He affected to represent his will as the rule of their conduct, and his bounty as the source of their freedom. Nor was the matter of his harangue less injurious than its manner was offensive.
Instead of containing any concession important to public liberty, it indicated a relapse into a more lofty Edition: ed; Page: [ 49 ] despotism than had before marked his pretensions. Tithes, feudal, and seignorial rights, he consecrated as the most inviolable property; and of Lettres de Cachet themselves, by recommending the regulation, he obviously condemned the abolition.
The distinction of Orders he considered as essential to the Constitution of the kingdom, and their present union as only legitimate by his permission. He concluded with Edition: current; Page: [ 25 ] commanding them to separate, and to assemble on the next day in the Halls of their respective Orders. The Commons, however, inflexibly adhering to their principles, and conceiving themselves constituted as a National Assembly, treated these threats and injunctions with equal neglect.
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Forty-nine members of the Nobility, at the head of whom was M. The union was accordingly resolved on, and Edition: ed; Page: [ 51 ] the Duke of Luxemburg, President of the Nobility, was authorized by his Majesty to announce to his Order the request and even command of the King, to unite themselves with the other Orders.
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He remonstrated with the King on the fatal consequences of this step. The Nobility, he remarked, were not fighting their own battles, but those of the Crown. The support of the Monarchy was inseparably connected with the division of the States General. Divided, that body was subject to the Crown—united, its authority was sovereign, and its force irresistible. A gloomy and re- Edition: ed; Page: [ 52 ] luctant obedience was yielded to this mandate, and the union of the National Representatives at length promised some hope to France.
But the general system of the Government formed a suspicious and tremendous contrast with this applauded concession. New hordes of foreign mercenaries were summoned to the blockade of Paris and Versailles, from the remotest provinces; an immense train of artillery was disposed in all the avenues of these cities; and seventy thousand men already invested the Legislature and Capital of France, when the last blow was hazarded against the public hopes, by the ignominious banishment of M. Events followed the most unexampled and memorable in the annals of mankind, which history will record and immortalize, but, on which, the object of the political reasoner is only to speculate.
France was on the brink of civil war. The Pro- Edition: ed; Page: [ 53 ] vinces were ready to march immense bodies to the rescue of their Representatives. The Courtiers and their minions, Princes and Princesses, male and female favorites, crowded to the camps with which they had invested Versailles, and stimulated the ferocious cruelty of their mercenaries, by caresses, by largesses, and by promises. Mean time the people of Paris revolted, the French soldiery felt that they were citizens, and the fabric of Despotism fell to the ground.
These soldiers, whom posterity will celebrate for patriotic heroism, are stigmatized by Mr. Had the defection been confined to Paris, there might have been some speciousness in the accusation.
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The Exchequer of a faction might have been equal to the corruption of the guards. The activity of intrigue might have seduced by promise, the troops cantoned Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] in the neighbourhood of the capital. But what policy, or fortune, could pervade by their agents, or donatives, an army of , men, dispersed over so great a monarchy as France. The spirit of resistance to uncivic commands broke forth at once in every part of the empire. The garrisons of the cities of Rennes, Bourdeaux, Lyons, and Grenoble, refused, almost at the same moment, to resist the virtuous insurrection of their fellow citizens.
No largesses could have seduced, no intrigues could have reached so vast and divided a body. Nothing but sympathy with the national spirit could have produced their Edition: ed; Page: [ 55 ] noble disobedience. The remark of Mr. Hume is here most applicable, that what depends on a few may be often attributed to chance secret circumstances but that the actions of great bodies must be ever ascribed to general causes.
A domestic army cannot be increased without increasing the number of its ties with the people, and of the channels by which popular sentiment may enter. Every man who is added to the army is a new link that unites it to the nation. If all citizens were compelled to become soldiers, all soldiers must of necessity adopt the feelings of citizens, and the despots cannot increase their Edition: ed; Page: [ 56 ] army without admitting into it a greater number of men interested to destroy them.
A small army may have sentiments different from the great body of the people, and no interest in common with them, but a numerous soldiery cannot.
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This is the barrier which Nature has opposed to the increase of armies. They cannot be numerous enough to enslave the people, without becoming the people itself. The effects of this truth have been hitherto conspicuous only Edition: current; Page: [ 28 ] in the military defection of France, because the enlightened sense of general interest has been so much more diffused in that nation than in any other despotic monarchy of Europe.
But they must be felt by all. An elaborate discipline may for a while in Germany debase and brutalize soldiers too much to receive any impressions from their fellow men—artificial and local institutions are, however, too feeble to resist the energy of natural causes.
The constitution of man survives the transient fashions of des- Edition: ed; Page: [ 57 ] potism, and the history of the next century will probably evince on how frail and tottering a basis the military tyrannies of Europe stand. The pretended seduction of the French troops by the promise of the increased pay, is in every view contradicted by facts. This increase of pay did not originate in the Assembly. It was not therefore any part of their policy—It was prescribed to them by the instructions of their constituents, before the meeting of the States.
What had the demagogues Edition: ed; Page: [ 58 ] to offer. The soldiery knew that the States must, in obedience to their instructions, increase their pay.
An increase of pay, therefore, was no temptation to sell their King, for of that they felt themselves already secure, as the national voice had prescribed it. It was in fact a necessary part of the system which was to raise the army to a body of respectable citizens, from a gang of mendicant ruffians. It must infallibly operate to limit the increase of armies in the north. This influence has been already felt in the Netherlands, which fortune seems to have restored to Leopold, that they might furnish a school of revolt to German soldiers.
The Austrian troops have there murmured at their comparative indigence, and supported their plea for increase of pay by the example of France. The same example must operate on the other armies of Europe.
The solicitations of armed petitioners must be heard. The indigent Edition: current; Page: [ 29 ] de- Edition: ed; Page: [ 59 ] spots of Germany and the North will feel a limit to their military rage, in the scantiness of their Exchequer.
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They will be compelled to reduce the number, and increase the pay of their armies, and a new barrier will be opposed to the progress of that depopulation and barbarism, which philosophers had dreaded from the rapid increase of military force. These remarks on the spirit which actuated the French army in their unexampled, misconceived, and calumniated conduct, are peculiarly important, as they serve to illustrate a principle, which cannot too frequently be presented to view, that in the French Revolution all is to be attributed to general causes influencing the whole body of the people, and almost nothing to the schemes and the ascendant of individuals.
But to return to our rapid sketch. It was at the moment of the Parisian revolt, and of the defection of the army, that the whole Edition: ed; Page: [ 60 ] power of France devolved on the National Assembly. It is at that moment, therefore, that the discussion commences, whether that body ought to have re-established and re-formed the Government which events had subverted, or to have proceeded to the establishment of a new Constitution, on the general principles of reason and freedom.
The arm of the ancient Government had been palsied, and its power reduced to formality, by events over which the Assembly possessed no controul. It was theirs to decide, not whether the monarchy was to be subverted, for that had been already effected, but whether, from its ruins, fragments were to be collected for the re-construction of the political edifice. They had been assembled as an ordinary Legislature under existing laws.
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They were transformed by these events into a National Convention, and vested with powers to organize a Government. It is in vain that Edition: ed; Page: [ 61 ] their adversaries contest this assertion, by appealing to the deficiency of forms. Accurate forms in the conveyance of power are prescribed by the wisdom of law, in the regular administration of States. But great Revolutions are too immense for technical formality.
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All the sanction that can be hoped for in such events, is the voice of the people, however informally and irregularly expressed. This cannot be Edition: ed; Page: [ 62 ] pretended to have been wanting in France. Every other species of authority was annihilated by popular acts, but that of the States General.