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The danger, sire, is pressing, universal, and beyond
all the calculations of human prudence.

There is danger for the inhabitants of the provinces.
When once alarmed for our freedom, we know of nothing
that could check this danger. Distance alone magnifies
and exaggerates every thing, increases the public uneasi-
ness, misrepresents, and gives an envenomed character to
facts.

There is danger for the metropolis. With what feel-
ings would a populace, struggling against poverty and the
cruel pangs of hunger, see the remains of their scanty
food disputed by a fierce soldiery ? The presence of
troops will excite the populace, lead to riots, and produce
a general ferment, whilst the very first act of violence
exercised on the people, under pretence pf maintaining
the public peace, may be the commencement of a horri-
ble series of misfortunes.

There is danger for the troops themselves. French
soldiers, so near the focus of discontent, and naturally
participating in the passions and interests of the people,
may perchance forget that an engagement has made them
soldiers, and remember only that nature made them men.



APPENDIX. 373

The danger, sire, threatens that work which it is our
first duty to make perfect, and which will not be fully
successful or really permanent, until the people are con-
vinced that it is the offspring of freedom. There is,
moreover, contagion in the effects of passion. — We are
but men ; — a want of confidence in ourselves, or the
dread of evincing weakness, may carry us far beyond our
mark — we may be beset with violent and desperate coun-
sels ; and reason and wisdom deliver not their oracles in
the midst of tumult, disorder, and bloodshed.

The danger, sire, is more dreadful still ; and you may
judge of its extent, by the fears which have brought us
to the foot of your throne. Great revolutions have re-
sulted from causes of much less importance ; and the
overthrow of more nations than one has been announced
by signs less ominous and less formidable.

We beseech you, sire, not to give credence to those who
speak contemptuously of the nation, and represent the
people to your majesty, as it suits their purpose, — some-
times as rebellious, insolent and seditious — at others, as
submissive, docile under the yoke and ready to bow their
heads to receive it. Both are equally at variance with
truth.

We are ever ready, sire, to obey your commands, be-
cause you issue them in the name of the law ; and our
fidelity is as unbounded as it is above suspicion.

We are equally ready to resist the arbitrary commands
of those who make an undue use of your majesty's name,
because thev are enemies to the law. This resistance is



374 APPENDIX.

imposed upon us by our fidelity alone, and we shall always
be proud of the reproaches cast upon us for our firmness
in this our line of duty.

We conjure you then, sire, in the name of our country
— in the name of your own happiness and future fame,
to send back these soldiers to the quarters whence your
majesty's advisers induced you to call them. Remove,
sire, we beseech you, this artillery intended for the de-
fence of your frontiers ; — and, above all, send away those
foreign troops — those allies whom we pay to defend and
not to oppress us. Your majesty does not require such
troops. Why should a monarch adored by twenty-five
millions of Frenchmen, surround his throne, at great
expense, with a few thousand foreigners ?

Let the afiection of your subjects, sire, be your best
and only guard. The deputies of the nation are called
upon to consecrate with you the high attributes of royalty,
upon the immutable basis of popular freedom. But in
fulfilling their duty — in following the dictates of their
reason and their feelings, would you expose them to the
suspicion of having yielded to fear ? Ah ! the authority
with which every heart spontaneously invests you, is
alone pure and unmoveable ; it is a just return for your
benefactions, and is the immortal heritage of princes like
your majesty.



APPENDIX. 375



No. II.

draft of an address proposed to be made by the
national assembly to their constituents.

Gentlemen,

Your deputies to the states-general, too long kept in
painful inaction, but from motives which you approved,
were about to commence their proceedings by the only
means which seemed to them compatible with your rights
and interests.

The majority of the clergy had declared in favour of
the union ; a respectable minority of the nobles evinced
the same desire, and every thing seemed to announce the
happy day which was to give birth to the constitution
and freedom of France.

Events with which you are acquainted, have deferred
this union, and the aristocracy have agarin the courage to
persist in a separation, of the danger of which they will
but too soon be convinced.

