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FrRevol_201-250.indd 22 3/16/12 1:06 PM CHAPTER XI Events ofthe 5th and 6th ofOctober, ZJ89. Before describing these too disastrous days, we should bring to our recollection that in France at the time ofthe Revolution, as well as in the rest of Europe, people had enjoyed for nearly a century a kind of tranquillity which conduced, it is true, to relaxation and corruption; but was, at the same time, the cause and effect ofvery mild manners. Nobody imagined, in 1789, that vehement passions lurked under this apparent tranquillity. The Constituent Assembly accordingly gave itselfup without apprehension to the generous wish ofameliorating the lot ofthe people. They had seen it only in a state ofservitude, and they did not suspect what has been since but too well proved-that the violence of revolt being always in proportion to the injustice of slavery, it was necessary to bring about changes in France with a prudence proportioned to the oppression ofthe old system. The aristocrats will say that they foresaw all our misfortunes; but prophecies prompted by personal interest have weight with no one. Let us resume, then, the sketch ofthe situation ofFrance before the occurrence of those early crimes from which all the others proceeded. The general direction of business at court was the same as before the Revolution of the 14th of July; but the means at the disposal of the royal authority being considerably diminished, the danger of exciting a new insurrection was proportionably augmented. M. Necker was well aware that he did not possess the entire confidence of the King, and this diminished his authority in the eyes of the representatives of the people; but he did not hesitate to sacrifice by degrees all his popularity to the defense of the throne. There are not on earth greater trials for morality than political employments; for the arguments which, in such a situation, may be used to reconcile conscience with interest are innumerable. The principle, how222 FrRevol_201-250.indd 23 3/16/12 1:06 PM CHAPTER XI. Eventsof5and60ctoberz:;8g ever, from which we ought rarely to deviate, is that ofbringing assistance to the weaker party: we seldom err in guiding ourselves by such a landmark.' M. Necker was of the opinion that the most perfect sincerity toward the representatives ofthe people was the soundest calculation for the King; he advised him to make use of his veto, to refuse whatever he deemed fit for rejection; to accept only what he approved; and to ground his resolutions on motives which might gradually influence public opinion. Already had this system produced a certain degree ofgood, and, had it been steadily followed, it would have still prevented many misfortunes. But it was so natural for the King to feel irritated at his situation that he lent too willing an ear to all the projects which accorded with his wishes, and which offered the pretended means of a counter-revolution. It is very difficult for a king, the inheritor ofa power which, since Henri IV, had never been disputed, to believe himself without force in the midst of his kingdom; and the devoted attachment ofthose who surround him must easily excite his hopes and illusions. The Queen was still more alive to these confident conclusions, and the enthusiasm of her bodyguards, and other persons of her court, appeared to her sufficient to repel the popular wave, which pressed forward more and more in proportion to the weakness of the opposing dikes. Marie Antoinette presented herself then, like Maria Theresa, to the bodyguards at Versailles, to recommend to them her august husband and her children. They replied by acclamations to an appeal which, in fact, should have moved them to the bottom of their souls; but this was quite enough to excite the suspicions of that crowd of men, whose minds were heated by the new prospects opened to them by the state ofaffairs. It was repeated at Paris, among all classes, that the King wished to leave the country; and that he wanted to make a second attempt to dissolve the Assembly. The Monarch thus found himself in the most dangerous situI . A classic example of trimming in politics. The notion of trimming was first conceptualized by the Marquis ofHalifax in his essay "The Character ofa Trimmer"; see Kenyon, ed., Halifax. Complete Works, )0. 223 FrRevol_201-250.indd 24 3/16/12 1:06 PM PART II ation: he had excited disquietudes as if he had been strong, while...


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