies, and hurried to the Assembly to report on the situation. 
Danton had returned from the disorganised armies more convinced than 
ever of the necessity for establishing a strong conciliatory government. 
By this time he almost despaired of persuading the Gironde to cooperate 
with him ; yet he gave them one more chance, proposing on March 8 
that the Ministry should be opened to members of the Convention. 
The Gironde were foolish enough to reject this measure, which would 
have allowed them to participate in the strong government ; their pique 
against Danton blinded them to their own welfare. On the same day 
Danton, while courageously and characteristically defending Dumomez 
and rightly blaming the War OflSce for the failure of the French arms, 
set on foot measures for raising volunteers in Paris by means of Com- 
missioners sent by the Convention to every Section. Patriotism thus 
satisfied, the Convention gave itself over to party jealousies. The old 
September cry, "To the front, but leave no traitors behind," was 
renewed ; but an attempt to rouse the Sections in favour of a new 
Revolutionary Tribunal did not succeed. Undaunted, however, by this 
failure, the Jacobin Club published on March 9 an incendiary manifesto 
with the object of raising the mob against the Girondins in the Con- 
vention. But even this fell flat. A mob, however, did collect ; the 
War Minister and Petion were hustled, and the Girondin printing-presses 
were broken up. Advantage was taken of the tumult to secure the 
creation of a Tribunal Crimmel extraordinaire. A useful prototype 
existed in the Extraordinary Tribunal created on August 17, 1792, 
which however had been suppressed on November 29, 1792 ; it was now 
revived and a similar Tribunal was constituted on March 29, 1793, 
limited at first, as the August Tribunal had been in scope, and controlled 
by a supervisory committee of six Conventiormels. The Insurrectionary 
Committee now appealed to the Cordeliers^ and these gladly called upon 
the, authorities of Paris to arrest " the traitorous Conventiunnels " ; but 



268 Neerwinden. — Defection of Dumouriez. [1793 

the Commune held back, and the Girondins, warned perhaps by Danton, 
kept away from the evening sitting, and a shower of rain, coinciding 
with the appearance of a body oi federes, dispersed the rioters. This 
conspiracy, known as the "Conjuration du 9 Mars^ had failed in its 
main object, but had established the first of the great instruments 
which were to put all power into the hands of the Jacobins — the 
Revolutionary Tribunal. 

Events on the frontier now once again supplied the necessary incen- 
tive. The outbreak of revolt in the Vendee coincided with the defeat 
of Dumouriez at Neerwinden (March 18); and at the same time the 
disaffection in Lyons, Marseilles^ and Normandy came to a head. 
Neerwinden, and the news of the establishment of the Revolutionary 
Tribunal, determined Dumouriez to turn his arms against the Conven- 
tion. He had for long been at variance with the government, and had 
on March 12 addressed to them a letter of remonstrance couched in 
very threatening terms. He now felt that, in the hands of the new 
Tribunal, this letter might cost him his head. He thus stood com- 
mitted to resistance to the new order of things; and, although Danton 
and Lacroix, who interviewed him on the day after the battle, succeeded 
in extracting from him a semi-retractation of the letter, they returned 
to Paris more than doubtful of his attitude. Their suspicions were, 
indeed, not erroneous, for on March 23 Dumouriez entered into nego- 
ciations with Coburg; and on March 27, in an interview with three 
Commissioners sent by the Convention to revolutionise Holland, he 
denounced the Convention as " 300 scoundrels and 400 imbeciles," and 
declared his intention of starving out Paris by blocking the rivers and 
stopping supplies.' With these evidences of treason the Commissioners 
hurried to Paris. Meanwhile the ComitS de Defense G&nirale had 
thought it advisable not to reveal the contents of Dumouriez'' violent 
letter, and Danton and Lacroix also concealed their suspicions of the 
general. Paris, therefore, though agitated and suspicious, was ignorant 
of the true gravity of the situation; and the publication of the 
letter in the Monitew of March 25 came like a thunderbolt to the 
city. 

It was at once seen that the existing government was unequal to 
the crisis; and increased powers were given to the Comiti de Difense 
Ginh-ale, which, however, remained unwieldy in form, and, in spite of 
the inclusion of Danton and Robespierre, Girondist in tone. It was 
thus not what Danton required; but, such as it was, it commenced on 
March 25 to sit en p^mcmence. The series of calamities to French 
arms provoked the Jacobins to propose, and the Girondins to submit 
to, a corresponding series of vigorous revolutionary measures, and each 
military reverse had its prompt legislative echo. Thus the evacuation 
of Aix heralded the establishment of the Revolutionary Tribunal, 
and the despatch of Representants en mission to each Department, to 



1793] The first Committee of Public Safety. 269 

complete the levy of 300,000 men. "Hie outbreak of revolt in La Vendee 
(March 14) provoked the outlawry of the rebels on the 19th, and the 
creation, on the 21st, of Comitis de Surveillance in every Commune. The 
defeat of Neerwinden and the defection of Dumouriez were responsible 
for the reorganisation of the ComiU de D^ense GSnirale, for the rescinding 
on April 1 of the law which guaranteed the inviolability of deputies, 
for a law of the same date authorising Commissioners of the Convention 
to arrest suspects, and for the creation on April 4 of an army of 
sansculottes for home use. 

During the last days of March the ferment in Paris was considerable. 
On the 27th a jfresh Committee of Insurrection was formed, this time at 
the Archeveche, drawing its members from the Sections and enjoying 
the official sanction of the Commune. On the 30th a climax was reached 
on the arrival of the three Commissioners to whom Dumouriez had been 
so candid ; their news left no doubt of the general's treason, and men set 
their teeth to meet the emergency. 

In the first place the War Minister, Beumonville, with four other 
Commissioners, was despatched to Dumouriez' camp; and their arrival 
forced his hand. Failing to carry the soldiers with him, he deserted to 
the Austrians on April 4. Dumouriez' coup d^itat had failed; but 
Paris was as yet ignorant of the result, and Danton was using the 
agitation of the capital to secm-e the establishment of the second item 
of the strong government which he required. Once again the Gironde 
played into the hands of their opponents; instead of attempting to 
govern through the ComitS de D^ensB Gkih-ah which they controlled, 
they were themselves the fitst to clamour for its replacement by a Com- 
mittee of nine. Thus on April 6 was established the first Committee 
of Public Safety, with powers to deliberate in secret and to override 
Ministers, and with 100,000 livres of secret service money for the month 
to which its operations were at first restricted. 

It is difficult to see what benefit the Gironde hoped to derive from 
this measure, yet Buzot alone of the Girondins resisted it. It is possible 
that they expected to control the new Committee as they had controlled 
the old; if so they were very soon undeceived, for no single Girondin found 
a seat on it. The successful candidates were Barere, Delmas, Breard, 
Cambon, Danton, Guyton-Morveau, Treilhard, Lacroix, and Robert 
Lindet, of whom Lacroix and Guyton-Morveau were thoroughgoing 
Dantonists, while the remainder were compliant members of the Centre. 
The Gironde had forgotten the supreme fact that Danton was now 
against them. It was their own fault that it was so ; Danton had made 
repeated overtures, every one of which they had rejected. Finally on 
April 1 Lasource had accused him of complicity with Dumouriez and 
of aspiring to a dictatorship. Danton was thus driven into an alliance 
with the extremists, and to secure their support was obliged to pander 
to their anarchic and predatory pohcy, to which he was at heart opposed. 



270 Eepr^sentants en mission. [1793 

With his support three items of this policy were quickly decreed — 
although in principle only — the formation of an "army of sanscvlottesj" 
the regulation of the price of bread, and the progressive taxation of the 
rich. New powers were at the same time granted to the Seprhentants 
en mission, and the action of the Tribunal Crimimel esdraordvnairB, now 
called the Revolutionary Tribunal, was expedited by the abolition of the 
Supervisory Committee, which had hitherto controlled its actions, and 
the increase of the power of the Public Prosecutor. At the same time 
the Commune was quite irregularly allowed to coopt a hundred new 
members, which gave it a much needed demagogic reinforcement. 

The strife of parties now continued imder fresh conditions. The 
Gironde was driven to try its strength against the combined forces of 
Dantonists and extreme Jacobins. The first effort of the latter was 
directed against the Provinces. For months the Provinces had been 
held as a threat over their heads ; ;and they had not spared to retort on 
the Girondins a general charge of favouring the Provinces at the expense 
of the capital, a charge which under the vague name of " Federalism " 
was eventually to prove ruinous to the Gironde. There was so much 
truth in it, that Buzot and the Rolands were notorious admirers of the 
American system of federal government and had talked about it as an 
ideal even for France. At each election also the Provinces had favoured 
the reactionaries ; the Jacobins were resolved that this should cease ; and 
in the Representants en mission they held an admirable device with which 
to bring it to an end. 

The system of missions of deputies, which had not been unknown in 
the Constituent and had been extensively employed by the Legislative, 
especially after August 10, to secure the establishment of the provisional 
government, had been greatly extended by the Convention ; and on 
March 9, 1793, Commissioners had been appointed to go to every 
Department to promote the levy of 300,000 men which had been 
decreed on February 23. The Commissioners on April 4 took 
the title of Reprisentants en mission. Great care was exercised in 
their choice, and they went out with the double object of raising the 
recruits and of subjecting the Provinces to the Jacobin domination. 
Needless to say it was to the latter object that they gave most of their 
attention. Everywhere the most arbitrary measures were enforced; 
the local Jacobin clubs were raised into legal authorities and the 
proletariate invited to pillage; all this, be it noted, no longer in the 
name of the Commune or the Jacobins, but in that of the Convention 
itself. The result was that by the end of April all France, save only 
Lyons, the Vendee, Marseilles, Bordeaux, and Rouen, had not only 
provided its quota of recruits, but had submitted to the domination of 
the Jacobins. 

Seeing that the war had been carried into their camp, the Girondins 
determined to retaliate ; and the absence on mission of so many of the 



1793] The maximum. 271 

extremists left them in an assured majority in the Convention. On 
April 8, 9, and 10, some of the Sections had petitioned in favour of the 
purging of the Convention ; and Robespierre renewed accusations, which 
he had already made on April 8, that the Girondins had conspired with 
Dumouriez to restore the monarchy. On the 10th and 12th Vergniaud 
and Guadet retaliated, charging their opponents in turn with plotting an 
Orleanist restoration. Inspired by their own eloquence the Girondists 
on April 13 proceeded to drag Marat before the Revolutionary Tribunal 
for incendiary articles published in VAmi du Peuple. Marat's friends 
in the Sections replied by demanding on April 15 under the aegis of the 
Commune the ostracism of twenty-two Girondist deputies. Neither 
blow went home ; the Sections' proposal was rejected on April 20 ; and 
on April 24, Marat, whose trial had been a mere farce, was acquitted. 
His accusation indeed had been a blunder, for he was the least dangerous 
of the Girondins' enemies, and his trial only served to bring him a 
popularity which he had not before possessed. 

The Jacobins now set to work to establish the first of their new 
measures. The idea of enforcing a uniform price, or maonmum as it was 
called, for bread and other necessaries was not a new one ; it had been 
hinted at by Saint-Just on November 20, 1792, had been petitioned for 
by the Commune on April 18, 1793, and had already been decreed in 
principle. A practical uniformity in the price of bread in Paris had 
been established by the Conseil exicutif in the previous September, 
when, to enable Roland to keep the price at three sous a pound, the 
Convention had voted a grant of 20,000,000 Uvres. Between that time 
and the following May the Commune had spent on an average 12,000 
Uvres a day in keeping prices down. Now on May 8 the principle was 
extended, though still for com only, to the whole of France. Each 
Department was to have its table of prices, varying according to local 
conditions. This measure was as much a weapon of terror as a concession 
to the predatory desires of the extremists, and, combined with the 
prominence which accrued to Marat after his acquittal, threw aU owners 
of property, however small, into a state of anxiety and caused a wave of 
reaction against the extremists. Added to this anxiety for the safety 
of property there was a fear lest a new September should endanger men's 
personal safety, for the talk of " leaving no aristocrat behind " was again 
revived during the recruiting for the Vendee, and the actions of the 
Commune began suspiciously to resemble their actions prior to the 
massacres. On May 12 and 13 it decreed the formation of a "sans- 
culottic " army to watch over Paris, and entrusted the Mayor with the 
duty of disarming and arresting suspects. At the same time a fresh 
Committee of Insurrection began to sit at the Mairie, presided over by 
the police authorities and patronised by Pache himself. On May 19 
and 20 this Committee proposed the drawing up of lists of suspects, 
and the ostracism of thirty-two Girondist deputies. It is probable that 



272 The Mountain and the Gironde. [1793 

another massacre was designed, . though possibly use would have been 
made of the Revolutionary Tribunal. 

Confronted with a crisis so terrible and so imminent, the Girondins 
determined to take the bull by the horns. The Convention must 
shake off at whatever cost the domination of Paris and vindicate its 
own supremacy. They proposed therefore the breaking of the authori- 
ties of Paris, and the assembling at Bourges of the "suf^Ucmts'" of 
the Convention, who, to the number of 298, had been elected in 
September, 1792, to fill vacancies in the deputations. Now, in the event 
of the destruction of the Convention, its functions would, according to 
the motion of Guadet, at once be taken up by the suppUcmts thus 
assembled as a kind of reserve Assembly. The Mountain was saved 
from a blow, which would have been fatal, only by the interference of 
Barere, who persuaded the Gironde to be content with the appointment 
of a Committee to investigate the recent acts of the Sections and the 
Commune, and to protect the Convention from conspiracies. This 
Commission de Douze was formed on May 18 ; it drew its members from 
the lower ranks of the Gironde, the most prominent being Babaut- 
Saint-Etienne. 

With this inadequate weapon the Gironde embarked on the final 
phase of its struggle with the Mountain : the Committee, reporting on 
May 24, recommended the reopening of the National Guard to Moderates 
and the appointment of a Moderate Commandant, and suggested also 
the regulation of the Section Meetings, whose sittings should not be 
prolonged after 10 p.m. The character of the advice thus given shows 
how weak the Committee was ; for it imposed no penalties and left the 
control of the National Guard in the hands of the Commune, whereas 
the first steps to the restoration of order and security should have been 
the complete suppression of the Commune. 

The Committee however was not of a calibre to take so bold a step 
and was content with denouncing the Insurrectionary Committee at the 
Mairie. On May 24, however, it went so far as to arrest Hebert, the 
deputy Procureur Substitut of the Commune, for an incendiary article in 
his journal Le Pere Ikwhesne. It also demanded the production of the 
minutes of the Section meetings, and, on the refusal of the Cite Section, 
arrested its president Dobsen. In these actions the Committee made a 
double mistake; in the first place, in striking at the Committee at the 
Mairie they mistook their adversary; for on May 20 Pache had drawn 
back from the responsibility, and the focus of insurrection had once more 
been transferred to the more informal, but in other respects identical, 
Comite central des commissai/res des sections, whose activity in the month 
of March has already been noticed, and whose eighty members were still 
sitting at the Archevechd It was at this body and at the Cordeliers' 
Club, now far more incendiary than the Jacobins, that the Committee 
should have struck. In the second place, in the arrest of Hebert and 



1793] The Commune and the Committee of Twelve. 273 

Dobsen, the Committee repeated the blunder that had been made in the 
case of Marat; to proscribe individual leaders was to give a rallying 
point to the faction. Besides, Hebert's coarse and violent humour 
appealed directly to the rabble, and Le Pere Diichesne was popular in 
a sense in whidi Marat's VAmi du Peuple had never been, so that 
Hebert's arrest provoked a considerable outcry. 

Battle was now joined between the Commune, backed by the majority 
of the Sections, and the Committee of Twelve, backed by the remainder 
of the Sections and a wavering majority of the Convention. Between 
the two opposing parties lay the Committee of Public Safety in a curi- 
ously double frame of mind, decided, that is, that the elimination of the 
Girondins was essential, yet willing to save their lives, and in particular 
anxious to save the Convention from any encroachment on the part of 
the Commune. This latter body now cried out loudly for the release of 
Hebert; ajid this provoked the Girondin Isnard to an indiscretion, the 
most flagrant of which even the Gironde had ever been guilty. In a 
furious speech on May 25 he prophesied that, were the Convention 
injured, Paris would be annihilated. It was a suggestion of civil war 
as well as an echo of the threats of Brunswick; and it did untold harm 
to his party, alienating large classes of moderate men, who regarded it 
as a menace to their lives and properties. On May 26 the Commune seized 
the opportunity to demand the dissolution of the Committee of Twelve. 
The Committee had just ordered a body of National Guards to protect 
the Convention ; and Garat, the Minister of the Interior, who regarded 
this precaution as a slight on his administration, reassured the Convention 
by declaring that the danger was a dream of the Twelve Committee- 
men. The ground was thus cut away below the feet of the Committee, 
and it was abolished on May 27, only however to be reestablished on 
May 28 on the motion of the ever-courageous Lanjuinais. 

