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FrRevol_101-150.indd 47 3/16/12 1:04 PM CHAPTER XX The Royal Session of23djune, z789. The secret council ofthe King was altogether different from his ostensible ministry; a few of the latter shared the opinion of the former; but the acknowledged head of administration, M. Necker, was the very person against whom the privileged classes directed their efforts. In England the responsibility of ministers is a bar to this double government , by official agents and secret advisers. No act of the royal power being executed without the signature of a minister, and that signature involving a capital punishment to whoever abuses it, even were the king surrounded by chamberlains preaching the doctrine of absolute power, there is no danger that any of them would run the risk of performing as a minister what he might support as a courtier. In France the case was different. Orders were given, without the knowledge of the prime minister , to bring forward regiments of Germans, because dependence could not be placed on the French regiments; it was expected that, with this foreign band, public opinion could be controlled in such a country as was then illustrious France. The Baron de Breteuil,l who aspired to succeed toM. Necker's station, was incapable ofunderstanding anything but the old form ofgovernment; and, even in the old form, his ideas had never extended beyond the precincts ofa court, either in France or in the foreign countries where he had been sent as ambassador. He cloaked his ambition under an aspect ofgood nature; he was in the habit of shaking hands in the English manner with all he met, as if he would say, "I should like to be minister; what harm 1. Baron Louis Auguste Le Tonnelier de Breteuil (173o-18o7). After his fall from power in 1789, he emigrated and served as the King's emissary abroad. He returned to France in !802. l4J FrRevol_101-150.indd 48 3/16/12 1:04 PM PART I will that do you?" By dint of repeating that he wished to be minister, he had been introduced into the cabinet, and he had governed as well as another so long as there was nothing to do but subscribe his name to the official papers brought to the minister in a finished state by the clerks. But in the great national crisis on which we are about to enter, his councils caused terrible harm to the cause of the King. His rough voice conveyed an idea of energy; in walking he pressed the ground with a ponderous step, as ifhe would call an army from below-and his imposing presence deluded those who put all their hopes in their own desires. When M. Necker asked the King and Queen, "Are you certain of the obedience ofthe army?" some interpreted the doubt implied in the question as the sign of a factious disposition; for one of the characteristics of the aristocratic party in France is to look with a suspicious eye on a knowledge offacts. These facts are obstinate, and have in vain risen up ten times against the hopes of the privileged classes: they have always attributed them to those who foresaw them, and never to the nature of things. A fortnight after the opening of the Estates General, and before the Third Estate had constituted itself the Nationa! Assembly, while the two parties were ignorant of their mutual strength, and while each was looking to government for support, M. Necker laid before the King a sketch of the situation of the kingdom. "Sire," he said, I am afraid that you are led into error in regard to the temper ofthe army: our correspondence with the country makes us conclude that it will not act against the Estates General. Do not then make it draw near to Versailles , as ifyou intended to make a hostile use ofit against the deputies. The popular party does not know yet with certainty the disposition of this army. Make use of this very uncertainty to keep up your authority with the public; for, ifthe fatal secret ofthe insubordination ofthe troops were known, how would it be possible to restrain the factious? The point at present, Sire, is to accede to the reasonable wishes ofFrance; deign to resign yourself to the English constitution; you, personally, will not experience any restraint by the empire of law, for never will it impose on you such barriers as your own scruples; and in thus volunteering to...

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