Alarm has been spread but too rapidly among us ; the
metropolis has been thrown into consternation, and even
the place in which we are now assembled has experienced
a commotion, against whose effects we have seen precau-
tions taken which, if they be considered necessary, are
not the less alarming. All this renders it incumbent
upon us to guard against the misfortune and disturbances



376 APPENDIX.

to which, under such extraordinary circumstances, the
general uneasiness may give rise.

The revival of the states-general, after so long an
interval, the agitation by which it luas preceded, the
object of this convocation, so different from the motives
which called your ancestors together ;^ the pretensions
of the nobles, their adherence to gothic and barbarous
laws, — but above all, the truly extraordinary means
adopted to obtain the king's interference, have excited a
powerful feeling throughout the nation ; and the whole
kingdom is in such a state of effervescence that those who
would fain use violence, when prudence and conciliation
are becoming every day more necessary, are not only
unworthy of beiiig considered as Frenchmen^ but de-
serve to be treated as incendiaries.

From these motives, gentlemen, we consider it our
duty to present you with a faithful picture of our real situa-
tion, in order to caution you against the fears and exag-
gerations by which injudicious zeal or criminal intentions
might seek to increase your alarm.

On the day when, with a pomp rather threatening than
imposing, we were called upon to appear before an abso-
lute and severe monarch, instead of the supreme chief
of the state, escorted, as we could have wished, by his
virtues alone, — on that very day, we had from his own
Mps the noblest evidence of his vast designs in our favour,

* The words in Italics are extracted from the king's speech.
\ From the king's speech .



APPENDIX. 377

and of his truly generous and magnanimous intentions.
Even the forms least adapted to conciliate our minds,
shall not make us insensible of the real sentiments of our
king. However we may lament his erroneous opinion
of us, we shall never have to reproach ourselves with
injustice. Woe to those who would represent us as dan-
gerous! We might become so on the day of retribution,
but it would be to them alone.

And how could the king's sentiments excite our fears?
We are, it is true, but little acquainted with his designs,
but have we not confidence in his wisdom, and is not his
own interest at stake ? Are not these our securities ? Do
the aristocracy ever cease to be the real enemies of the
throne ? Is it not their sole ambition to reduce the public
authority to fractions ? Are they not endeavouring, by
bad laws, to cement their prerogatives, their privileges
and their usurpations ? And is it not an acknowledged
truth, that the people require but justice, and the great
alone seek power ? The aristocracy have inflicted the
greatest of evils upon a long succession of sovereigns,
whose very virtues they have often rendered doubtful,
but truth has at length arrived at the foot of the throne,
and the king, who has declared himself the father of his
people, will disseminate his benefactions over the whole
community. He will not uphold the titles of spoliation
which have been but too long respected. It is to preju-
dice, obsession, the respect perhaps which even the
strongest minds sometimes entertain for old customs, and
the hope of bringing about the union more promptly,
2x



378 APPENDIX.

that we must attribute the declarations in favour of the
separation of the orders, of their veto, of feudal rights, —
those remnants of barbarous ages — and of those ruins of
feudality which would impair the solidity, beauty and
proportions of the edifice weare called upon to raise.

The history of all ages, and particularly that of our
own nation, shows us that whatever is true, just, and
necessary, cannot be long withheld on the plea of being
illegal, false or dangerous. Prejudices wear out, and are
ultimately destroyed by discussion. Our confidence is
therefore firm and tranquil. You will share in it, gen-
tlemen, and you will never believe that the persevering
claims of a great people can be overruled by a few par-
ticular illusions, adopted by a small number becoming
daily smaller. You will feel that the triumph of public
order, when expected to result from measures of wisdom
and prudence, ought not to be risked by inconsiderate
agitation. It is for you, gentlemen, to assist us with
your knowledge and counsels, in the necessary task we
have undertaken. You will every where preserve calm-
ness and moderation ; you will be the promoters of order,
subordination, and respect for the law and its ministers ;
you will repose the plenitude of your confidence in the
unshaken fidelity of your representatives, and you will
afford them the most effective assistance.

