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FrRevol_201-250.indd 31 3/16/12 1:06 PM CHAPTER XII The Constituent Assemhly at Paris. The Constituent Assembly, removed to Paris by an armed force, found itself, in several respects, in the same situation as the King: it no longer enjoyed complete liberty. The 5th and 6th of October were, if one may say so, the first days of the accession ofthe Jacobins; the Revolution then changed its object and its sphere; equality, not liberty, was henceforth its mark, and the lower order of society began from that day to assume an ascendency over that class which is called to govern by virtue ofits knowledge and education. Mounier and Lally abandoned the Assembly and France.1 A just indignation made them commit this error; the result was that the moderate party was without strength. The virtuous Malouet and an orator at once brilliant and serious, M. de Clermont Tonnerre, endeavored to support it; but there were henceforth few debates except between the extreme opinions. The Constituent Assembly had been mistress ofthe fate ofFrance from the 14th of July to the 5th of October, 1789; but from the latter date forward , popular force was predominant. We cannot too often repeat that for individuals, as for political bodies, there is but one moment of happiness and power; that moment should be embraced, for the chance of prosperity does not occur twice in the course of the same destiny, and he who has not turned it to account receives in the sequel only the gloomy 1. After the events of October 5-6, 1789, Mounier (who had been elected president of the Constituent Assembly in late September) gave up his mandate and returned to Dauphiny on November I 5. A month later, he wrote Expose de ma conduite dans l'Assemblie Nationale (in Orateurs de la Revolution franfaise, vol. I, 908-97). Lally also presented his resignation in October and withdrew to Lausanne, where he wrote his Memoire de M. le comte de LallyTollendal , which recounts his political career during the first phases ofthe Revolution. He returned to France under the Consulate and became a peer during the Bourbon Restoration. FrRevol_201-250.indd 32 3/16/12 1:06 PM PART II lesson of adversity. The Revolution naturally descended lower and lower each time that the upper classes allowed the reins to slip from their hands, whether by their want of wisdom or their want of address. The rumor was circulated that Mirabeau and some other deputies were about to be appointed ministers. Those of the Mountain,Z who were well assured that the choice would not fall on them, proposed to declare the functions of deputy and minister incompatible, an absurd decree which transformed the balance of power into mutual hostility. Mirabeau, on this occasion, proposed very ingeniously that they should confine the exclusion from ministerial employment to him by name, in order that the personal injustice of which he was, as he said, the object, might not lead to the adoption ofa measure at variance with the public welfare.3 He required that the ministers should at least be present at the deliberations of the Assembly if, in contradiction to his opinion, they were prevented from being members of it. The Jacobins exclaimed that the presence of ministers would be enough to influence the opinion ofthe representatives, and assertions of this nature never failed to be received with enthusiasm by the galleries. One would have said that nobody in France could look at a powerful man, that no member of the Third Estate could approach a person belonging to the court, without feeling himselfin subjection. Such are the melancholy effects of arbitrary government and of too exclusive distinctions of rank! The hostility of the lower orders toward the aristocratic class does not destroy its ascendency, even over those by whom it is hated; the inferior classes, in the sequel, inflicted death on their former masters as the only method of ceasing to obey them. The minority of the nobility, that is, the noblemen who had gone over to the popular party, were infinitely superior, in purity of sentiment, to the extravagant part ofthe deputies ofthe Third Estate. These nobles were disinterested in the cause which they supported; and, what is still more honorable, they preferred the generous principles ofliberty to the personal advantages which they enjoyed. In all countries where aristocracy pre2 . The Mountain designated the Jacobin club, whose leaders were called Montagnards (mountain men) from the high benches...


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