The Eve of the French Revolution
Edward J. Lowell

Part 6 out of 7

Philosophers had fairly entered the public mind. The nobility and the
middle class, with such of the poor as could read and think, had been
deeply impressed by Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists. All men had not
been affected in the same way. Some were blind followers of these
leaders, eager to push the doctrines of the school to the last possible
results, partisans of Helvetius and Holbach. These were the most
logical. Beside them came the sentimentalists, the worshipers of
Rousseau. They were not a whit less dogmatic than the others, but their
dogmatism took more fanciful and less consistent forms. They believed in
their ideal republics or their social compacts with a religious faith.
Some of them were ready to persecute others and to die themselves for
their chimeras, and subsequently proved it. And in not a few minds the
teachings of Holbach and those of Rousseau were more or less confused,
and co-existed with a lingering belief in the church and her doctrines.
People still went to mass from habit, from education, from an uneasy
feeling that it was a good thing to do; doubting all the while with
Voltaire, dreaming with Rousseau, wondering what might be coming,
believing that the world was speedily to be improved, having no very
definite idea as to how the improvement was to be brought about, but
trusting vaguely to the enlightenment of the age, which was taken for

For this reign of the last absolute king of France was a time of hope
and of belief in human perfectibility. One after another, the schemers
had come forward with their plans for regenerating society. There were
the economists, ready to swear that the world, and especially France,
would be rich, if free trade were adopted, and the taxes were laid--they
could not quite agree how. There were the army reformers, burning to
introduce Prussian discipline; if only you could reconcile blows and
good feeling. There were people calling for Equality, and for government
by the most enlightened; quite unaware that their demands were
inconsistent. There were the philanthropists, perhaps the most genuine
of all the reformers, working at the hospitals and prisons, and reducing
in no small measure the sum of misery in France.[Footnote: Among other
instances of this spirit of hopefulness, notice those volumes of the
_Encyclopédie Méthodique_ which were published as early as 1789.
They are largely devoted to telling how things ought to be. See also the
correspondence of Lafayette, who was thoroughly steeped in the spirit of
this time. The feeling of hope was not the only feeling, there was
despondency also. But we must be careful not to be deceived by the tone
of many people who wrote long afterward, when they had undergone the
shock of the great Revolution. In the study of this period, more perhaps
than in that of any other, it is important to distinguish between
contemporary evidence and the evidence of contemporaries given

These changes in men's minds began to bear fruit in action. The
attempted reforms of Turgot, of Necker, of the Notables; the abolition
of the _corvée_, of monopolies in trade, of judicial torture, the
establishment of provincial assemblies, the civil rights given to
Protestants, have been mentioned already. These things were done in a
weak and inconsistent manner because of the character of the king, who
was drawn in one direction by his courtiers and in another by his
conscience, and satisfied neither.

Man must always look outside of himself for a standard of right and
wrong. He must have something with which to compare the dictates of his
own conscience, some chronometer to set his watch by. In the decay of
religious ideas, the Frenchmen of the eighteenth century had set up a
standard of comparison independent of revelation. They had found it in
public opinion. The sociable population of Paris was ready to accept the
common voice as arbiter. It had always been powerful in France, where
the desire for sympathy is strong. A pamphlet published in 1730 says
that if the episcopate falls into error it should be "instructed,
corrected, even judged by the people." "A halberd leads a kingdom,"
cried a courtier to Quesnay the economist. "And who leads the halberd?"
retorted the latter. "Public opinion." "There are circumstances," say
the venerable and conservative lawyers of the Parliament, "when
magistrates may look on their loss of court favor as an honor. It is
when they are consoled by public esteem." Poor Louis himself, catching
the fever of longing for popularity, proposes to "raise the results of
public opinion to the rank of laws, after they have been submitted to
ripe and profound examination."[Footnote: _Rocquain_, 54.
Lavergne, _Économistes_, 103. Chérest, i. 454 (May 1,1788).] The
appeal is constantly made from old-fashioned prejudice to some new
notion supposed to be generally current, as if the one proved more than
the other. From this worship of public opinion come extreme irritation
under criticism and cowardly fear of ridicule; Voltaire himself asking
for _lettres de cachet_ against a literary opponent. Seldom,
indeed, do we find any one ready to say: "This is right; thus men ought
to think; and if mankind thinks differently, mankind is mistaken." Such
a tone comes chiefly from the mouth of that exception for good and evil,
Jean Jacques Rousseau.

This dependent state of mind is far removed from virtue. But human
nature is often better than it represents itself to be. Both Quesnay and
the magistrates had in fact a higher standard of right and wrong than
the average feeling of the multitude. Every sect and every party makes,
in a measure, its own public opinion, and the consent for which we seek
is chiefly the consent of those persons whose ideas we respect. The
thinkers of the eighteenth century, after appealing to public opinion,
were quite ready to cast off their allegiance to it when it decided
against them.

Yet Frenchmen paid the penalty for setting up a false god. Having agreed
to worship public opinion, without asking themselves definitely who were
the public, they fell into frequent and fatal errors. The mob often
claimed the place on the pedestal of opinion, and its claims were
allowed. The turbulent populace of Paris, clamorous now for cheap bread,
now for the return of the Parliament from exile, anon for the blood of
men and women whom it chose to consider its enemies, was supposed to be
the voice of the French nation, which was superstitiously assumed to be
the voice of God.

The inhabitants of great cities love to be amused. Those of Paris, being
quicker witted than most mortals, care much to have something happening.
They detest dullness and are fond of wit. In countries where speech and
the press are free, a witticism, or a clever book, is seldom a great
event. But under Louis XVI., as has been said, you could never quite
tell what would come of a paragraph. A minister of state might lose his

A writer might have to spend a few weeks in Holland, or even in the
Bastille. This was not much to suffer for the sake of notoriety, but it
gave the charm of uncertainty. There was just enough danger in saying
"strong things" to make them attractive, and to make it popular to say
them. With a free press, men whose opinions are either valuable or
dangerous get very tired of "strong things," and prefer less spice in
their intellectual fare.

The most famous satirical piece of the reign is also its most remarkable
literary production. The "Mariage de Figaro," of Beaumarchais, has
acquired importance apart from its merits as a comedy, both from its
political history and from its good fortune in being set to immortal
music. The plot is poor and intricate, but the dialogue is uniformly
sparkling, and two of the characters will live as typical. In Cherubin
we have the dissolute boy whose vice has not yet wrinkled into ugliness,
best known to English readers under the name of Don Juan, but fresher
and more ingenuous than Byron's young rake. Figaro, the hero of the
play, is the comic servant, familiar to the stage from the time of
Plautus, impudent, daring, plausible; likely to be overreached, if at
all, by his own unscrupulousness. But he is also the adventurer of the
last age of the French monarchy, full of liberal ideas and ready to give
a decided opinion on anything that concerns society or politics; a
Scapin, who has brushed the clothes of Voltaire. He is a shabby, younger
brother of Beaumarchais himself, immensely clever and not without kindly
feeling, a rascal you can be fond of. "Intrigue and money; you are in
your element!" cries Susanne to Figaro, in the first act. "A hundred
times I have seen you march on to fortune, but never walk straight,"
says the Count to him, in the third. We laugh when the blows meant for
others smack loud on his cheeks; but we grudge him neither his money nor
his pretty wife.