But the triumph of the Gironde was ephemeral. They: were obliged 
to release Hebert, Dobsen, and their other prisoners; and they dared 
not strike at the Insurrectionary Committee at the Archeveche, which on 
May 30 declared itself en permanence, and, having appointed on May 28 
a secret committee of six with the liberated Dobsen at its head, hastened 
to bring matters to a crisis. Collecting at the Archeveche 500 citizens 
to form a semblance of an electoral body, they declared the Commune 
abolished — a step which significantly recalled August 10 — and them- 
selves to be the new municipality. But, having tmmed out the old body, 
they at once coopted it, so that the result of these proceedings was 
simply the addition of 96 greater ruffians to the Commune. 

Thus renovated, the Commune proceeded, in face of the decree of the 
Convention, to appoint Hanriot, an ex-massacreur. Commandant of the 
National Guard, after which all was ready for the attack. On May 81, 
at 7 a.m., the Convention, w;hich, it must be noted, had moved on 
May 10 from the Manege to the Tuileries, was surrounded by a mob 

C. M. H. VIII. 18 



274 The insurrectio7i of May 31. [1793 

which during the day increased to about 30,000. A large number were 
no doubt drawn by mere curiosity and had by no means come with the 
idea of purging the Convention; but a small nucleus, under the direct 
command of Hanriot, were determined to secure the proscription of the 
Girondins at all costs. In face of this force, Garat was powerless j and 
tried to shift the responsibility for the outbreak on to the shoulders of 
the Committee of Twelve. Others, more courageous, demanded the 
arrest of Hanriot ; but the Girondins, with certain inconspicuous excep- 
tions, tried each man to save himself by yielding to the violence of the 
Jacobins; and Vergniaud was content to propose the weak and meaning- 
less motion ''that the Sections have deserved well of the^a^m," Then 
the crowd streamed ' into the Tuileries^ demanding the arrest of the 
Girondists and the dissolution of the Committee of Twelve. When 
therefore Barere proposed in the name of the Committee of Public Safety, 
which, busied with the national defence, had declined to commit itself to 
eibher side, that the Committee of Twelve be dissolved, but that at the 
same time the iarmed force be placed on a permanent footing, the Giron- 
dists were glad enough to accept the compromise. Thus at the instance 
of the Committee of Public Safety the greatest obstacle to the coup 
d'itat was removed* ■ 

The Mountain were now able to force two other measures upon the 
dazed Assembly — the payment of 40 sous a day to aU. sansculottes who 
remained under arms, and the reopening Of the Tuileries to the public; 
while the Commune arrested Madame Roland and decreed the disarming 
of suspects. By the evening of May 31 thte insurrectionaries had half 
won their battle and had seciured the weapons necessary for the accom- 
plishment of the other half 

The following day passed quietly, but its incidents shed light on the 
attitude of the Committee of Public Safety. Pache, the Mayor, in a 
report to that body acknowledged the existence of an insurrectionary 
committee ; but the Committee of Public Safety abstained from action. 
It was in fact temporising; it welcomed the purging of the Convention, 
though, influenced by Danton, it desired to save the lives of the Giron- 
dists, and, being itself the child of the Convention, wished to protect the 
parent body from encroachments. In the afternoon the Girondists met, 
and talked of flight and of an appeal to the Depaii;ments. At a special 
evening sitting of the Convention a demand from the Commune for the 
arrest of twenty-seven deputies was referred to the Committee of Public 
Safety. 

During the night the Convention was again suiTounded by armed 
men under Hanriot ; and in the early hours of Sunday morning, June 2, 
a large crowd of spectators assembled to see what would happen. Bad 
news from the Vendue and LyOns caused some disaffection among the 
populace, but generally speaking their attitude was one of indifference. 
The Convention was now in a ciu:ious position; most of the Girondists 



1793] The end of the Gironde. 275 

had thrown down their aims and retired to their own houses, fearing to 
face their enemies, and had left their defence to Lanjuinais, who was not 
a Girondist at all, but who, by his courageous attitude and their deser- 
tion, got himself proscribed with them; yet even so the Convention was 
unwilling to decree their arrest. But it was surrounded by an armed 
mob, led by a desperate and half-intoxicated cut-throat. In this pre- 
dicament a characteristic solution of the dilemma was propounded by 
Barere in the name of the Committee of Public Safety. He suggested 
that it would be more convenient if the threatened deputies would kindly 
proscribe themselves. This absiurd and cowardly expedient was rejected 
with scorn by Lanjuinais and Barbaroux ; but the few other Girondists, 
who had had the courage to attend, including Isnard and Fauchet, 
hastened to accept the suggestion. 

When this self-elimination of the Gironde had been secured, the in- 
siurection had gone far enough for the Committee of Public Safety; 
and they now threw their weight into the other side of the scale, and, 
denoimcing the Committee of Insurrection, urged the Convention to 
break up its sitting: Herault, therefore, who was in the chair, made his 
way down to the Place du Carrousel at the head of the deputies; there 
he was confronted by Hanriot, who, on being ordered to remove his 
gmis, with drunken courage gave the command for the gunners tO' stand 
to their pieces. Onlookers afterwards said that, when the guns were 
pointed at the Convention, many muskets were levelled at Hanriot and 
his men from the crowd; but the argument of powder and shot was 
ever persuasive with the revolutionaries, and, in face of Hanriot's 
threatening attitude, the deputies slunk away through the Tuileries and 
across the gardens, only to find the swing-bridge, that led out on to the 
Place de la Revolution, guarded by an equally resolute scmscuhtte. 

Headed by Marat, who had assumed the conduct of an affair so 
congenial, they returned to their hall, and, utterly cowed, degraded, 
and ashamed, voted the suspension of twenty deputies, two Ministers 
(Claviere and Lebrun), and of ten of the Committee of Twelve. At 
11 p.m. the Convention — after a sitting of twelve hours — was at length 
permitted to break up by its new master, the Mob. 



18—2 



276 



CHAPTER X. 

THE FOREIGN POLICY OF PITT TO THE OUTBREAK OF 
WAR WITH FRANCE. 

The War of Independence, which terminated in 1783 by the 
recognition of the United States in the TVeaty of Versailles, had left 
England without a friend in Europe. France, Spain, and the United 
Provinces had taken up arms against her ; Russia had placed herself at 
the head of an armed neutrality, directed against the predominance of 
British sea power, which was joined by the maritime nations of the 
north, Austria was in close connexion with Russia ; and Prussia, in 
the declining years of Frederick the Great, was an uncertain factor in 
European politics. England therefore was in a condition of entire 
isolation. In addition her finances were in confusion; and Ireland, 
although conciliated by the comparative independence of Grattan's 
Parliament, could hardly be regarded as a source of strength. Such 
was the position of Great Britain when William Pitt, at the age of 
twenty-four, was on December 19, 1783, appointed First Commissioner 
of the Treasury. 

For the first ten years of his ministry Pitt devoted himself to the 
recovery by England of that place in the councils of Europe which 
she had previously held, and which it was her right to occupy. The 
first two years were spent in placing the finances on a solid foundation, 
and in framing a measure of free trade with Ireland, which the jealousies 
of the two countries, expressed by their Parliaments, did not allow to be 
carried into effect. His next step was to conclude a commercial treaty 
with France, which was highly favourable to this country, and would 
have been more so if the prejudices of his Cabinet had not frustrated the 
designs of the pupil of Adam Smith. By a mixture of audacity and 
adroitness he broke the projects of France for a maritime alliance with 
the Republican Netherlands by restoring the authority of the Stadholder 
(William V) and making the Provinces the assured friend of England. 
Prussia was also brought into the combination, so that there was 
formed in Eiurope a strong triple alliance. England, supported by a 
naval State on one side, and a military State on the other, could speak 



i784r-93] Carmarthen Foreign Secretary. 277 

with a voice which commanded attention. The French Revolution, 
which broke out in the following year, has thrown the Triple Alliance 
of 1788 into the shade; but it was for four years the dominating 
authority in Europe, an authority which always made for peace. 

These successes will be recorded in the following pages. They ended 
with the conclusion of the Peace of Sistova in August, 1791, on wliich 
occasion Sir Robert Mmray Keith, whose labours had brought it about, 
wrote to his sisters that he had made the best peace which had been made 
these fifty years, and had helped essentially in the general pacification of 
Europe. How vain are the predictions of man ! The ink of the treaty 
was scarcely dry when the French government declared war against the 
Emperor ; and on February 1, 1793, France made a similar declaration 
against England and the United Provinces. The remaining years of 
Pitt's ministry do not concern us here. The fair fabric of European 
peace, founded upon industrial prosperity, was shattered. But it may 
be doubted whetiier the triumphs of these first ten years, which made 
England prosperous at home and respected abroad, have ever been 
siupassed in the annals of our country. 

Pitt chose as his Foreign Secretary the Marquis of Carmarthen, 
afterwards Duke of Leeds. His political memoranda give us precise 
information with regard to his own views of our foreign relations, and 
reveal, incidentally, the views of the Cabinet. It was necessary for 
England to find some ally in Europe, and Carmarthen had not risen 
above the prejudice of considering France as oiu: natural enemy. The 
alliance between France and Austria, which had been formed by Kaunitz 
in 1756, was regarded as unnatural and menacing to the peace of the 
world ; and it was Carmarthen's principal object to put an end to it. If 
Carmarthen had possessed more political insight he would have seen that 
the alliance between France and Austria was rather a hindrance to the 
action of both than a mutual assistance. In Austria Joseph II, after 
sharing power with his mother Maria Theresa, had recently succeeded to 
independent sovereignty; and it was rather against him than against 
France that the suspicions of the English Foreign Office should have 
been directed. Full of good intentions, with a just insight into the evils 
and defects of his time, he failed in all his undertakings, and stirred up 
bitterness and rebellion where he desired nothing but prosperity and 
good-will. He believed that reforms, which required the most delicate 
handling, could be effected by the issue of imperial edicts ; and we have 
a picture of him in his closet, drafting proclamations at his writing-table, 
which his minister promptly put into the fire. Learning nothing by the 
failure of his domestic projects, he exasperated the Dutch by demolishing 
the Barrier Fortresses, by opening the navigation of the Scheldt, and by 
reviving ancient claims to the possession of Maestricht. He roused the 
ill-feeling of Grermany and Europe by projecting the annexation of 
Bavaria to the Austrian dominions in exchange icfr Belgium. This 



278 Jealousy of France. [i784 

gave Prussia an opportunity of placing herself at the head of the League 
of German Princes, directed against the predominance of Austria, which 
was an important step in the long duel between these two Powers which 
culminated at Sadowa. It was not to be expected that France could 
sympathise with these restless movements. She desired that the peace 
of Europe should be preserved, and she wished to maintain the friend- 
ship £ind the maritime power of Holland. She was also anxious to 
keep on good terms with Frederick the Great ; and the schemes for the 
partition of Turkey, which Joseph formed in conjunction with Bussia;, 
were entirely opposed to the traditional policy and to the best interests 
of the French nation. 

A wise -minister would also have penetrated and distrusted the policy 
of Catharine II, who ruled Russia for thirty-four years. It is humiliating 
to read in the correspondence of Sir James. Harris and of Fitzherbert 
of the efforts which England made to secure the friendship of Kussia, and 
of the ill-success which attended them. We went so far as to offer the 
Empress the possession of Minorca; but, tempted as she was by the 
proposal, her calm judgment realised that the acceptance of it would 
endiknger objects which were to her of much greater importance. How- 
ever friendly she might seem, and however much she might appear to be 
occupied by her literary and other favourites, her cool head always kept 
the aggrandisement of Russia steadily in view. The two Powers, at 
whose expense she hoped to, increase her dominions and her influence, 
were Poland and Tm-key. Her eyes were fixed upon Constantinople,, 
which it was not for thfe interests of either France or England that she 
should possess. By opposing France we were playing into the hands of 
Russia. 

A statesman ought to have had some prescience of the calamity which 
was soon to overwhelm the monarchy of France, and to have seen that, 
with an outward appearance of majesty and strength, it was rotten 
to the core, and was hastening to the catastrophe of the Revolution. 
Pitt, in concluding his commercial treaty with France, saw that the true 
interests ipf England, lay in the peaceful development of French commerce 
and industry, which Louis XVI and his ministers were desirous to en- 
courage. By this policy France would have been strengthened to cope with 
those tumultuous passions, which, when let loose, were to carry havoc 
into every portion of the civilised world. But in the eyes of Carmarthen, 
and of the majority of Englishmen, France was still the hereditary enemy 
of England; and every intrigue or movement in Europe, however remote, 
was attributed to her malicious influence. We knocked at the door of 
every chancery. When Russia refused to listen to us we tried to excite 
the suspicions of Kaunitz ; and his declaration that France had no hostile 
designs, and was indeed incapable of mischief, ; only made Carmarthen 
more certain of a secret plot. Our ambassador at Vienna was directed 
to assure the Emperor not only that we had no objection to his opening 



1784] Change . of policy in Denmark. 279 

the navigation of the Scheldt, but that there was no object of ambition, 
however extravagant, which we shoxild not be prepared to support, if he 
would only surrender his unnatiural alliance with the House of Bourbon. 
Pitt was not an attentive listener to such querulous forebodings. In the 
early years of his ministry he paid but little attention to foreign politics; 
and, when at last induced to consider with some show of approval plans 
for separating Austria from France, and for forming some system on the 
Continent to counterbalance the House of Bourbon, he took care to 
express the strongest conviction that it was necessary to avoid, if possible, 
entering into any engagements which were likely to embroil England 
in a new war. The objects which Pitt had mainly at heart were peace, 
retrenchment, and reform. He believed that Britain, solvent and 
xmited, would be a tower of strength in a bankrupt and distracted 
Europe. 

The first country to change its attitude towards England was Den- 
mark, which had been one of the parties to the Armed Neutrality. In 
1784 Denmark was virtually governed by Queen Juhana Maria, step- 
mother of the imbecile King, Christian VII, husband of the imfortunate 
Carolina Matilda, sister of George III. With the assistance of her 
Minister, Count Guldberg, she put her own son, Prince Frederick, 
prominently forward, while she kept her grandson, the Prince Royal, under 
the strictest tutelage, and removed from the Court Coimt Andreas Peter 
Bemstorff, who was known to be favourable to English interests. Efforts 
had been made to keep the Crown Prince in a state of childish dependency, 
and to cramp his abilities; but he had a large share of penetration, firmness, 
and self-command, so that he not only realised the position in which he 
was placed, but was able to control his feelings until the time for action 
arrived. Hugh EUiot, one of the most brilliant of English diplomatists, 
was now Minister at Copenhagen, and his subtle and intriguing spirit 
soon found material to work upon. He discovered that Count Bemstorff 
was in commimication with the capital, and contrived to have an inter- 
view with him in Mecklenburg, and to arrange a plan by which the 
government of Denmark could be overthrown, and a system more favour- 
able to England put in its place. On January 28, 1784, the Prince 
Royal completed his sixteenth year; and, on being shortly afterwards 
confirmed, he became, according to the Danish Constitution, capable 
of taking part in the government; but he stiU concealed his designs. 
At length, on April 14, at a Council attended by the King, Prince 
Frederick, Count Guldberg, and others, the Prince Royal suddenly rose 
and read a paper stating the absolute necessity of a change in the policy 
of the government, and concluding with the names of those whom he 
wished to be admitted to the Council. He then handed the paper to 
his father; and, after: some altercation with Prince Frederick, the 
King signed it. A second document was then executed, which provided 
that no order of Council should henceforth be valid unless it' was 



280 ..\ Austria and Btissia. [1784 

countersigned by the Prince Royal. BemstorfF was recalled, Guldberg 
was dismissed, and in the evening the Prince proceeded quietly tb a 
Court ball. Elliot was full of admiration for the youthful hero of the 
revolution, who had kept his secret for two years, during which 
time he had carried on private communications and correspondences 
with various people^ until the time had come for him to declare 
himself. 

This revolution brought about some change in the politics of the 
north. Sweden was displeased at Denmark having a<x][uired the strength 
of an independent position ; and Carmarthen suspected that she was 
plotting against Denmark for the possession of Norway, and that she 
would be assisted in this enterprise by France, between whom and Sweden 
there undoubtedly existed a very close connexion. He smelt out a plot 
by which Sweden was to grant to France the use of the port of Goteborg, 
receiving the West-Indian island of St Bartholomew in exchange; and he 
succeeded in getting a joint note addressed by the Cotnrts of St Peters- 
burg and Copenhagen to the Court of Stockholm to enquirie what were 
the intentions :of France in this respect. To these matters Pitt applied 
only a moderate attention, partly because he was occupied with other 
things, and partly because he did not share Carmarthen's fefeling' of 
insecurity. The friendship of Denmark being assured, Carmarthen 
endeavoured to effect an alliance with Russia and with Austria. If 
Austria could not be gained he would turn his attention to Prussia. 
But Russia must come first, not only from her intrinsic importance, but 
from the weight and influence which she exercised over the cabinets of 
Vienna and Berlin. It was indeed impossible without the help of 
Russia to sever the connexion between Austria and France, which our 
Foreign Office regarded as disastrous to England and dangerous to 
Europe. Russia might object to making an alliance with England, the 
secular enemy of France, who was the chosen friend of Catharine's ally, 
the Emperor of Austria, or with Prussia, who was the constant and 
natural rival of Austria in Germany. On the other hand, an alliance of 
England with Berlin and Copenhagen might seriously offend both the 
Imperial Courts. Joseph II, with his awkward restlessness, was about to 
show the British government a way out of the difficulty by making an 
attack on the liberties both of Holland and of Belgium. 

