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The French Revolution, Volume 1. The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 2 by Hippolyte A. Taine

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functions which they have personally or corporately exercised" they
"shall be prosecuted as disturbers of the peace, and condemned as
rebels against the law," deprived of all rights as active citizens,
and declared incompetent to hold any public office. This is the
penalty already inflicted on the nonjuring bishop who persists in
considering himself a bishop, who ordains priests and who issues a
pastoral letter. Such is soon to be the penalty inflicted on the
nonjuring curé who presumes to hear confession or officiate at a
mass.[75] On the other hand, all citizens who refuse to take the
prescribed oath, all electors, municipal officers, judges and
administrative agents, shall lose their right of suffrage, have
their functions revoked, and be declared incompetent for all public
duties.[76] The result is that scrupulous Catholics are excluded
from every administrative post, from all elections, and especially
from ecclesiastical elections; from which it follows that, the
stronger one's faith the less one's share in the choice of a
priest.[77] -- What an admirable law, that which, under the pretext
of doing away with ecclesiastical abuses, places the faithful, lay
or clerical, outside the pale of the law!

This soon becomes apparent. One hundred and thirty four
archbishops, bishops, and coadjutors refuse to take the oath; there
are only four of them who do so, three of whom, MM. de Talleyrand,
de Jarente, and de Brienne, are unbelievers and notorious for their
licentiousness; the others are influenced by their consciences,
above all, by their esprit de corps and a point of honor. Most of
the curés rally around this staff of officers. In the diocese of
Besançon,[78] out of fourteen hundred priests, three hundred take
the oath, a thousand refuse it, and eighty retract. In the
department of Doubs, only four consent to swear. In the department
of Lozère, there are only "ten out of two hundred and fifty." It is
stated positively," writes the best informed of all observers that
everywhere in France two-thirds of the ecclesiastics have refused
the oath, or have only taken it with the same reservations as the
Bishop of Clermont."

Thus, out of seventy thousand priests, forty-six thousand are turned
out of office, and the majority of their parishioners are on their
side. This is apparent in the absence of electors convoked to
replace them: at Bordeaux only four hundred and fifty came to the
poll out of nine hundred, while elsewhere the summons brings
together only "a third or a quarter" In many places there are no
candidates, or those elected decline to accept. They are obliged,
in order to supply their places, to hunt up unfrocked monks of a
questionable character. There are two parties, after this, in each
parish; two faiths, two systems of worship, and permanent discord.
Even when the new and the old curés are accommodating, their
situations bring them into conflict. To the former the latter are
"intruders." To the latter the former are " refractories." By virtue
of his being a guardian of souls, the former cannot dispense with
telling his parishioners that the intruder is excommunicated, that
his sacraments are null or sacrilegious, and that it is a sin to
attend his mass. By virtue of his being a public functionary, the
latter does not fail to write to the authorities that the "
refractory " entraps the faithful, excites their consciences, saps
the Constitution, and that he ought to be put down by force. In
other words, the former draws everybody away from the latter, while
the latter sends the gendarmes against the former, and persecution
begins. - In a strange reversal, it is the majority which undergoes
persecution, and the minority which carries it out. The mass of the
constitutional curé is, everywhere, deserted.[79] In La Vendée there
are ten or twelve present in the church out of five or six hundred
parishioners; on Sundays and holidays whole villages and market-
towns travel from one to two leagues off to attend the orthodox
mass, the villagers declaring that "if the old curé can only be
restored to them, they will gladly pay a double tax." In Alsace,
"nine tenths, at least, of the Catholics refuse to recognize the
legally sworn priests." The same spectacle presents itself in
Franche-Comté, Artois, and in ten of the other provinces. --
Finally, as in a chemical composition, the analysis is complete.
Those who believe, or who recover their belief, are ranged around
the old curé; all who, through conviction or tradition, hold to the
sacraments, all who, through faith or habit, wish or feel a need to
attend the mass. The auditors of the new curé consist of
unbelievers, deists, the indifferent members of the clubs and of the
administration, who resort to the church as to the Hôtel-de-ville or
to a popular meeting, not through religious but through political
zeal, and who support the "intruder" in order to sustain the
Constitution. All this does not secure to him very fervent
followers, but it provides him with very zealous defenders; and, in
default of the faith which they do not possess, they give the force
which is at their disposal. All means are proper against an
intractable bishop or curé; not only the law which they aggravate
through their forced interpretation of it and through their
arbitrary verdicts, but also the riots which they stir up by their
instigation and which they sanction by their toleration.[80] He is
driven out of his parish, consigned to the county town, and kept in
a safe place. The Directory of Aisne denounces him as a disturber
of the public peace, and forbids him, under severe penalties, from
administering the sacraments. The municipality of Cahors shuts up
particular churches and orders the nonjuring ecclesiastics to leave
the town in twenty-four hours. The electoral corps of Lot denounces
them publicly as "ferocious brutes," incendiaries, and provokers of
civil war. The Directory of the Bas-Rhin banishes them to
Strasbourg or to fifteen leagues from the frontier. At Saint-Leon
the bishop is forced to fly. At Auch the archbishop is imprisoned;
at Lyons M. de Boisboissel, grand vicar, is confined in Pierre-
Encize, for having preserved an archiepiscopal mandate in his house;
brutality is everywhere the minister of intolerance. A certain cure
of Aisne who, in 1789, had fed two thousand poor, having presumed to
read from his pulpit a pastoral charge concerning the observance of
Lent, the mayor seizes him by the collar and prevents him from going
to the altar; "two of the National Yeomanry" draw their sabers on
him, and forthwith lead him away bareheaded, not allowing him to
return to his house, and drive him to a distance of two leagues by
beat of drum and under escort. At Paris, in the church of Saint-
Eustache, the curé is greeted with outcries, a pistol is pointed at
his head, he is seized by the hair, struck with fists, and only
reaches the sacristy through the intervention of the National Guard.
In the church of the Théatins, rented by the orthodox with all legal
formality, a furious band disperses the priests and their
assistants, upsets the altar and profanes the sacred vessels. A
placard, posted up by the department, calls upon the people to
respect the law, "I saw it," says an eye-witness, "torn down amidst
imprecations against the department, the priests, and the devout.
One of the chief haranguers, standing on the steps terminated his
speech by stating that schism ought to be stopped at any cost, that
no worship but his should be allowed, that women should be whipped
and priests knocked on the head." And, in fact, "a young lady
accompanied by her mother is whipped on the steps of the church."
Elsewhere nuns are the sufferers, even the sisters of Saint-Vincent
de Paul; and, from April, 1793, onward; the same outrages on modesty
and against life are propagated from town to town. At Dijon, rods
are nailed fast to the gates of all the convents; at Montpellier,
two or three hundred ruffians, armed with large iron--bound sticks,
murder the men and outrage the women. -- Nothing remains but to
put the gangsters under the shelter of an amnesty, which is done by
the Constituent Assembly, and to legally sanction the animosity of
local administrations, which is done by the Legislative
Assembly.[81] Henceforth the nonjuring ecclesiastics are deprived
of their sustenance; they are declared " suspected of revolt against
the law and of evil intentions against the country." - Thus, says a
contemporary Protestant, "on the strength of these suspicions and
these intentions, a Directory, to which the law interdicts judicial
functions, may arbitrarily drive out of his house the minister of a
God of peace and charity, grown gray in the shadow of the altar"
Thus, "everywhere, where disturbances occur on account of religious
opinions, and whether these troubles are due to the frantic
scourgers of the virtuous sisters of charity or to the ruffians
armed with cow-hides who, at Nîmes and Montpellier, outrage all the
laws of decorum and of liberty for six whole months, the non-juring
priests are to be punished with banishment. Torn from their
families whose means of living they share, they are sent away to
wander on the highways, abandoned to public pity or ferocity the
moment any scoundrel chooses to excite a disturbance that he can
impute to them." - Thus we see approaching the revolt of the
peasantry, the insurrections of Nîmes, Franche-Comté, la Vendée and
Brittany, emigration, transportation; imprisonment, the guillotine
or drowning for two thirds of the clergy of France, and likewise for
myriads of the loyal, for husbandmen, artisans, day-laborers,
seamstresses, and servants, and the humblest among the lower class
of the people. This is what the laws of the Constituent Assembly
are leading to. -- In the institution of the clergy, as in that of
the nobles and the King, it demolished a solid wall in order to dig
through it an open door, and it is nothing strange if the whole
structure tumbles down on the heads of its inmates. The true course
was to respect, to reform, to utilize rank and corporations: all
that the Assembly thought of was the abolition of these in the name
of abstract equality and of national sovereignty. In order to
abolish these it executed, tolerated, or initiated all the attacks
on persons and on property. Those it is about to commit are the
inevitable result of those which it has already committed; for,
through its Constitution, bad is changed to worse, and the social
edifice, already half in ruins through the clumsy havoc that is
effected in it, will fall in completely under the weight of the
incongruous or extravagant constructions which it proceeds to



[1] Cf. "The Ancient Régime," books I. and V.

[2] Perhaps we are here at the core of why all regimes end up
becoming corrupt, inefficient and sick; their leaders take their
privileges for granted and become more and more inattentive to the
work which must be done if the people are to be kept at work and
possible adversaries kept under control. (SR.)

[3] A special tax paid the king by a plebeian owning a fief. (TR)

[4] The right to an income from trust funds. (SR.)

[5] Arthur Young, I. 209, 223. "If the communes steadily refuse
what is now offered to them, they put immense and certain benefits
to the chance of fortune, to that hazard which may make posterity
curse instead of bless their memories as real patriots who had
nothing in view but the happiness of their country.

[6] According to valuations by the Constituent Assembly, the tax on
real estate ought to bring 240,000,000 francs, and provide one-fifth
of the net revenue of France, estimated at 1,200,000,000.
Additionally, the personal tax on movable property, which replaced
the capitation, ought to bring 60,000,000. Total for direct
taxation, 300,000,000, or one-fourth -- that is to say, twenty-five
per cent, of the net revenue.-- If the direct taxation had been
maintained up to the rate of the ancient régime (190,000,000,
according to Necker's report in May, 1689), this impost would only
have provided one-sixth of the net revenue, or sixteen percent.

[7] Dumont, 267. (The words of Mirabeau three months before his
death:) "Ah, my friend, how right we were at the start when we
wanted to prevent the commons from declaring themselves the National
Assembly! That was the source of the evil. They wanted to rule the
King, instead of ruling through him."

[8] Gouverneur Morris, April 29, 1789 (on the principles of the
future constitution), "One generation at least will be required to
render the public familiar with them."

[9] Cf. "The Ancient Régime," book II, ch. III.

[10] French women did not obtain the right to vote until 1946. (SR.)

[11] According to Voltaire ("L'Homme aux Quarante Écus"), the
average duration of human life was only twenty-three years.

[12] Mercure, July 6, 1790. According to the report of Camus
(sitting of July 2nd), the official total of pensions amounted to
thirty-two millions; but if we add the gratuities and allowances out
of the various treasuries, the actual total was fifty-six millions.

[13] I note that today in 1998, 100 years after Taine's death,
Denmark, my country, has had total democracy, that is universal
suffrage for women and men of 18 years of age for a considerable
time, and a witty author has noted that the first rule of our
unwritten constitution is that "thou shalt not think that thou art
important". I have noted, however, that when a Dane praises Denmark
and the Danes even in the most excessive manner, then he is not
considered as a chauvinist but admired as being a man of truth. In
spite of the process of 'democratization' even socialist chieftains
seem to favor and protect their own children, send them to good
private schools and later abroad to study and help them to find
favorable employment in the party or with the public services. A
new élite is thus continuously created by the ruling political and
administrative upper class. (SR.).

