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FrRevol_101-150.indd 18 3/16/12 1:03 PM CHAPTER XIV The Division ofthe Estates General into Orders. The Estates General ofFrance were, as I have just mentioned, divided into three orders-the clergy, the nobility, and the Third Estate-and accustomed to deliberate separately, like three distinct nations: each presented its grievances to the King, and each confined itself to its particular interests, which had, according to circumstances, more or less connection with the interests ofthe public at large. In point ofnumbers, the Third Estate comprised almost the whole nation, the two other orders forming scarcely a hundredth part of it. Having gained greatly in relative importance in the course of the last two centuries, the Third Estate demanded, in 1789, that the mercantile body, or the towns, without reference to the country, should have enough deputies to render the number of the representatives oftheir body equal to that of the two other orders together; and this demand was supported by motives and circumstances of the greatest weight. The chiefcause ofthe liberty ofEngland has been the uniform practice ofdeliberating in two chambers instead ofthree. In no country where the three orders have remained separate has a free form ofgovernment as yet been established. The division into four orders, as is at present the case in Sweden, and was formerly in Aragon, is productive of delay in public business; but it is much more favorable to liberty.1 The order of peasants in Sweden, and in Aragon the equestrian order, gave two equal shares to the representatives of the nation, and to the privileged classes of the first r. In Sweden, the four estates were the nobility, the clergy, the bourgeoisie, and the peasants. The Cortes of Aragon comprised the nobility, the knights, the clergy, and the "people." zz8 FrRevol_101-150.indd 19 3/16/12 1:03 PM cHAPTER X I v. DiYision ofEstates General into Orders rank; for the equestrian order, which may be compared to the House of Commons in England, naturally supported the interests ofthe people. The result, therefore, of the division into four orders was that in these two countries, Sweden and Aragon, liberal principles were early introduced and long maintained. Sweden has still to desire that her constitution be assimilated to that of England; but we cannot fail to respect that feeling ofjustice which, from the earliest time, admitted the order ofpeasants into the Diet. The peasantry of Sweden are accordingly enlightened, happy, and religious, because they have enjoyed that sentiment oftranquillity and dignity which can arise only from free institutions. In Germany the clergy have had seats in the upper house, but without constituting a separate order, and the natural division into two chambers has been always maintained . Three orders have existed only in France and in a few states, such as Sicily, which did not form a separate monarchy. This unfortunate division , having had the effect ofgiving always a majority to the privileged classes against the nation, has often induced the French people to prefer arbitrary power in the Crown to that dependence on the aristocratic orders , in which they were placed by such division in three orders. Another inconvenience in France arose from the number of gentry of the second order, ennobled but yesterday, either by the letters ofnoblesse granted by the kings, as a sequel to the enfranchisement of the Gauls, or by purchased offices, such as that ofsecretary to the King, &c. which had the effect ofassociating new individuals to the rights and privileges ofthe old nobility. The nation would have willingly submitted to the preeminence of the families whose names are distinguished in history, and who, I can affirm, without exaggeration, do not in France exceed two hundred . But the hundred thousand nobles, and the hundred thousand clergy, who laid their claim for privileges equal to those ofMM. de Montmorency, de Grammont, de Crillon, &c., created general discontent; for merchants, capitalists, and men of letters were at a loss to understand the superiority granted to a title acquired by money or obsequiousness, and to which a term of twenty-five years was deemed sufficient to give admittance to the chamber ofnobles, and to privileges ofwhich the most respected members of the Third Estate were deprived. The House of Peers in England is an assemblage of patrician magisll9 FrRevol_101-150.indd 20 3/16/12 1:03 PM PART I trates, indebted for its origin, no doubt, to the ancient recollections of chivalry; hut entirely associated with institutions of a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878636
Related ISBN
9780865977327
MARC Record
OCLC
836874520
Pages
834
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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