A strict alliance had been concluded between Joseph and Catharine in 
May, 1781, expressed not in a formal document, but in a mutual exchange 
of letters. Austria guaranteed to Russia the possession of European 
Russia, and of her dominions in Poland, as well as the maintenance of 
Poland in the position of 1773; and in return Austria received the 
guarantee of her dominions, including the Low Countries and her pos- 
sessions in Poland. Joseph also bound himself to keep the Porte to the 
strict observance of treaties, and, if Russia should declare war against 
Turkey, to join her in the campaign three months later with the same 



I'zss-s] The opening of the Scheldt. 281 

number of troops. This alliance was directed primarily against Turkey, 
but also against Prussia. It was a profound secret ; Frederick the Great 
had a suspicion of it, but knew nothing for certain. Thus fortified 
Joseph turned his attention to the Barrier and the Scheldt. By the 
Treaty of Utrecht the Dutch occupied, as a barrier, seven Belgian 
fortresses with 14,000 men at the cost of Belgium ; while the closing of 
the Scheldt was secured by the Treaty of Miinster in 1648. Joseph began 
by razing all the barrier fortresses, most of which had fallen into ruin, 
maintaining, however, the defences of Luxemburg, Ostend, and the 
citadel of Antwerp. In November, 1783, he demanded the restitution 
of the frontier between Belgium and HoUand on the lines of 1664, the 
demolition of the Dutch fortresses on the Scheldt, the removal of the 
guard-ships, and the surrender of Maestricht. 

If Joseph reckoned upon the support of the French alliance he was 
mistaken. France took the side of Holland against the Emperor, but 
when war became imminent offered her mediation. It was proposed that . 
Belgium should enjoy the open navigation of the Scheldt, but that 
Maestricht should remain with the United Provinces. Joseph, irritated 
by delay, took a high tone, whUe the Dutch, excited in their turn, refused 
to open the river. The Emperor determined to force the passage, and 
sent a brigantine down the Scheldt, which on October 8, 1784, was fired 
upon by the Dutch, while another ship, sailing up the river, was captured. 
The Imperial Ambassador left the Hague; Wassenaer was withdrawn 
from Vienna ; and the Dutch Commissioner retired from Brussels. An 
Austrian army was collected in Belgium, but without artiUery or pon- 
toons. The Dutch could offer only a feeble resistance, but they opened 
their sluices and flooded the country. King Frederick of Russia 
naturally opposed the Emperor, and a European war seemed imminent. 
This was averted by an armistice which resulted in the Treaty of 
Fontainebleau, signed on November 8, 1785. The Scheldt remained 
closed, and the Emperor gave up his claim to Maestricht on the receipt 
of ten millions of florins. Frederick, an astute observer of politics, 
blamed Joseph for his undue haste both in threatening war and in 
making peace. 

Coincident with the question of the Scheldt was that of the Bavarian 
exchange, a scheme of Joseph for incorporating the Bavarian with the 
Austrian dominions, and giving Belgium to the Elector of Bavaria with 
the title of the King of Burgundy. France seemed not indisposed to 
consent ; Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria, who was sixty years old 
and without children, was favourable to the plan, and Catharine of 
Russia gave her approval. Frederick, now nearing his end, watched 
very closely a scheme which would give Austria an advantage in the 
rivalry between the two great German Powers. In July, 1785, the 
Furstenbrnid, or League of Princes, was formed to oppose the plan, 
and was joined by a majority of the Electors. Vergennes, after long 



282 The Etirstenbund. [i785 

wavering, declared himself opposed to it, and the Emperor had to give 
it up. This was the last triumph of Frederick the Great. When he 
died on August 13, 1786, Joseph could breathe more freely. 

We have seen that the English Foreign Office distrusted Frederick, 
and thought that it might be the best policy for England in her isolated 
condition to associate herself, in appearance at least, with the ambitious 
designs of the Emperor. But we possessed fortunately at the Hague a 
great diplomatist with a clearer insight and a stronger will. Sir James 
Harris, destined afterwards, as Lord Malmesbury, to dominate the fortunes 
of the United Provinces, had now come to England to communicate with 
the Cabinet, and, in May, 1785, he argued strongly for an alliance with 
Prussia. He pointed out that Austria and France were united for 
purposes of mutual aggrandisement — a statement not so true as it may 
have seemed to be to contemporaries — and that Russia was closely 
connected with Austria, and Spain with France. If these five Powers 
were linked together their influence would be felt by the whole of Europe, 
but especially by England and Prussia, who must therefore concert 
measures for mutual safety. If England wished Prussia to be clear and 
explicit she must be clear and explicit herself; she must meet the King 
of Prussia half way and be ready to make an alliance with him. K 
England and Prussia acted together, a league of Princes would be formed 
against the aggrandisement of Austria ; Russia would be separated from 
the Emperor ; Denmark would be preserved ; Sweden would be rendered 
innocuous. This would be a union of defence and security, not one of 
attack and ambition. All past transactions must be forgotten, all future 
contingencies overlooked, and the importance of the moment alone 
attended to. France must on no account have the Low Countries ; and, 
if Prussia would exert herself to prevent this, England would use similar 
exertions to prevent Austria from absorbing Bavaria. The alliance was 
to be formed on these grounds. 

Austria and Russia were naturally opposed to an alliance between 
England and Prussia, and to the accession of Hanover to the Fiirstenbund. 
On May 26, 1785, we find Count Kazeneck, the Austrian minister, 
protesting against the idea that the Emperor intended to employ force 
to carry out any of his projects, and complaining of a newspaper report 
that the King of England was one of the chief promoters of the League 
of Princes. Carmarthen replied that his master would doubtless ever 
prove himself, in his Electoral capacity, a zealous assertor of the liberties 
and rights of the Empire ; and that, if there was no design of infringing 
themj no measures of a defensive nature in favour of them ought to give 
offence. Kazeneck said that an equitable exchange, agreed to by both 
parties, could not create alarm any more than if he and Carmarthen 
were to exchange their watches. Carmarthen replied that the value of 
both watches should be ascertained, and that what was to be given in 
exchange should be well known. Kazeneck rejoined that the House of 



1785] I'he Treaty of Fontainebleau. 283 

Austria acquired too much advantage from the possession of the Low 
Countries to think of bartering them against Bavaria, 

The Russian ambassador at the Court of St James' at this time was 
Count Woronzoff, whose letters from England, recently published, are of 
great value to the historian. He was strongly in favour of an alliance 
between England and Russia, and could not understand why England 
shoxild prefer the friendship of Prussia. Calling on Carmarthen on 
June 14, he dwelt earnestly on this point. He said that the Courts of 
Versailles and Vienna, xmder an appearaiice of friendship, entertained the 
deepest distrust of each other. The Emperor believed that he would 
ultimately overreach France, but he was mistaken. France was making 
every preparation for war, and would in the course of a year throw oiF the 
mask and attack the Emperor. We know now how erroneous this 
forecast was. Woronzoff then approached the subject of the Fursten- 
bund. The accession of Hanover to this League would certainly throw 
the Emperor into the arms of France, and would play into the hands of 
France and Prussia, by preventing any possibility of an understanding 
between Austria and England. Carmarthen admitted that his own 
favourite scheme was an alliance between England and the two Imperial 
Courts of Russia and Austria, but that the Emperor had received every 
overture with coldness, and seemed desirous either of seeing England 
totally unconnected with the Continent, which was also the wish of 
France, or else of forcing her to connect herself with Prussia, a course 
which Carmarthen would never support unless compelled to do so by 
the Emperor. Carmarthen added that the interest of England was to 
prevent the Low Countries from ever being alienated, directly or in- 
directly, to France, which would be a most serious matter. As a fact 
the King of England signed the League, as Elector of Brunswick- 
Luneburg, on July 23, 1785. 

It has already been stated that the Treaty of Fontainebleau between 
the Emperor and the States General was signed on November 8, 1785. 
Two days later a treaty of aUiance between France and the Provinces 
was concluded at the same place. By this treaty, which was ratified on 
Christmas Day, France was to furnish troops, and her ally ships, for their 
mutual succour; neither was to make peace or to contract alliance without 
the consent of the other. At the same time, by a treaty of commerce, 
each party was to favoiu: as far as possible the interest and advantage of 
the other, by rendering to the other every assistance on all occasions ; 
and they were not to listen to any negotiations or treaties which 
might be detrimental to each other, but to give notice of such negotia- 
tions as soon as they were proposed. These treaties were considered at 
the time as a great blow to the power of Great Britain. Vergennes was 
able to pose as the pacificator general of the universe. In the words 
of the Annual Register, it could not but be a grievous consideration to 
Englishmen that, while France, through the happiness of great ministers 



284 The treaty of commerce toith France. [iTse 

•at home, and their choice of able negotiators abroad, was spreading 
her consequence and extending her influence through the nations of 
the earth. Great Britain, through some unaccountable fatality, seemed 
to be fallen from that high seat in which she had so long and gloriously 
presided, and to be no longer considered, or almost unremembered, in 
the general politics or system of Europe. Thus at the close of 1785 
was Holland tied to the chariot wheels of France. But matters were 
soon to assume a diflferent complexion. 

One result of the closer relations established between France and the 
United Provinces was the conclusion of a commercial treaty between 
England and France. The eighteenth article of the Treaty of Versailles 
contained a provision that commissioners ' should be appointed on either 
side to draw up arrangements of commerce between the two nations, on 
the basis of reciprocity and mutual convenience, and that these arrange- 
ments were to be completed within the space of two years, dating from 
January 1, 1784. The English Ministry were not very anxious to carry 
this clause into effect. In order to put pressure upon England to fulfil 
her engagements the French government issued edicts in July, 1785, 
forbidding the importation of a number of British manufactures. Only 
raw material was allowed to be imported from England ; and shop- 
keepers were forbidden to exhibit advertisements of " marchandises 
dPAngteterre!" After the friendship between France and Holland had 
been established by the Treaty of Fontainebleau Pitt saw that further 
delay would be dangerous. In December, writing a letter signed by 
Carmarthen, he asked for a further extension of the time, which was 
just expiring, in order to arrange a commercial system founded on 
the law of mutual and reciprocal advantage — a system which might form 
a solid and permanent connexion between the trading part of the two 
countries. Vergennes granted an extension of six months, which might 
be extended to twelve. William Eden, better known by the title after- 
wards conferred on him of Lord Auckland, was selected as negotiator. 
Eden had hitherto been attached to the' Opposition, and was a friend 
of Lord North and Lord Loughborough. Indeed he was abused by 
his former associates for deserting his party. He possessed a clear head 
and great industry^ and probably no better instrument could have been 
selected for the work. The treaty was strongly opposed by Fox, who 
argued that our commercid prosperity had never been so great as when 
our relations with France were most strained. 

Eden reached Paris on March 20, 1786. The principal difficulty 
in arriving at an agreement lay in the Methuen Treaty, made with 
Portugal in 1703, which provided that Portuguese wines should be 
imported into England at a duty one-third less than those of any 
other country. Pitt, who was a disciple of Adam Smith, with economic 
principles far in advance of his age, was personally willing to abrogate 
the Methuen Treaty, to receive French wines and brandies on the 



1786] Provisions of the treaty of commerce. 285 

terms of the most favoured nation, and even to make an abatement 
below the lowest rate of duty at present existing. France was eager 
for this step to be taken, but George III and his other Ministers 
were too much prejudiced to yield. The Methuen Treaty was not 
abrogated till 1831, and the importation of French wines did not 
become eflFective till 1860. The decision unfortunately lay with the 
narrow intelligence of Jenkinson, afterwards created successively Lord 
Hawkesbuiy and Lord Liverpool. He was inspired by traditional 
jealousy of the French and could not believe them to be sincere. 
A principle of reciprocity had to be substituted for that of Free Trade. 
After much discussion the duty on French wines was lowered to that 
paid at the time by the wines of Portugal ; but the duty on Portuguese 
wines was reduced by one-third, in accordance with the provisions of the 
Methuen Treaty. French silks, even in the form of ribbons, were 
entirely excluded, owing to the opposition of the Spitalfields weavers. 
Hardware and cutlery were admitted to either country at a duty not 
exceeding 10 per cent., cottons and woollens at a duty not exceeding 
12 per cent. Cambrics and linens, the products of France and of 
Ireland respectively, were admitted at moderate rates. 

The treaty contained other provisions of a more general character. 
It established a reciprocal and entirely perfect liberty of navigation and 
commerce between tiie subjects of the two countries. In the case of the 
outbreak of war a year's notice was to be given to the subjects of either 
Crown for the removal of their persons or their effects. Both sovereigns 
reserved the right of countervailing, by additional duties, the internal 
duties imposed on manufactures, or the export duties charged on the 
raw material of certain articles. Besides this, contraband was defined, 
and the manner in which the visitation of ships was to be conducted in 
time of war was determined. It was provided that the neutral flag 
should not cover the enemy's goods, and that the property foimd on 
enemies' ships should be fair prize, unless it had been embarked before the 
declaration of war. The duration of the treaty was limited to twelve years. 

It is difficult to pronounce an opinion upon a treaty concluded with 
France so short a time before the outbreak of the French Revolution. 
It is possible that the economic advantage remained with England, and 
that our hardware and linens found a market in France which French 
wines and brandies failed to obtain here. But the higher considerations 
of policy, which were certainly in the mind of Pitt, are expressed in 
a letter from Rayneval to Barthelemy, written on the conclusion of the 
treaty: "The balance which will result from the treaty is uncertain; but 
whatever may happen, we shall at least have acquired the unappreciable 
advantage of insensibly diminishing the national hatred, which has 
hitherto separated France from England, of substituting a legitimate for 
a fraudulent commerce, and of turning the profits of contraband to the 
advantage of the State. These considerations are more important than 



286 England and Holland. [i786 

the indiscreet clamours which dishonest persons are certain to permit 
themselves both in France and in England;'' 

We must now return to the affairs of the United Provinces. This is 
not the place to show how their constitution oscillated between an 
oligarchy of provincial Estates, supported by Prance, and the government 
of : the Stadholder, which resembled a monarchy and was favoured by 
England, or to trace the steps by which the power of the Stadholder had 
gradually declined. During the first months of 1786 France was gaining 
increased influence, and the Stadholder was subject to continual insults 
and attacks. Party feeling ran so high that the Province of Zealand 
proposed to detach itself' froin the rest of the confederation and to place 
itself under the protection of England^ a step which could not be taken 
without a war. The English Cabinet was not prepared for war; but 
it offered the Prince of Orange material support if. he would place 
himself at the head of the party which was disposed to favour him. 
A memorial was also presented to the States General, warning them of 
the ambition of France and expressing the interest felt by England in 
the maintenance of the power of the Stadholder. When relations were 
at the utmost degree of tension Frederick the Great died, and was 
succeeded by his nephew, the brother of the Princess of Orange. Our 
ambassador describes him as a poor specimen of a King, tall, but 
imdignified and , ungraceful, sensible, but not refined or elevated in his 
ideas. He adds that his moral character is low and that he is much in 
debt, but that he is strongly attached to England, and that he wishes to 
marry his daughter to the Prince of Wales; 

The first step of the new King of Prussia was to send Count Gortz as 
ambassador to the Hague ; but this had no effect on the conduct of the 
Estates of Holland. They stimulated the formation of free-corps through- 
out the country; and the Prince, feeling his life insecure, by the advice 
of Harris surrounded himself with a guard. In September the Estates of 
Holland suspended the Stadholder from his functions and rescinded the 
Act of 1766, which gave him the power of military nominations. The 
Patriots, as they were called, held a meeting at the French ambassador's 
bouse, where they discussed the advisability of proclaiming the Stad- 
holder an enemy of the Republic, depriving him of his office, and declar- 
ing it no longer hereditary in his family. As an answer to this Gortz was 
reca;lled by his sovereign. Harris wrote to Pitt, on November 28, giving 
a retrospect of his mission, pointing out the danger of the Dutch being 
under French influence and direction in politics, and asking that the 
friends whom he had succeeded in gaining for England might not be 
abandoned. Pitt replied with great caution, but in terms which were 
more decided than either Harris or Carmarthen expected. Carmarthen 
wrote in exultation, " Now we have raised his attention to the important 
object in question, we must by all means endeavour to keep it up, and 
not suffer Holland to be sacrificed either to lawn or cambric." 



