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FrRevol_201-250.indd 49 3/16/12 1:06 PM CHAPTER XVI Federation ofZ4th july, Z790. Notwithstanding the faults which we have pointed out, the Constituent Assembly had produced so much good, and triumphed over so many misfortunes , that it was adored by almost all France. The deficiencies in the work of the constitution were perceptible only to those intimately acquainted with the principles of political legislation, and liberty was actually enjoyed, although the precautions taken for its maintenance were not well combined. The career opened to talents of every kind excited general emulation; the discussions ofan Assembly distinguished for talent, the varied movement of the liberty of the press, the publicity given to every matter ofimportance, delivered from bondage the mind ofFrenchmen , their patriotism, in short, all those energetic qualities, the results of which we have since seen sometimes marked with cruelty, but always gigantic . It was like an individual who breathed more freely, whose lungs contained a larger portion ofair; the indefinite hope ofhappiness without alloy had taken possession ofthe nation in its strength as it takes possession of a man in youth, when under the influence of illusion and devoid of foresight. The chiefuneasiness ofthe ConstituentAssembly arising from the danger to which a standing force might one day expose liberty, it was natural for it to endeavor, by every method, to gain the national militia, considering it with truth as an armed force of citizens; besides, the Assembly was so sure of public opinion in r790 that it took a pleasure in surrounding itself with the country's soldiers. A standing army is altogether a modern invention, the real object ofwhich is to put into the hands ofkings a power independent oftheir people. It was from the institution ofnational guards in France that the eventual conquest ofcontinental Europe proceeded; but the Constituent Assembly was then very far from desiring war, for it was 249 FrRevol_201-250.indd 50 3/16/12 1:06 PM PART II too enlightened not to prefer liberty to everything; and this liberty is incompatible with an invading spirit and with military habits. The eighty-three departments sent deputies from their national guards to take an oath of fidelity to the new constitution. It was not, it is true, as yet completed; but the principles which it declared sacred had obtained universal assent. Patriotic enthusiasm was so strong that all Paris moved in a mass to the "federation of 1790," as it had moved the year before to the destruction of the Bastille.1 The assemblage of the national militia was to take place in the Champ de Mars, in front of the Military School, and not far from the Hotel des Invalides. It was necessary to erect around this extensive space mounds ofgrass to hold the spectators. Women of the first rank were seen joining the crowd of voluntary laborers who came to bear a part in the preparations for the fete. In a line from the Military School, and in front of the Seine, which flows past the Champ de Mars, steps had been raised, with a tent to accommodate the King, Queen, and all the court. Eighty-three spears fixed in the ground, and bearing each the colors of its respective department, formed a vast circle, ofwhich the amphitheater prepared for the royal family made a part. At the other extremity was seen an altar, prepared for mass, which, on this great occasion, was celebrated by M. de Talleyrand, then Bishop of Autun. M. de la Fayette approached this altar to take the oath of fidelity to the nation, the law, and the King; and the oath, and the man who pronounced it, excited a strong feeling of confidence . The spectators felt an intoxication ofdelight; the King and liberty seemed to them, at that time, completely united. A limited monarchy has always been the true wish of France;2 and the last movement of a truly national enthusiasm was displayed at this federation of 1790. Yet those who were capable of reflection were far from giving themselves up to the general joy. I observed a deep anxiety in my father's countenance ; at the moment when the public thought it was rejoicing for a triumph, he was perhaps aware that no resource was left. M. Necker hav1 . On the formation of the National Federation, see Taine, The French Revolution, vol. I, 253-62. 2. This claim clearly illustrates the liberal intentions and agenda of Madame de Stael. FrRevol_251-300.indd...


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