[14] The Ancient Régime," p.388, and the following pages.-" Le Duc de
Broglie," by M. Goizot, p. 11. (Last words of Prince Victor de
Broglie, and the opinions of M. d'Argenson.)

[15] De Ferrières, I. p.2.

[16] Moniteur, sitting of September 7, 1790, I. 431-437. Speeches,
of MM. de Sillery, de Lanjuinais, Thouret, de Lameth, and Rabaut-
Saint-Etienne. Barnave wrote in 1791: "It was necessary to be
content with one single chamber; the instinct of equality required
it. A second Chamber would have been the refuge of the

[17] Lenin should later create an elite, an aristocracy which, under
his leadership was to become the Communist party. Lenin could not
have imagined or at least would not have been concerned that the
leadership of this party would fall into the hands of tyrants later,
under the pressure of age and corruption, to be replaced by the KGB
and later the FSB. (SR.)

[18] "De Bouillé," p. 50: "All the old noble families, save two or
three hundred, were ruined."

[19] Cf. Doniol, "La Révolution et la Féodalité."

[20] Moniteur, sitting of August 6, !789. Speech of Duport:
"Whatever is unjust cannot last. Similarly, no compensation for
these unjust rights can be maintained." Sitting of February 27,
1790. M. Populus: "As slavery could not spring from a legitimate
contract, because liberty cannot be alienated, you have abolished
without indemnity hereditary property in persons." Instructions and
decree of June 15-19, 1791: "The National Assembly has recognized in
the most emphatic manner that a man never could become the
proprietor of another man, and consequently, that the rights which
one had assumed to have over the person of the other, could not
become the property of the former." Cf. the diverse reports of
Merlin to the Committee of Feudality and the National Assembly.

[21] Duvergier, "Collection des Lois et Décrets." Laws of the 4-11
August, 1789; March 15-28, 1790; May 3-9, 1790; June 15-19, 1791.

[22] Agrier percières -- terms denoting taxes paid in the shape of
shares of produce. Those which follow: lods, rentes, quint, requint
belong to the taxes levied on real property. [Tr.]

[23] Doniol ("Noveaux cahiers de 1790"). Complaints of the copy-
holders of Rouergues and of Quercy, pp. 97-105.

[24] See further on, book III. ch. II. § 4 and also ch. III.

[25] Moniteur, sitting of March 2, 1790. Speech by Merlin: "The
peasants have been made to believe that the annulation of the
banalities (the obligation to use the public mill, wine-press, and
oven, which belonged to the noble) carried along with it the loss to
the noble of all these; the peasants regarding themselves as
proprietors of them."

[26] Moniteur; sitting of June 9, !790. Speech of M. Charles de
Lameth -- Duvergier (laws of June 19-23 1790; September 27 and
October 16, 1791).

[27] Sauzay, V. 400 -410.

[28] Duvergier, laws of June 15-19, 1791; of June 18 -July 6, 1792;
of August 25-28, 1792.

[29] "Institution du Droit Français," par Argou, I.103. (He wrote
under the Regency.) "The origin of most of the feoffs is so ancient
that, if the seigneurs were obliged to produce the titles of the
original concession to obtain their rents, there would scarcely be
one able to produce them. This deficiency is made up by common

[30] Duvergier (laws of April 8-15, 1791; March 7-11; October 26,
1791; January 6-10, 1794). -- Mirabeau had already proposed to
reduce the disposable portion to one-tenth.

[31] See farther on, book III, ch. III.

[32] Mercure, September 10, 1791. Article by Mallet du Pan. - Ibid.
October 15, 1791.

[33] Should Hitler or Lenin have read and understood the
consequences of these events they would have deduced that given the
command from official sources or recognized leaders ordinary people
all over the world could easily be tempted to attack any group,
being it Jews, Protestants, Hindus or foreigners. (SR.)

[34] "Archives Nationales," II. 784. Letters of M. de Langeron,
October 16 and 18, 1789. -- Albert Babeau, "Histoire de Troyes,"
letters addressed to the Chevalier de Poterats , July, 1790. --
"Archives Nationales," papers of the Committee on Reports, bundle 4,
letter of M. le Belin-Chatellenot to the to the President of the
National Assembly, July 1, 1791. -- Mercure, October 15, 1791.
Article by Mallet du Pan: "Such is literally the language of these
emigrants; I do not add a word." - Ibid. May 15, 1790. Letter of
the Baron de Bois d'Aizy, April 29,1790, demanding a decree of
protection fur the nobles. "We shall know (then) whether we are
outlawed or are of any account in the rights of man written out with
so much blood, or whether, finally, no other option is left to us
but that of carrying to distant skies the remains of our property
and our wretched existence."

[35] Mercure, October 15, 1791, and September 10, 1791. Read the
admirable letter of the Chevalier de Mesgrigny, appointed colonel
during the suspension of the King, and refusing his new rank.

[36] Cf. the "Mémoires" of M. de Boustaquet, a Norman gentleman.

[37] Cf. "The Ancient Régime," books I. and II.

[38] Boivin- Champeaux, "Notice Historique sur la Révolution dans le
Département de L'Eure," the register of grievances. In 1788, at
Rouen, there was not a single profession made by men. In the
monastery of the Deux-Amants the chapter convoked in 1789 consisted
of two monks. -- "Archives Nationales," papers of the ecclesiastic
committee, passim.

[39] "Apologie de l'État Religieux" (1775), with statistics. Since
1768 the decline is "frightful." "It is easy to foresee that in ten
or twelve years most of the regular bodies will be absolutely
extinct, or reduced to a state of feebleness akin to death."

[40] Sanzay, I. 224 (November, 1790). At Besançon, out of 266
monks, "79 only showed any loyalty to their engements or any
affection for their calling." Others preferred to abandon it,
especially all the Dominicans but five, all but one of the bare
footed Carmelites, and all the Grand Carmelites. The same
disposition is apparent throughout the department, as, for instance,
with the Benedictines of Cluny except one, all the Minimes but
three, all the Capuchins but five, the Bernandins, Dominicans, and
Augustins, all preferring to leave. -- Montalembert, "Les Moines
d'Occident," introduction, pp. 105-164. Letter of a Benedictine of
Saint-Germain-des-Prés to a Benedictine of Vannes. "Of all the
members of your congregation which come here to lodge, I have
scarcely found one capable of edifying us. You may probably say the
same of those who came to you from our place." -- Cf. in the
"Mémoires" of Merlin de Thionville the description of the Chartreuse
of Val St. Pierre.

[41] Ch. Guerin, "Revue des Questions Historiques" (July 1, 1875;
April 1, 1876). -- Abbé Guettée, "Histoire de l'Eglise de France,"
XII, 128. ("Minutes of the meeting of l'Assemblée du Clergé," in
1780.) -- "Archives nationales," official reports and memorandums of
the States-General in 1789. The most obnoxious proceeding to the
chiefs of the order is the postponement of the age at which vows may
be taken, it being, in their view, the ruin of their institutions.
-- "The Ancient Régime," p. 403.

[42] In order for a modern uninstructed non-believing reader to
understand the motivation which moved thousands of self-less
sisters and brothers to do their useful and kind work read St.
Matthew chapter 25, verses 31 to 46 where Jesus predicts how he will
sit in judgment on mankind and separate the sheep from the goats. (SR.)

[43] "The Ancient Régime," P.33 -- Cf. Guerin "The monastery of the
Trois-Rois, in the north of Franche-Comté, founded four villages
collected from foreign colonists. It is the only center of charity
and civilization in a radius of three leagues. It took care of two
hundred of the sick in a recent epidemic; it lodges the troops which
pass from Alsace into Franche-Comté, and in the late hailstorm it
supplied the whole neighborhood with food."

[44] Moniteur, sitting of February 13,1790. (Speech of the Abbé de
Montesquiou). -- Archives Nationales," papers of the
Ecclesiastical Committee, DXIX. 6, Visitation de Limoges, DXIX.
25, Annonciades de Saint-Denis; ibid. Annonciades de Saint Amour,
Ursulines d'Auch, de Beaulieu, d'Eymoutier, de la Ciotat, de Pont
Saint-Esprit, Hospitalières d'Ernée, de Laval; Sainte Claire de
Laval, de Marseilles, etc. "

[45] Sauzay, I. 247. Out of three hundred and seventy-seven nuns
at Doubs, three hundred and fifty-eight preferred to remain as they
were, especially at Pontarlier, all the Bernardines, Annonciades,
and Ursulines; at Besançon, all the Carmelites, the Visitandines,
the Annonciades, the Clarisses, the Sisters of Refuge, the Nuns of
the Saint-Esprit and, save one, all the Benedictine Nuns.

[46] "Archives Nationales." Papers of the Ecclesiastical Committee,
passim.-- Suzay, I. 51. -- Statistics of France for 1866.

[47] In 1993 this number has once more fallen, and continues to
fall, to 55 900. "Quid", 1996 page 623. (SR.)

[48] Felix Rocquain, "La France aprés le 18 Brumaire." (Reports of
the Councillors of State dispatched on this service, passim).

[49] Moniteur, October 24, 1789. (Speech of Dupont de Nemours.) All
these speeches, often more fully reported and with various
renderings, may be found in "Les Archives Parlementaires," 1st
series, vols. VIII. and IX.

[50] Duvergier, decree of June 14-17, 1791. "The annihilation of
every corporation of citizens of any one condition or profession
being on of the foundation-stones of the French constitution, it is
forbidden to re-establish these de-facto under any pretext or form
whatever. Citizens of a like condition or profession, such as
contractors, shopkeepers, workmen of all classes, and associates in
any art whatever shall not, on assembling together, appoint either
president, or secretaries, or syndics, discuss or pass resolutions,
or frame any regulations in relation to their assumed common

[51] Moniteur, sitting of November 2nd, 1789.

[52] Moniteur, sitting of February 12, 1790. Speeches of Dally
d'Agier and Barnave.

[53] Moniteur, sitting of August 10, 1789. Speech by Garat;
February 12, 1790, speech by Pétion; October 30, 1789, speech by

[54] Moniteur, sitting of November 2, 1789. Speech by Chapelier;
October 24, 1789, speech by Garat; October 30, 1789, speech by
Mirabeau, and the sitting of August 10, 1789.

[55] Moniteur, sitting of October 23, 1789. Speech by Thouret.

[56] Moniteur, sitting of October 23, 1789. Speech by Treilhard;
October24th, speech by Garat; October 30, speech by Mirabeau. -- On
the 8th of August, 1789, Al. de Lameth says in the tribune: "When
an foundation was set up, it is to the nation, which the grant was

[57] Duvergier, laws of August 18, 1792; August 8-14, 1793; July 11,
1794; July 14, 1792; August 24, 1793.

[58] Moniteur, sitting of July 31, 1792. Speech of M. Boistard;
the property of the hospitals, at this time was estimated at eight
hundred millions. -- Already in 1791 (sitting of January 30th) M.
de Larochefoucauld-Liancourt said to the Assembly: Nothing will more
readily restore confidence to the poor than to see the nation
assuming the right of rendering them assistance." He proposes to
decree; accordingly, that all hospitals and places of beneficence he
placed under the control of the nation. (Mercure, February 12,

[59] Moniteur, sitting of August 10, 1789. Speech by Sieyès. --
The figures given here are deduced from the statistics already given
in the "Ancient Régime."

[60] Moniteur, v. 571.sitting of September 4, 1790. Report of the
Committee on Finances -- V. 675, sitting of September 17, 1790.
Report by Necker.