It is through this character that Beaumarchais tells the nobility, the
court, and the government of France what is being said about them in the
street. He repays with bitter gibes the insolence which he himself, the
clever, ambitious man of the middle class, has received, in his long
struggle for notoriety and wealth, from people whose personal claims to
respect were no better than his own. "What have you done to have so much
wealth?" cries Figaro in his soliloquy, apostrophizing the Count, who is
trying to steal his mistress, "You have taken the trouble to be born,
nothing more!" "I was spoken of, for an office," he says again, "but
unfortunately I was fitted for it. An accountant was needed, and a
dancer got it." And in another place: "I was born to be a courtier;
receiving, taking and asking, are the whole secret in three words."

As for the limitations on the liberty of the press: "They tell me," says
Figaro, "that if in my writing I will mention neither the government,
nor public worship, nor politics, nor morals, nor people in office, nor
influential corporations, nor the Opera, nor the other theatres, nor
anybody that belongs to anything, I may print everything freely, subject
to the approval of two or three censors." "How I should like to get hold
of one of those people that are powerful for a few days, and that give
evil orders so lightly, after a good reverse of favor had sobered him of
his pride! I would tell him, that foolish things in print are important
only where their circulation is interfered with; that without freedom to
blame, no praise is flattering, and that none but little men are afraid
of little writings."

The "Marriage of Figaro" was accepted by the great Parisian theatre, the
Comédie Française, toward the end of 1781. The wit of the piece itself
and the notoriety of the author made its success almost inevitable. The
permission of the censor was of course necessary before the play could
be put on the boards; but the first censor to whom the work was
submitted pronounced that, with a few alterations, it might be given.
The piece was already exciting much attention. As an advertisement,
Beaumarchais had read it aloud in several houses of note. It was the
talk of the town and of the court. The nobles were enchanted. To be
laughed at so wittily was a new sensation. Old Maurepas, the prime
minister, heard the play and spoke of it to his royal master. The king's
curiosity was excited. He sent for a copy, and the queen's waiting
woman, Madame Campan, was ordered to be at Her Majesty's apartment at
three o'clock in the afternoon, but to be sure and take her dinner
first, as she would be kept a long time.

At the appointed hour, Madame Campan found no one in the chamber but the
king and the queen. A big pile of manuscript, covered with corrections,
was on the table. As Madame Campan read, the king frequently
interrupted. He praised some passages, and blamed others as in bad
taste. At last, however, near the end of the play, occurred the long
soliloquy in which Figaro has brought together his bitterest complaints.
Early in the scene there is a description of the arbitrary imprisonment
which was so common in those days. "A question arises concerning the
nature of riches," says Figaro, "and as you do not need to have a thing
in order to talk about it, I, who have not a penny, write on the value
of money and its net product. Presently, from the inside of a cab, I see
the drawbridge of a prison let down for me; and leave, as I go in, both
hope and liberty behind." On hearing this tirade, King Louis XVI. leaped
from his chair, and exclaimed: "It is detestable; it shall never be
played! Not to have the production of this play a dangerous piece of
inconsistency, we should have to destroy the Bastille. This man makes
sport of everything that should be respected in a government."

"Then it will not be played?" asked the queen.

"Certainly not!" answered Louis; "you may be sure of it."

For two years a contest was kept up between the king of France and the
dramatic author as to whether the "Marriage of Figaro" should be acted
or not. The king had on his side absolute power to forbid the
performance or to impose any conditions he pleased; but he stood almost
alone in his opinion, and Louis XVI. never could stand long alone. The
author had for auxiliaries some of the princes, most of the nobility,
the court and the town. Public curiosity was aroused, and no one knew
better than Beaumarchais how to keep it awake. He continued to read the
play at private parties, but it required so much begging to induce him
to do so that the favor never became a cheap one. Those people who heard
it were loud in its praise, and less favored persons talked of tyranny
and oppression, because they were not permitted to see themselves and
their neighbors delightfully laughed at by Figaro. Poor Louis held out
against the solicitations of the people about him with a pertinacity
which he seldom showed in greater matters. At last his resolution
weakened, and permission was accorded to play the piece at a private
entertainment given by the Count of Vaudreuil. After that, the public
performance became only a question of time and of the suppression of
obnoxious passages. On the 27th of April, 1784, the theatre-goers of
Paris thronged from early morning about the doors of the Comedie
Française; three persons were crushed to death; great ladies dined in
the theatre, to keep their places. At half past five the curtain rose.
The success was unbounded, in spite of savage criticism, which spared
neither the play nor the author.[Footnote: Campan, i. 277. Lomenie,
_Beaumarchais_, ii. 293. Grimm, xiii. 517. La Harpe, _Corresp.
litt._ iv. 227.]

As the people of Paris liked violent language, they also enjoyed
opposition to the government, whatever form that opposition might
assume. The Parliament, as we have seen, although contending for
privileges and against measures beneficial to most people in the
country, was yet popular, for it was continually defying the court. But
many privileged persons went farther than the conservative lawyers of
the city. It was indeed such people who took the lead both in
proclaiming equality and in denouncing courtiers. From the nobility and
the rich citizens of Paris, discontent with existing conditions and the
habit of opposition to constituted authorities spread to the lower
classes and to the inhabitants of provincial towns.

Louis XVI. had not been long on the throne when a series of events
occurred in a distant part of the world which excited in a high degree
both the spirit of insubordination and the love of equality in French
minds. The American colonies of Great Britain broke into open revolt,
and presently declared their independence of the mother country. The
sympathy of Frenchmen was almost universal and was loudly expressed.
Here was a nation of farmers constituting little communities that
Rousseau might not have disowned, at least if he had looked at them no
nearer than across the ocean. They were in arms for their rights and
liberties, and in revolt against arbitrary power. And the oppressor
was the king of England, the monarch of the nation that had inflicted
on France, only a few years before, a humiliating defeat. Much that
was generous in French character, and much that was sentimental, love
of liberty, admiration of equality, hatred of the hereditary enemy,
conspired to favor the cause of the "Insurgents." The people who
wished for political reforms could point to the model commonwealths of
the New World. Their constitutions were translated into French, and
several editions were sold in Paris.[Footnote: _Recueil des loix
constitutives. Constitutions des treize États Unis de l'Amérique_.
Franklin to Samuel Cooper, May 1, 1777. _Works_ vi. 96.] The people
that adored King Louis could cry out for the abasement of King
George. A few prudent heads in high places were shaken at the thought
of assisting rebellion. The Emperor Joseph II., brother-in-law to the
king of France, was not quite the only man whose business it was to be
a royalist. Ministers might deprecate war on economical grounds, and
advise that just enough help be given to the Americans to prolong
their struggle with England until both parties should be exhausted.
But the heart of the French nation had gone into the war. It was for
the sake of his own country that the Count of Vergennes, the foreign
minister of Louis XVI., induced her to take up arms against Great
Britain, and in the negotiations for peace he would willingly have
sacrificed the interests of his American to those of his Spanish
allies; yet the part taken by France was the almost inevitable result
of the sympathy and enthusiasm of the French nation. Never was a war
not strictly of defense more completely national in its character.
Frenchmen fought in Virginia because they loved American ideas, and
hated the enemy of America. [Footnote: Rosenthal, _America and
France_,--an excellent monograph.]