It is amongst a corrupt and venal class of the commu-
nity that our enemies will endeavour to excite tumult
and insurrection, which would only embarrass and delay
the settlement of the great question. ^'Behold the



APPRNDtX. 379

fruits of liberty ! behold the effects of democracy !"
will they not cease repeating, who are not ashamed to re-
present the people as a furious herd, dangerous when un-
fettered ; — who feign not to know that this same people,
always calm and measured when they are truly free, are
never violent and unruly, except in constitutions which
degrade in order to render them despicable. How un-
fortunately numerous are those cruel men, who, indiffer-
ent to the fate of the people, whom they always make
the victims of their rashness, create events whose infal-
lible consequence is to strengthen the hands of authority,
which, when preceded by terror, is always followed by
servitude ! Alas ! how fatal to liberty are the acts of
those who endeavour to maintain it by agitation and re-
volt ! Do they not perceive that they increase the pre-
cautions from which the fetters of the people are forged ?
that they arm calumny with a pretence at least — terrify
pusillanimous minds, and bring into action those incendia-
ries, who, having nothing to lose, become auxiliaries but
to prove themselves dangerous enemies ?

The number of our enemies, gentlemen, is greatly ex-
aggerated. Many who are not of our way of thinking,
deserve not this odious title. Facts often follow words,
and enmity too readily imputed gives rise to real hostility-
We have fellow-citizens, who, like us, are seeking
the public good, but expect to find it in a different
road from that which we follow. These individuals,
borne away upon the stream of inveterate prejudice, ari-
sing from education and early habits, have not strength of



380 APPENDIX.

mind enough to strive against the current which carries
them along. Seeing us in a new situation, they fancy
that our pretensions will become exaggerated ; impressed
as they are with the idea that liberty is only a pretence
for licentiousness, they are in alarm for the safety of
their property. Let us treat all these men with respect
and kindness ; pity some, give others time to discover
their error, undeceive all, and not change into the quar-
rels of self-love or the war of factions, those differences
of opinion inseparable from the weakness of the human
mind, and from the multitude of aspects presented by
questions so complicated, whose very diversity is useful
to the public weal, inasmuch as it leads to discussion and
minute investigation.

Already, by peaceable means, have we made many
valuable converts. There passes not a day which brings
not into our ranks some one who had before kept from
us. There passes not a day on which the horizon of
truth does not widen, and the dawn of reason break upon
the minds of some who have hitherto been dazzled
rather than enlightened by its strong glare. What
would have been the consequence, if, in despair of the
power of truth, we had cast off for ever those whom in
vain we called upon to join us. We should have de-
stroyed even the friends we possess among the two first
orders of our fellow-citizens ; and should perhaps have
raised an insuperable bar to a union so advantageous to
France, as that which is now the object of our contem-
plation. But our present being a pledge of our future



APPENDIX. 381

moderation, they must come to the conclusion that our
acts are guided by justice ; and it is in their name as
well as our own that we recommend to you that modera-
tion of which we have already reaped the fruits.

How glorious will it be for us and the country, if
this great revolution cost humanity neither crime nor
tears ! How often have the smallest states been unable
to acquire even the shadow of liberty, except by sacri-
ficing the blood of their most valuable citizens ? A
neighbouring nation, too vain of its constitution, and
despising the defects of ours, suffered from convulsions
and civil wars during more than a century, before her
laws were consolidated. America herself, whose tute-
lary genius seems now to reward us for the freedom
which she owes to us, did not enjoy this inestimable
blessing until she had encountered dreadful reverses and
doubtful and bloody contests. But we, gentlemen, shall
see a similar revolution brought about among us by the
concurrence only of wisdom with patriotism ! Our con-
tests are simple discussions, our enemies excusable preju-
dices, our victories not cruel, and our triumphs shall call
forth the blessings of those who are at last subjugated.
History but too often records human actions, more suited
to the ferocity of wild beasts than to man ; and here and
there she notices a hero ; but we may be allowed to hope
that we are beginning an era in the history of mankind,
as brothers, born for the mutual happiness of each other,
who agree even in their differences ; for their object is
the same, and their means only of pursuing it, different.



