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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The useful example of Dauphiny had no imitators


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whole of France was fever-stricken. The agitation was contradictory and confused, a medley of confidence and fear, joy and rage, everywhere violent and contagious. This time again Dauphiny showed an example of politic and wise behavior. The special states of the province had met on the 1st of December, 1788, authorized by the government, according to a new system proposed by the delegates of the three orders. Certain members of the noblesse and of the clergy had alone protested against the mode of election. Mounier constantly directed the decisions of the third (estate); he restrained and enlightened young Barnave, advocate in the court, who, for lack of his counsels, was destined to frequently go astray hereafter. The deliberations were invariably grave, courteous; a majority, as decided as it was tolerant, carried the day on all the votes. "When I reflect upon all we gained in Dauphiny by the sole force of justice and reason," wrote Mounier afterwards, in his exile, "I see how I came to believe that Frenchmen deserve to be free." M. Mounier published a work on the convocation of the States-general demanding the formation of two chambers. That was likewise the proposition of M. de La Luzerne, Bishop of Langres, an enlightened, a zealous, and a far-sighted prelate. "This plan had probably no approbation but mine," says M. Malouet. The opposition and the objections were diverse and contradictory, but they were general. Constitutional notions were as yet novel and full
of confusion in all minds. The most sagacious and most prudent were groping their way towards a future enveloped in mist.

The useful example of Dauphiny had no imitators. Bourbonness and Hainault had accepted the system proposed by M. Necker for the formation of preparatory assemblies. Normandy, faithful to its spirit of conservative independence, claimed its ancient privileges and refused the granted liberties. In Burgundy the noblesse declared that they would give up their pecuniary privileges, but that, on all other points, they would defend to the last gasp the ancient usages of the province. The clergy and noblesse of Languedoc held pretty much the same language. In Franche-Comte, where the states-provincial had not sat since Louis XIV.'s conquest, the strife was so hot on the subject of the administrative regimen, that the ministry declared the assembly dissolved, and referred the decision to the States-general. The Parliament of Besancon protested, declaring that the constitution of the province could not be modified save by the nationality of Franche-Comte, and that deputies to the States-general could not be elected save by the estates of the country assembled according to the olden rule. This pretension of the magistrates excluded the people from the elections; they rose and drove the court from the sessions-hall.

Everywhere the preparatory assemblies were disturbed, they were tumultuous in many spots; in Provence, as well as in Brittany, they became violent. In his province, Mirabeau was the cause or pretext for the troubles. Born at Bignon, near Nemours, on the 9th of March, 1749, well known already for his talent as a writer and orator as well as for the startling irregularities of his life, he was passionately desirous of being elected to the States-general. "I don't think I shall be useless there," he wrote to his friend Cerruti. Nowhere, however, was his character worse than in Provence: there people had witnessed his dissensions with his father as well as with his wife. Public contempt, a just punishment for his vices, caused his admission into the states- provincial to be unjustly opposed. The assembly


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