Thus France, while still an absolute monarchy, undertook a war in
defense of political rights. Such an action could not be without
results. Writers of a later time, belonging to the monarchical party,
have not liked the results and have blamed the course of the French
upper classes in embarking in the war. But it was because they were
already inclined to revolutionary ideas in politics that the nobility
did so embark. Poor Louis was dragged along, feebly protesting. He was
no radical, and to him change could mean nothing but harm; if it be harm
to be deprived of authority beyond your strength, and of responsibility
exceeding your moral power. The war, in its turn, fed the prevailing
passions. Young Frenchmen, who had first become warlike because they
were adventurous and high-spirited, adopted the cries of "liberty" and
"equality" as the watchwords of the struggle into which they entered,
and were then interested to study the principles which they so loudly
proclaimed. Voltaire, Rousseau, d'Alembert, even Montesquieu, became
more widely read than ever. Officers returning from the capture of
Yorktown were flushed with success and ready to praise all they had
seen. They told of the simplicity of republican manners, of the respect
shown for virtuous women. Even Lauzun forgot to be lewd in speaking of
the ladies of Newport. So unusual a state of mind could not last long. A
reaction set in after the peace with England. Anglomania became the
ruling fashion. The change was more apparent than real. London was
nearer than Philadelphia and more easily visited. Political freedom
existed there also, if not in so perfect a form, yet in one quite as
well suited to the tastes of fashionable young men. Had not Montesquieu
looked on England as the model state?[Footnote: Ségur, i. 87. The
French officers who were in the Revolutionary war often express
dissatisfaction with the Americans, but their voices appear to have been
drowned in France in the chorus of praise. See Kalb's letters to Broglie
in Stevens's MSS., vii., and Mauroy to Broglie, _ibid_., No. 838.
The foreign politics of the reign of Louis XVI. are admirably considered
by Albert Sorel, _L'Europe et la Révolution française_, i. 297.]

Thus English political ideas were adopted with more or less accuracy and
were accompanied by English fashions: horses and horseracing, short
stirrups, plain clothes, linen dresses, and bread and butter. Clubs also
are an English invention. The first one in Paris was opened in 1782. The
Duke of Chartres had recently cut down the trees of his garden to build
the porticoes and shops of the Palais Royal. The people who had been in
the habit of lounging under the trees were thus dispossessed. A
speculator opened a reading-room for their benefit, and provided them
with newspapers, pamphlets, and current literature. The duke himself
encouraged the enterprise, and overcame the resistance which the police
naturally made to any new project. The reading-room, which seems to have
had a regular list of subscribers, was called the Political Club. In
spite of the name, the regulations of the police forbade conversation
within its walls on the subjects of religion and politics; but such
rules were seldom enforced in Paris. Other clubs were soon founded, some
large and open, some small and private. A certain number of them took
the name of literary, scientific, or benevolent associations. Some
appear to have been secret societies with oaths and pledges. The habit
of talking about matters of government spread more and more.[Footnote:
Chérest, ii. 101. Droz, i. 326. See in Brissot ii. 415, an account of a
club to discuss political questions, under pretense of studying animal
magnetism. Lafayette, d'Espresmenil, and others were members. Their
ideas were vague enough. Brissot was for a republic, D'Esprésmenil for
giving the power to the Parliament, Bergasse for a new form of
government of which he was to be the Lycurgus. Morellet, i. 346. Lameth,
i. 34 _n_. Sainte-Beuve, x. 104 (_Sénac de Meilhan_).]

It was on the approach of the meeting of the Estates General that the
habit of political reading assumed the greatest importance. In the
latter part of 1788 and the earlier months of 1789 a deluge of
pamphlets, such as the world had not seen and is never likely to see
again, burst over Paris. The newspapers of the day were few and
completely under the control of the government, but French heads were
seething with ideas. In vain the administration and the courts made
feeble attempts to limit the activity of the press. From the princes of
the blood royal (who issued a reactionary manifesto), to the most
obscure writer who might hope for a moment's notoriety, all were rushing
into print. The booksellers' shops were crowded from morning until
night. The price of printing was doubled. One collector is said to have
got together twenty-five hundred different political pamphlets in the
last months of 1788, and to have stopped in despair at the impossibility
of completing his collection.[Footnote: Droz, ii. 93. "Thirteen came
out to-day, sixteen yesterday, and ninety-two last week." A. Young, i.
118 (June 9, 1789). Chérest, ii. 248, etc.]

In most political crises there is but one great question of the hour;
but in France at this time all matters of government and social life
were in doubt; and every man believed that he could settle them all by
the easy and speedy application of pure reason, if only all other men
would lay down their prejudices. And a special subject was not
wanting. The question which called loudest for an answer was that of
representation. Should there be one chamber in the Estates General,
in which the Commons should have a number of votes equal to that of
the other two orders combined, or should there be three chambers? This
matter (which is more particularly discussed in the next chapter) and
the general political constitution occupied the chief attention of the
pamphleteers, but law reform and feudal abuses were not forgotten.

The pamphlets came from all quarters and bore all sorts of titles.
"Detached Thoughts;" "The Forty Wishes of the Nation;" "What has surely
been forgotten;" "Discourse on the Estates General;" "Letter of a
Burgundian Gentleman to a Breton Gentleman, on the Attack of the Third
Estate, the Division of the Nobility, and the Interest of the
Husbandmen;" "Letter of a Peasant;" "Plan for a Matrimonial Alliance
between Monsieur Third Estate and Madam Nobility;" "When the Cock crows,
look out for the Old Hens;" "Ultimatum of a Citizen of the Third Estate
on the Mémoire of the Princes;" "Te Deum of the Third Estate as it will
be sung at the First Mass of the Estates General, with the Confession of
the Nobility," "Creed of the Third Estate;" "Magnificat of the Third
Estate;" and "Requiem of the Farmers General."

The pamphlets are generally anonymous, from a lingering fear of the
police. The place of printing is seldom mentioned; at least, few of the
pamphlets bear the true one. The imprint, where one appears, is London,
Ispahan, or Concordopolis. One humorous and distinctly libelous
publication is "sold at the Islands of Saint Margaret, and distributed
gratis at Paris." The pamphlet entitled "Diogenes and the Estates
General" is "sold by Diogenes in his Tub."

In spite of the stringent orders against printed attacks on the
government, in spite of the spasmodic activity of the police, the
boldness of some of the pamphlets is remarkable. One of them, for
instance, begins as follows: "There was once, I know not where, a king
born with an upright spirit and a heart that loved justice, but a bad
education had left his good qualities uncultivated and useless." The
king is then accused of eating and hunting too much, and of swearing.
And when we pass from personal to political subjects there is almost no
limit to the rashness of the pamphleteers. It was not the most sane and
judicious part of the nation which became most conspicuous by its
writings at this time and in this manner. The pamphlets are noticeably
less conservative than the _cahiers_, which were likewise produced
in the spring of 1789.

Yet the subversionary writers were not left to occupy the field alone.
Nobles and magistrates took up their pens to defend old institutions.
Moderate men tried to get a hearing in behalf of peace and good will.
But, alas, the old constitution was a dream. France was in fact a
despotism with civilized traditions and with a few customs that had
almost the force of fundamental laws, and her people wanted a liberal
government. As to the form of that government they were not entirely
agreed; although they were not quite so subversionary as many of the
pamphleteers wished them to be, or as their subsequent history would
lead us to believe them to have been. But no leader appeared, for a long
time, strong enough to dominate the factions and to keep the peace.