1787] The Stadholder and the Patriots. 287 

The two partiesj Orange and Republican, were at this time almost 
equally balanced; but the supporters of the Stadholder became 
gradually more numerous. Nearly all the peasantry were in his favour, 
and he had a majority in Rotterdam and Utrecht. Towards the 
end of March opinion began to change in the States of Holland itself. 
The situation of the Republican party became extremely critical. In 
their principal stronghold of Amsterdam they were weakened; in Rotter- 
dam they were completely mastered ; Friesland, Utrecht, Zealandy and 
Gelderland were against them, and Overyssel alone on their side. Just 
at this time Harris came to England. He found some members of the 
Cabinet in favour of intervention, but Pitt was more cautious. He said 
that if we did anything we must be ready for war. Harris insisted on 
the danger, probably illusory, of France attacking England with the 
assistance of Holland; but Pitt, in a characteristic utterance, depre- 
cated any interruption to the growth of affluence and prosperity in the 
country, and asked whether this was not increasing so fast as to make 
her able to resist any force which France could collect for some years 
to come. Eventually a Cabinet minute was presented to the King, 
advising pecuniary assistance to the Stadholder to the amount of 
£20,000 advanced as loan or otherwise. 

As soon as Harris returned to the Hague a plan of action was 
agreed upon. The Prince was to place himself at the head of the 
army commanded by Van der Hop at Amersfort, which was joined 
by English officers who volunteered for service, and every day grew 
in numbers. The Princess of Orange, a lady of great spirit and ac- 
complishments, who exercised a deep fascination over Hands, suddenly 
left Nymegen and went to the camp at Amersfort. She then continued 
her journey to the Hague, but was stopped in the neighbourhood of 
Gouda by some free-corps and carried under a strong guard to 
Schonhoven, where she weis treated with some indignity. The States 
of Holland passed a resolution approving of her capture, but after a 
short time she was released and returned to Nymegen. She wrote to 
her brother, the King of Prussia, urging him to avenge the insult 
passed upon her, and, with the characteristic hastiness of his disposi- 
tion, he immediately prepared to march troops into Holland. This 
gave rise to a critical situation. The French were pledged by treaty 
to defend the Dutch if attacked, but England could not allow her 
friend the Stadholder to be crushed under her eyes. The despatches 
on this subject, preserved in the Record Office, are well worth studying. 
There is one dated July 27, 1787, which, by the frequent erasures 
and the sentences contributed in autograph by the different Ministers, 
shows the care with which it was drafted. 

On September 13, 1787, the Prussian ariny, under the command 
of the Duke of Brunswick, advanced from Cleves and entered Gelder- 
land. At the same time Pitt wrote to Eden, who was still in Paris, 



288 The Triple Alliance. [i788 

that the Court of Versailles must a,baDdon the project of extending 
its influence in the United Provinces by altering their constitution. 
The authority of the Stadholder must be preserved ; and, if the 
French will not accept these principles, the question must be decided 
by war. They must, as things stand, give up the idea of exercising a 
predominant influence in the Republic, or they must be prepared to 
fight for it. In this manner a war between France and England was on 
the point of breaking out, which, whatever its result, would have changed 
the destinies of Europe. But the success of Brunswick was too rapid. 
All resistance collapsed. Six days after the Prussian army had crossed 
the Vaal the Prince of Orange entered the Hague in triumph, and was 
invested with every privilege which had been taken from him. 

This result, so satisfactory to England, having been attained, it became 
necessary to provide against a similar danger in the future ; and the Court 
of Prussia m-ged us to take steps for this purpose. WiUiam GrenviUe was 
sent to Paris to strengthen Eden's hands, and to make easier for him 
the disagreeable task of subnutting the friends with whom he had 
negotiated the treaty of commerce to a serious humiliation. On October 
27 Montmorin signed a declaration that the Bang of France had not, and 
never had, the intention of interfering in the affairs of the Bepublic of the 
United Provinces ; that he retained no hostile view towards any quarter 
relative to what had passed in Holland ; that all warlike preparations 
shoiild be discontinued on either side ; and that the navies should be again 
placed on the footing of the peace establishment. A triple alliance between 
England, Holland, and Prussia, was now concluded. Lorenz Pieter van de 
Spiegel, who, as Pensionary of Zealand, had always been the warm friend 
of England, was now Grand Pensionary of Holland, and negotiated the 
treaty with England which was signed at the Hague on April 15, 1788. 
It guaranteed the hereditary Stadholderate in the House of Orange, 
and established a defensive alliance between the two countries. On 
the same day, and at the same hoiu*, a similar treaty was signed 
between the United Provinces and Prussia at Berlin. The treaty between 
England and Prussia stiU remained to be concluded. This was done at 
the Loo, where the King of Prussia was staying with his sister. It was 
effected by the strength of mind and pertinacity of Harris, working upon 
the weak and wavering disposition of Frederick William. Hariis saw 
the King on June 12 at seven in the morning ; but it was not till after 
midnight, while a brilliant company were dancing, that the King asked 
Harris to walk with him behind the ball-room, and told him that he had 
decided to conclude a provisional alliance at once, with an act of guarantee 
for the constitution of the Dutch Republic, and in the meantime to sound 
and consult with other Powers on a more general and extensive alliance. 
Harris and Alvensleben,; the Prussian Minister, had no secretaries with 
them, and spent the rest of the night in drafting the treaty with secret 
articles. Early next morning, the treaty was submitted to the King, and 



1788-93] The results of the Triple Alliance. 289 

then formally signed byAiveijsleben and Harris in the presence of van 
de Spiegel, being entitlecj the Provisional Treaty of Loo. 

Thus was concluded the Triple Alliance of 1788, a triumph for the 
foreign policy of Pitt. Finding England without friends and of no 
account in Europe, he had in five years, by establishing her finances on a 
sound basis, made her respectable and formidable. He had disregarded 
the arguments of Carmarthen to join the Courts of Austria and Russia, 
who were the freebooters of Europe, and whose plans were foredoomed to 
failure, and, following the safer guidance of Harris, had welded three 
progressive countries into a solid union, which was a guarantee for peace. 
For some time the three aUied Powers, under the hegemony of England, 
gave the law to Europe. They preverited Denmark from assisting Russia 
in her war agatinst Sweden, and gave tranquillity to the North. The 
efibrts of England were used successfully at Reicheabach to nip in the 
bud. an internecine struggle between Prussia and Austria. The Triple 
Alliance made peace between Austria and the Porte at Sistova, between 
Russia and the Porte at Jassy ; it secured the Belgian Netherlands 
to Austria; it enabled England to speak, with force and dignity to 
Spain in the dispute about Nootka Soimd, It tended to calm the 
discord of Europe, to curb the ambition of some Powers, and the revolu- 
tionary movements of others ; but it was powerless to conjure the terrible 
doom which hung over the devoted head of Prance. The whole course 
of its influence bears the impress of the serene and majestic mind of 
Pitt. Still, the advocates of non-intervention in the politics of the 
Continent may derive from it some support for their creed. It bound 
England closely with Holland, and thus was the final cause of the war 
with France in 1793. It led Pitt to contemplate the so-called Russian 
armament of 1791 ; and our desertion of Prussia, enforced by the public 
opinion of England, led to the desertion of the Coalition by Prussia at 
the Peace of Basel in 1795. 

The limits at our disposal wiU not permit us to dwell in detail upon 
all these aspects of international history ; we must confine om-selves to 
those in which England was most prominently concerned, and these are 
three ; the dispute about Nootka Sound, the Russian armament, and the 
outbreak of the war with revolutionary Prance. Scarcely had a year 
elapsed after the conclusion of the TViple Alliance when the States 
General met at Versailles, and an event occiured on the other side of the 
world which nearly brought about a European conflagration, Nootka 
Sound is a harboiu" on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is doubt- 
ful by whom it was first discovered. Perez claims to have gone there in 
1774, and Cook certainly visited the place, in 1778, and stayed there a 
long tima Retaining what he understood to be the native name of 
Nootka, he concluded on imperfect evidence that Spanish vessels had 
never been there ; but; it is not stated that he took possession of the 
country for England. For seven years after this the north-west coasts 

C. M. H. VIII. 19 



290 Nootka Soimd. ^ [1790 

of America remained deserted^ until the conclusion of peace again 
stimulated enterprise. From 1785 onward English ships, coming both 
from India and from the mother country, visited Nootka to purchase furs. 
In 1788 the Spaniards began to bestir themselves. They heard that the 
Russians were invading Alaska, and they did not wish that either their 
trade or their territorial rights should be interfered with. In the follow- 
ing year Flores, Viceroy of Mexico, sent Martinez and Haro, on the ships 
Primcesa and San Carlos, to occupy Nootka before it should be taken 
possession of by any other Power. Arriving at Nootka in June, they 
seized two English ships, the Iphigenia and the Argonaut, which they 
found there, and imprisoned their crews. These were taken to Mexico, 
but were released by the Viceroy on the ground of the friendly relations 
existing between the two nations, and the probability that the traders 
were ignorant of Spanish rights. 

The news of what had happened came to the English Cabinet through 
the Spanish ambassador on February 10, 1790. He asked that the 
men who had planned the expedition might be punished, in order to 
deter others from making settlements in Spanish territory; We had, 
unfortunately, at this time, no English Minister at Madrid, as Lord 
Auckland had left in the previous year, and his successor had not yet 
been appointed. Pitt took the matter into his own haiids and acted 
with the greatest vigour. The despatches, now extant in the Record 
Office, are written with his own pen, ajid speak with aU the imperious 
dignity of the son of Chatham. His reply to the letter of the ambassador, 
dated February 26, is to the effect that nothing is known of the facts, 
but that the act of violence mentioned by the Spanish ambass&dor must 
necessarily suspend all discussion of the claims until the seized vessel 
should be restored, and an adequate atonement should be made for a 
proceeding so injurious to Great Britain. This haughty reply meant 
war, and Spain began at once to make preparations for it. 

A breach between England and Spain was of more importance than 
might appear at first sight. The Facte de Famille, an offensive and 
defensive alliance between the two branches of the House of Bourbon, 
signed on August 15, 1765, the last of a series of similar agreements, was 
stiU in force ; and the Court of Madrid called upon that of Versailles to 
make its engagements good. The matter came before the National 
Assembly at the beginning of May ; and Mirabeau had to make up his 
mind as to the policy to be adopted, both as secret adviser to the Court, 
and as Rapportevr of the Diplomatic Committee of the Assembly. On 
June 23, 1790j he advised the Court that, if they wished to give effect to 
the Family Compact, they must get it altered in form, as the nation 
would never support an agreement which was purely dynastic in shape. 
He recommended that they should send an enVoy to Madrid for that 
purpose. The official report of Mirabeau was made to the Assembly on 
August 25. He proposed to maintain provisionally the alliance with 



i79o] Hugh Elliot and Miraheau. 291 

Spain until a union of a more national character could be formed between 
the two countries ; and he demanded that the French navy should be 
increased by thirty ships of the line, a number which the Assembly raised 
to forty-five. It is stated on the authority of Miles that Mirabeau 
received from the Spanish minister a thousand huis d'or for this service. 
Pitt became alarmed. He did not dread a war with Spain ; but a war 
with Spain and France combined was a more serious matter. He there- 
fore sought means of influencing the opinion of the Assembly through 
other channels than those of regular diplomatic intercourse. For this 
purpose he employed two instruments. One of these was William 
Augustus Miles, a friend of Lafayette, of Mirabeau, and of the leaders of 
the Jacobin Club, of which he was a member. The other was Hugh 
EUiot, the brilliant diplomatist, whose success in Denmark we have 
already narrated, who had been the friend of Mirabeau's youth. There 
are few matters in diplomatic history more wrapped in mystery than 
these two missions. The correspondence relating to both of them has 
almost entirely disappeared, and has eluded the most careftd search; 
but a little salvage from the wreck shows us the drift of tiie vessel's 
course. 

Pitt sent for Miles as early as March 4, 1790 ; but Miles did not leave 
for Paris tJU July. His son teUs us that the purport of his mission was 
precise ; he was to exert his personal influence with the view of inducing 
the National Assembly to annul the Family Compact ; and he adds that, 
although not included in his ofiicial instructions, it was understood that 
the occasion would be used to promote permanent relations between the 
two countries. The letters written by Miles to Pitt between August, 
1790, and April, 1791, have entirely disappeared, and they form the only 
gap in a voluminous correspondence. He writes, however, to Rose, on 
November SO, " I have very great pleasure in informing you that my 
mission is likely to have a fortunate issue, and that no difiiculty will be 
made to dissolve the Family Compact, provided that France can count 
upon the friendship of England in exchange." An alliance with France 
was probably more in the mind of Miles than in that of Pitt. In 
October, 1790, (Jeorge III wrote a letter to Pitt in the following terms : 
" From a thorough conviction how essential peace is to the prosperity of 
this country, it is impossible for me to object to anything that may 
have a chance of efiecting it ; though not sanguine that Mr H. EUiot 
and his French friend are likely to succeed, where caution and much 
delicacy are necessary. While oiu- ambassador and ofiicial correspondence 
are kept clear of this business, it will certainly be wise to keep up the 
proposed communication, for the sole purpose of restoring peace, but no 
encouragement must be given to forwarding the internal views of the 
democratic party. We have honourably not meddled with the internal 
dissensions of France, and no object ought to drive us from that honour- 
able ground." It may be mentioned that before Miles left London he 

J 9— 2 



292 The Nootka Convention. [i790 

had been ordered by Pitt to hold no commtmication, direct or indirect, 
with Lord Gower, 

At the beginning of October Pitt had sent an ultimatum to Madrid, 
with instructions to our minister Fitzherbert that, if it were not accepted 
within ten days, he was to quit the capital without taking leave of the 
Court, and to return to England by way of Lisbon. Thus peace and 
war hung in the balance. At this juncture Elliot was sent to Paris, 
where it is probable that he remained only a few days ; but the dates are 
difficult to ascertain. Whatever arguments Elliot used to Mirabeau or 
others — and the arguments which he used to Mirabeau may have been 
such as to accoimt for the secrecy of the transaction — they were entirely 
successful. On October 28 Mirabeau wrote to the Court that peace was 
not difficult to preserve; that England and the English Ministry did not 
desire war but were entirely anxious for peace; while Spain could not 
make war without the assistance of France, but would be beaten at the 
first cannon-shot. Before this letter was written Florida-Blanca had 
come to the conclusion that his country had neither money nor credit for 
a foreign war. The hope of allies was vain ; some Powers were hostile or 
bound to the foe, some were willing but were not worth having, others 
would ask too great a price. Russia was the most promising, America 
woidd insist upon the free navigation of the Mississippi and a large part 
of Florida, France was not to be depended upon. On October 28, the 
very date of Mirabeau's letter to the Court, the Nootka Convention was 
signed, by which England secured, and Spain retained, the rights of 
commerce, navigation, and settlement on the Pacific coast above San 
Francisco. Each nation was to have free access to the establishments of 
the other in those regions. England pledged herself, in return, to prevent 
her subjects from carrying on an illicit trade with the Spanish settle- 
ments, or from approaching within ten leagues of the coast already 
occupied by Spain. By this treaty England gained the right to trade 
and settle on the north-west coast of America, and Spain relinquished 
for ever her claims to sovereignty on this coast as founded on discovery. 

The settlement of the dispute about Nootka Sound enabled England 
to act with effect in the matter which followed the Congress of Reichen- 
bach. These events are more fully dealt with elsewhere, but a brief 
summary seems needed here. In the autumn of 1787 Turkey declared 
war against Russia ; and the alliance between Russia and Austria became 
effective ; and on December 17, 1788, the fortress of Oczakoff was taken 
by Potemkin after a long siege, with great loss of life. Belgrade fell before 
the Austrians on October 9, 1789. The Ottoman Empire seemed tottering 
to its fall, and was only saved by the death of Joseph 11, who had made 
the alliance with Catharine. On January 80, 1790, just before the Em- 
peror's death, Prussia had concluded an offensive and defensive alliance 
with the Porte. It was arranged that in the spring a Turkish army should 
invade Austrian territory from the side of Bosnia, while a Prussian army 



1790] The Convention of Rdchenbach. 293 

advanced firom the north. Joseph was not ignorant of this combination, 
and wrote to Loudon that he expected to be attacked both by Poland 
and Prussia. He made preparations for resistance. An army 130,000 
strong was stationed in Bohemia and Moravia, 100,000 men were massed 
on the defensive in the Banat, and 30,000 in Galicia. Belgium appeared 
to be lost ; Himgary and Poland were ready for revolution ; the mind of 
the Emperor turned towards peace. But on February 20, 1790, he died, 
a broken-hearted man, conscious of a wasted life. 

