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FrRevol_251-300.indd 23 3/16/12 1:07 PM CHAPTER XXII Revision ofthe Constitution. The Assembly was constrained, by the popular ferment, to declare that the King should be kept prisoner in the palace of the Tuileries until the constitution had been presented for his acceptance. M. de Ia Fayette, as commander ofthe Nationa! Guards, had the misfortune ofbeing doomed to carry this decree into effect. But if, on the one hand, he placed sentinels at the gates of the palace, he opposed, on the other, with conscientious energy, the party which endeavored to pronounce the King fallen from the throne.1 He employed against those who pressed that measure the armed force in the Champ de Mars;2 and he thus proved, at least, that it was not from views ofambition that he exposed himselfto the displeasure of the King, as he drew on himself at the same time the hatred of the enemies ofthe throne. The only equitable manner, in my opinion, ofjudging the character of a man is to examine if there are no personal calculations in his conduct; if there are not, we may blame his manner ofjudging ; but we are not the less bound to esteem him. The republican party was the only one that came openly forward at the time of the arrest of the King. The name ofthe Duke ofOrleans was not even mentioned; no one presumed to think of another king than Louis XVI, and he received at least the homage of having nothing but institutions opposed to him. Finally, the person of the monarch was declared inviolable; a specification was made of the cases in which a deprivation ofthe Crown should be incurred;3 but ifthe illusion which should surround the royal person were thus destroyed, engagements propor1 . This petition implicitly demanded the declaration of the republic. 2. The clashes between the National Guard and the people claimed more than fifty victims. 3· See articles 2, ), and 6- 8 of chapter II of the Constitution of 1791. 2J3 FrRevol_251-300.indd 24 3/16/12 1:07 PM PART II tionally stronger were taken to respect the law which guaranteed the inviolability of the sovereign in every possible supposition. The Constituent Assembly always thought, but very erroneously, that its decrees possessed something ofmagic power, and that the people would stop in everything exactly at the line which it had traced. Its authority in this respect may he compared to that of the rihhand suspended in the garden ofthe Tuileries to prevent the people from approaching the palace: so long as public opinion was in favor ofthose who had caused this ribhand to he strung, it was respected by everyone; but as soon as the people would no longer have a harrier, it was not of the slightest use. We find in some modern constitutions, as a constitutional article: "the government shall he just, and the people obedient." Were it possible to command such a result, the balance of powers would he altogether superfluous ; but to succeed in putting good maxims in execution, it is necessary to combine institutions in such a way that everyone shall find his interest in maintaining them. Religious doctrines stand in no need ofappealing to personal interest to acquire command over men, and it is in that, above all, that they are of a superior order; but legislators, invested with the interests of this world, fall into a kind of self-deception when they introduce patriotic sentiments as a necessary spring in the machine ofsociety. To reckon on consequences for organizing a cause is to mistake the natural order of events. Nations become free not from their being virtuous but because fortunate circumstances, or rather a strongwill, having put them in possession ofliberty, they acquire the virtues which arise from it. The laws on which civil and political liberty depend are reducible to a very small number, and it is this political decalogue alone that merits the title of constitutional articles. But the National Assembly gave that title to almost all its decrees; whether it thus aimed at keeping itselfindependent of the royal sanction or, like an author, acted under a degree of illusion in regard to the perfection and durability of its own work. However, the intelligent men in the Assembly succeeded in reducing the number of constitutional articles;4 but a discussion arose to ascertain 4· The final version of the Constitution of 1791 had 204 articles. 2J4 FrRevol_251-300.indd 25 3/16...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878636
Related ISBN
9780865977327
MARC Record
OCLC
836874520
Pages
834
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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