Of the mass of political literature which saw the light in 1788 and
1789, three lines only are commonly remembered. They are on the first
page of a pamphlet by the famous Abbé Sieyes. Of the many persons who in
our own time have wondered how to pronounce his name, all are aware that
he asked and answered the following questions:

"(1.) What is the Third Estate? Everything.

"(2.) What has it been hitherto in the political order? Nothing.

"(3.) What does it ask? To become something."

Few have followed him farther in his inquiries. Yet his pamphlet
excited great interest and admiration in its day. It is an eloquent
and well-written paper, as strong in rhetoric as it is weak in

In agriculture, manufactures, and trade, and in those services which are
directly useful and agreeable to persons, and which include the most
distinguished scientific and literary professions and the most menial
service, the Commons, according to Sieyes, do all the work. In the army,
the church, the law, and the administration of government, they furnish
nineteen twentieths of the men employed, and these do all that is really
onerous. Only the lucrative and honorary places are occupied by members
of the nobility. These upper places would be infinitely better filled if
they were the rewards of talents and services recognized in the lower
ranks. The Third Estate is quite able to do all that is needful. Were
the privileged orders taken away, the nation would not be something less
than it is, but something more.

"What is a nation?" asks Sieyes; and he answers that it is "a body of
associates living together under a common law and represented by the
same legislature." But the order of the nobility has privileges,
dispensations, different rights from the great body of the citizens. It
is outside of the common order and the common law. It is a state within
a state.

The Third Estate, therefore, embraces everything which belongs to the
nation; and all that is not a part of the Commons cannot be considered a
part of the nation. What, then, is the Third Estate? Everything.

What has the Third Estate hitherto been? Nothing. It is but too true
that you are nothing in France if you have only the protection of the
common law. Without some privilege or other, you must make up your mind
to suffer contempt, contumely, and all sorts of vexation. The
unfortunate person who has no privileges of his own can only attach
himself to some great man, by all sorts of meanness, and thus get the
chance, on occasion, to demand the assistance of _somebody_.

What does the Third Estate ask? To become something in the state. And in
truth the people asks but little. It wants true representatives in the
Estates, taken from its own order, able to interpret its wishes, and
defend its interests. But what would it gain by taking part in the
Estates General, if its own side were not to prevail there? It must,
therefore, have an influence at least equal to that of the privileged
orders; it must have half the representatives. This equality would be
illusory if the chambers voted separately; therefore, the voting must be
by heads. Can the Third Estate ask for less than this? And is it not
clear that if its influence is less than that of the privileged orders
combined, there is no hope of its emerging from its political nullity
and becoming something?

Sieyes goes on to argue that the Third Estate should be allowed to
choose its representatives only from its own body. He has persuaded
himself, by what seems to be a process of mental juggling, that men of
one order cannot be truly represented by men of another. Suppose, he
says, that France is at war with England, and that hostilities are
conducted on our side by a Directory composed of national
representatives. In that case, I ask, would any province be
permitted, in the name of freedom, to choose for its delegates to the
Directory the members of the English ministry? Surely the privileged
classes show themselves no less hostile to the common order of people,
than the English to the French in time of war.

Three further questions are stated by Sieyes.

(4.) What the ministers have attempted and what the privileged classes
propose in favor of the Third Estate?

(5.) What should have been done?

(6.) What is still to be done?

Under the fourth head, Sieyes considers the Provincial Assemblies
recently established, and the Assembly of Notables, both of which he
considers entirely incapable of doing good, because they are composed of
privileged persons. He scorns the proposal of the nobility to pay a fair
share of the taxes, being unwilling to accept as a favor what he wishes
to take as a right. He fears that the Commons will be content with too
little and will not sweep away all privilege. He attacks the English
Constitution, which the liberal nobles of France were in the habit of
setting up as a model, saying that it is not good in itself, but only as
a prodigious system of props and makeshifts against disorder. The right
of trial by jury he considers its best feature.

He then passes to the question: What should have been done? and here he
gives us the foundation of his system. Without naming Rousseau he has
adopted the Social Compact as the basis of government. A nation is made
up of individuals; these unite to form a community; for convenience they
depute persons to represent them and to exercise the common power.
[Footnote: It need hardly be pointed out that Sieyes falls short of the
full measure of Rousseau's doctrine when he allows the law-making, or
more correctly the constitution-making power, to be delegated at all.]
The constitution of the state is the body of rules by which these
representatives are governed when they legislate or administer the
public affairs. The constitution is fundamental, not as binding the
national will, but only as binding the bodies existing within the state.
The nation itself is free from all such bonds. No constitution can
control it. Its will cannot be limited. The nation assembling to
consider its constitution is not controlled by ordinary forms. Its
delegates meeting for that especial purpose are independent of the
constitution. They represent the national will, and questions are
settled by them not in accordance with constitutional laws, but as they
might be in a meeting of the whole nation were it small enough to be
brought together in one place; that is to say, by a vote of the
majority.[Footnote: Sieyes and his master do not see that if unanimity
cannot be secured, and if constitutional law be once done away, men are
reduced under their system to a state of nature, and the will of a
majority has no binding force but that of the strong arm.]

But where find the nation? Where it is: in the forty thousand parishes
which comprise all the territory and all the inhabitants of the country.
They should have been arranged in groups of twenty or thirty parishes,
and have thus formed representative districts, which should have united
to make provinces, which should have sent true delegates, with special
power to settle the constitution of the Estates General.

This correct course has not been followed, but what now remains to be
done? Let the Commons assemble apart from the other orders. Let them
join with the Nobility and the Clergy neither by orders, as a part of a
legislature of three chambers, nor by heads, in one common assembly. Two
courses are open. Either let them appeal to the nation for increased
powers, which would be the most frank and generous way; or let them only
consider the enormous difference that exists between the assembly of the
Third Estate and that of the other two orders. "The former represents
twenty-five millions of men and deliberates on the interests of the
nation. The other two, were they united, have received their powers from
but about two hundred thousand individuals, and think only of their
privileges. The Third Estate alone, you will say, cannot form the
Estates General. So much the better! It will make a _National

I have considered this famous pamphlet at some length, because it was
eminently timely, expressing, as it did, the doctrines and the
aspirations of the subversionary party in France. I believe, and
principally on the evidence of the cahiers, that this party did not form
a majority, or even, numerically, a very large minority, of the French
nation. A constitutional convention, organized from the Commons alone as
Sieyes would have had it, if left to itself and uncontrolled by the
Parisian mob, would undoubtedly have settled the question of a single
chamber in a popular sense, but it would have preserved the privileges
of the nobility to an extent which would have disgusted the extremists,
and perhaps have saved the country from years of violence and decades of
reaction. But the people of violent ideas were predominant in Paris and
in some of the towns, and were destined, for a time, to be the chief
force in the French Revolution. The passions of this party were love of
equality and hatred of privilege. To men of this stamp despotism may be
comparatively indifferent; liberty is a word of sweet sound, but little
meaning. Sieyes hardly refers to the king in his pamphlet. "The time is
past," he says, "when the three orders, thinking only of defending
themselves from ministerial despotism, were ready to unite against the
common enemy." This comparative indifference to the tyranny of the court
was not the feeling of the country, but it was that of the enthusiasts.
Nothing is too bad according to these last, for men who hold privileges.
They have no right to assemblies of their own, nor to a voice in the
assemblies of the people. To ask what place they should occupy in the
social order "is to ask what place should be assigned in a sick body to
the malignant humor which undermines and torments it."