A month after his accession, the new Emperor, Leopold II, wrote 
with his own hand to Frederick William of Prussia to propose peace ; 
while England, who was connected with Prussia by the Triple Alliance, 
declared that she had no desire to weaken Austria, would be satisfied 
with a peace on the basis of the status quo, and would only assist Prussia 
if she were attacked. The dream of Hertzberg, the acquisition of Danzig 
and Thorn by Prussia in exchange for Galicia, which Austria was to 
surrender to Poland, began to fade away. The answer, however, sent by 
Frederick WiUiam to Leopold was not very satisfactory ; and in June a 
Prussian army began to assemble in Silesia. The King joined it at 
Schonwalde on June 18, and told the Emperor that he was determined 
to make war unless his demand for the cession of Galicia was complied 
with. Leopold was therefore compelled to mobilise an army to act 
against Prussia. England was at this time embarrassed by the affair of 
Nootka Sound, and was anxious to avoid further complications in Europe. 
Pitt also had no wish for the aggrandisement of Prussia, and peace was 
in the forefront of his policy. So when the representatives of Holland 
and England came to Reichenbach they declared that they would sup- 
port nothing but a peace on the basis of the status quo. Lucchesini, 
the Prussian minister, weis summoned from Warsaw, and informed the 
King that Poland would never consent to the surrender of Danzig and 
Thorn. The King, ever subject to gusts of feeling, suddenly changed 
his policy, threw over Hertzberg, and determined to make peace. The 
^atus quo was accepted, and the convention of Reichenbach was signed 
on July 27, 1790. Austria agreed to give up all her conquests in the 
late war with the Porte; and it was understood that similar sacrifices 
should be imposed upon Russia. The policy of Reichenbach, which 
averted a war between Prussia and Austria, was another triumph for the 
Triple Alliance and for Pitt. 

The Treaty of Sistova between Austria and the Porte was signed on 
August 30, 1791, but peace was not restored to Europe. The allied 
Powers had promised the Porte at Reichenbach that peace should be 
made on the principle of the statu,s quo ante beUum, that is, on the basis 
of a mutual restitution of conquests. This would have compelled Russia 
to surrender Oczakoff, which had been won at such a great sacrifice of 
life and had given so much glory to Potemkin. Catharine could not 
bring herself to make this surrender, and so the war continued. At the 



294 The Mussian Armament. [1791 

beginning of March, 1791, Frederick William wrote to Sultan Selim that 
he was ready to declare war against Russia if she would not make peace ; 
and we find in the memoranda of the Duke of Leeds that Cabinets were 
held on March 21 and 22 at which it was decided to send a fleet to the 
Baltic and a squadron to the Black Sea for the same object. Grenville 
was opposed to these measures and preferred to increase the armaments 
at home. However, a Cabinet minute was drawn up and delivered to 
the King on March 25 agreeing to inform the King of Prussia that a 
fleet of from 35 to 40 sail would be sent into the Baltic, and a squadron 
of 10 or 12 ships of the line into the Black Sea to assist the Turks and 
to combine with the advance of the Prussian troops on the frontiers of 
Livonia, and also to present an ultimatum to, the Court of St Petersburg. 
The messenger bearing these documents was despatched to Berlin on 
March 27. Two days later a message was sent to Parliament, and the 
address in answer to it was carried by a large majority in both Houses. 
Fox, however, was strenuous in opposition ; and Ministers began to doubt 
whether the country would ever support a war with Russia. At a Cabinet 
held on March 30, the Duke of Richmond, Lord Straflbrd, and Lord 
Grenville, seemed to think that a change of plan was desirable, whereas 
the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chatham, Pitt, and the Duke of Leeds, were 
opposed to any alteration. On the next day Pitt had a long conversation 
with the Duke of Leeds, and told him that several members attached to 
the government had voted against the address in the House of Commons, 
and that the feeling of the Opposition was rising. The Duke said that if 
there were any change of policy he would resign. Pitt replied that he 
felt not only for him but with him; but he urged the consequences which 
the breaking up of the Ministry might produce to the country in general 
and to the King in particular. The rest of the Cabinet were sent for. 
Lord Straiford declared that he had not slept all night, but pronounced 
himself against action, in which he was followed by the Duke of Rich- 
mond and Lord Grenville. Lord Camden was neutral. At the close of 
the conversation it became certain that a change of policy was inevitable. 
The Cabinet met again in the evening, and sat through the night. At 
3 a.m. on April 1, a despatch was drafted by Pitt and signed, somewhat 
reluctantly, by the Duke of Leeds, asking for a temporary delay, the 
reasons for which should be explained later. 

The opposition of the country to a war with Russia became every 
day more pronounced; and Pitt was in receipt of further information 
which made him less averse to accepting a compromise. The dispute 
between England and Russia turned, as we have said, on the surrender of 
Oczakofi: Lord Auckland, the intimate friend of Pitt, was at this time 
British Minister at the Hague. He was the most trusted and one of the 
most able of the English diplomats of his generation ; and all the threads 
of the diplomacy of Eiu-ope passed through his hands. He was strongly 
opposed to oin: going to war with Russia, and indeed to any war at all. 



i79i] Resignation of the Duke of Leeds. 296 

He writes to Lord Grenville, "It is to me wonderful that any man 
possessing any object whatever of honour, property, or security in any 
established government under the sun, can incline to increase the con- 
fusion of the world in a moment like the present. Internal tranquillity 
seems to me to be a consideration, which, with the example of France 
before our eyes, ought to supersede all others." The cooperation of 
Holland was necessary for a war against Russia; and it was doubtful 
whether the Dutch desired war. The Dutch admiral Kinbergen, well 
acquainted with the coasts of the Black Sea, wrote a, memoir demon- 
strating that Oczakoff was of little importance compared with Sebastopol. 
Pitt, after careful consideration, determined to propose to Catharine that 
she should retain Oczakoff, but that the fortifications should be razed ; 
and despatches drafted in this sense were laid before the Cabinet on 
April 15. The Duke of Leeds refused to sign them, and permission was 
given by the King for Grenville to sign instead. Six days later the 
Duke resigned the seals of the Foreign OfBce, and they were given to 
Lord Grenville, the King saying to him that he was influenced in his 
choice by the knowledge of his decided opinion how essential peace was 
to the welfare of the country. Though the fortifications of Oczakoff 
were not actually ra,zed, peace resulted from this proposal ; and Oczakoff 
is now of little importance. 

The Treaty of Jassy was signed on January 9, 1792 ; and the con- 
clusion of the war between Russia and the Porte set the seal to Pitt's 
aspirations for the settlement of Europe. But for one dark cloud, the 
significance of which was not yet fully apparent, a statesman might 
suppose that the peace of the world and the predominance of England 
was secured for at least a generation. When Pitt became Prime 
Minister England was isolated, nearly bankrupt, and of no account. 
In eight years of marvellous government he had reestablished the 
finances of his country, had killed the canker of smuggling, had made 
a firm alliance with two progressive Powers, disregarding the advice 
of his Foreign Minister to connect himself with the military despotisms 
of the north. By a commercial treaty with Prance he had laid the 
foundations of a friendly understanding, with our hereditary enemy. At 
the risk of war he had crushed the blundering and untoward ambition of 
Spain, and prevented, by a rare prescience, the natural expansion of 
Canada from being thwarted in a vital point. By a firm countenance at 
Reichenbach he had stopped a war between Austria and Prussia, and had 
then, partly by persuasion and partly by a show of force, constrained 
warring nations to clasp hands, Sweden and Russia at Werela, Austria 
and the Porte at Sistova, Russia and the Porte at Jassy. At little over 
thirty years of age the young Minister could look with pride on a pacified 
Europe and a dominant England, which no one could now say was over- 
shadowed by the preponderance of France. But vain are the previsions 
of man .' In a moment this fair fabric was to be swept i away by a 



296 The French Revolution. [1792 

cataclysm. The character of the Minister was to be chatiged and 
his reputation to be tarnished. As Macaulay tells us, the man whose 
name, if he had died in 1792, would have been associated with peace, 
with freedom and philanthropy, with temperate reform, with mild and 
constitutional administraitiorl, lived to associate his name with arbitrary 
government, with harsh laws harshly executed, and with the most costly 
and most sanguinary wars of modem times. He lived to be held up to 
obloquy as the stern oppressor of England and the indefatigable disturber 
of Europe. All this arose from the war with revolutionary France, which 
was declared against England by the French on February 1, 1793j and 
continued, with a short break, till 1815, nine years after Pitt had been 
laid in his grave. 

We see from the letter of George III quoted above — and this view 
might be enforced by abundant evidende — that the policy of England had 
been to enforce a strict neutrality from the first outbreak of the Revo- 
lution. England' knew nothing of the Declaration of Piilnitz ; when re- 
quested in 1791 to join a coalition against France, she had positively refused 
to do so. She was one of the first to recognise the Constitution of 1791. 
In 1792 she took measures for reducing her armaments by sea and land ; 
and, when France declared against the Emperor, she took every pains to 
assert her neutrality. Six months later she rejected overtures from the 
French Princes for similar reasons. In July, 1792, when war had broken 
out, and the French government wished Great Britain to mediate in the 
interests of peace, Chauvelin, the French ambassador, was informed that 
the King desired to preserve the present harmony, that he would never 
refuse to help in making peace, but that his intervention in the present 
state of war would be of no use unless it were done at the request of all 
the parties interested. His attitude of absolute neutrality was main- 
tained up to August 10. Grenville wrote to Lord Gower on August 9 
that Great Britain had been strictly neutral during the last four years, 
and that any departure from this attitude would only commit the King's 
name in a business in which he had hitherto kept himself unengaged, 
without any reasonable ground of its producing a good effect. With 
this view Pitt completely agreed. 

The friendly character of the relations between the two governments 
is further shown by the instructions which the Marquis de Chauvelin 
received^ when sent as ambassador to England, the document being dated 
April 19, 1792. Although Chauvelin was the official head of the French 
Mission, the most important member of it was Talleyrand, Bishop of 
Autun, who was debarred from open recognition as having been a 
member of the Constituante. Chauvelin was instructed to secure^ not only 
the neutrality of England,' but if possible her friendship and alliance. 
He was charged to use every argument to keep England out of the 
coalition against France, and to induce her to join in a mutual guarantee 
of each other's possessions. He was to propose a continuation of the 



1792] Lord Gower recalled. 297 

Commercial Treaty of 1786. He was, if possible, to obtain a loan of 
^^3,000,000 or J'4,000,000 under the guarantee of the English govern- 
ment, and was to ofiFer in return the cession of the island of Tobago, 
which had been for twenty years (1763-83) under British rule, and was 
in consequence very largely inhabited by English. 

After August 10 the aspect of affairs was entirely changed. 
Louis was a prisoner in the Temple, and the royal authority was in 
abeyance. The impression which these events made upon the English 
government may be gauged by the effect which they produced upon 
Chauvelin himself. He wrote to Lord Grenville that criminal and dis- 
astrous events had taken place in Paris, that- the security of the National 
Assembly had been violated, that men of violent passions had led the 
multitude astray. He begged the King of England to use all his influ- 
ence to prevent the armies of the enemy from invading French territory, 
giving occasion for new excesses, and compromising still further the 
liberty, the safety, and even the existence of the King and his family. 
No sooner had he sent this despatch than he discovered his mistake. He 
called on Pitt, with much agitation, and requested that the note might 
be returned to him and never mentioned. It was returned ; but a copy 
was first taken. 

It can scarcely be wondered that under these circumstances the Cabinet 
determined to recall Lord Gower from Paris. Grenville was not present 
at the Council ; but Pitt, Richmond, Chatham, Hawkesbury, and Dundas, 
all agreed. The language they used was dignified : " Under the present 
circumstances, as it appears that the executive power has been withdrawn 
from His Most Christian Majesty, the credentials under which your ex- 
cellency has hitherto acted can be no longer available ; and His Majesty 
judges it proper on this account, as well as conformable to the principle 
of neutrality which His Majesty has hitherto observed, that you should 
no longer remain at Paris. It is therefore His Majesty's pleasure that 
you should quit it and repair to England as soon as you conveniently can 
after procuring the necessary passports. In conversation, state that His 
Majesty intends to remain neutral as to the internal government of France ; 
that it is no deviation from this that he should manifest his solicitude 
for the personal situation of Their Most Christian Majesties, and that 
he earnestly and anxiously hopes they will at least be secure from any acts 
of violence, which could not fail to produce one universal sentiment of 
indignation through every country in Europe." In a circular to foreign 
ministers, dated August 21, George III again asserted his neutrality; and 
Lebnm, writing from Paris on August 23, although regretting Lord 
Gower'S recall, declared himself glad to receive the King's assurance. 

George III was quite in agreement with the views of his Cabinet in 
the recall of Lord Gower, and was of opinion that the effect produced 
on the mind of Chauvelin by the events of August 10 was an additional 
justification for the step. He writes from Weymouth, August 18, 4 p.m.. 



298 Chauvelin in London. [1792 

" The drafts to Lord Gower aiid Mr Lindsay transmitted to me by Mr 
Secretary Dundasy which were drawn in consequence of a Cabinet meeting, 
have my fullest approbation. I perfectly subscribe to the opinion that 
the note delivered by Mr Chauvelin renders the measures more necessary. 
I see no objection to the sending copies of them to him with a note 
acknowledging the receipt of his note." If Lord Gower had been con- 
tinued in Paris new credentials must have been made out, and the 
government to which they were addressed must have been recognised by 
the British government. But there was no government in France which 
we could recognise at that time. The Executive Council was only pro- 
visional ; the King was only provisionally suspended from his functions ; 
the Legislative Assembly was on the point of dissolution, and the 
National Convention was not yet summoned. The question, whether we 
should or should not have opened diplomatic relations with the French 
Republic when it was duly constituted, is quite distinct from the question 
whether we should have kept an ambassador in Paris when all govern- 
ment was in a state of transition and flux. The ambassadors of nearly 
all the other Powers left Paris at the same time. If Great Britain had 
not recalled her ambassador in August it is not probable that she would 
have allowed him to remain after the massacre of September, especially 
when it is considered that the Duke of Dorset had left Paris in 1789 
from apprehensions of his personal safety. 

Although Lord Gower was recalled from Paris, Chauvelin still 
remained in London. It has been said that, although he was disowned 
by Ministers, he knew himself to be on good terms with the Opposition, 
and that he stayed in England that he might be a centre of intrigue. 
His despatches give little countenance to this' idea ; and Talleyrand was 
too well acquainted with the principles of party government in England 
to have given it his approval; When war between England and France 
became imminent, Chauvelin held some communication with the Opposi- 
tion by means of Sheridan, who visited him secretly. But, so long as there 
was a hope of peace and even of alliance between the two countries, his 
object was to avoid all suspicion of the kind. His real fear was lest, if 
he asked permission to present his letters of recall, the King should refuse 
to receive him, and thus the rupture would be brought about which he 
and his employers were most anxious to avoid. He writes to the Foreign 
Minister, Lebrun, on August 31, "It would be natural to recall me, as 
the English have recalled Lord Gower, and I should be glad to go, but 
let me make the following observation. Lord Gower's recall is due only 
to the motive of dilicatesse monarchique. We have no such reason ; we 
wish to preserve the best intelligence with England. Besides Mr Lindsay 
remains. It might be difficult for you to draw up my letters of recall, 
or for me to present them. How very bad if I were refused an 
audience ! what a triumph for our enemies ! All the friends we have in 
England are agreed upon this point." 



1792] Maret in England. 299 

The King stayed at Weymouth from the middle of August to the 
end of September, during which time home politics were in abeyance, 
but events were moving rapidly in France. On September 20 the 
cannonade of Valmy annoimced, as Goethe said to those who heard it, 
the birth of a new era ; on October 23 a salvo of artillery all along the 
French frontier celebrated the liberation of the soil of JVance from the 
invading enemy; before the end of September the French armies had 
marched across the border. Nice was taken on September 28, Speier 
on September 30. The attacked became the aggressors; and the new 
Republic entered upon a victorious course of mingled conquest and 
propaganda. These successes did not appear to affect British interests 
until Dumouriez began to overrun Belgium. The battle of Jemappes 
was fought on November 6; and on November 14 the capture of Brussels 
laid the whole of the Austrian Netherlands at his feet. These victories 
encouraged the French to take a higher tone. Chauvelin, who had 
avoided going to Court lest he should be badly received, now asked his 
government for credentials as Minister of the Republic. He wrote to 
Lebrun on November 3, that the time had come to treat openly with 
England, and that he wished for positive instructions. It was possible 
that Britain might overlook the conquest of Belgium, but the slightest 
attempt upon Holland must summon her to arms. The French, how- 
ever, so little understood the real nature of the crisis, that Maret, 
arriving in England on November 8, having just quitted the victorious 
Dumouriez, told Chauvelin that the General had spoken with a 
light heart of throwing a few shells into Maestricht; but Chauvelin 
had sense enough to point out that this would make war with England 
inevitable. 