[61] A Revolutionary Government promissory bank note. (SR.)

[62] Sauzay, I. 228 (from October 10, 1790, to February 20, 1791).
"The total weight of the spoil of the monastic establishments in
gold, silver, and plated ware, sent to the Mint amounted to more
than 525 kilograms (for the department)."

[63] Duvergier, law of October 8-14.

[64] Moniteur, sitting of June 3,1792. Speech of M. Bernard, in
the name of the committee of Public Assistance: "Not a day passes in
which we do not receive the saddest news from the departments on the
penury of their hospitals." -- Mercure de France, December 17, 1791,
sitting of December 5. A number of deputies of the Department of
the North demand aid for their hospitals and municipalities. Out of
480,000 livres revenue there remains 10,000 to them. "The property
of the Communes is mortgaged, and no longer affords them any
resources. 280,000 persons are without bread.

[65] Sauzay, I. 252 (December 3, 1790. April 13, 1791).

[66] Moniteur, sitting of June 1, 1790. Speeches by Camus,
Treilhard, etc.

[67] But on the assumption that all religion has been invented by
human beings for their own comfort or use, then what would be more
natural than clever rulers using their power to influence the
religious authorities to their own advantage. (SR.)

[68] Ultramontane: Extreme in favoring the Pope's supremacy. (SR.)

[69] Sauzay, I. 168.

[70] Personal knowledge, as I visited Besançon four times between
1863 and 1867.

[71] Moniteur, sitting of May 30, 1790, and others following.
(Report of Treilhard, speech by Robespierre.)

[72] Duvergier, laws of July 12th-August 14th; November 14-25, 1790;
January 21-26, 1791.

[73] Moniteur, sitting of May 31, 1790. Robespierre, in covert
terms, demands the marriage of priests. -- Mirabeau prepared a
speech in the same sense, concluding that every priest and monk
should be able to contract marriage; on the priest or monk
presenting himself with his bride before the curé, the latter should
be obliged to give them the nuptial benediction etc. Mirabeau
wrote, June 2, 1790: "Robespierre... has juggled me out of my
motion on the marriage of priests." -- In general the germ of all
the laws of the Convention is found in the Constituent Assembly.
(Ph. Plan, "Un Collaborateur de Mirabeau," p.56, 144.)

[74] Duvergier, laws of November 27th -- December 26, 1790; February
5th, March 22nd, and April 5, 1791. -- Moniteur, sitting of
November 6, 1790, and those that follow, especially that of December
27th. "I swear to maintain with all my power the French
Constitution and especially the decrees relating to the Civil
Constitution of the clergy." -- Cf. sitting of January 2, 1791,
speech by the Bishop of Clermont.

[75] Duvergier, law of May 7, 1791, to maintain the right of
nonjuring priests to perform mass in national or private edifices.
(Demanded by Talleyrand and Sieyès.)

[76] "Archives Nationales," F7, 3235. Letter of M. de Château-
Randon, deputy of la Lozère, May 28, 1791. After the decree of May
23rd, all the functionaries of the department handed in their

[77] Duvergier, law of May 21-29, 1791.

[78] Sauzay, I. 366, 538 to 593, 750. -- Archives Nationales," F7,
3235, Letter of M. de Chânteau-Randon, May 10, 1791. -- Mercure,
April 23rd, and April 16, 1701. Articles of Mallet du Pan, letter
from Bordeaux, March 20, 1791.

[79] Buchez and Roux, XII, 77. Report of Gallois and Gensonné sent
to La Vendée and the Deux Sévres (July 25, 1791). -- " Archives
Nationales," F7, 3253, letter of the Directory of the Bas-Rhin
(letter of January 7, 1792). -- " Le District de Machecoul de 1788
à 1793," by Lallier. --" Histoire de Joseph Lebon," by Paris. --
Sauzay, vol. I. and II. in full.

[80] Mercure, January 15th, April 23rd, May 16th and 30th, June 1st,
November 23rd, 1791. -- "Le District de Machecoul," by Lallier,
173. -- Sauzay, I. 295. -- Lavirotte, "Annales d'Arnay-le-Duc
(February 5, 1792). -- "Archives Nationales," F7, 3223. Petition
of a number of the inhabitants of Montpellier, November 17, 1791.

[81] Duvergier, decree of November 29, 1791. -- Mercure, November
30, 1791 (article by Mallet du Pan).


That which is called a Government is a concert of powers, each with
a distinct function, and all working towards a final and complete
end. The merit of a Government consists in the attainment of this
end; the worth of a machine depends upon the work it accomplishes.
The important thing is not to produce a good mechanical design on
paper, but to see that the machine works well when set up on the
ground. In vain might its founders allege the beauty of their plan
and the logical connection of their theorems; they are not required
to furnish either plan or theorems, but an instrument.

Two conditions are requisite to render this instrument serviceable
and effective. In the first place, the public powers must harmonize
with each other, if not, one will neutralize the other; in the
second place they must be obeyed, or they are null.

The Constituent Assembly made no provision for securing this harmony
or this obedience. In the machine which it constructed the motions
all counteract each other; the impulse is not transmitted; the
gearing is not complete between the center and the extremities; the
large central and upper wheels turn to no purpose; the innumerable
small wheels near the ground break or get out of order: the machine,
by virtue of its own mechanism, remains useless, over-heated, under
clouds of waste steam, creaking and thumping in such a matter as to
show clearly that it must explode.


Powers of the Central Government. - The Assembly on the partition of
power. - Rupture of every tie between the Legislature and the King.
- The Assembly on the subordination of the executive power. - How
this is nullified. - Certainty of a conflict. - The deposition of
the King is inevitable.

Let us first consider the two central powers, the Assembly and the
King. - Ordinarily when distinct powers of different origin are
established by a Constitution, it makes, in the case of conflict
between them, a provision for an arbiter in the institution of an
Upper Chamber. Each of these powers, at least, has a hold on the
other. The Assembly must have one on the King: which is the right
to refuse taxation. The King must have one on the Assembly: which
is the right of dissolving it. Otherwise, one of the two being
disarmed, the other becomes omnipotent, and, consequently, insane.
The peril here is as great for an omnipotent Assembly as it is for
an absolute King. If the former is desirous of remaining in its
right mind, it needs repression and control as much as the latter.
If it is proper for the Assembly to restrain the King by refusing
him subsidies, it is proper for him to be able to defend himself by
appealing to the electors. - But, besides these extreme measures,
which are dangerous and rarely resorted to, there is another which
is ordinarily employed and is safe, that is, the right for the King
to take his ministers from the Chamber. Generally, the leaders of
the majority form the ministry, their nomination being the means of
restoring harmony between the King and Assembly; they are at once
men belonging to the Assembly and men belonging to the King.
Through this expedient not only is the confidence of the Assembly
assured, since the Government remains in the hands of its leaders,
but also it is under restraint because these become simultaneously
both powerful and responsible. Placed at the head of all branches
of the service, they are, before proposing it or accepting it, in a
position to judge whether a law is useful and practicable. Nothing
is so healthy for a majority as a ministry composed of its own
chiefs; nothing is so effective in repressing rashness or
intemperance. A railway conductor is not willing that his
locomotive should be deprived of coal, nor to have the rails he is
about to run on broken up. - This arrangement, with all its
drawbacks and inconveniences, is the best one yet arrived at by
human experience for the security of societies against despotism and
anarchy. For the absolute power which establishes or saves them may
also oppress or exhaust them, there is a gradual substitution of
differentiated powers, held together through the mediation of a
third umpire, caused by reciprocal dependence and an which is common
to both.

Experience, however, is unimportant to the members of the
Constituent Assembly; under the banner of principles they sunder one
after another all the ties which keep the two powers together
harmoniously. - There must not be an Upper Chamber, because this
would be an asylum or a nursery for aristocrats. Moreover, "the
nation being of one mind," it is averse to "the creation of
different organs." So, applying ready-made formulas and metaphors,
they continue to produce ideological definitions and distinctions.

The King must not have a hold on the legislative body: the executive
is an arm, whose business it is to obey; it is absurd for the arm to
constrain or direct the head. Scarcely is the monarch allowed a
delaying veto. Sieyès here enters with his protest declaring that
this is a "lettre de cachet[1] launched against the universal will,"
and there is excluded from the action of the veto the articles of
the Constitution, all money-bills, and some other laws. - -Neither
the monarch nor the electors of the Assembly are to convoke the
Assembly; he has no voice in or oversight of the details of its
formation; the electors are to meet together and vote without his
summons or supervision. Once the Assembly is elected he can neither
adjourn nor dissolve it. He cannot even propose a law;[2] per-
mission is only granted to him "to invite it to take a subject into
consideration." He is limited to his executive duties; and still
more, a sort of wall is built up between him and the Assembly, and
the opening in it, by which each could take the other's hand, is
carefully closed up. The deputies are forbidden to become ministers
throughout the term of their service and for two years afterwards.
This is because fears are entertained that they might be corrupted
through contact with the Court, and, again, whoever the ministers
might be, there is no disposition to accept their ascendancy.[3] If
one of them is admitted into the Assembly it is not for the purpose
of giving advice, but to furnish information, reply to
interrogatories, and make protestations of his zeal in humble terms
and in a dubious position.[4] By virtue of being a royal agent he
is under suspicion like the King himself, and he is sequestered in
his bureau as the King is sequestered in his palace.- Such is the
spirit of the Constitution: by force of the theory, and the better
to secure a separation of the powers,[5] a common understanding
between them is for ever rendered impossible, and to make up for
this impossibility there remains nothing but to make one the master
and the other the clerk.