It is seldom, indeed, that a great nation can express fully, frankly,
and yet officially, all its complaints, wishes, and hopes in respect to
its own government. Our knowledge of national ideas must generally be
derived from the words of particular classes of men: statesmen,
politicians, authors, or writers in the newspapers. The ideas of these
classes are more or less in accord with those of the great mass of the
people which they undertake to represent; yet their expressions are
necessarily tinged by their own professional way of looking at things.
But in the spring of 1789 all Frenchmen, with few exceptions, were
called on to unite, not merely in choosing representatives, but in
giving them minute instructions. The occasion was most solemn. The
Estates General, the great central legislature of France, which had not
met for nearly two centuries, was summoned to assemble at Versailles. It
should be the old body and something more. It was to partake of the
nature of a constitutional convention. It was not only to legislate, but
to settle the principles of government. It was called by the king to
advise and consent to all that might concern the needs of the state, the
reform of abuses, the establishment of a fixed and lasting order in all
parts of the administration, the general prosperity of his kingdom, and
the welfare of all and each of his subjects.[Footnote: _Royal Letter
of Convocation_, January 24, 1789, _A. P._ i. 611. The principal
printed collection of cahiers, together with much preliminary matter,
may be found in the first six volumes of the Archives Parlementaires,
edited by MM. Mavidal et Laurent, Paris. The seventh volume consists of
an index, which, although very imperfect, is necessary to an intelligent
study of the cahiers. The cahiers printed in these volumes occupy about
4,000 large octavo pages in double column. These volumes will be
referred to in this chapter and the next as A. P. Many cahiers and
extracts from cahiers are also found printed in other places. I have not
undertaken to give references to all the cahiers on which my conclusions
are founded, but only to a few typical examples. The letters C., N., and
T indicate the three orders. Where no such letter occurs the cahier is
generally that of a town or village.]

The three orders of men, the Clergy, the Nobility, and the Commons, or
Third Estate, were to hold their elections separately in every district,
[Footnote: Saillage, sénéchaussée.] unless they should, by separate
votes, agree to unite.[Footnote: The three orders did not often unite,
but there is often evidence of communication between them. They all
united at Bayonne, A. P. iii. 98. Montfort l'Amaury, A. P. iv. 37.
Rozières, A. P. iv. 91. Fenestrange, A. P. v. 710. Mohon, A. P. v. 729.
The Clergy and the Nobility united at Lixheim, A. P. v. 713; the
Nobility and the Third Estate at Péronne, A. P. v. 355.] In accordance
with ancient custom they were to draw up petitions, complaints, and
remonstrances, which were intended to form a basis for legislation.
These complaints were to be brought to the Estates, and were to serve as
instructions, more or less positive, to the deputies who brought them.
They were known in French political language as Cahiers.

The cahiers of the Clergy and of the Nobility were drawn up in the
electoral meetings which took place in every district. To these local
assemblies of the Clergy, all bishops, abbots, and parish priests,
holding benefices, were summoned. Chapters and monasteries sent only
representatives. The result of this arrangement was that the parish
priests far outnumbered the regular ecclesiastics and dignitaries, and
that the clerical cahiers oftenest express the wishes of the lower
portion of the secular clergy. This preponderance of the lower clergy
appears to have been foreseen and desired by the royal advisers. The
king had expressed his wish to call to the assemblies of the Clergy "all
those good and faithful pastors who are occupied closely and every day
with the poverty and the assistance of the people and who are more
intimately acquainted with its ills and its apprehensions."[Footnote:
Règlement du 24 Jan. 1789, A. P. i. 544. Parish priests were not allowed
to leave their parishes to go to the assemblies if more than two leagues
distant, unless they left curates to do their work. But this provision
did not keep enough of them away to alter the character of the

To the local assemblies of the nobles, all Frenchmen of the order, not
less than twenty-five years of age, were summoned. Men, women, or
children possessing fiefs might appear by proxy. The latter provision
did not suffice to take the meetings out of the control of the more
numerous part of the order,--the poorer nobility. To pride of race and
intense loyalty to the king, these country gentlemen united distrust and
dislike of the court, and the desire that all nobles at least should
have equal rights and chances. Their cahiers differ somewhat from place
to place, but are wonderfully alike in general current.[Footnote: N.,
Périgord, A. P., v. 341.]

For the Third Estate a more complicated system was adopted. The
franchise extended to every French subject, neither clerical nor noble,
twenty-five years of age, and entered on the tax rolls.[Footnote: In
Paris only, a small property qualification was exacted.] Every town,
parish, or village, drew up its cahier and sent it, by deputies, either
to the assembly of the district or to an intermediate assembly. Here a
committee was appointed to consider all the local cahiers and
consolidate them; those of the intermediate assemblies being again
worked over for the general cahier of the Third Estate of each electoral
district. Thus the cahiers of the Commons finally carried to the Estates
General at Versailles were less directly the expression of the opinions
of the order from which they came than were the cahiers of the Clergy
and of the Nobility. Fortunately, however, large numbers of the primary
or village cahiers have been preserved and printed.

The cahiers of the Third Estate differ far more among themselves than do
those of the upper orders. Some of them, drawn up in the villages, are
very simple, dealing merely with local grievances and the woes of
peasant life. The long absence of the lord of the place causes more loss
to one village than even the price of salt, or than the taille, with
which the people are overburdened. Then follows the enumeration of
broken bridges, of pastures overflowed because the bed of the stream is
obstructed, of robbery and violence and refusal of justice, with no one
to protect the poor, nor to direct repairs and improvements.[Footnote:
Paroisse de Longpont, A. P., v. 334.]

In another place we have the touching humility of the peasant. "The
inhabitants of this parish have no other complaints to make than those
which are common to folk of their rank and condition, namely, that they
pay too many taxes of different kinds already; that they would wish that
the disorder of the finances might not be the cause of new burdens upon
them, because they were not able to bear any more, having a great deal
of trouble to pay those which are now levied, but that it much rather
belonged to those who are rich to contribute toward setting up the
affairs of the kingdom.

"As for remonstrances, they have no other wishes nor other desires than
peace and public tranquillity: that they wish the assembly of the
Estates General may restore the order of the finances, and bring about
in France the order and prosperity of the state; that they are not
skillful enough about the matters which are to be treated in the said
assembly to give their opinion, and they trust to the intelligence and
the good intentions of those who will be sent there as deputies.

"Finally, that they know no means of providing for the necessities of
the state, but a great economy in expenses and reciprocal love between
the king and his subjects."[Footnote: Paroisse de Pas-Saint-Lomer, A.
P., v. 334.]