Maret, writing from London, explains the situation to Lebrun. He 
urges him to warn Dumouriez that if he attacks Holland it will certainly 
mean war with England. He says that war is dreaded by the City, even 
if the government desire to distract the attention of the people from 
domestic affairs, and that Dumouriez, as a "philosopher-general,'" will 
not be insensible to these arguments : that he wiU prefer the hope of a 
general peace to an additional triumph. He adds, with cynical acuteness: 
" Whether the state of our finances makes it impossible for us to go to 
wax, or the fear of letting loose upon society a mob of the unemployed 
by disbanding our armies makes peace impossible, in either case the 
attitude of England towards us is of the first importance. If we wish 
for peace, let us make an alliance with England ; if we desire war, let us 
attempt to form a connexion which will diminish the number of oiur 
enemies, and which may embroil England with Spain. Chauvelin, good 
fellow as he is, is impossible here. Send Barthelemy as ambassador 
extraordinary, and someone else as subordinate agent. I should be very 
happy to take this post. Nominate Chauvelin to some first-rate position. 
Noel could replace Barthelemy in Switzerland." If this advice had been 



300 The decree of November 19. [1792 

adopted — and such was very nearly being the case— peace between the two 
countries would most probably have been preserved* 

We now come to the two acts of the French government which 
formed the strongest grievance on the English side, and which are 
generally considered as the true causes of the war : the decree of 
November 19, and the opening of the navigation of the Scheldt. The 
decree of November 19 was passed, apparently in great haste, under the 
following circumstances. In the middle of the sitting, Ruhl rose and 
stated that the district of Darmstadt, which by the Treaty of Ryswick 
ought to belong to France, had assumed the national cockade and asked 
to become French. The Duke of Zweibriicken had sent an army to 
stop the movement. "The citizens of the duchy of Limburg in the 
district of Darmstadt ask our protection against the invasion of the 
despots. Also the Club of the Friends of Liberty and Equality, 
established at Mayence, have written to ask whether you will grant 
protection to the people of Mayence, or abandon them to the mercy 
of the despots who threaten them." He ended with these words, "7e 
demande, mm, que v<yus diclariez que les pevpks qui voudront Jraterniser 
wvec nous seront proUg&s pair la nation Fnan^aise."" This proposition, it 
will be seen, is merely defensive. Eermont moved that the proposition 
of Ruhl be referred to the Diplomatic Committee, which ought to 
determine whether France should not only protect but guarantee the 
liberty of the neighbouring peoples, and this proposition was supported 
by Legendre. Brissot said that the Diplomatic Committee was intending 
to report on this subject on the Friday following. When Ruhl lu-ged 
the cause of the "people of Mayence," Brissot asked that the principle of 
the decree should be voted immediately. At last, Larevelliere-Lepeaux, 
that distinguished member of the Directory, who complained that it 
was so hard to found a new religion to take the place of Christianity, 
proposed and carried the following decree: "La Convention Nationale 
diclare au nom de la Nation Frangaise qu'elle accordera Jraternite et 
secours a tous les peuples qui voudront reco/wvrer leur liberti, et charge fe 
pouvmr eas&ewtifde donner aux gin&raux les ordres nicessaires pour porter 
secours a ces peupks et difendre les dtoyens qui auraient et6 vexis, ou qui 
pourraient Titre pour la cause de la liberti."" Sergent then proposed that 
this decree should be translated and printed in all languages. The 
Convention then proceeded to other business. Such is the history of this 
famous decree. A few isolated facts reported by a member were made 
the occasion for asserting a number of generalities ; and the decree, 
hastily passed, went even beyond the intention of those who proposed it. 

The second grievance of the English government against the Republic 
was the opening of the Scheldt by the French on their occupation of 
Belgium. Britain appealed on the one side to the law of nations, they 
on the other to the law of nature. Both these appeals may be dis- 
regarded. The treaty of 1788 bound us to protect the Dutch possessions 



1792] The opening of the Scheldt. 301 

from attack or from the threat of attack. But in this instance the 
Dutch did not protest againist French action, nor did they call upon us 
for assistance. It was a matter with which we had no immediate concern. 
In fact, negotiations were being opened between the Dutch and a French 
envoy at the time when the war eventually broke out. The idea of 
opening the Scheldt to commerce was not new. It had been, as we have 
seen, threatened by Joseph II, and was only laid aside in consequence of 
French persuasion. We had offered to support the pretensions of the 
Emperor if he would give up his alliance with France. This had been 
done while Pitt was Prime Minister. It was scarcely reasonable to 
regard as an insult to England, when adopted by one Power, the policy 
which we had ourselves favoured in the case of another. The opening 
of the Scheldt was announced to Chauvelin by Lebrun on November 27. 
He says : "No injury is done to the rights of the Dutch. Our reasons 
are that the river takes its rise in France, and that a nation which 
has obtained its liberty cannot recognise a system of feudalism, much 
less submit to it." 

On the very date of the decree, November 19, Chauvelin wrote to 
Lord GrenviUe asking for a few moments' conversation, at any time or in 
any place he might appoint, either in town or country. GrenviUe 
replied stiffly on the 21st, saying that he must, under the circumstances, 
request M. Chauvelin to explain the object of the conference he desires. 
Chauvelin wrote on the following day, that he thought the proposed 
interview would have produced favciurable results, but that if Lord 
GrenvUle thinks otherwise he will not insist upon it. A week later 
GrenviUe wrote that he would not refuse the conversation, and appointed 
a meeting at the Foreign Office on the next day at noon. In this 
interview Chauvelin said that circumstances changed rapidly in France ; 
hence he could only say now that when he made his first request he was 
authorised to contradict the reports which prevailed in London of an 
intention of the French to attack HoUand; that he could then have 
renewed the assurances which he had before given of his country's dis- 
position to respect the neutral Powers, but that since this he had seen 
the note delivered by Lord Auckland to the States General, and had 
yesterday heard that two French ships had been fired at by the Dutch in 
the Scheldt. He could not say what effect such an aggression on the part 
of the Dutch might produce, but that the most earnest wish of aU the 
French was to cultivate peace and friendship with England. He spoke 
of the opening of the Scheldt as a thing determined upon ; that it was a 
natiu-al right which the French had acquired by the conquest of Brabant. 
He endeavoured to obtain an admission, expressed or implied, that the 
treaty between England and HoUand did not extend to that point. 
GrenviUe answered that he would have liked more positive assurances, 
but that the King was resolved to maintain inviolate aU the rights of 
his country, and those of its aUies. 



302 Maret and Pitt. [1792 

The main object of the French government at this time was that 
England should recognise the Republic. If this were done, everything 
could be arranged. Maret, afterwards the trusted servant of Napoleon, 
was in London at this time, and has left us an account of two interviews, 
one with William Smith, a Liberal member of Parliament, and the 
other with Pitt himself. From the first he derived the impression that 
England haA negotiated with Spain, of which no evidence exists in the 
Record Office; that Pitt was extremely reluctant to go to war, which 
was true ; and that the recoguition of the PVench Republic was not at 
all unlikely, which was true also. At the second interview, Pitt began 
by speaking of his fear about HoUand, of his determination to support 
the allies of England, and to enforce the rigorous execution of treaties 
which united her with other Powers. He expressed a sincere desire to 
avoid a war which would be fatal to the repose and to the prosperity of 
the two nations, and asked if the same desire was shared by the French 
government. Maret gave satisfactory assurances of this ; and Pitt said 
that, if the French government would authorise someone to confer with 
the English Cabinet, someone with whom they could communicate 
cordially and frankly, they would be disposed to listen to him and to 
treat him with cordiality and confidence. Maret said that in this case 
England would have to recognise the Republic ; but Pitt replied that this 
course must be avoided, as Maret thought, to spare the siosceptibilities 
of the King. Pitt added, " Do not reject this offer and we will examine 
everything carefully." Maret said that he would urge Lebrun to send 
someone. Pitt replied, "Why not yourself.? Write at once to Paris; 
moments are precious." This Maret promised to do. Pitt again spoke 
of Holland ; and, as Maret was going- away, Pitt called him back and 
referred to the question of the Scheldt. Maret avoided discussion upon 
this point, and Pitt mentioned the decree of November 19. Maret 
explained that it only applied to Powers at war with France ; upon which 
Pitt cried, "If an interpretation of this kind were possible the effect 
would be excellent." Maret assured Pitt that the government had 
nothing to do with the decree ; that it was the work of a few exalted 
spirits made in a bm-st of enthusiasm, and without discussion. Pitt 
concluded by urging Maret not to lose a moment in communicating with 
Lebrun. We learn from this that at the beginning of December peace 
was quite possible; that it was ardently desired by Pitt; that the burning 
question was the invasion of Holland; and that other matters might have 
been satisfactorily arranged. 

Miles wrote on December 8 that he had found Maret affable, frank, 
and communicative, that he had been weU received by Pitt, who appeared 
to be equally well pleased with him. Their conversation had been very 
long, and Maret had assured Pitt that instructions had been sent to 
Dumouriez to be circumspect in his conduct towards the Dutch, and 
to make no attack either on the sovereignty, or the privileges, or the 



1792] England and France. 303 

independence of that people. The next day, however, Maret said to Miles, 
in a fit of despair, " Peace is out of the question. We have 800,000 
men in arms. We must make them march as far as their legs will carry 
them, or they wiU return and cut aw: throats." Still efforts were made 
on both sides which might have been successful. On December 7 
Lebnm determined to move Chauvelin to the Hague, and to authorise 
Maret to treat secretly with the English government. He presented his 
project to the Consul Ew^cutif Provisoire, but it was rejected. Further 
conference with Pitt was not declined; but Chauvelin, the accredited 
Minister, was to be the medium. On the English side, the resumption 
of diplomatic relations with France was pressed upon the government 
by the Opposition, and was the subject of a special motion by Fox. 
We find in the Record Office the imperfect drafts of two letters, 
probably intended for Mr Lindsay. The first letter says: "It having 
been judged advisable by the King's servants that you should proceed 
to Paris with a view to the opening of such a communication and 
to the obtaining such explanations as appear highly important at the 
present moment for the general advantage of Europe, as well as for 
the interests of this country and of France, I have thought it right to 
entrust you with this letter, which you may show as your authority for 
entering into all such conferences and discussions as may be necessary 
for these purposes." The second letter recommends to the particular 
attention of the envoy the procuring the best possible information about 
the real state of France ; the condition of the interior of the Provinces, 
that of Paris, the degree of stabihty which the republican form of 
government may appear to have acquired from the late successes, the 
disposition, character, and weight of the persons who conduct the public 
measures in the Coimcil and the Convention, the state and amount of 
their naval preparations, and their prospects in point of finance. The 
envoy is also to provide for secret intelligence in case of war. 

Events moved rapidly towards war. The condition of Europe made 
it advisable to call out the militia ; and Parliament, which by statute 
must be summoned soon after this measure, met on December 13. The 
next day, Maret, by the advice of Miles, had a second interview with 
Pitt ; but the Minister declined to discuss State affairs, or to give any 
answer as to whether he would see Chauvelin. On December 27 
Chauvelin communicated to GrenviUe the explanations which Lebrun had 
ordered him to present. He says that, by the decree of November 19, 
the National Convention never meant that the Republic should espouse 
the quarrels of a few seditious persons, or should endeavour to excite 
disturbances in any neutral or friendly countriy. The decree is only 
applicable to those people, who, after having acquired their liberty by 
conquest, may have demanded the fraternity and the assistance of the 
Republic by the solemn and unequivocal expression of the general will. 
France undertakes not to attack Holland so long as she confines herself 



304 Pitt's remonstrance. [1792 

within the limits of an exaqt neutrality. The opening of the Scheldt 
cannot with any justice be made a casus belli. 

The answer, dated December 31, bears throughout the stamp of the 
stem and haughty. style of William Pitt. It states that in the decree 
of November 19 all England saw the formal declaration of a design 
to extend tmiversaUy the new principles adopted in JBlrance, and to 
encourage disorder and revolt in all countries, even in those which are 
neutral. " England cannot consider such an explanation as satisfactory, 
but must look upon it as a fresh avowal of those dispositions which she 
sees with so just an uneasiness and jealousy. With regard to the 
Scheldt, France can have no right to annul existing stipulations, unless 
she also have the right to set aside equally the other treaties, between 
all Powers of Europe, and aU the other rights of England arid her 
allies. She can have no pretence to interfere in the question of 
opening the Scheldt, unless she were the sovereign of the Low Countries, 
Or had the right to dictate laws to Europe. England wiU riever consent 
that France shall arrogate the power of annulling at her pleasure, and 
under the pretence of a pretended natural right, of which she makes 
herself the only judge, the political system of Europe, established by 
solemn treaties and guaranteed by the consent of all the Powers. This 
government, adhering to the maxims which it has followed for more 
than a century, will also never see with indifference thaft France shall 
make herself, either directly or indirectly, the sovereign of the Low 
Countries, or general arbiter of the rights and liberties of Europe. If 
France is really desirous of maintaining peace and friendship with 
England, she must show herself disposed to renounce her views of 
aggression and aggrandisement, and to confine herself within, her own 
territory, without insulting other governments, without disturbing 
their tranquillity, without violating their rights." In these sentences is 
contained the whole case of England against the encroachments of the 
Revolution and the conquests of Napoleon. 

, We learn from Miles that Chauvelin dreaded going back to Paris, 
and urged the Executive Council to insist upon his being received and 
acknowledged as Minister Plenipotentiary from the Republic. His letters 
of credence were despatched on January 7, 1793, and an interview was 
accorded. Grenville said that he must refer the matter to his colleagues ; 
and on January 20 Chauvelin received a reply which must have removed 
any lingering doubt. He had written to ask, first, whether his letters of 
credence would be received; and, secondly, whether the provisions of the 
Alien Act were to apply to him or not ; even in his present position, to 
regard him as subject to this law, would be an insult to his nation. 
Lord Grenville answers that his letters of credence cannot be received ; 
that, as Minister from the Most Christian King, he would have enjoyed 
all the exemptions which the law grants to public Ministers, but that, as 
a private person, he cannot but return to the general mass of foreigners 



1793] Chauvelin dismissed. 305 

resident in England. Louis XVI was executed on January 21, the news 
reached London at five o'clock on January 23. On the following day 
Chauvelin was peremptorily bidden by an Order in Council to leave the 
kingdom. He wrote on receiving the order that it was an unexpected 
step, and would certainly be regarded as a declaration for war. 

If the government had waited a little longer this measure would 
have been unnecessary, for, on January 22, Chauvelin had been ordered 
by his own government to leave London without delay. Dumouriez 
had persuaded the Executive Council to recall him, and to send Maret 
in his place, with a view to Dumouriez proceeding himself to England 
at a later period. Chauvelin met the courier conveying this despatch 
at Blackheath. It ordered him to send a note to Lord Grenville, saying 
that the French are still willing to avoid a rupture, and to preserve a 
good intelligence ; but this was now out of the question. Maret passed 
Chauvelin on the way from Paris to Calais, close to Montreuil. He and 
his servants were asleep in their carriages and did not notice Chauvelin's 
liveries, so that it was not until his arrival at Dover on the 29th that 
he heard of Chauvelin's dismissal. Whatever instructions had been given 
to him were now useless. Maret reached London on January 30. On 
the following day he told Miles that Prance would relinquish the Scheldt 
in a manner perfectly satisfactory to England, would give up Nice and 
Mainz, renounce the Belgic Provinces, and find a method which would 
release Savoy: from being any longer a part of French territory ; she 
would also withdraw her troops from Belgium, and consent to a general 
peace, provided that the Powers would defray in part the expenses of 
the war. Maret was to offer himself as negotiator, in the first instance, 
to arrange the terms, and that, when he had settled these with the 
British ministry, Dumouriez, who he hoped would be well received, 
would receive full powers to sign and exchange ; that the object of his 
mission was peace with England. 

Maret, not knowing what effect the dismissal of Chauvelin might 
have in France, resolved not to demand an interview with Pitt imtil 
fresh instructions arrived from Paris. He therefore contented himself 
with sending a note to Lord Grenville to announce his arrival in England. 
In the meantime Chauvelin had reached Paris, and his report decided 
the vacillating Committee. On February 1 war was declared by the 
French against England and Holland. On February 9 George III 
wrote to Lord GrenviUe as follows : " The confirmation of the step taken 
by the faction that governs in France, of jointly declaring war against 
this kingdom and the Dutch Republic, is highly agreeable to me, as 
the mode adopted seems well calculated to rouse such a spirit in this 
country, that I trust will curb the insolence of those despots, and be a 
means of restoring some degree of order to that unprincipled country, 
whose aim at present is to destroy the foundations of every civilised 
State." 

C. M. H. Vlll. 20 



306 



CHAPTER XL 

THE EUROPEAN POWERS AND THE EASTERN QUESTION. 

, The eighteenth century witnessed a number of changes of the first 
magnitude in the intematiohal relations of Europe; ■ At the very 
beginning of the cetatury Spain, deprived' of the Netherlands and of its 
Italian provinces, passed from the House of Habsburg, which had held it 
for, nearly two centuries,to a youhger line of the Bourbons." After an 
interval of alienation the new dynasty became a partner in a family 
compact which made Spain the more or less subservient ally of France. 
Almost at the same time a curiously similar decline is to be traced in the 
United Provinces, <which had risen to extraordinary prbminenGe^ and had 
developed a military and naval power out of all proportion to their in- 
ternal resources, first in a successful rebellion against Spanish domination, 
and later in an equally brilliant struggle against the aggressive policy of 
JFrance.: While Spain became bound to France by dynastic ties and 
by common antagonism to England, the Dutch Rtepublic came to 
depend for its security upon the support and guidance of Great Britain. 
Thus . two of the great, Powers of the seventeenth century sank in the 
eighteenth to the position of minor Sta;tes. 

