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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

He was bound to send us back to our bailiwicks


his Majesty has adopted its

principles and views, and has ordained what follows: 1. That the deputies shall be at least one thousand in number; 2. That the number shall be formed, as nearly as possible, in the, compound ratio of the population and taxes of each bailiwick; 3. That the number of deputies of the third estate shall be equal to that of the two other orders together, and that this proportion shall be established by the letters of convocation." The die was cast, the victory remained with the third (estate), legitimate in principle, and still possible perhaps to be directed and regulated, but dangerous and already menacing. "It is not resistance from the two upper orders that I fear," said M. Malouet to the ministers, "it is the excess of the commons; you have done too much, or let too much be done to prevent now the propositions I submitted to you from being realized; the point is not to go any further, for beyond lies anarchy. But if, in the very decided and very impetuous course taken by public opinion, the king should hesitate and the clergy and noblesse resist, woe to us, for all is lost! Do you expect the least appearance of order and reason in a gathering of twelve hundred legislators, drawn from all classes, without any practice in discussion and meditation over the important subjects they are about to handle, carried away by party spirit, by the impetuous force of so many diverging interests and opinions? If you do not begin by giving them fixed ideas, by hedging them, through their
constituents, with instructions and impediments which they cannot break through, look out for all sorts of vagaries, for irremediable disorders."

In his sad forecast of the confusion which threatened the new Assembly, M. Malouet counted too much upon the authority of mandates and upon the influence of the constituents; he was destined to look on, impotent and despairing, at that great outburst of popular passions which split asunder all ties and broke through all engagements as so many useless impediments. "When the Assembly, in the first paroxysms of its delirium, dared to annul its oaths and declared itself freed from the yoke of the instructions which we received from our constituents, the king had a right--what do I say? he was bound to send us back to our bailiwicks," says M. Malouet. The States-general were convoked for the 27th of April, 1789, and not a soul had yet received instructions from the government. "Those that we did at last receive were as honest as they were insufficient. They told us in substance to get adopted, if we could, the proposal to present candidates for the departments, and to admit into the list of candidates none but men whose morality, means, and fair reputation were established, to prevent wrangles, schism between the orders, and to carry, as far as in us lay, the most moderate notions as regarded reforms and innovations. It was no longer the king speaking, it was the consulting counsel for the crown, asking advice of everybody, and appearing to say to everybody: 'What's to be done? What can I do? How much do they want to lop from my authority? How much of it will they leave me?" [_Memoires de M. Malouet,_ t. i. p. 249.] It was a tacit abdication of the kingship at the juncture when its traditional authority, if not its very existence, was brought to book.

The party of honest men, still very numerous and recruited amongst all classes of society, went confidently to the general elections and preparatory assemblies which had to precede them. "Hardly conscious were they of the dark clouds which had gathered around us; the clouds shrouded a tempest which was not slow to burst." [Ibidem, p. 260.]


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