Not many of the cahiers are so modest as this one. Some of them are many
pages long, arranged under heads, divided into numbered paragraphs.
These contain a general scheme of legislation, and often also particular
and local petitions. They ask that such a lawsuit be reviewed, that such
a dispute be favorably settled. Many localities complain, not only that
the country in general is overtaxed, but that their particular
neighborhood pays more than its share. Their soil is poor, they say,
water is scarce or too plenty. The cahiers of the country villages
contain more complaints of feudal exactions, while those of the towns
and of the electoral districts give more space to political and social

Many models of cahiers were prepared in Paris and sent to the country
towns. Thus the famous Abbé Sieyes, whose violent doctrines were
considered in the last chapter, composed and distributed a form. It was
brought to Chaumont in Champagne by the Viscount of Laval, who undertook
to manage the election in that town in the interest of democracy and the
Duke of Orleans. Dinners and balls were given to the voters; promises
were made. The badges of an order of canonesses, which the duke proposed
to found, were distributed among the ladies. The abbé's cahier was
accepted, but the peasants of Champagne appended to its demands for
constitutional reforms the petition that their dogs might not be obliged
to carry a log fastened to their collars to prevent their running after
game, and that they themselves might be allowed to have guns to kill the
wolves.[Footnote: Beugnot, Mémoires, i. 110.]

Some of the cahiers were entirely of home manufacture, drawn up by the
lawyer or the priest of the village. The people of Essy-les-Nancy, in
Lorraine, describe the process. "Each one of us proposed what he thought
proper, and then we chose our deputies, Imbert Perrin and Joseph
Jacques, whom we thought best able well to represent us. The only thing
left was to express our wishes well, and to draw up the official report
of the meeting. But our priest, in whom we trust, who feels our woes so
well, and who expresses our feelings so rightly, had been obliged to go
away. We said: `We must wait for him; we will first beg his assistant to
begin, and then, when the priest comes back, we will give him the whole
thing to correct, and have our affairs ready to be taken to the assembly
of the district.' He came back in fact; we asked him to draw it all up.
We told him all we wanted. He kept writing, and scratching out, and
writing over, until we saw that he had got our ideas. Everything seemed
ready for the fifteenth. But we heard that the district assembly would
be put off until the thirtieth. We said to him: `Sir, wait again, let us
profit by the delay, we shall think of something more, you will add it;'
he consented."[Footnote: Mathieu, 423.]

There was evidently some concert among the different districts, but
also much freedom and originality. There are many protests on the part
of minorities. Bishops or chapters complain of clauses which attack
their rights; monasteries remonstrate against the proposed diversion
of their funds to pay parish priests. Individuals take this
opportunity to give their views on public matters. An old officer
would have nobility of the sword confined to families in which the men
bear arms in every generation. A commoner, having bought noble lands,
complains of the additional taxes laid on him on this account. The
peasants of Ménil-la-Horgne say that the lawyers have captured the
electoral assembly of their district, and cut out their remonstrances
from the general cahier; that although there are thirty-two rural
communities in the bailiwick, and all agreed, the six deputies of the
towns have managed things in their own way; and that thus the poor
inhabitants of the country can never bring their wishes to the notice
of their sovereign, who desires their good, and takes all means to
accomplish it.[Footnote: No strict line appears to have been drawn as
to who might and who might not properly issue a cahier. Jean Baptiste
Lardier, seigneur de Saint-Gervais de Pierrefitte, A. P. v. 17.
Messire Carré, A. P., v. 21; A. P. ii. 224.]

The meetings in which the cahiers were composed were sometimes stormy.
At Nemours the economist Dupont was one of the committee especially
engaged in the task. The question of abolishing the old courts of law
was a cause of strong feeling. The excitement rose so high that the
crowd threatened to throw Dupont out of the window. Matters looked
serious, for the room was a flight above ground, the window was already
open, and angry men were laying hands on the economist. The latter,
however, picked out one inoffensive person, a very fat man, who happened
to be standing by. Dupont managed to get near him and suddenly grasped
him round the body. "What do you want?" cried the startled fat man.
"Sir," answered Dupont, "every one for himself. They are going to throw
me out of the window, and you must serve as a mattress." The crowd
laughed, and not only let Dupont alone, but came round to his opinion,
and chose him deputy.[Footnote: Another politician under similar
circumstances was frightened out of the room, and lost all political
influence. Beugnot, i. 118.]

The agreement of general ideas in the cahiers is all the more striking
on account of the diversity in their details, and of the freedom of
discussion and protest enjoyed by those concerned in composing them.
They have been constantly referred to by writers on history, politics,
and economics for information as to the state of France at the time when
they were written. They are, indeed, capable of teaching a very great
deal, but they will prove misleading if the purpose for which they were
composed be forgotten. This purpose was to express the complaints and
desires of the nation. It appears in their very name, "Cahiers of
Lamentations, Complaints, and Remonstrances."[Footnote: The titles
vary, but generally bear this meaning.] We must not, therefore, look to
the cahiers for mention of anything good in the condition of old France;
and we must remember that people who are advocating a change are likely
to bring forward the worst side of the things they wish to see altered.
Two political ideas coexisted in the minds of Frenchmen in 1789 as to
what they and their Estates General were to do and to be. They were to
resume their ancient constitution. They were to make a new one, in
accordance with reason and justice. Both of these desires may well be
present in the minds of practical legislators, even if their
reconciliation be at the expense of strict logic and historical
accuracy. But unfortunately the historical and the ideal constitutions
in France were too far separated to be easily united. The chasm between
the feudal monarchy gradually transformed into a despotism, which had
existed, and the well governed limited monarchy, which the most
judicious Frenchmen desired, was too wide to be bridged. "The throne of
France is inherited only in the male line;" to that all men agreed. They
agreed also that all existing taxes were illegal, because they had not
been allowed by the nation, and that such taxes should remain in force
only for convenience, and for a limited time, unless voted by the
legislature. The legislative power resides, or is to reside in the king
and the nation, the latter being represented by its lawful assembly or
Estates General;[Footnote: Some say in the Estates General, without
mentioning the king.] here also they were in accord. But how are those
Estates General to be composed? "Of three orders, deliberating and
voting separately, the concurrence of all three being necessary to the
passage of a law," said the nobles. "Of one chamber," answered the Third
Estate, "in which our numbers are to be equal to those of the other
orders united, and in which the vote is to be counted by heads." Here
was the first and most dangerous divergence of opinion, on a question
which should have been answered before it was even fairly asked, by the
king who called the assembly. But neither Louis nor Necker, his adviser,
had the strength and foresight to settle the matter on a firm basis
while it was yet time. Were the old form of voting by three chambers
intended, it was folly to make the popular one as numerous as the other
two together. Were a new form of National Assembly, with only one
chamber, to be brought into being, it was culpable to allow the old
orders to misunderstand their fall from power. "We are an essential part
of the monarchy," said the nobles. "We are twenty-three twenty-fourths
of the nation, and the more useful part at that," retorted the Commons.
"Our claim rests on law and history," cried the one. "And ours on reason
and justice," shouted the other. And many of the deputies on either side
held the positive instructions of their constituents not to yield in
this matter. But while the Commons were practically a unit on this
question, the nobles were more divided. About half of them insisted on
their ancient rights, declaring, in many instances, that should the vote
by heads be adopted their deputies were immediately to retire from the
Estates. Others wavered, or allowed discussion by a single, united
chamber under certain circumstances, or on questions which did not
concern the privileges of the superior Orders. In a few provinces the
nobles frankly took the popular side. The Clergy joined in some cases
with one party, in some with the other, but oftenest gave no opinion.
[Footnote: I have found one cahier of the Third Estate asking for the
vote by orders. _T._, Mantes et Meulan, _A. P._, iii. 666,
art. 4, Section 3. A suggestion of two coordinate chambers, in one
cahier of the Clergy and Nobility, and in one of the Third Estate.
_T._, Bigorre, _A. P._, ii. 359, Section 3.]