These changes in the south and wefet were accompanied ■ or followed 
by. , equally momentous and unforeseen changes < in the north and east. 
Prussia under Frederick the Great was enabled by a great demonstration 
of military strength and skill not only i to dispute with Austria the 
hegemony in Germany, but to assume a place among the dominant 
States of Europe. Sweden, which for nearly a century had been the 
strongest and most adtentmrous of the Baltic Powers, feU after the 
death of the last of her warrior Kings under the rule of a selfish and 
factious oligarchy. Her inevitable f decline under these conditions was 
accelerated by the rapid rise of an eastern State which had hitherto been 
regarded as semi-barbarous and practically outside the European system. 
That Russia, in spite of the frequency of domestic quarrels and dynastic 
revolutions during the forty years which followed the death of Peter the 
Great, should yet have become at the dose of those years the most 
powerful and influential State in Europe, is one of the most surprising 



1756-90] European relations in the eighteenth century. 307 

facts in the history of the. eighteenth century. Nor! is surprise lessened 
by the consideration that this development was regarded with j,ealQUs 
misgivings by aU the other Powers of Europe except England, iEind that 
Russia reached the zenith of her importance tinder the rule of a sovereign 
who was not a' Russian by birth> or breeding, but a princess of a petty 
German Court, who came to the country as the wife of the heir to the 
throne and ascended that throne on thie murder of her husband, When 
the circumstances of Catharine II's origin and accession are taken into 
account, she must be placed even above Frederick the Great as the most 
remarkable and successful ruler of her generation. 

The series of ;political changes was completed by the termination in 
1756 of the long-continued animosity between France and Austria, 
and the conclusion! of that unequal and uneasy aUiahce between the two 
States which the marriage of Mariie- Antoinette with the iU-fated 
Louis XVI was intended to strengthen. From this time is to; be noted 
a complete, shifting of the centre of gravity in European politics from 
the west to the east., It is true that the rivalry of England and France 
continued; but this rivalry was mainly non-European, though it had 
some bearing on continental politicsi; partly owing to the complicated 
relations in which France was involved by her past history,' and partly 
because the English King was also a German Elector. But apart from 
this, a survivor' from the seventeenth eeritm-y, or even from the days 
of the Spanish Succession War, could hardly have traced any familiar 
landmarks in the years from 1756 to 1790. The old battle-grounds in 
Italy and the Netherlands were left in perfect peace. The main strings of 
diplomacy were no longer pulled from Versailles, Madrid, and the .Hague, 
but from St Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna. Even France, so long the 
predominant State in Eiu-ope, fell compiaratively into the background.; 

This was no doubt partly due to the military disasters and humiliation 
of the Seven Years' War ; but it was also the result of the radically false 
position in which France was placed by her adhesion to an obsolete line 
of policy in Eastern Europe. For generations it had. been the interest 
of France to hamper- the action of Austria by .maintaining a close 
connexion with the Powers which were most immediately hostile to 
Habsburg aggrandisement. Sweden, Poland, and Turkey, had been 
moved, sometimes singlyj sometimes more or less collectively, as French 
pawns in the: great, game 0|f international politics. It is obvious at a 
glance how completely the value of these pieces was altered by the 
appearance of Russia on the board. Sweden blocked Russia's way to the 
Baltic; Poland stood between Russia and central Europe; Turkey held 
the provinces which Russia must conquer before she could expand to the 
Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Every step which . Russia took in 
advance was taken at the expense of one or other of these client States 
.of France ; and every such step diminished their utility to their western 
patron. A great statesman might have found an escape from the 

20—2 



308 The rise of Russia. [1726-74 

awkward dilemma in which' France was placed by Russian progress. 
But the ininisters who guided the destinies of France in the earlier half 
of the ieighteenth century could do nothing but cling blindly to past 
traditions. Yet French intervention did nothing but harm to Sweden 
and Poland, and in 1739 only succeeded in postponing the partition of 
Turkey. Gn the other hand French hostility drove Russia into a 
somewhat unnatural alliance with Austria, which lasted almost con- 
tinuously from 1726 to 1762 and produced many momentous conse- 
quences to Europe. The climax of confusion was reached when the 
second Treaty of Versailles in 1757 brought France into actual co- 
operation witii the Power which she had so long and so ineffectually 
endeavoured to check. As the ally of Austria and indirectly of France, 
Russia occupied Polish Prussia during the Seven Years' War, in defiance 
of the traditional policy which France had hitherto pursued. And yet 
that traditional policy continued to be maintained by the French Foreign 
Ofiice. The penalty for such folly and indecision was incurred in the 
first Partition of Poland, which annihilated French influence and prestige 
in Eastern Europe. 

It was in the reign of Catharine II that the Eastern Question became 
for the first time the main pivot of European politics. The need of 
gaining the affection of her Russian subjects compelled her to pose as 
the enthusiastic champion of the Greek Church, and to carry on the 
traditional Russian policy of expansion in the direction of Poland and 
Turkey. From the first she gained striking and rapid successes. She 
secured the Polish crown for Stanislas Poniatowski ; she frustrated the 
attempt to restore Polish independence by a reform of the anarchical 
constitution ; she enforced the acceptance of the Partition of 1772 ; and 
she extorted from the defeated and exhausted Turks the Treaty of 
Kutschuk Kainardji, which gave indeprendence to the Tartar SZhanates 
of the Crimea and the Kuban, and recognised Russia as the champion of 
the Christian subjects of the Porte. The series of triumphs, which gave 
to Catharine a dominant voice in the affairs of Europe, was due to the 
adroit use which she made of the bitter enmity between Austria and 
Prussia. A combination of' her two powerful neighbours would have 
been fatal to Catharine's schemes ; and she did all in her power, first to 
prevent such an alliance, and later, when it was actually formed, to divert 
its attention to a scene of action as far as possible distant from Russia. 
But for a long time such an alliahce seemed to be removed from practical 
politics, partly because of inevitably jarring interests in Germany, and 
partly owing to the memory of that desperate struggle for Silesia which 
had persisted through two great European wars. So long as this animosity 
lasted — and it seemed likiely to endure as long as the quarrel between 
England and France — Catharine's policy was to play off one State 
against the other by bribing each alternately to become her accomplice. 
It was this adroit but unscrupulous policy which familiarised Europe 



1764-80] The Bussian alliance with Prussia. 309 

with the later conception of the Balance of Power; namely, that the 
great States might 'freely annex the territory of their lesser neighbours, 
provided their acquisitions were of equal extent or value. The precedent 
established in the successive partitions of Poland was only too faithfully 
followed in many readjustments of the political map during the wars 
with revolutionary Prance. ■■ 

Of the two Powers with which Catharine had more immediately to 
deal, Austria, as the ruler of a large Slav population, had the more direct 
interest in opposing the growth of a great Slav empire on her immediate 
frontier. Maria Theresa in her later years was keenly conscious of this 
danger, and desired alike to support Poland as a buffer State and to 
maintain the integrity of Turkey. Catharine was thus driven to turn to 
Prussia, and in 1764 concluded with Frederick a defensive treaty for 
eight years, which was afterwards renewed for a similar period. This 
alliance led her to support Prussia in opposing the claims of Austria 
to the Bavarian Succession ; and the Treaty of Teschen, which in 1779 
repudiated these claims, was concluded under the guarantee of Russia. 
But Frederick, although the Russian alliance was rendered necessary to 
him by the exhaustion of his dominions after the agony of the Seven 
Years' War, by the rupture with England which followed the fall of the 
elder Pitt, and by the impotence of France, was by no means a sub- 
servient or an enthusiastic supporter of Russian interests. On the con- 
trary, it was the general opinion of diplomatists that Prussian influence 
was dominant at St Petersburg, and that Count Panin, Catharine's chief 
minister, was in receipt of regular pay from Frederick. In the first 
great crisis of Catharine's reign, when her intervention in Poland led to 
the outbreak of a Turkish war (1768), Frederick had not hesitated to 
check Russian ambition by a significant parade of a possible approxi- 
mation between Prussia and Austria. In 1769 and 1770 he held his two 
famous interviews with Joseph II ; and the risk of active opposition from 
Austria and of very inadequate support from Prussia ^eatly con- 
tributed towards inducing Catharine to consent to partition Poland, 
instead of adhering to her previous policy of making Poland a vassal 
of Russia. And at the same time Frederick had done little or nothing 
to prevent the one great reverse which Russian policy experienced, when 
the first amp d'Hat of Gustavus III (1772) overthrew the Swedish 
oligarchy and freed the monarchy from the intolerable limitations im- 
posed upon it during the two previous reigns. Thus Catharine had 
good reason to doubt the utility of the Prussian alliance; and the 
influence of Panin was gradually supplanted by that of Potemkin, who 
held out to his mistress the attractive scheme of extending Russian 
dominion to tibe mouths of the southern rivers, and of expelling the 
Turks to make room for a revived Greek empire in Constantinople. For 
such a scheme more strenuous support was needed than could be expected 
from Prussia. Frederick desired, not to aggrandise Russia, but to check 



310 ' Policy of Joseph II. [i 765-79 

the restless ambition of Austria. With this end in view he actually 
proposed to include Turkey, and possibly either France or England, 
in a common league with Russia and Prussia. Panin could hardly 
hope to commend this plan to Catharine, nor could he even obtain 
a renewal of the Prussian alliance ; of 1764, which was ta expire in 
1780. ,: ;; 

At this j uncture a favourable opportunity presented itself for renewing 
the former alliance between Russia and Austria. For many years there 
had been serious differences On both foreign and domestic politics in the 
Court of Vienna. Joseph II, who since his father's, death in 1765 had 
been Emperor and joint ruler of the Austrian dominions, was by no 
means in accord with the cautious and conservative policy of his mother. 
He was eager to restore the prestige of' Austria, and to deprive Prussia 
of the plroiiA position to which it had so suddenly been raised. It is true 
that he admired and consciously sought to imitate Frederick the Great ; 
he did so| however, not slavishly, but in the spirit of a rival, who seeks to 
master the secret of another's success in order that he may emulate and 
surpass his model. His domestic. reforms he had perforce to postpone till 
his mother's death should give him :a free hand; biit this made him all 
the more persistent in his foreign policy, in which he' was encouraged by 
the support of Kaimitz. The partition of Poland was repugnant both to 
the priiicipl'es and to the: policy of Maria Theresa ; but her scruples were 
overcome by the argumeiit that if Austria lield aloof Poland would stiU 
be sacrificed, and Austria: would get nothing to counterbalance the gains 
of her rivals. In the end;, on the express ground that it' was not worth 
while to lose a reputation for honourable conduct on account of a petty 
profit, Austria succeeded in securing the richest share of the spoil. When 
Russia concluded the advantageous Treaty of Eutschiik Kainardji, Austria 
consoled herself byj seizing the territory of the Bukowina, though she 
had no quarrel with: the, Turks, and had even promised three years before 
to maintain their cause. The chief responsibility for these discreditable 
transactions rests upon : Joseph' and Kaunitz;;and it was they who pre- 
pared and brought fbrward the preposterous claims upon Bavairia on the 
extinction of the Bavarian branch of the House of Wittelsbach. But the 
repulse which they met with at the Congress of Teschen convinced them 
that thieiri plans could never prosper until they had dissolved the alliance 
between Russia and Prussia. ■ This conviction was strengthened by the 
growing coolness between Austria and France. Vergennes, who became 
Foreign Minister on the ficcession of Louis XVI, had previously held the 
French embassy at Constantinople, and had there seen clearly the disas- 
trous results to French interests in the East which had resulted from the 
Treaiyi of Versailles. A foremost object! of his administration was to 
free France from the excessive subservience to Austrian interests which 
had prevailed during the later years of Louis XV. This determination 
was disclosed to the world when Louis XVI refused to countenance the 



1780-4] Alliance between Rusiki ami. Austria. 311 

Bavarian claims of his brother-in-law, and France joined with Russia in 
guaranteeing the Treaty of Teschen. : , 

Thus by 1780 conditions were prepared for that Austro-Russian 
alliance which was a dominajat factor in European politics for the next 
decade, and very nearly led to the outbreak of a great European war. 
In June, 1780j Joseph met, Catharine at Mohileff; and, in order to com- 
plete his acquaintance with the Russian Court, he subsequently followed 
the Czarina to St Petersburg. On November 29 the death of Maria 
Theresa removed the last obstacle in the way of a complete reversal of 
recent Austrian policy. In May, 1781, Joseph and Catharine exchanged 
formal letters, by which it was agreed that Austria should support 
Russia in compelling Turkey to fulfil its treaty obligations, and in case 
of war should employ an equal force either in coercing the Turks or in 
resisting any other Power which should interfere as their ally. Russia 
on the other hand was pledged to maintain the Pragmatic Sanction, and 
to defend the Austrian States against attack. With these mutual 
obligations was combined the agreement, that if either ally should gain 
any acquisition of territory the other should be entitled to an equivalent. 

R?ederick tiie Great was profoundly chagrined at the turn which 
affairs had taken. The termination of his long alliance with Russia was in 
itself a serious matter ; but it was far worse that the advantage which he 
had lost was transferred to his one irreconcilable enemy. But Frederick 
was growing old; he was isolated both in Germany and in Europe; 
and for tixe moment he was powerless. France and England were still 
engaged in the war which had arisen out of the American rebellion; andj 
even if they had. been free, Frederick had no 'great confidence in either 
State. Both -Joseph and Catharine acted as if there was complete 
security on the side of Prussia, In 1783, taking advantage of internal 
disturbances among the Tartars, Russia somexed the Crimea; and early in 
the following year Turkey was compelled by the Treaty of Constantinople 
to acquiesce in the annexation; Austria, which under Maria Theresa 
would have protested against such a breach of the Treaty of Kutschuk 
Kainardji, now massed her troops on the Turkish frontier in order to 
compel the Porte, to yield. Meanwhile, Joseph was pursuing with reckless 
haste a policy of domestic reform and external aggression that excited 
the terrified wonder alike of foreign States and of his own subjects. It 
is often suggested that the explanation of. Joseph IPs actions is to be 
found in his descent from the House of Lorraine, and his consequent 
freedom from the prejudices and inborn characteristics of the Habsburgs. 
But after all J/oseph was no more a Lorrainer than were his brother and 
his nephew, and yet he differed from them almost as much as from his 
mother or his maternal grandfather. His personality is unique in both 
the dynasties from which he sprang, and it is difficult to assign any 
trait in his character to the influence of heredity. Joseph II was that 
most dangerous of men, a theorist in possession of absolute power. No 



312 Aggressive schemes of Joseph II. [1780-5 

democrat inspired with revolutionary fervour could show a more utter 
disregard of precedent and tradition, of racial and geographical dis- 
tinctions, of the rights of property, and of ecclesiastical and social 
prejudices, than did this holder of the oldest secular dignity in Christ- 
endom: He attributed the success of Prussia to the way in which a tini- 
form administration had remedied the difficulties of geographical isolation. 
It was his desire to confer the same boon upon the extraordinary com- 
bination of States and races which made up the Austrian dominions. 
To do this he must sweep away national habits, provincial privileges, 
judicial and other deep-rooted differences, and even distinctions of 
language. The task was beyond the powers of any ruler, and probably 
of any succession of rulers, and Joseph only reigned alone for ten years. 
It was no justification of such chimerical designs that he gave himself 
up to the duties of his office as no other ruler did, that he spent nothing 
on luxury or personal indulgence, that he was guided neither by mistress 
nor by favourite, and that his life was undoubtedly shortened by his 
self-sacrificing industry. 

If Joseph II may be credited with good intentions in his domestic 
government, the same cannot be said of his foreign pohcy. No ruler in 
the eighteenth century was more greedy of territory, or more reckless of 
the rights of other States and of treaty obligations in the endeavour to 
satisfy his greed. He was equally ready to seize the Danubian princi- 
palities from Turkey, to round off his kingdom of Galicia at the expense 
of Poland, and to strengthen his dominions in Italy by the annexation of 
Venetia. But the project to which he climg most tenaciously was the 
acquisition of Bavaria. He could never revive his former claims ; even 
Russia would not allow the violation of the Treaty of Teschen : but he 
might induce the Elector to exchange Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate 
for the Austrian Netherlands. To make the bribe more tempting he did 
not hesitate to quarrel with the Dutch, by repudiating the burdensome 
obligation of the barrier treaty, advancing a claim to Maestricht, and 
announcing his intention of opening the Scheldt to commerce. When 
all was ready he induced his Russian ally to make overtures to Charles 
Theodore of Bavaria, who had no great reason to love his recently 
acquired electorate and might easily be induced to give it up for a richer 
kingdom in the west. But the bargain was not to be made without 
effective protest. France was keenly interested in the United Provinces, 
where Vergennes had gained a signal diplomatic triumph by restoring 
the preponderance of the republican party against the House of Orange 
and the English alliance. All that had been gained would have been 
lost if Joseph had been allowed to dictate his own terms to the Dutch. 
And so for the second time since 1756 France interfered to thwart 
Austrian ambition ; and by the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1785 Joseph 
had to withdraw his daim to Maestricht and renew the treaty obligation 
to close the Scheldt. 