This they did not fail to do, and for greater security, the latter
is made an honorary clerk, The executive power is conferred on him
nominally and in appearance; he does not possess it in fact, care
having been taken to place it in other hands. - In effect, all
executive agents and all secondary and local powers are elective.
The King has no voice, directly or indirectly, in the choice of
judges, public prosecutors, bishops, curés, collectors and assessors
of the taxes, commissaries of police, district and departmental
administrators, mayors, and municipal officers. At most, should an
administrator violate a law, he may annul his acts and suspend him;
but the Assembly, the superior power, has the right to cancel this
suspension. - As to the armed force, of which he is supposed to be
the commander-in-chief, this escapes from him entirely: the National
Guard is not to receive orders from him; the gendarmerie and the
troops are bound to respond to the requisitions of the municipal
authorities, whom the King can neither select nor displace: in
short, local action of any kind - that is to say, all effective
action - is denied to him. - The executive instrument is purposely
destroyed. The connection which existed between the wheels of the
extremities and the central shaft is broken, and henceforth,
incapable of distributing its energy, this shaft, in the hands of
the monarch, stands still or else turns to no purpose. The King,
"supreme head of the general administration, of the army, and of the
navy, guardian of public peace and order, hereditary representative
of the nation," is without the means, in spite of his lofty titles,
of directly applying his pretended powers, of causing a schedule of
assessments to be drawn up in a refractory commune, of compelling
payment by a delinquent tax-payer, of enforcing the free circulation
of a convoy of grain, of executing the judgment of a court, of
suppressing an outbreak, or of securing protection to persons and
property. For he can bring no constraint to bear on the agents who
are declared to be subordinate to him; he has no resources but those
of warning and persuasion. He sends to each Departmental Assembly
the decrees which he has sanctioned, requesting it to transmit them
and cause them to be carried out; he receives its correspondence and
bestows his censure or approval - and that is all. He is merely a
powerless medium of communication, a herald or public advertiser, a
sort of central echo, sonorous and empty, to which news is brought,
and from which laws depart, to spread abroad like a common rumor.
Such as he is, and thus diminished, he is still considered to be too
strong. He is deprived of the right of pardon, "which severs the
last artery of monarchical government."[6] All sorts of precautions
are taken against him. He cannot declare war without a decree of
the Assembly; he is obliged to bring war to an end on the decree of
the Assembly; he cannot make a treaty of peace, an alliance, or a
commercial treaty, without the ratification of these by the
Assembly. It is expressly declared that he is to nominate but two-
thirds of the rear-admirals, one-half of the lieutenant-generals,
field-marshals, captains of Vessels and colonels of the gendarmerie,
one-third of the colonels and lieutenant-colonels of the line, and a
sixth of the naval lieutenants. He must not allow troops to stay or
pass within 30,000 yards of the Assembly. His guard must not
consist of more than 1,800 men, duly verified, and protected against
his seductions by the civil oath. The heir-presumptive must not
leave the country without the Assembly's assent. It is the Assembly
which is to regulate by law the education of his son during
minority. - All these precautions are accompanied with threats.
There are against him five possible causes of dethronement; against
his responsible Ministers, eight causes for condemnation to from
twelve to twenty years of constraint, and eight grounds for
condemnations to death.[7] Everywhere between the lines of the
Constitution, we read the constant disposition to assume an attitude
of defense, the secret dread of treachery, the conviction that
executive power, of whatever kind, is in its nature inimical to the
public welfare. - For withholding the nomination of judges, the
reason alleged is that "the Court and the Ministers are the most
contemptible portion of the nation."[8] If the nomination of
Ministers is conceded, it is on the ground that" Ministers appointed
by the people would necessarily be too highly esteemed." The
principle is that "the legislative body alone must possess the
confidence of the people," that royal authority corrupts its
depository, and that executive power is always tempted to commit
abuses and to engage in conspiracies. If it is provided for in the
Constitution it is with regret, through the necessity of the case,
and on the condition of its being trammeled by impediments; it will
prove so much the less baneful in proportion as it is restrained,
guarded, threatened, and denounced. - A position of this kind is
manifestly intolerable; and only a man as passive as Louis XVI.
could have put up with it. Do what he will, however, he cannot make
it a tenable one. In vain does he scrupulously adhere to the
Constitution, and fulfill it to the letter. Because he is powerless
the Assembly regards him as lukewarm, and imputes to him the
friction of the machine which is not under his control. If he
presumes once to exercise his veto it is rebellion, and the
rebellion of an official against his superior, which is the
Assembly; the rebellion of a subject against his Sovereign, which is
the people. In this case dethronement is proper, and the Assembly
has only to pass the decree; the people have simply to execute the
act, and the Constitution ends in a Revolution. - A piece of
machinery of this stamp breaks down through its own movement. In
conformity with the philosophic theory the two wheels of government
must be separated, and to do this they have to be disconnected and
isolated one from the other. In conformity with the popular creed,
the driving-wheel must be subordinated and its influence
neutralized: to do this it is necessary to reduce its energy to a
minimum, break up its connections, and raise it up in the air to
turn round like a top, or to remain there as an obstacle to
something else. It is certain that, after much ill-usage as a
plaything, it will finally be removed as a hindrance.


Administrative powers. - The Assembly on the hierarchy. - Grades
abolished. - Collective powers. - Election introduced, and the
influence of subordinates in all branches of the service. -
Certainty of disorganization. - Power in the hands of municipal

Let us leave the center of government and go to the extremities, and
observe the various administrations in working operation.[9]

For any service to work well and with precision, there must be a
single and unique chief who can appoint, pay, punish and dismiss his
subordinates. - For, on the one hand, he stands alone and feels his
responsibility; he brings to bear on the management of affairs a
degree of attention and consistency, a tact and a power of
initiation of which a committee is incapable; corporate follies or
defects do not involve any one in particular, and authority is
effective only when it is in one hand. - On the other hand, being
master, he can rely on the subalterns whom he has himself selected,
whom he controls through their hopes or fears, and whom he
discharges if they do not perform their duties; otherwise he has no
hold on them and they are not instruments to be depended on. Only
on these conditions can a railway manager be sure that his pointsmen
are on the job. Only on these conditions can the foreman of a
foundry engage to execute work by a given day. In every public or
private enterprise, direct, immediate authority is the only known,
the only human and possible way to ensure the obedience and
punctuality of agents. - Administration is thus carried on in all
countries, by one or several series of functionaries, each under
some central manager who holds the reins in his single grasp.[10]

This is all reversed in the new Constitution. In the eyes of our
legislators obedience must be spontaneous and never compulsory, and,
in the suppression of despotism, they suppress government. The
general rule in the hierarchy which they establish is that the
subordinates should be independent of their superior, for he must
neither appoint nor displace them: the only right he has is to give
them advice and remonstrate with them.[11] At best, in certain
cases, he can annul their acts and inflict on them a provisional
suspension of their functions, which can be contested and is
revocable.[12] We see, thus, that none of the local powers are
delegated by the central power; the latter is simply like a man
without either hands or arms, seated in a gilt chair. The Minister
of the Finances cannot appoint or dismiss either an assessor or a
collector; the Minister of the Interior, not one of the
departmental, district, or communal administrators; the Minister of
Justice, not one judge or public prosecutor. The King, in these
three branches of the service, has but one officer of his own, the
commissioner whose duty it is to advocate the observance of the laws
in the courts, and, on sentence being given, to enforce its
execution. - All the muscles of the central power are paralyzed by
this stroke, and henceforth each department is a State apart, living
by itself.

An similar amputation, however, in the department itself, has cut
away all the ties by which the superior could control and direct his
subordinate. - If the administrators of the department are suffered
to influence those of the district, and those of the district those
of the municipality, it is only, again, in the way of council and
solicitation. Nowhere is the superior a commander who orders and
constrains, but everywhere a censor who gives warnings and scolds.
To render this already feeble authority still more feeble at each
step of the hierarchy, it is divided among several bodies. These
consist of superposed councils, which administer the department, the
district, and the commune. There is no directing head in any of
these councils. Permanency and executive functions throughout are
vested in the directories of four or eight members, or in bureaus of
two, three, four, six, and even seven members whose elected chief, a
president or mayor,[13] has simply an honorary primacy. Decision
and action, everywhere blunted, delayed, or curtailed by talk and
the processes of discussion, are brought forth only after the
difficult, tumultuous assent of several discordant wills.[14]
Elective and collective as these powers are, measures are still
taken to guard against them. Not only are they subject to the
control of an elected council, one-half renewable every two years,
but, again, the mayor and public prosecutor of the commune after
serving four years, and the procureur-syndic of the department or
district after eight years service, and the district collector after
six years' service, are not re-elected. Should these officials have
deserved and won the confidence of the electors, should familiarity
with affairs have made them specially competent and valuable, so
much the worse for affairs and the public ; they are not to be
anchored to their post.[15] Should their continuance in office
introduce into the service a spirit of order and economy, that is of
no consequence; there is danger of their acquiring to much
influence, and the law sends them off as soon as they become expert
and entitled to rule. - Never has jealousy and suspicion been more
on the alert against power, even legal and legitimate. Sapping and
mining goes on even in services which are recognized as essential,
as the army and the gendarmerie.[16] In the army, on the
appointment of a non-commissioned officer, the other non-
commissioned officers make up a list of candidates, and the captain
selects three, one of whom is chosen by the colonel. In the choice
of a sub-lieutenant, all the officers of the regiment vote, and he
who receives a majority is appointed. In the gendarmerie, for the
appointment of a gendarme, the directory of the department forms a
list; the colonel designates five names on it, and the directory
selects one of them. For the choice of a corporal, quartermaster or
lieutenant, there is, besides the directory and the colonel, another
intervention, that of the officers, both commissioned and non-
commissioned. It is a system of elective complications and lot-
drawings; one which, giving a voice in the choice of officers to the
civil authorities and to military subordinates, leaves the colonel
with only a third or one-quarter of his former ascendancy. In
relation to the National Guard, the new principle is applied without
any reservation. All the officers and non-commissioned officers up
to the grade of captain are elected by their own men. All the
superior officers are elected by the inferior officers. All under-
officers and all inferior and superior officers are elected for one
year only, and are not eligible for re-election until after an
interval of a year, during which they must serve in the ranks.[17]
- The result is manifest: command, in every civil and in every
military order, becomes upset; subalterns are no longer precise and
trustworthy instruments; the chief no longer has any practical hold
on them; his orders, consequently, encounter only tame obedience,
doubtful deference, sometimes even open resistance; their execution
remains dilatory, uncertain, incomplete, and at length is utterly
neglected; a latent and soon flagrant system of disorganization is
instituted by the law. Step by step, in the hierarchy of
Government, power has slipped downwards, and henceforth belongs by
virtue of the Constitution to the authorities who sit at the bottom
of the ladder. It is not the King, or the minister, or the
directory of the department or of the district who rules, but its
municipal officers; and their sway is as omnipotent as it can be in
a small independent republic. They alone have the "strong hand"
with which to search the pockets of refractory tax-payers, and
ensure the collection of the revenue; to seize the rioter by the
throat, and protect life and property; in short, to convert the
promises and menaces of the law into acts. Every armed force, the
National Guard, the regulars, and the gendarmerie, must march on
their requisition. They alone, among the body of administrators,
are endowed with this sovereign right; all that the department or
the district can do is to invite them to exercise it. It is they
who proclaim martial law. Accordingly, the sword is in their
hands.[18] Assisted by commissioners who are appointed by the
council-general of the commune, they prepare the schedule of
taxation of real and personal property, fix the quota of each tax-
payer, adjust assessments, verify the registers and the collector's
receipts, audit his accounts, discharge the insolvent, answer for
returns and authorize prosecutions.[19] Private purses are, in this
way, at their mercy, and they take from them whatever they determine
to belong to the public. - With the purse and the sword in their
hands they lack nothing that is necessary to make them masters, and
all the more because the application of every law belongs to them;
because no orders of the Assembly to the King, of the King to the
ministers, of ministers to the departments, of departments to the
districts, of the districts to the communes, brings about any real
local result except through them; because each measure of general
application undergoes their special interpretation, and can always
be optionally disfigured, softened, or exaggerated according to
their timidity, inertia, violence or partiality. Moreover, they are
not long in discovering their strength. We see them on all sides
arguing with their superiors against district, departmental, and
ministerial orders, and even against the Assembly itself; alleging
circumstances; lack of means, their own danger and the public
safety, failing to obey, acting for themselves, openly disobeying
and glorying in the act,[20] and claiming, as a right, the
omnipotence which they exercise in point of fact. Those of Troyes,
at the festival of the Federation, refuse to submit to the
precedence of the department and claim it for themselves, as
"immediate representatives of the people." Those of Brest,
notwithstanding the reiterated prohibitions of their district,
dispatch four hundred men and two cannon to force the submission of
a neighboring commune to a cure' who has taken the oath. Those of
Arnay-le-Duc arrest Mesdames (the King's aunts), in spite of their
passport signed by the ministers, hold them in spite of departmental
and district orders, persist in barring the way to them in spite of
a special decree of the National Assembly, and send two deputies to
Paris to obtain the sanction of their decision. What with arsenals
pillaged, citadels invaded, convoys arrested, couriers stopped,
letters intercepted, constant and increasing insubordination,
usurpations without truce or measure, the municipalities arrogate to
themselves every species of license on their own territory and
frequently outside of it. Henceforth, forty thousand sovereign
bodies exist in the kingdom. Force is placed in their hands, and
they make good use of it. They make such good use of it that one of
them, the commune of Paris, taking advantage of its proximity, lays
siege to, mutilates, and rules the National Convention, and through
it France.


