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FrRevol_201-250.indd 16 3/16/12 1:05 PM CHAPTER IX Efforts Made by M. Necker with the Popular Party in the Constituent Assembly to Induce It to Establish the English Constitution in France. The King possessing no military strength after the Revolution ofthe 14th of July, there remained for the minister only the power of persuasion, whether in acting immediately on the deputies, or in finding sufficient support in public opinion to influence the Assembly through that medium. During the two months of tranquillity which were still enjoyed between the 14th ofJuly, 1789, and the frightful insurrection ofthe sth of October, the ascendancy of the King on the public mind began again to appear. M. Necker recommended to him successively several measures which obtained the approbation of the country. The suppression of feudal rights, pronounced by the Assembly during the night of the 4th of August, was presented to the sanction of the Monarch : he gave his assent to it,1 but addressed to the deputation of the Assembly observations which obtained the approbation of all wise people. He blamed the rapidity with which resolutions of such number and importance had been embraced; he made them feel the necessity of a reasonable indemnity to the former proprietors of several of the suppressed I. The King's consent to the decree ofAugust 4, r789, came late and was not unqualified. He sanctioned the decrees of August 4 and II only three months later, after the October Days. It is worth pointing out that the decree ofAugust I I, passed after a week-long debate in the Assembly, decided which ofthe feudal rights were to be compensated. On the debates and significance of August 4, I789, see Acton's Lectures on the French Revolution, 82- 89. 2Z6 FrRevol_201-250.indd 17 3/16/12 1:05 PM cHAPTER r X. Ejforts to Establish English Constitution revenues. The declaration ofrights2 was also offered to the royal sanction, together with several decrees already passed relative to the constitution. M. Necker was of the opinion that the King should answer that he could sanction only the whole, not a separate part, of a constitution; and that the general principles of the declaration of rights, though in themselves extremely just, required a special application that they might be subjected to the ordinary form of decrees. In fact, what signified the royal acquiescence to an abstract declaration of natural rights? But there existed for a length of time in France such a habit of making the King intervene in everything that, in truth, the republicans might as well have asked his sanction of a republic. The establishment ofa single chamber, and several otherconstitutional decrees which formed a complete deviation from the political system of England, were the cause ofgreat concern toM. Necker, for he saw in this royal democracy, as it was then called, the greatest danger for the throne and for liberty. The spirit of party has only one apprehension: wisdom has always two. We may see, in the different publications ofM. Necker, the respect which he had for the English government, and the arguments on which he drew when desiring the application ofits fundamental principles to France. It was from the popular deputies, at that time allpowerful , that he now met with obstacles as great as those he had previously had to combat in the royal council. Whether as minister or as writer, he has always held the same language in this respect. The argument urged in common by the two parties, the aristocrats and democrats, against the adoption of the English constitution was that England could do without regular troops, while France, being obliged by her continental position to maintain a great army, liberty would be found unable to resist the preponderance given by that army to the King. The aristocrats did not perceive that this objection turned against themselves; for if the King of France has, from the nature of things, greater compulsory means than the King ofEngland, what inconvenience is there in imposing at least equal limits on his authority? 2 . For more information, see Furet and Ozouf, eds., A Critical Dictionary ofthe French Revolution, 818- 28, and Acton, Lectures on the French Revolution, 89- 94. 2l:J FrRevol_201-250.indd 18 3/16/12 1:05 PM PART II The arguments of the popular party were more specious because they supported them even on those oftheir adversaries. The regular army, they said, ensuring more power to the King of...


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