1785-6] The Ftirstenbund. 313 

Still more humiliating was his failure in Germany. The union of 
Bavaria with Austria would not only have altered the whole balance 
between north and south, between Roman Catholicism and Protestaintism, 
but would have ^ven to the imperial ruler so great a temtorial pre- 
ponderance as to endanger the independence of all lesser Princes. 
Joseph had already inspired alarm by other acts. He had procured 
the election of his brother Maximilian to the office of Coadjutor, which 
carried with it the right of succession, in the archbishopric of Cologne 
and the prince-bishopric of Miinster, and had thus materially increased the 
influence of his family in both the electoral and the princely College of 
the Diet. Even the ecclesiastical States, so long the staunch supporters 
of the Habsburgs, were not prepared to acquiesce in the establishment 
of a really powerful monarchy in Germany, and preferred to abandon 
their religious prejudices by forming a strong alliance with Protestant 
Prussia. Frederick the Great saw the opportunity of emerging from the 
isolation in which he had been left by the desertion of Russia, and 
eagerly put himself at the head of the general hostility to Joseph's 
scheme. The Furstenhund, the organisation of which was the last great 
achievement of the Prussian King, was powerful enough to prevent the 
carrying out of the projected exchange, and might, if Frederick's 
successor had possessed more character and capacity, have been the 
foundation of a new German federation under Prussian headship. 

Joseph II had good reason to be bitterly disappointed. He had 
been loyal to Russia, and had aided his ally to gain that secure footing 
on the Black Sea which had been so long and so ardently desired. 
Already Sevastopol was being fortified, and a Russian fleet was being 
built in its harbour. But, on the other hand, Austria had failed to 
obtain Bavaria, which was to have been the equivalent to the aggrandise- 
ment of Russia, and the hostile influence of Prussia had been greatly 
increased by the League of Princes. Was it worth while to continue an 
alliance which had hitherto been so unequal and to Austria so disastrous.'' 
This was the momentous question with which Joseph and Kaunitz were 
confronted in 1786 and the following year. K there had been any 
satisfactory alternative combination, it is possible that they would have 
insisted upon modifying or even abandoning the informal agreement of 
1781. In any further partition of Turkey Russia could hardly fail to 
obtain greater advantages than Austria could hope for ; and Joseph was 
fond of quoting a significant remark of Vergennes, " How is compensa- 
tion to be given for Constantinople ? " 

But it was almost impossible to find another alliance which offered 
any attraction to Austria. Prussia, in the eyes of both Joseph and his 
Minister, was the arch-enemy of Austria ; and any alienation of Russia 
would reestablish the intimacy between St Petersburg and Berlin which 
it had cost so much to disturb. The French alliance, which Kaunitz 
regarded as the masterpiece of his diplomacy, was still in existence. 



314 Joseph II adheres to the Bussian alliance. [i786-7 

But ilraince was no longer so submissive as in the past, and had openly 
opposed Austria both in its Bavarian schemes and in the Netherlands. 
Joseph was, indeed, so indignant at the recent action of his brother-in- 
law that, but for the obvious danger of excessive dependence upon Russia, 
he would probably have repudiated the French alliance altogether. Of 
the five Great Powers there remained only England, which before 1755 
had been for several > generations intimately associated with Austria. 
Even since. the rupture there had been little overt hostility between the 
two Powers. But there were two strong arguments against a renewal of 
the English connexion. If it should prove necessary under an altered 
system to oppose the advance of Kussia in the East, there was at this 
time little prospect that England would render effective assistance. The 
Eastern Question had not as yet excited the keen attention of English 
statesmen ; and it was a: tradition of the London Foreign Office to regard 
Russia with peculiar favour. Diu-ing the recent war with the Bourbon 
States England had done aUin its power to conciliate Catharine II, and 
had even gone so far as to offer to cede Minorca to Russia. And, since 
the condusipn of peace in 1783, England had observed a benevolent 
neutrality at the time of the annexation of the Crimea. Moreover^ an 
English alliance would almost inevitably involve a rupture with France ; 
and this again would necessitate vastly increased expenditure for the 
defence of the Netherlands aind of the Italian provinces of Austria. 
The security conferred upon these outlying possessions by the Treaty 
of Versailles . (1756) had : always been' regarded by Kaunitz as the 
primary justification of that Treaty. ' 

Such a survey of European relations must inevitably have induced 
Joseph and Kaunitz to give a longer trial to' the Russian alliance ; and 
they were further impelled in the same direction by the successive deaths 
of Frederick, the Great (August 17, 1786) and of Vergennes (February 13, 
1787). Both were succeeded by weaker men ; and there was good reason 
to expect that Austria would meet with, far less serious opposition when 
Prussia, was ruled by Frederick William II, and Montmoriii presided 
over the Foreign Oifice in France. Under the altered conditions it seemed 
by no means impossible that Russia and Austria combined might dictate 
their, own will in the East, and effect that partition of Eiu-opean Turkey 
which had been sketched in outline in the negotiations of 1780. These 
anticipations were put to the test with (greater rapidity than was in- 
tended by the two allies. For some time the Turks had been more and 
more disquieted by the insatiable ambition of Russia. Since the death of 
Coimt Panin in 1783 thfere had been no restraint on the influence of 
Potemkin, and he seized every oppoirtmrityi to urge the Czarina to extend 
or to strain her power va the south. And in 1786 and 1787 there 
seemed little need for any great caution on the part of Russia. England 
was quiescent; France was occupied with- ever-increasing troubles at 
home ; Prussia was passing through the imeasiness attending the accession 



1787] Catharitie II in the Crimea. 315 

of a new and untried King. Of the neighbouring smaller Powers, Poland 
was apparently slumbering after the excitement that had culminated in 
the First Partition; and both King and nobles vied with each other in 
seeking to gain Catharine's favour. Gustavus III of Sweden had so far 
done nothing to excite alarm since his brilliant triumph in the first year 
of his reign ; and any ambitious designs he might entertain were likely 
to be thwarted by tiie malcontent nobles. The ease with which the 
Crimea had been acquired did not suggest that the Turks would make 
any very resolute resistance to the allied heads of eastern and western 
Christendom. 

It was therefore with great confidence that Catharine set out in 
May, 1787, to pay a ceremonial visit to her new dominions, which she had 
christened Taurida. Accompanied by a magnificent Court, including 
the envoys of France, England, and Austria, she embarked on the 
Dnieper ; and a fleet of galleys escorted her to Cherson, which was built 
to be the capital of the province. On the way she received a visit from 
Stanislas Poniatowski, who virtually acknowledged his vassalage to the 
mistress from whom hc' had received > his crown. Near Cherson, which 
was entered through an arch bearing the significant inscription, "The 
way to Constantinople," she was joined by Joseph II, travelling in his 
favourite incognito as Count Fadkenstein. The imperial picnic pro- 
ceeded on its way through crowds of applauding peasants by day, while 
at night the river banks were lighted by brilliant illuminations. It is 
true that the voyage- on the Dnieper had to be abandoned before the 
mouth of the river was reached, on account of the appearance of a 
Turkish fleet, but the journey was continued with no less magnificence 
by land; and it was a proud moment for Catharine when she saw at 
Sebastopol twenty Russian vessels on the waters of the Black Sea. The 
tour was designed as a demonstration both to friend and foe of the 
immense resources and resistless might of Russia; and the impression 
which it made upon contemporaries shows that it went a long way 
towards achieving its end. ■,. . 

But the Turks, though they might be impressed, refused to be 
intimidated. Mohammadan fanaticism was inflamed by the danger to 
Islam involved in the encouragement which Russian progress gave to 
Christianity in the East. Every Russian consulate was a centre of 
intrigue against Mohammadan ascendancy ; and, even if the Porte, had 
been blinded by considerations of policy, it could not afford to disregard 
the overwhelming force of opinion among its subjects. The subjection 
of the Crimea to Russia was at once a blow to Tartar love of independ- 
ence and a serious loss to the Mohammadan Church. Even while the 
Czarina was in the Crimea, the Turks were pressing demands upon 
Russia for the redress, of grievances. The Hospodar of Moldavia had 
inciured the displeasure of the Sultan and had sought, refuge in Russia, 
who refused to surrendea: him to his suzerain. Still more serious weis the 



316 The outbreak of war between Turkey and Russia. [i787 

dispute about the principality of Georgia in the Caucasus. For many 
generations the province had been disputed between Turkey and Persia ; 
but the recent decline of the latter Power seemed to justify the Turks in 
firmly establishing their authority. Russia, however, intervened, and 
seemed likely to establish a protectorate over Georgia, which must lead, 
as in the case of the Crimea, to ultimate annexation. The dispatch of 
Russian troops to Georgia brought matters to a crisis ; and the Turks 
determined to run the risk of war rather than tamely submit to further 
spoliation. No doubt such a decision was not come to without some 
hope of direct or indirect aid, 

Diez, the Prussian envoy at Constantinople, was known to be a par- 
tisan of the Turks, and his influence might serve to bring about Prussian 
intervention in their favour. Austria might at the last moment stop 
short of ^ving active aid to Russia, especially as Joseph was involved in 
serious diflBcidties in the Netherlands. Hostility to Russia might be 
stirred up in Poland and in Sweden ; and there was always the possibility 
that Turkey might recover an old ally in France, or find a new one in 
England. Such chances were always to be taken into account, but there 
is no reason to suppose that the Turks received direct encouragement or 
a formal assurance of support from Prussia or any other Power. Their 
action was dictated by passion rather than policy; and they preferred to 
risk ever3rthing in an honourable struggle rather than tamely submit to 
insult and loss. Catharine II had no intention of hiurying matters, and 
was disposed to a moderate and temporising policy by her intercourse 
with Joseph, which had not resulted in any definite agreement. But on 
her return from the south to St Petersburg she learned that immediate 
hostilities were inevitable. On August 15, 1787, the Russian ambassador 
in Constantinople was summoned to a formal interview and was called 
upon to abandon all Russian pretensions in Georgia. He offered to refer 
the demand to his Court; but it was too late for such a familiar 
expedient for delay, and he was imprisoned in the fortress of the Seven 
Towers. This was the Turkish method of declaring war, and it certainly 
did not err in any lack of precision. Fortunately for Russia, the 
preparations of the Tm-ks were unequal to their coui-age. Instead of 
striking a decisive blow while the enemy was unready, their operations 
in 1787 were limited to the siege of Kinbum at the mouth of the 
Dnieper, which was defended with equal skiU and obstinacy by Suvdrofl; 
This gave Catharine time to make preparations, and to call upon Austria 
for assistance. 

In the autumn of 1787 Joseph II had his last chance of reconsidering 
the advisabihty of going to war with Turkey as the ally of Russia. The 
prospect was not altogether an inviting one ; and the disparity of power 
had been brought home to him during his journey on Russian soil. 
A listener has preserved a fragment of conversation between the imperial 
fellow-travellers. "'I have thirty million subjects,' said one, "counting 



1786] Joseph II and the Austrian Netherlands. 317 

only males.' ' And I have twenty-two, including all,' replied the other. 
' I need,' added one, ' an army of 600,000 men from Kamschatka to Riga.' 
' My needs are satisfied with exactly half as many,' was the reply." In 
spite of the difference of resources, Austria was to provide a force equal 
to that of Russia, and her reward was still Undetermined. That Joseph 
would have preferred to postpone hostilities is certain ; but delay was 
now impossible, and he was too deeply pledged to repudiate his obliga- 
tions to Russia. After a winter spent in planning the campaign and 
collecting the necessary forces, he declared war against Turkey in February, 
1788. He must have had grave misgivings as to the morality and the 
prudence of his action. The Turks had given him no ground of quarrel ; 
on the contrary they had of late years been extraordinarily careful to 
avoid any offence against Austria; and in embarking on a wholly 
unprovoked war for the aggrandisement of his own State Joseph had 
good reason to anticipate serious difficulties both from the disaffection 
of his own subjects and from the inveterate hostility of Prussia. 

The first overt resistance to the government of Joseph II came from the 
most distant and least valued of his dominions. The southern Nether- 
lands had been handed over to Austria in 1714 to be held as it were in 
trust for the Maritime Powers, who were primarily interested in the exclu- 
sion of French influence and in the maintenance of a buffer between France 
and the United Provinces. When Charles VI endeavoured to revive 
the commerce of his new possessions by founding the Ostend Company, 
England and the Provinces never rested until they had compelled him to 
abandon the project. It is not surprising that the Austrian rulers were 
eager to find a purchaser for territories which were a source of expense 
rather than of revenue, and which by their geographical position involved 
Austria in all the intricate jealousies of western politics. Kaunitz proposed 
in 1757 to hand the Austrian Netherlands over to the House of Bourbon, 
on condition that France should join in effecting the partition of Prussia; 
and Joseph himself offered them in exchange for Bavaria. It was only 
when this project had perforce to be abandoned that the Emperor set 
to work to introduce the administrative reforms which he had already 
endeavoured to set on foot in his other dominions. But the task was 
one which required far greater tact and far more intimate knowledge of 
the Netherlands than Joseph possiBssed. 

There was as yet no real central government. The various Provinces 
were for the most part in enjoyment of the same separate institutions 
and the same local independence that they enjoyed when they first came 
under the rule of the Dukes of Burgundy. ITie " Joyous Entry," the 
charter of Brabant and Limburg which Philip the Good had sworn to in 
the fifteenth century, was stiU confirmed by each successive Duke on his 
accession. By one of its clauses, if the sovereign broke the provisions of 
the charter, his subjects were released from their obligation of obedience. 
Similar, if less explicit, assurances of provincial liberties were given, 



318 Discontent in the Aiistrian Netherlands. [i786-v 

either by charter or by treaty, to the pieople of Flanders, Namur, Hain- 
ault, and the other Provinces. There wa,s in each some form of Estates,' 
which had the right of granting taxes, and whose consent was necessary 
for the validity of new laws. After the great revolt of the Netherlands 
against Philip 11 in the sixteenth century Spain had recovered its hold 
upon the southern Provinces, partly by a close alliance with the Roman 
Catholic clergy, and partly by- promises to maintain local privileges and 
independence. Austria had succeeded to^ the traditions of Spanish rule ; 
and,: since the termination of hostility with France, the Netherlands had 
enjoyed an unusual period of peace and prosperity. The office of Viceroy 
was usually held: by some member of the imperial family, and since 
1780 had bden entrusted -to Maria Christina, a sister of Joseph, and her 
husband, Albert of Saxe-Teschen. There was some dissatisfaction at the 
failure of Joseph's endeavour to open the Scheldt ; but this would soon 
have subsided if his restless activity had not led him to attack the 
double foundations on which Habsburg domination had so long rested — 
the supremacy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and the respect for 
provincial customs and privileges; ' ' - 

In 1786 Joseph took his first step towards the eradication of ultra- 
montane tendencies among the Belgian clergy. He had already sup- 
pressed some of the too numerous monasteries, and granted to the 
Protestants toleration for their worship and admission to civil employ- 
ments. He now proceeded to impose upon the clergy an education 
which was to inculcate the primary obligation of obedience to the State ; 
and with that object he founded in Louvain a seminary for the training 
of future priests. The University of Louvain, one of the glories of 
Brabant and a stronghold of ultramontanism, was transferred to Brussels, 
where it would be under the eye of the igovemment. The students, who 
noisily demonstrated against the; change, weire coerced into obedience; 
the Archbishop of Malines was compelled to go to Vienna to apologise 
for his proteste ; and the papal Nuncio was expelled from the country. 
In January, 1787, came the first of a series of Edicts for the reform of 
the secular administration. A uniform system of jurisdiction was estab- 
lished, with two Tegular Courts of Appeal; and all feudal and clerical 
Courts were abolished. The whole of the Netherlands, as if it were a 
single dependency, was to be divided into nine districts or circles ; and 
at the head of each was to be an Intendant nominated from Vienna. 
For the support of the new administration certain fixed taxes were 
allocated, which thus became permanent charges- instead of temporary 
grants from the various Estates. Thus in the State as in the Church 
Joseph attacked the strongest and most deeply-rooted sentiments of the 
Belgian people. 

The Estates of Brabant made themselves the mouthpiece of the 
general ill-will. They declared the imperial ordinances to be contrary 
to the " Joyous Entry^" refused to grant supplies, and drew up a formal 



iTO?] Kebellion in the Austrian Netherlands. 319 

protest for presentation to the Regents. Maria Christina and her hus- 
band were in a cruel dilemma. Since the garrisons had been withdrawn 
from the barrier fortresses they had no adequate force at their disposal 
to put down opposition. They had no special interest in the Edicts, 
which had been issued without their opinion being asked ; and they would 
have personally preferred the continuance of the old state of things. A 
riot in Brussels, organised by van der Noot, an advocate who was closely 
identified with the cause of the malcontent hierarchy, forced them to 
come to a decision ; and on May 30 they agreed to suspend the execution 
of the new ordinances so far as they were contrary to the Charter of 
Brabant. The news of actual rebellion in the Austrian Netherlands reached 
Joseph while he was in Catharine's company; and, though he tried to 
disguise his imeasiness, he was compelled to hasten his return to Vienna. 
His first impulse was to carry matters with a high hand. He recalled 
the Regents, disavowed their action, and entrusted' the temporary govern- 
ment to Count Murray, the commander of the Austrian forces in the 
Netherlands. At the same time he called upon the provincial Estates to 
combine together in the selection of delegates t