The cahiers on both sides took this question as settled, and
proceeded, with a tolerable agreement, to the other parts of the
constitution. The king, in addition to his concurrence in legislation,
was to have nominally the whole executive power. Many are the
expressions of love and gratitude for Louis XVI. He is requested to
adopt the title of "Father of the People," of "Emulator of
Charlemagne." In the latter connection we are treated to a bit of
history. It appears that Egbert, King of Kent, came to France in the
year 799, to learn the art of reigning from Charlemagne himself. He
bore back to England the plan of the French constitution. The next
year he acquired the kingdom of Wessex, in 808 that of the Mercians,
and in time his reputation brought under his rule the four remaining
kingdoms of Great Britain. Thus it is the basis of our French
constitution which for nearly a thousand years has made the happiness
and strength of all England, and which is the true origin of the
rightful privileges of the province of Brittany. [Footnote: _T._,
Ballainvilliers, _A. P._, iv. 336, art. 35. Triel, _A. P._ v. 147,
art. 104. For the title of _Père du Peuple_, St. Cloud, _A. P._
v. 68. Montaigut, _A. P._ v. 577. _T._, Rouen, _A. P._ v. 602. _T._,
Vannes, _A. P._, vi. 107. For blessings on the king and on Necker,
see Mathieu, 425. The sole expression of disrespect for Louis XVI.
which I have found is given in Beugnot, i. 116. "Let us give power to
our deputies to solicit from our lord the king his consent to the
above requests; in case he accords them, to thank him; in case he
refuses, to _unking_ him" (_deroiter_). This, according to Beugnot,
was in a rural cahier and he seems to quote from memory. The
pamphlets, as has been said, were much more violent than the cahiers.]

The royal power was to be exercised through responsible ministers, but
we must not be misled by words. The ministerial responsibility
contemplated by Frenchmen in the cahiers was something quite different
from what is known by that name in modern times. Under the system of
government which was forming in England in the last century, and which
has since been extensively copied on the Continent, the ministers,
although nominally the advisers of the king, form in fact a governing
committee, selected by the legislature among its own members. The
ministers are at once the creatures and the leaders of the Parliament
from which they spring. To it they are responsible not only for
malfeasance in office, but for matters of opinion or policy. As soon
as they are shown to be in disagreement with the majority of their
fellow-members, they fall from power; but their fall is attended with
no disgrace, and no one is shocked or astonished to see them continue
to take part in public life, and regain, by a turn of popular favor,
those places which they may have lost almost by accident.

The idea of such a system as this had not entered the minds of the
Frenchmen of 1789. They knew ministers only as servants of a monarch,
chosen by him alone, to carry out his orders, or to advise him in
affairs of which the final decision lay with him. They knew but too
well that kings and their servants are sometimes law-breakers. They
knew, moreover, that their own actual king was weak and well-meaning.
The pious fiction by which the king was always spoken of as good, and
his aberrations were ascribed to defective knowledge or to bad advice,
had taken some real hold on the popular imagination. The nation felt
that the person of a king should be inviolable. But the breaches of
law committed by the king's unaided strength could not be
far-reaching. Frenchmen, therefore, desired to make all those persons
responsible who might abet the king in illegal acts, or who might
commit any such acts under his orders or in his name. They feared the
levy of illegal taxes, and it was against malfeasance of that sort
that they especially wished to provide. They therefore asked in their
cahiers that the ministers should be made responsible to the civil
tribunals or to the Estates General. The voters did not conceive of
royal ministers as members of their legislature. In fact, some cahiers
carefully provided that deputies should accept no office nor favor of
the court either during the continuance of their service in the
Estates, or for some years thereafter. The demand for ministerial
responsibility was a demand that ministers, and their master through
them, should be amenable to law; and was in the same line with the
demand, also made in some cahiers, that soldiers should not be used in
suppressing riots, except at the request of the civil power.[Footnote:
_T._, St-Gervais (Paris), _A. P._, v. 308, Section 3. _N._ Agenois,
_A. P._, i 680, Section 15. Chérest, ii. 475.]

It was universally demanded that the Estates General should meet at
regular intervals of two, three, or five years, and should vote taxes
for a limited time only. Thus it was hoped to keep power in the hands of
the nation. And all debates were to be public; the proceedings were to
be reported from day to day.[Footnote: Chérest, ii. 461.] Such
provisions were not unnatural, for jealousy and distrust are common in
political matters, and the less the experience of the people, the
greater their dread of plots and cabals. But only two years before the
cahiers were drawn up, another nation, which it had recently been the
fashion much to admire in France, had appointed its deputies to draw up
its constitution. This nation was at least as superior to the French in
political experience as it was inferior in the arts and sciences that
adorn life. Its attempts at constitution making might, therefore, well
have served as a guide. The American convention of 1787 had many
difficulties to encounter and many jealousies to excite; but these were
less threatening than those which confronted the French Estates. Yet in
Philadelphia precautions had been taken which were scorned at
Versailles. The American deputies did not number twelve hundred, but
less than sixty. The Americans sat with closed doors, and exacted of
each other a pledge, most religiously kept, that their proceedings
should be secret. The French admitted all manner of persons, not only to
listen to their debates, but to applaud and hiss them. Their chamber
came in a short time to be influenced, if not controlled, by its
galleries; so that France was no longer governed by her chosen
representatives, but by the mob of her capital. The American deputies,
for the most part, came unpledged to their work. The French in many
instances were commanded by their constituents to retire unless such and
such of their demands were complied with. The American constitution was
accepted with difficulty, and could probably never have been accepted at
all if the public mind had been inflamed by discussion of each part
before the whole was known. That constitution, with but few important
amendments, is to-day regarded with a veneration incomprehensible to
foreigners, by a nation twenty times as large as that which originally
adopted it.[Footnote: An eminent foreign historian would almost seem to
have written his book on the Constitutional History of the United States
for the purpose of showing that a man may know all about a subject
without understanding it.] The French constitution made by the body
which met in 1789, with the name of Estates General, Constituent, or
National Assembly, was hailed with clamorous joy by a part of the
nation, and met with angry incredulity by another part. Many of its
provisions have remained; but the constitution itself did not last two
years. Could the sober deliberation of a small body of authorized men,
sitting with closed doors, have produced in France in 1789 a
constitution under which the nation could have prospered, and which
could have been gradually improved and adapted to modern civilization?
Was the enthusiasm and rush of a large popular assembly necessary to
overcome the interested opposition of the court and the weak
nervelessness of the monarch? It will never be known. Louis XVI. was too
feeble to try the experiment, and no one else had the legal authority.

