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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

D'Entraigues' work and Abbe Sieyes'


So

much excitement in men's minds, and so much commotion amongst the masses, reasonably disquieted prudent folks. In spite of its natural frivolity, the court was at bottom sad and anxious. The time had passed for the sweet life at the manor-house of Trianon, for rustic amusements and the charity of youth and romance. Marie Antoinette felt it deeply and bitterly; in the preceding year, at the moment when M. de Calonne was disputing with the Assembly of notables, she wrote to the Duchess of Polignac who had gone to take the waters in England: "Where you are you can at least enjoy the pleasure of not hearing affairs talked about. Though in the country of upper and lower houses, of oppositions and motions, you can shut your ears and let the talk glide; but here there is a deafening noise, notwithstanding all I can do; those words opposition and motion are as firmly established here as in the Parliament of England, with this difference, that, when you go over to the opposition in London, you commence by relinquishing the king's graces, whereas here many oppose all the wise and beneficent views of the most virtuous of masters and keep his benefits all the same; that perhaps is more clever, but it is not so noble. The time of illusions is over, and we are having some cruel experiences. Happily all the means are still in the king's hands, and he will arrest all the mischief which the imprudent want to make." The queen preserved some confidence: she only half perceived the abyss beginning
to yawn beneath her feet, she had not yet criticised the weakness and insufficiency of the king her husband; she did not as yet write: "The personage over me is not fit, and as for me, whatever may be said and come what may, I am never anything but secondary, and, in spite of the confidence reposed by the first, he often makes me feel it." She was troubled, nevertheless, and others more sagacious were more so than she. "When I arrived at Paris, where I had not been for more than three years," says M. Malouet, for a long while the king's commissioner in the colonies, and latterly superintendent of Toulon, "observing the heat of political discussions as well as of the pamphlets in circulation, M. d'Entraigues' work and Abbe Sieyes', the troubles in Brittany and those in Dauphiny, my illusions vanished; I was seized with all the terrors confided to me by Abbe Raynal on my way to Marseilles. I found M. Necker beginning to be afraid, but still flattering himself that he would have means of continuing, directing, and bringing everything right." The Parliament was still more affrighted than M. Malouet and M. Necker. Summoned, on the 28th of September, to enregister the king's proclamation relative to the convocation of the States-general, it added this clause: "According to the forms observed in 1614." It was a reply in the negative on the part of the magistracy to all the new aspirations to the vote by polling (_vote par tete_) as well as to the doubling of the third already gained in principle amongst the provincial assemblies; the popularity of the Parliament at once vanished. M. d'Espremesnil, hardly returned from the Isles of St. Marguerite, and all puffed up with his glory, found himself abandoned by those who had been loudest in vaunting his patriotic zeal. An old councillor had but lately said to him, when he was calling for the States-general with all his might, "Providence will punish your fatal counsels by granting your wishes." After the triumph of his return to Paris, amidst the desert which was forming around the Parliament, "the martyr, the hero of liberty," as his enthusiastic admirers had been wont to call him, had to realize that instability of human affairs and that fragility of popularity to which he had shut his eyes even in his prison, when Mirabeau, ever biting and cynical, wrote to one of his friends


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