The Municipal bodies. - Their great task. - Their incapacity. -
Their feeble authority.- Insufficiency of their means of action. -
The role of the National Guard. -

Let us follow these municipal kings into their own domain: the
burden on their shoulders is immense, and much beyond what human
strength can support. All the details of executive duty are
confided to them; they have not to busy themselves with a petty
routine, but with a complete social system which is being taken to
pieces, while another is reconstructed in its place. - They are in
possession of four milliards of ecclesiastical property, real and
personal, and soon there will be two and a half milliards of
property belonging to the emigrants, which must be sequestered,
valued, managed, inventoried, divided, sold, and the proceeds
received. They have seven or eight thousand monks and thirty
thousand nuns to displace, install, sanction, and provide for. They
have forty-six thousand ecclesiastics, bishops, canons, curés, and
vicars, to dispossess, replace, often by force, and later on to
expel, intern, imprison, and support. They are obliged to discuss,
trace out, teach and make public new territorial boundaries, those
of the commune, of the district and of the department. They have to
convoke, lodge, and protect the numerous primary and secondary
Assemblies, to supervise their operations, which sometimes last for
weeks. They must install those elected by them, justices of the
peace, officers of the National Guard, judges, public prosecutors,
curés, bishops, district and departmental administrators. They are
to form new lists of tax-payers, apportion amongst themselves,
according to a new system of impost, entirely new real and personal
taxes, decide on claims, appoint an assessor, regularly audit his
accounts and verify his books, aid him with force, use force in the
collection of the excise and salt duties, which being reduced,
equalized, and transformed in vain by the National Assembly, afford
no returns in spite of its decrees. They are obliged to find the
funds for dressing, equipping, and arming the National Guard, to
step in between it and the military commanders, and to maintain
concord between its diverse battalions. They have to protect
forests from pillage, communal land from being invaded, to maintain
the octroi, to protect former functionaries, ecclesiastics, and
nobles, suspected and threatened, and, above all, to provide, no
matter how, provisions for the commune which lacks food, and
consequently, to raise subscriptions, negotiate purchases at a
distance and even abroad, organize escorts, indemnify bakers, supply
the market every week notwithstanding the dearth, the insecurity of
roads, and the resistance of cultivators. - Even an absolute chief;
sent from a distance and from high place, the most energetic and
expert possible, supported by the best-disciplined and most obedient
troops, would scarcely succeed in such an undertaking; and there is
instead only a municipality which has neither the authority, the
means, the experience, the capacity, nor the will.

In the country, says an orator in the tribune,[21] "the municipal
officers, in twenty thousand out of forty thousand municipalities,
do not know how to read or write." The curé, in effect, is excluded
from such offices by law, and, save in La Vendée and the noble is
excluded by public opinion. Besides, in many of the provinces,
nothing but patois is spoken.[22] French, especially the philosophic
and abstract phraseology of the new laws and proclamations, remains
gibberish to their inhabitants. They cannot possibly understand and
apply the complicated decrees and fine-spun instructions which reach
them from Paris. They hurry off to the towns, get the duties of the
office imposed on them explained and commented on in detail, try to
comprehend, imagine they do, and then, the following week, come back
again without having understood anything, either the mode of keeping
state registers, the distinction between feudal rights which are
abolished and those retained, the regulations they should enforce in
cases of election, the limits which the law imposes as to their
powers and subordination. Nothing of all this finds its way into
their rude, untrained brains; instead of a peasant who has just left
his oxen, there is needed here a legal adept aided by a trained
clerk. - Prudential considerations must be added to their ignorance.
They do not wish to make enemies for themselves in their commune,
and they abstain from any positive action, especially in all tax
matters. Nine months after the decree on the patriotic
contribution, "twenty-eight thousand municipalities are overdue, not
having (yet) returned either rolls or estimates."[23] At the end of
January, 1792, "out of forty thousand nine hundred and eleven
municipalities, only five thousand four hundred and forty-eight have
deposited their registers; two thousand five hundred and eighty
rolls only are definitive and in process of collection. A large
number have not even begun their sectional statements."[24] - It is
much worse when, thinking that they do understand it, they undertake
to do their work. In their minds, incapable of abstraction, the law
is transformed and deformed by extraordinary interpretations. We
shall see what it becomes when it is brought to bear on feudal dues,
on the forests, on communal rights, on the circulation of corn, on
the taxes on provisions, on the supervision of the aristocrats, and
on the protection of persons and property. According to them, it
authorizes and invites them to do by force, and at once, whatever
they need or desire for the time being. - The municipal officers of
the large boroughs and towns, more acute and often able to
comprehend the decrees, are scarcely in a better condition to carry
them out effectively. They are undoubtedly intelligent, inspired by
the best disposition, and zealous for the public welfare. During
the first two years of the Revolution it is, on the whole, the best
informed and most liberal portion of the bourgeoisie which, in the
department as in the district, undertakes the management of affairs.
Almost all are men of the law, advocates, notaries, and attorneys,
with a small number of the old privileged class imbued with the same
spirit, a canon at Besançon, a gentleman at Nîmes. Their intentions
are of the very best; they love order and liberty, they give their
time and their money, they hold permanent sessions and accomplish an
incredible amount of work, and they often voluntarily expose
themselves to great danger. - But they are bourgeois philosophers,
and, in this latter particular, similar to their deputies in the
National Assembly, and, with this twofold character, as incapable as
their deputies of governing a disintegrated nation. In this twofold
character they are ill-disposed towards the ancient régime, hostile
to Catholicism and feudal rights, unfavorable to the clergy and the
nobility, inclined to extend the bearing and exaggerate the rigor of
recent decrees, partisans of the Rights of Man, and, therefore,
humanitarians and optimists, disposed to excuse the misdeeds of the
people, hesitating, tardy and often timid in the face of an outbreak
- in short, admirable writers, exhorters, and reformers, but good
for nothing when it comes to breaking heads and risking their own
bones. They have not been brought up in such a way as to become men
of action in a single day. Up to this time they have always lived
as passive administrators, as quiet individuals, as studious men and
clerks, domesticated, conversational, and polished, to whom words
concealed facts, and who, on their evening promenade, warmly
discussed important principles of government, without any
consciousness of the practical machinery which, with a police-system
for its ultimate wheel, rendered themselves, their promenade, and
their conversation perfectly secure. They are not imbued with that
sentiment of social danger which produces the veritable chief; the
man who subordinates the emotions of pity to the exigencies of the
public service. They are not aware that it is better to mow down a
hundred conscientious citizens rather than let them hang a culprit
without a trial. Repression, in their hands, is neither prompt,
rigid, nor constant. They continue to be in the Hôtel-de-Ville what
they were when they went into it, so many jurists and scribes,
fruitful in proclamations, reports, and correspondence. Such is
wholly their role, and, if any amongst them, with more energy,
desires to depart from it, he has no hold on the commune which,
according to the Constitution, he has to direct, and on that armed
force which is entrusted to him with a view to insure the observance
of the laws.

To insure respect for authority, indeed, it must not spring up on
the spot and under the hands of its subordinates. It loses its
prestige and independence when those who create it are precisely
those who have to submit to it. For, in submitting to it, they
remember that they have created it. This or that candidate among
them who has but lately solicited their suffrages is now a
magistrate who issues orders, and this sudden transformation is
their work. It is with difficulty that they pass from the role of
sovereign electors to that of docile subjects of the administration,
and recognize a commander in one of their own creatures.[25] On the
contrary, they will submit to his control only in their own fashion,
reserving to themselves in practice the powers the right to which
they have conferred on him.

"We gave him his place, and he must do as we want him to do,"

Such popular reasoning is the most natural in the world. It is as
applicable to the municipal officer wearing his scarf as to the
officer in the National Guard wearing his epaulettes; the former as
well as the latter being conferred by the arbitrary voice of the
electors, and always seeming to them a gift which is revocable at
their pleasure. The superior always, and more particularly in times
of danger or of great public excitement, seems, if directly
appointed by those whom he commands, to be their clerk. - Such is
municipal authority at this epoch, intermittent, uncertain, and
weak; and all the weaker because the sword, whose hilt the men of
the Hôtel-de-Ville seem to hold, does not always leave its scabbard
at their bidding. They alone are empowered to summon the National
Guard, but it does not depend on them, and it is not at their
disposal. To obtain its support it is needful that its independent
chiefs should be willing to respond to their requisition; that the
men should willingly obey their elected officers; that these
improvised soldiers should consent to quit their plow, their stores,
their workshops and offices, to lose their day, to patrol the
streets at night, to be pelted with stones, to fire on a riotous
crowd whose enmities and prejudices they often share. Undoubtedly,
they will fire on some occasions, but generally they will remain
quiet, with their arms at rest; and, at last, they will grow weary
of a trying, dangerous, and constant service, which is disagreeable
to them, and for which they are not fitted. They will not answer
the summons, or, if they do, they will come too late, and in too
small a number. In this event, the regulars who are sent for, will
do as they do and remain quiet, following their example, while the
municipal magistrate, into whose hands the sword has glided, will be
able to do no more than make grievous reports, to his superiors of
the department or district, concerning the popular violence of which
he is a powerless witness. - In other cases, and especially in the
country, his condition is worse. The National Guard, preceded by
its drums, will come and take him off to the town hall to authorize
by his presence, and to legalize by his orders, the outrages that it
is about to commit. He marches along seized by the collar, and
affixes his signature at the point of the bayonet. In this case not
only is his instrument taken away from him, but it is turned against
of holding it by the hilt, he feels the point: the armed force which
he ought to make use of makes use of him.

IV. On Universal Suffrage.

The National Guard as electors. - Its great power.- Its important
task. - The work imposed on active citizens. - They avoid it.

Behold, then, the true sovereign, the elector, both National Guard
and voter. They are the kings designed by the Constitution; there
he is, in every hierarchical stage, with his suffrage, with which to
delegate authority, and his gun to assure its exercise. - Through
his free choice he creates all local powers, intermediary, central,
legislative, administrative, ecclesiastical, and judiciary. He
appoints directly, and in the primary assemblies, the mayor, the
municipal board, the public prosecutor and council of the commune,
the justice of the peace and his assessors, and the electors of the
second degree. Indirectly, and through these elected electors, he
appoints the administrators and procureurs-syndics of both district
and department, the civil and criminal judges, the public
prosecutor, bishops, and priests, the members of the National
Assembly and jurors of the higher National Court[26]. All these
commissions which he issues are of short date, the principal ones,
those of municipal officer, elector, and deputy, having but two
years to run; at the end of this brief term their recipients are
again subject to his vote, in order that, if he is displeased with
them, he may replace them by others. He must not be fettered in his
choice; in every well-conducted establishment the legitimate
proprietor must be free easily and frequently to renew his staff of
clerks. He is the only one in whom confidence can be placed, and,
for greater security, all arms are given up to him. When his clerks
wish to employ force he is the one to place it at their disposal.
Whatever he desired as elector he executes as National Guard. On
two occasions he interferes, both times in a decisive manner; and
his control over the legal powers is irresistible because these are
born out of his vote and are obeyed only through his support. - But
these rights are, at the same time, burdens. The Constitution
describes him as an "active citizen," and this he eminently is or
should be, since public action begins and ends with him, since
everything depends on his zeal and capacity, since the machine is
good and only works well in proportion to his discernment,
punctuality, calmness, firmness, discipline at the polls, and in the
ranks. The law requires his services incessantly day and night, in
body and mind, as gendarme and as elector. - How burdensome this
service of gendarme must be, can be judged by the number of riots.
How burdensome that of elector must be, the list of elections will

