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FrRevol_101-150.indd 12 3/16/12 1:03 PM CHAPTER XII On the Recall ofM. Necker in z:;88. Had M. Necker, when he was minister, proposed to convene the Estates General, he might have been accused of a dereliction ofduty, since, with a certain party, it is a settled point that the absolute power of kings is sacred. But at the time when the public opinion obliged the Court to dismiss the Archbishop ofSens, and to recall M. Necker, the Estates General had been solemnly promised:1 the nobles, the clergy, and the parlement had solicited this promise; the nation had received it; and such was the weight of universal opinion on this point, that no force, either civil or military, would have come forward to oppose it. I consign this assertion to history; ifit lessens the merit of M. Necker by showing that he was not the cause ofconvening the Estates General, it places in the proper quarter the responsibility for the events of the Revolution. Would it have been possible for such a man as M. Necker to propose to a virtuous sovereign, to Louis XVI, to retract his word? And of what use would have been a minister whose strength lay in his popularity, ifthe first act ofthat minister had been to advise the King to fail in the engagements that he had made with the people? That aristocratical body which finds it so much easier to cast calumny on a man than to confess the share that it bore itselfin the general ferment, that very aristocracy, I say, would have been the first to feel indignant at the perfidy of the minister: he could not have derived any political advantage from the degradation to which he would have consented. When a measure, therefore, is neither moral nor useful, what madman, or what pretended sage, would come forward to advise it? I. The promise to convoke the Estates General (at the latest in I 792) was first made by Brienne in November I787. ll2 FrRevol_101-150.indd 13 3/16/12 1:03 PM CHAPTER XII. RecaffojNeckerin Z:J88 M. Necker, at the time when public opinion brought him back to the ministry, was more alarmed than gratified by his appointment. He had bitterly regretted going out of office in 1781, as he thought himself sure at that time of doing a great deal of good. On hearing of the death ofM. de Maurepas, he reproached himselfwith having, six months before, given in his resignation, and I have always present to my recollection his long walks at St. Ouen, in which he often repeated that he tormented himself with his reflections and with his scruples. Every conversation that revived the recollection ofhis ministry, every encomium on that subject, gave him pain. During the seven years which elapsed between his first and second ministry, he was in a state of perpetual chagrin at the overthrow of his plans for improving the situation of France. At the time when the Archbishop of Sens was called to office, he still regretted his not being appointed ; but in 1788, when I came to apprise him, at St. Ouen, of his approaching nomination, he said to me, "Ah! why did they not give me those fifteen months of the Archbishop of Sens? Now it is too late." M. Necker had just published his work upon the importance ofreligious opinions.2 His rule throughout life was to attack a party when in all its strength; his pride led him to that course. It was the first time that a writer, sufficiently enlightened to bear the name of a philosopher, came forward to mark the danger arising from the irreligious spirit of the eighteenth century; and this work had filled its author's mind with thoughts ofa much higher nature than can be produced by temporal interests, even of the highest kind. Accordingly he obeyed the King's orders with a feeling of regret, which I was certainly far from sharing: on observing my delight, he said, "The daughter ofa minister feels nothing but pleasure; she enjoys the reflection of her father's power; but power itself, particularly at this crisis, is a tremendous responsibility." He judged but too well-in the vivacity ofearly youth, talent, ifit be possessed, may enable the individual to speak like one of riper years; but the imagination is not a single day older than ourselves. In crossing the Bois de Boulogne at night to repair to...


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