382 APPENDIX.

Woe to him who would recklessly corrupt so pure a re-
volution, and trust the fate of France to the chance of
uncertain events, when its destinies are not doubtful — if
we suffer ourselves to be guided by justice and reason.

When we consider the happiness which twenty-five
millions of human beings must derive from a legal con-
stitution, substituted for ministerial caprice, from unani-
mity of will, wisdom in legislation, reform of abuses,
decrease of taxation, economy in finances, moderation in
punishments, consistency in the courts of justice, the abo-
lition of a host of feudal rights which cramp industry
and mutilate the human faculties ; from that great system
of liberty, in short, which reposing upon the municipali-
ties open to free election, gradually raises itself to the
provincial governments, and ultimately receives its per-
fection from the annual return of the states-general ; —
when we consider all the happy consequences of the res-
toration of this vast empire, we cannot but feel that it
would be the blackest of crimes against humanity, to op-
pose the destinies of our nation, to push it back into the
abyss and keep it down with the weight of the chains
which it wore for so many ages. Such a misfortune
could not occur except from those calamities always at-*
tendant upon the tumult, licentiousness, crimes and abom-
inations of civil war. Our fate depends upon prudence ;
and violence alone could throw doubt upon, or perhaps
annihilate that freedom which reason has promised us.

Such are our sentiments, gentlemen ; it was our duty
to make them known to you, that we might be honoured



APPENDIX. 383

by their conformity with yours. It was important to
convince you that in pursuing our great patriotic object,
we did not deviate from the right path.

Such as you knew us when you entrusted your best
interests to our keeping, such shall we ever remain,
strengthened in the resolution of co-operating with our
monarch, not in measures of only transient advantage,
but in framing the constitution of the kingdom. We are
determined that each of our fellow- citizens, to whatever
class he belongs, shall enjoy the innumerable benefits of
nature and freedom ; that the suffering inhabitants of the
country shall be relieved, a remedy applied to the dis-
couragement by which poverty stifles virtue and industry,
and our laws, the same for all ranks and orders, made
our common safeguard and protection. [We shall show
ourselves to be not less inaccessible to the projects of
personal ambition than to the debasement of fear. We
ardently wish for concord, but will never purchase it
with the rights of the people. The only reward we ask
for our labours, is to see all the children of this immense
country unite in the same sentiments, happy in the gene-
ral happiness, and cherishing their common father,
whose reign is destined to be the era of the regeneration
of France.



384 APPENDIX.



No. III.

ADDRESS TO THE CONSTITUENTS.

The deputies who from the national assembly, suspend,
for awhile, their proceedings, in order to make known
the wants of the state to their constituents, and, in the
name of the country in danger, call upon them for their
patriotic co-operation.

We should betray the interests you have confided to us,
did we conceal from you that the nation is now on the
eve of either rising to a glorious destiny or sinking into
an abyss of misery.

A great revolution, which, a few months since, ap-
peared chimerical, has just been effected in the midst of
us all ; but its progress having been accelerated by events
upon which no human foresight could calculate, it has, by its
impetuosity, dragged down with it the whole fabric of the
ancient system of government, and without giving us
time to prop up those parts which it might have been ad-
vantageous to preserve, or replacing those which it was
right to destroy, it has suddenly surrounded us with a
huge heap of ruins.

In vain have our exertions supported the government.
It has become completely powerless. The public reve-
nue has disappeared, and credit cannot raise its head at a



APPENDIX. 383

period when there is perhaps more to fear than to hope.
In letting itself down, this main-spring of social strength
has relaxed all around it; men and things, resolution, cou-
rage, and even virtue. If your assistance restore not rap-
idly the body politic to life, this most admirable revolu-
tion will be lost ere it be complete ; it will return to chaos,
whence so many noble works have brought it forth, and
they who must ever preserve the invincible love of free-
dom, will not even leave to bad citizens the degrading
consolation of a return to slavery.