In February, March, April, and May, 1789, there are prolonged parish
meetings, for the purpose of choosing electors and writing out
grievances, also bailiwick meetings of still longer duration to
choose deputies and draw up the memorial. During the months of July
and August, 1789, there are spontaneous gatherings to elect or
confirm the municipal bodies; other spontaneous meetings by which
the militia is formed and officered; and then, following these,
constant meetings of this same militia to fuse themselves into a
National Guard, to renew officers and appoint deputies to the
federative assemblies. In December, 1789, and January, 1790, there
are primary meetings, to elect municipal officers and their
councils. In May, 1790, there are primary and secondary meetings,
to appoint district and departmental administrators. In October,
1790, there are primary meetings, to elect the justice of the peace
and his assessors, also secondary meetings, to elect the district
courts. In November, 1790, there are primary meetings, to renew
one-half of the municipal bodies. In February and March, 1791,
there are secondary meetings, to nominate the bishop and curés. In
June, July, August, September, 1791, there are primary and secondary
meetings, to renew one-half of the district and departmental
administrators, to nominate the president, the public prosecutor,
and the clerk of the criminal court, and to choose deputies. In
November, 1791, there are primary meetings to renew one-half of the
municipal council. Observe that many of these elections drag along
because the voters lack experience, because the formalities are
complicated, and because opinions are divided. In August and
September, 1791, at Tours, they are prolonged for thirteen days;[27]
at Troyes, in January, 1790, instead of three days they last for
three weeks; at Paris, in September and October, 1791, only for the
purpose of choosing deputies, they last for thirty-seven days; in
many places their proceedings are contested, annulled, and begun
over again. To these universal gatherings, which put all France in
motion, we must add the local gatherings by which a commune approves
or gainsays its municipal officers, makes claims on the department,
on the King, or on the Assembly, demands the maintenance of its
parish priest, the provisioning of its market, the arrival or
dispatch of a military detachment, - and think of all that these
meetings, petitions, and nominations presuppose in the way of
preparatory committees and preliminary meetings and debates! Every
public representation begins with rehearsals in secret session. In
the choice of a candidate, and, above all, of a list of candidates;
in the appointment in each commune of from three to twenty-one
municipal officers, and from six to forty-two notables; in the
selection of twelve district administrators and thirty-six
departmental administrators, especially as the list must be of a
double length and contain twice as many officers as there are places
to fill, immediate agreement is impossible. In every important
election the electors are sure to be in a state of agitation a month
beforehand, while four weeks of discussion and caucus is not too
much to give to inquiries about candidates, and to canvassing
voters. Let us add, accordingly, this long preface to each of the
elections, so long and so often repeated, and now sum up the
troubles and disturbances, all this loss of time, all the labor
which the process demands. Each convocation of the primary
assemblies, summons to the town-hall or principal town of the
canton, for one or for several days, about three million five
hundred thousand electors of the first degree. Each convocation of
the assemblies of the second class compels the attendance and
sojourn at the principal town of the department, and again in the
principal town of the district, of about three hundred and fifty
thousand elected electors. Each revision or re-election in the
National Guard gathers together on the public square, or subjects to
roll-call at the town-hall, three or four millions of National
Guards. Each federation, after exacting the same gathering or the
same roll-call, sends delegates by hundreds of thousands to the
principal towns of the districts and departments, and tens of
thousands to Paris. - The powers thus instituted at the cost of so
great an effort, require an equal effort to make them work; one
branch alone of the administration[28] keeps 2,988 officials busy in
the departments, 6,950 in the districts, 1,175,000 in the communes -
in all, nearly one million two hundred thousand administrators,
whose places, as we have seen above, are no sinecures. Never did a
political machine require so prodigious an expenditure of force to
set it up and keep it in motion. In the United States, where it is
now (around 1875) deranged by its own action, it has been estimated
that, to meet the intentions of the law and keep each wheel in its
proper place, it would be necessary for each citizen to give one
whole day in each week, or on-sixth of his time, to public business.
In France, under the newly adopted system, where disorder is
universal, where the duty of National Guard is added to and
complicates that of elector and administrator, I estimate that two
days would be necessary. This is what the Constitution comes to,
this is its essential and supreme requirement: each active citizen
has to give up one-third of his time to public affairs.

Now, these twelve hundred thousand administrators and three or four
million electors and National Guards, are just the men in France who
have the least leisure. The class of active citizens, indeed,
comprises about all the men who labor with their hands or with their
heads. The law exempts only domestics devoted to personal service
or common laborers who, possessing no property or income, earn less
than twenty-one sous a day. Every journeyman-miller, the smallest
farmer, every village proprietor of a cottage or of a vegetable-
garden, any ordinary workman, votes at the primary meetings, and may
become a municipal officer. Again, if he pays ten francs a year
direct tax, if he is a farmer or yeomen on any property which brings
him in four hundred francs, if his rent is one hundred and fifty
francs, he may become an elected elector and an administrator of the
district or department. According to this standard the eligible are
innumerable; in Doubs, in 1790,[29] they form two-thirds of the
active citizens. Thus, the way to office is open to all, or almost
all, and the law has taken no precaution whatever to reserve or
provide places for the elite, who could best fill them. On the
contrary, the nobles, the ecclesiastical dignitaries, the members of
the parliaments, the grand functionaries of the ancient regime, the
upper class of the bourgeoisie, almost all the rich who possess
leisure, are practically excluded from the elections by violence,
and from the various offices by public opinion: they soon retire
into private life, and, through discouragement or disgust, through
monarchical or religious scruples, abandon entirely a public career.
- The burden of the new system falls, accordingly, on the most
occupied portion of the community: on merchants, manufacturers,
agents of the law, employees, shopkeepers, artisans, and
cultivators. They are the people who must give up one-third of
their time already appropriated, neglect private for public
business, leave their harvests, their bench, their shop, or their
briefs to escort convoys and patrol the highways, to run off to the
principal town of the canton, district, or department, and stay and
sit there in the town-hall,[30] subject to a deluge of phrases and
papers, conscious that they are forced to gratuitous drudgery, and
that this drudgery is of little advantage to the public. - For the
first six months they do it with good grace; their zeal in penning
memorials, in providing themselves with arms against "brigands," and
in suppressing taxes, rents, and tithes, is active enough. But now
that this much is obtained or extorted, decreed as a right, or
accomplished in fact, they must not be further disturbed. They need
the whole of their time: they have their crops to get in, their
customers to serve, their orders to give, their books to make up,
their credits to adjust, all which are urgent matters, and neither
ought to be neglected or interrupted. Under the lash of necessity
and of the crisis they have put their backs to it, and, if we take
their word for it, they hauled the public cart out of the mud; but
they had no idea of putting themselves permanently in harness to
drag it along themselves. Confined as this class has been for
centuries to private life, each has his own wheelbarrow to trundle
along, and it is for this, before all and above all, that he holds
himself responsible. From the beginning of the year 1790 the
returns of the votes taken show that as many are absent as present;
at Besançon there are only nine hundred and fifty-nine voters out of
thirty-two hundred inscribed; four months after this more than one-
half of the electors fail to come to the polls;[31] and throughout
France, even at Paris, the indifference to voting keeps on
increasing. Puppets of such an administration as that of Louis XV.
and Louis XVI. do not become Florentine or Athenian citizens in a
single night. The hearts and heads of three or four millions of men
are not suddenly endowed with faculties and habits which render them
capable of diverting one-third of their energies to work which is
new, disproportionate, gratuitous, and supererogatory. - A fallacy
of monstrous duplicity lies at the basis of the political theories
of the day and of those which were invented during the following ten
years. Arbitrarily, and without any examination, a certain weight
and resistance are attributed to the human metal employed. It is
found on trial to have ten times less resistance and twenty times
more weight than was supposed.

V. The Ruling Minority.

The restless minority. - Its elements.- The clubs.- Their
ascendancy.- How they interpret the Rights of Man. - Their
usurpations and violence.

In default of the majority, who shirk their responsibilities, it is
the minority which does the work and assumes the power. The
majority having resigned, the minority becomes sovereign, and public
business, abandoned by the hesitating, weak, and absent multitude,
falls into the hands of the resolute, energetic, ever-present few
who find the leisure and the disposition to assume the
responsibility. In a system in which all offices are elective, and
in which elections are frequent, politics becomes a profession for
those who subordinate their private interests to it, and who find it
of personal advantage; every village contains five or six men of
this class, every borough twenty or thirty, every town its hundreds
and Paris its many thousands.[32] These are veritable active
citizens They alone give all their time and attention to public
matters, correspond with the newspapers and with the deputies at
Paris, receive and spread abroad the party watchword on every
important question, hold caucuses, get up meetings, make motions,
draw up addresses, overlook, rebuke, or denounce the local
magistrates, form themselves into committees, publish and push
candidates, and go into the suburbs and the country to canvass for
votes. They hold the power in recompense for their labor, for they
manage the elections, and are elected to office or provided with
places by the successful candidates. There is a prodigious number
of these offices and places, not only those of officers of the
National Guard and the administrators of the commune, the district,
and the department, whose duties are gratuitous, or little short of
it, but a quantity of others which are paid,[33] - eighty-three
bishops, seven hundred and fifty deputies, four hundred criminal
judges, three thousand and seven civil judges, five thousand
justices of the peace, twenty thousand assessors forty thousand
communal collectors, forty-six thousand curés, without counting the
accessory or insignificant places which exist by tens and hundreds
of thousands, from secretaries, clerks, bailiffs and notaries, to
gendarmes, constables, office-clerks, beadles, grave-diggers, and
keepers of sequestered goods. The pasture is vast for the
ambitious; it is not small for the needy, and they seize upon it.
Such is the rule in pure democracies: hence the swarm of politicians
in the United States. When the law incessantly calls all citizens
to political action, there are only a few who devote themselves to
it; these become expert in this particular work, and, consequently,
preponderant. But they must be paid for their trouble, and the
election secures to them their places because they manage the

Two sorts of men furnish the recruits for this dominant minority: on
the one hand the enthusiasts, and on the other those who have no
social position. Towards the end of 1789, moderate people, who are
minding their own business, retire into privacy, and are daily less
disposed to show themselves. The public square is occupied by
others who, through zeal and political passion, abandon their
pursuits, and by those who, finding themselves hampered in their
social sphere, or repelled from ordinary circles, were merely
awaiting a new opening to take a fresh start. In these utopian and
revolutionary times, there is no lack of either class. Flung out by
handfuls, the dogma of popular sovereignty falls like a seed
scattered around, to end up vegetating in heated brains, in the
narrow and rash minds which, once possessed by an idea, adhere to it
and are mastered by it. It falls amongst a class of reasoners who,
starting from a principle, dash forward like a horse who has had
blinders put on. This is especially the case with the legal class,
whose profession accustoms them to deductions; nor less with the
village attorney, the unfrocked monk, the "intruding" and
excommunicated curé, and above all, the journalist and the local
orator, who, for the first time in his life, finds that he has an
audience, applause, influence and a future before him. These are
the only people who can do the complicated and constant work which
the new Constitution calls for; for they are the only men whose
desires are unlimited, whose dreams are coherent, whose doctrine is
explicit, whose enthusiasm is contagious, who cherish no scruples,
and whose presumption is unbounded. Thus has the rigid will been
wrought and tempered within them, the inward spring of energy which,
being daily more tightly wound up, urges them on to propaganda and
to action. - During the second half of the year 1790 we see them
everywhere following the example of the Paris Jacobins, styling
themselves friends of the Constitution, and grouping themselves
together in popular associations. Each town and village gives birth
to a club of patriots who regularly every evening, or several times
a week, meet "for the purpose of co-operating for the safety of the
commonwealth."[34] This is a new and spontaneous organ,[35] an
cancer and a parasite, which develops itself in the social body
alongside of its legal organizations. Its growth insensibly
increases, attracting to itself the substance of the others,
employing them for its own ends, substituting itself for them,
acting by and for itself alone, a sort of omnivorous outgrowth the
encroachment of which is irresistible, not only because
circumstances and the working of the Constitution nourish it, but
also because its germ, deposited at a great depth, is a living
portion of the Constitution itself.

