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FrRevol_101-150.indd 34 3/16/12 1:03 PM CHAPTER XVII Ofthe Resistance ofthe Privileged Orders to the Demands ofthe Third Estate in z;r89. M. de la Luzerne, Bishop ofLangres, one ofthe soundest minds in France, wrote, on the opening of the Estates General, a pamphlet to propose that the three orders should form themselves into two chambers, the higher clergy uniting with the Peers, and the lower with the Commons.1 The Marquiss of Montesquiou, afterward a general, made a motion to this effect in the Chamber of the nobility, but in vain. In short, all enlightened men felt the necessity of putting an end to this manner of deliberating in three bodies, each of which could impose a veto upon the other; for, to say nothing of its injustice, it rendered the public business interminable. In social, as in natural order, there are certain principles from which we cannot depart without creating confusion. The three powers, monarchy , aristocracy, and democracy, are in the essence of things; they exist in all governments, as action, preservation, and renewal exist in the course of nature.2 Ifyou introduce into the political organization a fourth power, the clergy, who are all or nothing, according as they are considered, you can no longer establish definite reasoning on the laws necessary for the r. A reference to Forme d'opiner aux Etats giniraux (Paris, 1789), to which Mirabeau responded. 2 . For a history of the concept of mixed government, see Blythe, Ideal Government and the Mixed Constitution in the Middle Ages. Blythe pointed out that "a mixed government in its broadest sense is any one in which power is shared by at least two of these groups, or one in which there is a combination of two or more simple forms of government. The sharing or combination may be accomplished institutionally or by incorporatingprocedures thought to characterize various forms" (11). l34 FrRevol_101-150.indd 35 3/16/12 1:03 PM cHAPTER X vI I . Resistance ofPrivileged Orders public welfare, because you are embarrassed by secret authorities, where you ought to admit no guidance but the public interest. France, at the time the Estates General were assembled, was threatened by two great dangers, financial bankruptcy and famine; and both required speedy relief. How would it have been possible to adopt expeditious measures while each order had its veto? The two first would not consent to an unconditional equality oftaxes, while the nation at large demanded that this measure should he employed, before any other, for the re-establishment of the finances. The privileged classes had indeed said that they would accede to this equality, but they had taken no formal resolution to that effect; and they had still the power of deciding on what concerned them, according to the ancient plan ofdeliberating. The mass ofthe nation had thus no decisive influence, although it bore the great proportion of the burdens. This made the deputies of the Third Estate insist on voting individually , while the nobility and clergy argued for voting by the order.3 The dispute on this point began from the moment that the powers were verified; and from that moment also, M. Necker proposed a plan of reconciliation which, though very favorable to the higher orders, might have been accepted by the Third Estate, as the question was still under negotiation .4 To all the obstacles inherent in the plan of deliberating in three orders, we are to add the imperative orders (mandats imperatifi), that is, instructions from the electors, imposing on the deputies the necessity of conforming their opinions to the will oftheir constituents on the principal subjects discussed in the Assemhly.5 This antiquated usage was suitable 3· For more details on voting procedures in the Estates General, see Doyle, The Oxford History ofthe French Revolution, 96-1I I. Mousnier's Les institutions de !a France sous !a monarchie absolue also contains valuable information. 4· On June 4, 1789, Necker proposed that the verification of powers be done by each order and that results be communicated by each order to the two others. The contested deputies were supposed to be examined by a committee consisting of members ofall three orders and, if necessary, by the King himself. 5· For more information on the debate on imperative mandates, see Carre de Malberg, Contribution a!a theorie genirale de !'itat. It will be recalled that in Considerations sur le gouvernement de Pologne, Rousseau acknowledged the need for a mandate-based...


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