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FrRevol_101-150.indd 40 3/16/12 1:03 PM CHAPTER XVIII Conduct ofthe Third Estate During the First Two Months ofthe Session ofthe Estates General. Several individuals among the nobility and clergy, the first persons in the country, inclined strongly, as we have already said, to the popular party, and there was a great number of intelligent men among the deputies of the Third Estate. We must not form an opinion of the France ofthat time judging by the France of the present day: twenty-five years of continual danger, of every kind, have unfortunately accustomed the French to employ their faculties only for their personal defense or interest; but in 1789 the country contained a great number of intelligent and philosophic minds.1 Why, it may be asked, could they not adhere to the government under which they had been thus formed? It was not the government, it was the advanced knowledge of the age which had developed all these talents, and those who felt they possessed them felt also the necessity of exercising them. Yet the ignorance of the people in Paris, and still more in the country, that ignorance which results from the long oppression and 1. Madame de Stael refers here to the civic apathy during the First Empire and the first years of the Bourbon Restoration. A similar warning can be found in Benjamin Constant's well-known speech, "The Liberty of the Ancients Compared to That of the Moderns," given at the Athenee Royal in Paris in r8 19; the English translation is in Benjamin Constant, Political Writings, 309- 28. In his turn, Tocqueville also admired the people of 1789 for having real convictions and pursuing noble ideals: "Everybody followed his own convictions boldly, passionately.... I have never met with a revolution where one could see at the start, in so many men, a more sincere patriotism, more disinterest, more true greatness. . . . This is 1789, a time of inexperience doubtless, but of generosity, of enthusiasm, of virility, and ofgreatness, a time ofimmortal memory." (The Old Regime and the Revolution, vol. I, 208, 237, 244) FrRevol_101-150.indd 41 3/16/12 1:03 PM CHAPTER XVI I I. Conduct ofThird Estate neglected education of the lower orders, contained the seeds of all those misfortunes which afterward overpowered France.2 Ofdistinguished men the country contained perhaps as many as England; but the stock ofgood sense that belongs to a free nation did not exist in France. Religion founded on inquiry, education generally diffused, the liberty ofthe press, and the right of voting at public elections, are sources of improvement which had been in operation in England for more than a century. The Third Estate desired that France should be enriched by a part of these advantages; the national wish strongly supported that desire; but the Third Estate, being the strongest party, could have only one merit, that ofmoderation , and unfortunately it was not in a disposition to adopt it. There were two parties among the deputies of the Third Estate; the leaders of the one were Mounier and Malouet3-of the other Mirabeau and Sieyes.4 The former aimed at a constitution in two chambers, and were in hopes of obtaining this change from the nobles and the King by amicable means; the other was superior in point of talent, but unfortunately more guided by passion than opinion. Mounier had been the leader of the calm and well-planned revolution in Dauphiny. He was a man passionately devoted to reason and moderation . He was enlightened rather than eloquent, but consistent and firm 2. According to Jacques Godechot, on the eve of the Revolution the literacy rate in France was 50 percent for men and only 20 percent for women. 3ยท Mounier and Malouet belonged to the monarchiens, a group that also included LallyTollendal and Clermont-Tonnerre. Proponents of a moderate form of monarchy in 1789, they endorsed the initial demands of the Third Estate and demanded that France adopt the principles ofconstitutionalism ofEngland. In the footsteps ofMontesquieu, the monarchiens put forward a moderate plan of reform that sought to create a constitutional monarchy in France by reconciling the rights of the monarch with those of the nation. Unfortunately, their middling political project was defeated soon after the fall of the Old Regime and the monarchiens slipped into obscurity. For detailed biographical notes about them, see Furet and Halevi, Orateurs de la Revolution fran,caise, val. I: Les Constituants, 1256- 61, 1311- 16, 1356-62...


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