For, placed at the head of the Constitution, as well as of the
decrees which are attached to it, stands the Declaration of the
Rights of Man. According to this, and by the avowal of the
legislators themselves, there are two parts to be distinguished in
the law, the one superior, eternal, inviolable, which is the self-
evident principle, and the other inferior, temporary, and open to
discussion, which comprehends more or less exact or erroneous
applications of this principle. No application of the law is valid
if it derogates from the principle. No institution or authority is
entitled to obedience if it is opposed to the rights which it aims
to guarantee. These sacred rights, anterior to all society, take
precedence of every social convention, and whenever we would know if
a legal order is legitimate, we have merely to ascertain if it is in
conformity with natural right. Let us, accordingly, in every
doubtful or difficult case, refer to this philosophic gospel, to
this incontestable catechism, this primordial creed proclaimed by
the National Assembly. - The National Assembly itself invites us to
do so. For it announces that

"ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole
of public misfortune, and of the corruption of governments."

It declares that

"the object of every political association is the preservation of
natural and
imprescriptible rights."

It enumerates them, "in order that the acts of legislative power and
the acts of executive power may at once be compared with the purpose
of every political institution." It desires "that every member of
the social body should have its declaration constantly in mind." -
Thus we are told to control all acts of application by the
principle, and also we are provided with the rule by which we may
and should accord, measure, or even refuse our submission to,
deference for, and toleration of established institutions and legal

What are these superior rights, and, in case of dispute, who will
decide as arbitrator? - There is nothing here like the precise
declarations of the American Constitution,[36] those positive
prescriptions which serve to sustain a judicial appeal, those
express prohibitions which prevent beforehand certain species of
laws from being passed, which prescribe limits to public powers,
which mark out the province not to be invaded by the State because
it is reserved to the individual.

On the contrary, in the declaration of the national Assembly, most
of the articles are abstract dogmas,[37] metaphysical definitions,
more or less literary axioms, that is to say, more or less false,
now vague and now contradictory, open to various interpretations and
to opposite constructions, These are good for platform display but
bad in practice, mere stage effect, a sort of pompous standard,
useless and heavy, which, hoisted in front of the Constitutional
house and shaken every day by violent hands, cannot fail soon to
tumble on the heads of passers by.[38] - Nothing is done to ward
off this visible danger. There is nothing here like that Supreme
Court which, in the United States, guards the Constitution even
against its Congress, and which, in the name of the Constitution,
actually invalidates a law, even when it has passed through all
formalities and been voted on by all the powers; which listens to
the complaints of the individual affected by an unconstitutional
law; which stays the sheriff's or collector's hand raised against
him, and which above their heads gives judgment on his interests and
wrongs. Ill-defined and discordant laws are proclaimed without any
provision being made for their interpretation, application or
sanction. No means are taken to have them specially expounded. No
district tribunal is assigned to consider the claims which grow out
of them, to put an end to litigation legally, peacefully, on a last
appeal, and through a final decision which becomes a precedent and
fixes the loose sense of the text. All this is made the duty of
everybody, that is to say of those who are disposed to charge
themselves with it, - in other words, the active minority in council
assembled. - Thus, in each town or village it is the local club
which, by the authorization of the legislator himself, becomes the
champion, judge, interpreter and administrator of the rights of man,
and which, in the name of these superior rights, may protest or
rebel, as it seems best, not only against the legitimate acts of
legal powers, but also against the authentic text of the
Constitution and the Laws.[39]

Consider, indeed, these rights as they are proclaimed, along with
the commentary of the speaker who expounds them at the club before
an audience of heated and daring spirits, or in the street to the
rude and fanatical multitude. Every article in the Declaration is a
dagger pointed at human society, and the handle has only to be
pressed to make the blade enter the flesh.[40] Among "these natural
and imprescriptible rights" the legislator has placed "resistance to
oppression." We are oppressed : let us resist and take up arms.
According to this legislator, "society has the right to bring every
public agent of the Administration to account." Let us away to the
Hôtel-de-Ville, and interrogate our lukewarm or suspected
magistrates, and watch their sessions to see if they prosecute
priests and disarm the aristocrats; let us stop their intrigues
against the people; let us force these slow clerks to hasten their
steps. - According to this legislator "all citizens have the right
to take part in person, or through their representatives, in the
formation of the law." There must thus be no more electors
privileged by their payment of a three-franc tax. Down with the new
aristocracy of active citizens! Let us restore to the two millions
of proletarians the right of suffrage, of which the Constitution has
unjustly defrauded them! - According to this legislator, "men are
born and remain free, and equal in their rights." Consequently, let
no one be excluded from the National Guard; let everybody, even the
pauper, have some kind of weapon, a pike or gun, to defend his
freedom! - In the very terms of the Declaration, "the law is the
expression of the universal will." Listen to these clamors in the
open streets, to these petitions flowing in from the towns on all
sides; behold the universal will, the living law which abolishes the
written law! On the strength of this the leader of a few clubs in
Paris are to depose the King, to violate the Legislative Assembly
and decimate the National Convention. - In other terms, the
turbulent, factious minority is to supplant the sovereign nation,
and henceforth there is nothing to hinder it from doing what it
pleases just when it pleases. The operation of the Constitution has
given to it the reality of power, while the preamble of the
Constitution clothes it with the semblance of right.

VI. Summary of the work of the Constituent Assembly.

Such is the work of the Constituent Assembly. In several of its
laws, especially those which relate to private interests, in the
institution of civil regulations, in the penal and rural codes,[41]
in the first attempts at, and the promise of, a uniform civil code,
in the enunciation of a few simple regulations regarding taxation,
procedure, and administration, it planted good seed. But in all
that relates to political institutions and social organization its
proceedings are those of an academy of Utopians, and not those of
practical legislators. - On the sick body entrusted to it, it
performed amputations which were as useless as they were excessive,
and applied bandages as inadequate as they were injurious. With the
exception of two or three restrictions admitted inadvertently, and
the maintenance of the show of royalty, also the obligation of a
small electoral qualification, it carried out its principle to the
end, the principle of Rousseau. It deliberately refused to consider
man as he really was under its own eyes, and persisted in seeing
nothing in him but the abstract being created in books.
Consequently, with the blindness and obstinacy characteristic of a
speculative surgeon, it destroyed, in the society submitted to its
scalpel and its theories, not only the tumors, the enlargements, and
the inflamed parts of the organs, but also the organs themselves,
and even the vital governing centers around which cells arrange
themselves to recompose an injured organ. That is, the Assembly
destroyed on the one hand the time-honored, spontaneous, and lasting
societies formed by geographical position, history, common
occupations and interests, and on the other, those natural chiefs
whose name, repute, education, independence, and earnestness
designated them as the best qualified to occupy high positions. In
one direction it despoils and permits the ruin and proscription of
the superior class, the nobles, the members of Parliament, and the
upper middle class. In another it dispossesses and breaks up all
historic or natural corporations, religious congregations, clerical
bodies, provinces, parliaments, societies of art and of all other
professions and pursuits. This done, every tie or bond which holds
men together is found to be severed; all subordination and every
graduated scale of rank have disappeared. There is no longer rank
and file, or commander-in-chief. Nothing remains but individual
particles, 26 millions of equal and disconnected atoms. Never was
so much disintegrated matter, less capable of resistance, offered to
hands undertaking to mold it. Harshness and violence will be
sufficient to ensure success. These brutal hands are ready for the
work, and the Assembly which has reduced the material to powder has
likewise provided the mortar and pestle. As awkward in destruction
as it is in construction, it invents for the restoration of order in
a society which is turned upside down a machine which would, of
itself, create disorder in a tranquil society. The most absolute
and most concentrated government would not be strong enough to
effect without disturbance a similar equalization of ranks, the same
dismemberment of associations, and the same displacement of
property. No social transformation can be peacefully accomplished
without a well-commanded army, obedient and everywhere present, as
was the case in the emancipation of the Russian serfs by Emperor
Alexander. The new Constitution,[42] on the contrary, reduces the
King to the position of an honorary president, suspected and called
in question by a disorganized State. Between him and the
legislative body it interposes nothing but sources of conflict, and
suppresses all means of concord. The monarch has no hold whatever
on the administrative departments which he must direct; the mutual
independence of the powers, from the center to the extremities of
the State, everywhere produces indifference, negligence, and
disobedience between the injunctions issued and their execution.
France is a federation of forty thousand municipal sovereignties, in
which the authority of legal magistrates varies according to the
caprice of active citizens. These active citizens, too heavily
loaded, shy away from the performance of public duty; in which a
minority of fanatics and ambitious men monopolize the right to
speak, to vote, all influence, the power and all action. They
justify their multiple ursurpations, their unbridled despotism, and
their increasing encroachments by the Declaration of the Rights of
Man. The masterpiece[43] of ideal abstractions and of practical
absurdities is accomplished. In accordance with the Constitution
spontaneous anarchy becomes legalized anarchy. The latter is
perfect; nothing finer of the kind has been seen since the ninth



[1] The name for the dreaded secret Royal warrant of arrest. (SR.)

[2] The initiative rests with the King on one point: war cannot be
decreed by the Assembly except on his formal and preliminary
proposition. This exception was secured only after a violent
struggle and a supreme effort by Mirabeau.

[3] Speech by Lanjuinais, November 7, 1789. "We determined on the
separation of the powers. Why, then, should the proposal he made to
us to unite the legislative power with the executive power in the
persons of the ministers?"

[4] See the attendance of the Ministers before the Legislative

[5] "Any society in which the separation of the powers is not
clearly defined has no constitution." (Declaration of Rights,
article XVI.) - This principle is borrowed from a text by
Montesquieu, also from the American Constitution. In the rest the
theory of Rousseau is followed.

[6] Mercure de France, an expression by Mallet du Pan.

[7] Constitution of 1791, ch. II. articles 5, 6, 7. -- Decree of
September 25 - October 6, 1791, section III. articles, 8 to 25.

[8] Speeches by Barnave and Roederer in the constituent Assembly. -
Speeches by Barnave and Duport in the Jacobin Club.

[9] Principal texts. (Duvergier, "Collection des Lois et Decrets.")
- Laws on municipal and administrative organization, December 14 and
22, 1789; August 12-20, 1790; March 12, 1791. On the municipal
organization of Paris, May 21st, June 27, 1790. - Laws on the
organization of the Judiciary, August 16-24, 1790; September 16-29,
1791; September 29, October 21, 1791.- Laws on military
organization, September 23, October 29, 1790; January 16, 1791; July
27, 28, 1791 - Laws on the financial organization, November 14-
24,.1790; November 23, 1790; March 17, 1791; September 26, October
2, 1791.

[10] The removal of such managerial authority has since the second
World war taken place inside the United Nations and other Western
public administrations and seems to be the aim of much communist
trade union effort. The result has everywhere been added cost and
decreased efficiency. (SR.)

