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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Put fresh energy into your concessions


"It

is the first Assembly of notables," said M. Malouet, "which has apprised the nation that the government was henceforth subordinated to public opinion.

"This is a false and dangerous position, if it is not strong enough to enlighten that opinion, direct it, and restrain it.

"The wish of France has summoned the States-general, there was no way but to obey it. The doubling of the third (estate) is likewise proclaimed in an irresistible manner, but as yet there is nothing but your own mistakes to imperil the kingly authority.

"Your shiftings, your weaknesses, your inconsistencies no longer leave you the resource of absolute power. From the moment that, exhibiting your embarrassments, you are obliged to invoke the counsels and aid of the nation, you can no longer walk without it; from its strength you must recruit your own; but your wisdom must control its strength; if you leave it bridleless and guideless, you will be crushed by it.

"You must not wait, then, for the States-general to make demands upon you or issue orders to you; you must hasten to offer all that sound minds can desire, within reasonable limits, whether of authority or of national rights.

"Everything ought to be foreseen and calculated in the king's council before the opening of the States-general. You ought to determine what can be given up

without danger in ancient usages, forms, maxims, institutions, obsolete or full of abuses. All that the public experience and reason denounce to you as proscribed, take heed that you do not defend; but do not be so imprudent as to commit to the risks of a tumultuous deliberation the fundamental basis and the essential springs of the kingly authority. Commence by liberally granting the requirements and wishes of the public, and prepare yourselves to defend, even by force, all that violent, factious, and extravagant systems would assail. In the state of uncertainty, embarrassment, and denudation in which you have placed yourselves, you have no strength, I can feel, I can see. Get out, then, of this state; put fresh energy into your concessions, into your plans; in a word, take up a decided attitude, for you have it not.

"The revolution which is at this instant being effected, and which we may regard as accomplished, is the elevation of the commons to an influence equal to that of the two other orders. Another revolution must follow that, and it is for you to carry it out: that is the destruction of privileges fraught with abuse and onerous to the people. When I say that it is for you to carry it out, I mean that you must take your measures in such wise as to prevent anything from being done without you, and otherwise than by your direction.

"Thus, then, you should have a fixed plan of concessions, of reforms, which, instead of upsetting everything, will consolidate the basis of legitimate authority. This plan should become, by your influence, the text of all the bailiwick memorials. God forbid that I should propose to you to bribe, to seduce, to obtain influence by iniquitous means over the elections! You need, on the contrary, the most honest, the most enlightened, the most energetic men. Such are those who must be brought to the front, and on whom the choice should be made to fall."

Admirable counsels on the part of the most honest and most far-sighted of minds; difficult, however, if not impossible, to be put into practice by feeble ministers, themselves still undecided on the very brink of the abyss, having to face the repugnance and the passions of the two privileged orders on which it was a question of imposing painful sacrifices, however legitimate and indispensable they might be.


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