Ever since your deputies have, by a just and necessary
union, destroyed all rivalry and clashing of interests, the
national assembly has not ceased its exertions in framing
a code of laws applicable to all classes and conditions, and
the safeguard of all. It has repaired grievous errors,
broken the bonds of feudal servitude which degraded hu-
manity, diffused joy and hope through the hearts of our
husbandmen — those creditors of the soil and of nature
so long discouraged and branded with shame — re-estab-
lished that equality between Frenchmen, so long disa-
vowed — consisting in a common right to serve the state,
enjoy its protection, and deserve its favours ; in short, it
is gradually raising upon the unchangeable basis of the
imprescriptible rights of man, a constitution mild as
nature, lasting as justice, and whose imperfections, arising
from the inexperience of its authors, may be easily
amended.

We have had to contend against the inveterate preju-
dices of ages, and much uncertainty always attends great
2y



386 APPENDIX.

political changes. Our successors will be enlightened by
our experience, for we have been obliged to tread in a
new path with only a glimmering light of the principles
which were to guide us. They will proceed peaceably,
for we shall have borne the brunt of the tempest. They
will know their rights and the limits of every power in
the state ; for we shall have recovered the one and fixed
the other. They will consolidate our work, and surpass
usj — this will be our reward. Who now would dare
assign a term to the greatness of France ? Who would
not, on the contrary, elevate its prospects, and glory in
being one of its citizens ?

Nevertheless, the state of our finances is such that our
social edifice threatens to fall before we can consolidate it.
The failure of the revenue has diminished the currency
of the realm ; a host of circumstances has drained the
kingdom of the precious metals, and all sources of credit
are dried up ; — the general circulation is on the eve of
stoppage, and if your patriotism assist not the govern-
ment in its finances — which embraces every thing, army,
navy, subsistence, arts, commerce, agriculture and na-
tional debts — France will be rapidly precipitated towards
a horrible catastrophe, and will receive no laws save
from disorder and anarchy ! . . . .

Freedom will have shone upon us but an instant, to
disappear forever, leaving us the bitter consciousness
that we are unworthy of her ! To our own eternal
shame, and to the conviction of the whole universe, we
shall owe our evils solely to ourselves. With so fertiie



APPENDIX. 387

a soil, so fruitful an industry, so flourishing a trade, and
such extensive means of prosperity, the embarrassments
in our finances are comparatively trifling. The whole of
our present wants would scarcely cover the expenses of
a war campaign ; and is not our liberty much more pre-
cious than those mad struggles in which even our victories
have been fatal ?

The present crisis once past, it will be easy to better
the condition of the people ; and no more burthens need
be imposed upon them. Reductions which will not
reach luxury and opulence, reforms which will not affect
the fortunes of any, easy conversions of imposts, and an
equal <iistribution of taxes, will, by the equilibrium of
receipts and disbursements, establish a permanent order
of things ; and this consolatory prospect is formed upon
exact calculations — upon real and well-known objects.
On this occasion hope is susceptible of demonstration, be-
cause the imagination is rendered subservient to arithmetic.

But to meet our actual wants, restore motion to the
machinery of government, and cover for this year and
the next, the 160,000,000 of extraordinary expenditure —
the minister of finance proposes, as a means which, in
this emergency, may save the monarchy, a contribution
proportionate to the income of each citizen.

Pressed between the necessity of providing immedi-
ately for the wants of the state, and the impossibility of
deeply investigating the plan proposed by the minister,
in so limited a time, we have refrained from long and
doubtful discussions — and seeing nothing in the minis-



388 APPENDIX.

ter's proposal derogatory from our duly, we have confi-
dently adopted it, in the persuasion that you would do
the same. The general affection of the nation towards
the author of this plan, seems to us the pledge of its
success, and we have trusted to the minister's long ex-
perience as a surer guide than new speculations.

The fixation of the amount of their several incomes is
left to the conscience of the citizens themselves ; thus, the
success of the measure depends solely upon their patriot-
ism, and we are therefore warranted in entertaining no
doubt of such success.

When a nation ascends from the depths of servitude to
the glorious regions of freedom — when policy is about to
concur with nature in the immense development of its
high destinies ; — shall vile passions oppose its grandeur —


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Online LibraryEtienne DumontRecollections of Mirabeau → online text (page 21 of 22)