[11] This principle has been introduced in Western educational
systems when clever self-appointed psychologists told parents and
teacher alike that they could and should not punish their children
but only talk and explain to them. (SR.)

[12] This description fits the staff regulations of the United
Nations secretariat in which I served for 32 years. (SR.)

[13] Decrees of December 14 and December 22, 1789: "In
municipalities reduced to three members (communes below five hundred
inhabitants), all executive functions shall belong to the mayor

[14] Could it be that Lenin took note of this and had "it this
translated in Russian and made use of it in his and later in Stalin's
schools for international revolutionaries. It would in any case
have weakened the Bourgeois Capitalist countries. In any case such
measures have been introduced both in the international
organizations and in most Western Democratic Governments after World
War II. (SR.)

[15] This was in the United Nations called 'Rotation' and made the
administration of missions and forces difficult, expensive and
inefficient. This rotation was also used in the Indian and other
armies in order to prevent the officers to reach an understanding or
achieve any power over the troops under their command. (SR.)

[16] Laws of September 23 - October 29, 1790; January 16, 1791.
(Titles II. And VII.) - Cf. the legal prescriptions in relation to
the military tribunals. In every prosecuting or judicial jury one-
seventh of the sworn members are taken from the non-commissioned
officers, and one-seventh from the soldiers, and again, according to
the rank of the accused, the number of those of the same rank is

[17] Law of July 28th, August 12, 1791.

[18] Laws of November 24, 1789 (article 52), August 10-14, 1789. -
Instruction of August 10-20, 1790; § 8 - Law of October 21,
November 21, 1789.

[19] Laws of November 14 and 23, 1790; January 13th, September 26th,
October 9, 1792.

[20] Albert Babeau, I. 327 (Féte of the Federation, July14, 1790).
- "Archives Nationales," F7, 3215 (May 17,1791, Deliberation of the
council-general of the commune of Brest. May 17 and 19, Letters of
the directory of the district). - Mercure, March 5, 1791. "Mesdames
are stopped until the return of the two deputies, whom the Republic
of Arnay-le-Duc has sent to the representatives of the nation to
demonstrate to them the necessity of keeping the king's aunts in the

[21] Moniteur, X. 132. Speech by M. Labergerie, November 8, 1791.

[22] At Montauban, in the intendant's salon, the ladies of the place
spoke patois only, the grandmother of the gentleman who has informed
me of this fact did not understand any other language.

[23] Moniteur, V.163, sitting of July 18, 1791. Speech by M.
Lecoulteux, reporter.

[24] Moniteur, XI. 283, sitting of February 2, 1792. Speech by
Cambon: "They go away thinking that they understand what is
explained to them, but return the following day to obtain fresh
explanations. The attorneys refuse to give the municipalities any
assistance, stating that they know nothing about these matters."

[25] The same may happen when a subordinate is promoted to be placed
in charge of his or her former equals and colleagues. This is why
it is often preferably to transfer someone who is recognized as
being of superior talent whenever a promotions is to take place. (SR.)

[26] Law of May 11-15, 1791.

[27] Minutes of the meeting of the Electoral Assembly of the
Department of Indre-et-Loire (1791, printed).

[28] De Ferrières, I. 367.

[29] Suzay, I, 191 (21,711 are eligible out of 32,288 inscribed

[30] Official report of the Electoral Assembly of the Department of
Indre-et-Loire, Aug. 27, 1791. "A member of the Assembly made a
motion that all the members composing it should be indemnified for
the expenses which would be incurred by their absence from home and
the long sojourn they had to make in the town where the Assembly was
held. He remarked that the inhabitants of the country were those
who suffered the most, their labor being their sole riches; that if
no attention was paid to this demand, they would be obliged, in
spite of their patriotism, to withdraw and abandon their important
mission; that the electoral assemblies would then be deserted, or
would be composed of those whose resources permitted them to make
this sacrifice."

[31] Sauzay, I. 147, 192.

[32] For the detail of these figures, see vol. II. Book IV.

[33] De Ferrières, I. 367. Cf. The various laws above mentioned.

[34] Constant, "Histoire d'un Club Jacobin en Province"
(Fontainebleau) p.15. (Procés-verbaux of the founding of the clubs
of Moret, Thomery, Nemours, and Montereau.)

[35] Later to change and become socialist and communist parties
everywhere. (SR.)

[36] Cf. The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 (except the
first phrase, which is a catchword thrown out for the European
philosophers). - Jefferson proposed a Declaration of Rights for the
Constitution of March 4, 1789, but it was refused. They were
content to add to it the eleven amendments which set forth the
fundamental rights of the citizen.

[37] Article I. "Men are born and remain free and equal in rights
common to all. Social distinctions are founded solely on public

The first phrase condemns the hereditary royalty which is
sanctioned by the Constitution. The second phrase can be used to
legitimate hereditary monarchy and an aristocracy. - Articles 10 and
11 bear upon the manifestations of religious convictions and on
freedom of speech and of the press. By virtue of these two articles
worship, speech, and the press may be made subject to the most
repressive restrictions, etc.

[38] The International Bill of Human Rights of 1948 is quite
different from the one approved in 1789. In 1948 there is no more
any mention of any "right to resistance to oppression", there is a
softening of the position on the right of property and new rights,
to free education, to a country, to rest and leisure, to a high
standard of health and to an adequate standard of living have been
introduced. (SR.)

[39] Stalin and his successors organized such a system of "clubs"
world-wide which even today remain active as "protectors" of the
environment, refugees, prisoners, animals and the environment.

[40] Buchez and Roux , XI. 237. (Speech by Malouet in relation to
the revision, August 5, 1791.) "You constantly tempt the people with
sovereignty without giving them the immediate use of it."

[41] Decrees of September 25 - October 6, 1791; September 28 -
October 6, 1791.

[42] Impartial contemporaries, those well qualified to judge, agree
as to the absurdity of the Constitution.

"The Constitution was a veritable monster. There was too much of
monarchy in it for a republic, and too much of a republic for a
monarchy. The King was a side-dish, un hors d'œuvre, everywhere
present in appearance but without any actual power." (Dumont, 339.)

"It is a general and almost universal conviction that this
Constitution is inexecutable. The makers of it to a man condemn it.
(G. Morris, September 30, 1791.)

"Every day proves more clearly that their new Constitution is good
for nothing." (ibid. , December 27, 1791.)

Cf. The sensible and prophetic speech made by Malouet (August 5,
1791, Buchez and Roux, XI. 237).

[43] Taine's vivid description is likely to have encouraged any
radical revolutionary having the luck to read his explicit
description of how to proceed with the destruction of a naïve
corrupt capitalist, bourgeois society. (SR.)



I. The Federations. - Popular application of philosophic theory. -
Idyllic celebration of the Contrat-Social. - The two strata of the
human mind. - Permanent disorder.

If there ever was an Utopia which seemed capable of realization, or,
what is still more to the purpose, was really applied, converted
into a fact, fully established, it is that of Rousseau, in 1789 and
during the three following years. For, not only are his principles
embodied in the laws, and the Constitution throughout animated with
his spirit, but it seems as if the nation looked upon his
ideological gambols, his abstract fiction, as serious. This fiction
it carried out in every particular. A social contract, at one
spontaneous and practical, an immense gathering of men associating
together freely for the first time for the recognition of their
respective rights, forming a specific compact, and binding
themselves by a solemn oath: such is the social recipe prescribed by
the philosophers, and which is carried out to the letter. Moreover,
as this recipe is esteemed infallible, the imagination is worked
upon and the sensibilities of the day are brought into play. It is
admitted that men, on again becoming equals, have again become
brothers.[2] A sudden and amazing harmony of all volitions and all
intelligences will restore the golden age on earth. It is proper,
accordingly, to regard the social contract as a festival, an
affecting, sublime idyll, in which, from one end of France to the
other, all, hand in hand, should assemble and swear to the new
compact, with song, with dance, with tears of joy, with shouts of
gladness, the worthy beginning of public felicity. With unanimous
assent, indeed, the idyll is performed as if according to a written

On the 29th of November, 1789, at Etoile, near Valence, the
federations began.[3] Twelve thousand National Guards, from the two
banks of the Rhône, promise "to remain for ever united, to insure
the circulation of grain, and to maintain the laws passed by the
National Assembly." On the 13th of December, at Montélimart, six
thousand men, the representatives of 27 000 other men, take a
similar oath and confederate themselves with the foregoing. - Upon
this the excitement spreads from month to month and from province to
province. Fourteen towns of the bailiwicks of Franche-Comté form a
patriotic league. At Pontivy, Brittany enters into federal
relations with Anjou. One thousand National Guards of Vivarais and
Languedoc send their delegates to Voute. 48 000 in the Vosges send
their deputies to Epinal. During February, March, April, and May,
1790, in Alsace, Champagne, Dauphiny, Orléanais, Touraine, Lyonnais,
and Provence, there is the same spectacle. At Draguignan eight
thousand National Guards take the oath in the presence of 20 000
spectators. At Lyons 50 000 men, delegates of more than 500 000
others take the civic oath. - But local unions are not sufficient to
complete the organization of France ; a general union of all
Frenchmen must take place. Many of the various National Guards have
already written to Paris for the purpose of affiliating themselves
with the National Guard there; and, one the 5th of June, the
Parisian municipal body having proposed it, the Assembly decrees the
universal federation. It is to take place on the 14th of July,
everywhere on the same day, both at the center and at the
extremities of the kingdom. There is to be one in the principal
town of each district and of each department, and one in the
capital. To the latter each body of the National Guards is to send
deputies in the proportion of one man to every two hundred; and each
regiment one officer, one non-commissioned officer, and four
privates. Fourteen thousand representatives of the National Guard
of the provinces appear on the Champ de Mars, the theater of the
festival; also eleven to twelve thousand representatives of the land
and marine forces, besides the National Guard of Paris, and sixty
thousand spectators on the surrounding slopes, with a still greater
crowd on the heights of Chaillot and of Passy. All rise to their
feet and swear fidelity to the nation, to the law, to the King and
to the new Constitution. When the report of the cannon is heard
which announces the taking of the oath, those of the Parisians who
have remained at home, men, women, and children, raise their hands
in the direction of the Champ de Mars and likewise make their
affirmation. In every principal town of every district, department,
and commune in France there is the same oath on the same day. Never
was there a more perfect social compact heard of. Here, for the
first time in the world, everybody beholds a veritable legitimate
society, for it is founded on free pledges, on solemn stipulations,
and on actual consent. They possess the authentic act and the dated
official report of it.[4]

There is still something more - the time and the occasion betoken a
union of all hearts. The barriers which have hitherto separated men
from each other are all removed and without effort. Provincial
antagonisms are now to cease: the confederates of Brittany and Anjou
write that they no longer desire to be Angevins and Bretons, but
simply Frenchmen. All religious discords are to come to an end: at
Saint-Jean-du-Gard, near Alais, the Catholic curé and the Protestant
pastor embrace each other at the altar; the pastor occupies the best
seat in the church, and at the Protestant meeting-house the curé has
the place of honor, and listens to the sermon of the pastor.[5]
Distinctions of rank and condition will no longer exist; at Saint-
Andéol " the honor of taking the oath in the name of the people is
conferred on two old men, one ninety-three and the other ninety-four
years of age, one a noble and a colonel of the National Guard, and
the other a simple peasant." At Paris, two hundred thousand persons
of all conditions, ages, and sexes, officers and soldiers, monks and
actors, school-boys and masters, dandies and ragamuffins, elegant
ladies and fishwives, workmen of every class and the peasants from
the vicinity, all flocked to the Champ de Mars to dig the earth

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