While the Estates General were to have the exclusive right of
legislation, and France was thus to remain a centralized monarchy,
Provincial Estates were to be established all over the country, unless
where local bodies of the same character already existed. These
Provincial Estates were to exercise large administrative powers, in the
assessment and levy of taxes, in laying out roads, granting licenses,
encouraging commerce and manufactures. It was the prayer of many of the
cahiers that offices of one sort and another, civil or military, or that
nobility itself, should be granted only on the nomination of the
Provincial Estates. Many cahiers ask for elective municipal or village
authorities. Many would sweep away the old officers of the crown, the
intendants and military governors, the farmers general, and the very
clerks. These men were hated as tax-gatherers, and distrusted as members
of the old ring which had misgoverned the country. There are, says one
cahier, more than forty thousand of them in the kingdom, whose sole
business it is to vex and molest the king's subjects, by false
declarations and other means, and all for the hope of a share in the
fines and confiscations that may be exacted.[Footnote: _T._,
Perche, _A. P._, v. 325, Section 13. Several cahiers ask that the
rights and privileges of the old Estates of the _Pays d'États_ be
retained. _N._, Amont, _A. P._, i. 764. Officers of government
called "vampires." Domfront. _A. P._, i 724, Section 21. See also
_T._, Amiens, _A. P._, i. 751, Section 40. Desjardins, xxxix.]

It is a mistake to assume that the Frenchmen of 1789 cared chiefly for
civil and social reforms, and only incidentally for reforms of a
political character. In most of the cahiers the political reforms are
first mentioned and are as elaborately insisted on as any others. If
there be any difference in this respect among the Orders, it is that the
Nobility are more urgent for the political part of the programme than
either the Clergy or the Third Estate. The priests were much occupied
with their own affairs. The peasantry were thinking of the hardships
they suffered. But all intelligent men felt that social and economic
reforms would be unstable unless an adequate political reform were made
also. The deputies of the three orders were in many cases instructed not
to consider questions of state debt or taxation until the proposed
constitution had been adopted.[Footnote: _T._, Briey, _A.P._,
ii. 204. _N._, Ponthieu, _A.P._, v. 431. _N._, Agenois,
_A. P._, i. 680.]

Having thus fixed the legislative power in the Estates General, and
divided the executive and administrative branches of the government
between the king with his responsible ministers and the Provincial
Estates, the cahiers turned to the judicial function. On the reforms
to be here accomplished there was substantial agreement; although the
Third Order was most emphatic in its demands, as the expensive and
complicated machinery of law weighs more heavily on the poor than on
the rich, on the commercial class than on the land-owner. The great
influence of lawyers among the Commons at this time was also a cause
of the attention given to legal matters in the cahiers of the Third
Estate. The common demand was for the simplification of courts and
jurisdictions, the abolition of the purchase of judicial place, more
uniform laws and customs. The codification of the laws, both civil and
criminal, was sometimes called for. It was an usual request that there
should be only two degrees in the administration of justice: a simple
court in every district of sufficient size to warrant it, and
parliaments in reasonable numbers, with final appellate jurisdiction.
Commercial courts (_consulats_) were, however, to be retained. The
nation was unanimous that the writ of _committimus_, by which cases
could be removed by privileged persons from the regular courts to be
tried by exceptional tribunals, or by distant parliaments, should be
totally abolished. Justices of the peace, or informal courts with
summary processes, were to have the settlement of small cases. The
jurisdiction of the lords' bailiffs was to be much abridged or
entirely done away. [Footnote: _T._, Alençon, _A. P._, i. 717, Section
4. _T._, Amiens, _A. P._, i. 747, Section 1. This cahier gives a very
full statement of existing judicial abuses. Desjardins, xxxv. Poncins,
286. Desjardins (xl.) says that the Nobility tried to save the
jurisdiction of the bailiffs, and in some cases persuaded the Third
Estate. I do not find the instances.]

In the criminal law, changes were recommended in the direction of giving
a better chance to accused persons. Trials were to be prompt and public,
and counsel were to be allowed. The prisons were to be improved. The
Third Estate desired that punishment should be the same for all classes,
and that the death penalty should be decapitation, a form of execution
which had previously been reserved for the nobility. The thoroughness
with which this reform was carried out some years later is very
noticeable. The guillotine treated all sorts of men and women alike. It
was a common request of the cahiers that the family of a man convicted
and punished for crime should not be held to be disgraced, nor the
relations of the culprit shut out from preferment. The former request
shows a curious ignorance of what can and what cannot be done by
legislation. Persons acquitted were to receive damages, either from the
accuser, or from the state. Judges were to give reasons for their
decisions. Arbitrary imprisonment by _lettre de cachet_ was,
according to some cahiers, to be suppressed altogether; according to
others it was to be regulated, but the practice retained where public
policy or family discipline might require it.[Footnote: Domfront, _A.
P._, i. 723, Section 6. Amiens, _A. P._, i. 747, Section 7. The
cahiers show that everybody was opposed to the use of _lettres de
cachet_ as they then existed; but most of the cahiers that had
anything to say about them expressed a desire to keep something of the
kind. They are considered necessary for reasons of state, or in the
interest of families. Desjardins, 407. The author of the _Histoire du
gouvernment de France depuis l'Assemblée des Notables_, a good,
sensible, middle-class man, approves of them (260). Mercier (viii. 242)
considers them useful and even necessary.]



As we pass from political and administrative questions to social and
economical ones, the difficulty of an amicable arrangement is seen to
increase. All agree that property is sacred; but the greater part of
the nation is firmly persuaded that privilege must be destroyed; and
in a vast number of cases, privilege is property. This difficulty will
not stand long in the way of the Commons of France. It is just where
privilege has this private character that it is the most odious to
some classes of the population. The possession of land is connected
with feudal obligations of all sorts; a violent separation must be
made between them. The services to be rendered by the tenant to the
landlord may be the most important part of the latter's ownership; and
by the system of tenure maintained for centuries over the greater part
of Christendom, every landholder has been some one's tenant. With the
exception of a very few sovereign princes there has been no man in
possession of an acre of land who has not rendered therefor,
theoretically if not practically, some rent or service. The service
might be merely nominal; in the case of noble lands in the eighteenth
century, it generally was so; but nominal or real, the right to exact
it was some one's property. If such a right did not put money in his
purse, it yet added to his dignity and self-satisfaction. But such
rights as this had come to be looked on with deep distrust by a large
part of the French nation. Ideas of independence and of the abstract
rights of man had struck deep root. It was felt that land should be
owned absolutely,--by allodial possession, as the phrase is. The
feudal services, in fact, were often more onerous to those who paid
them than they were beneficial to those who received them. It was time
that they should be abolished. Those which were purely honorific,
although valued by the nobility, who possessed them, outraged the
sense of equality in the nation. They were felt to be badges and marks
of the inferiority of the tenant to the landlord, of the poor to the
rich. There is but one king, and we cannot all be noble, but let every
man hold his farm in peace; such was the impatient cry of the common
people. The feudal rights, which are merely honorific, offend man as
man; some of them are degrading, some ridiculous. They must be
abolished as fast as possible.[Footnote: _T._, Aix en Provence, _A.
P._, i. 697, Section 8. _T._, Draguignan, _A, P._, iii. 260. Chérest
(ii. 424) points out that the cahiers of the districts (baillages) are
more moderate than those of the villages in matters concerning feudal
rights, and thinks that this moderation was assumed from politic
motives, not to frighten the privileged orders too much at this stage.
But it seems improbable that such a piece of policy could have been so
widely practiced.]

Relief from the operation of one set of privileges, neither strictly
pecuniary nor entirely honorific, was almost unanimously demanded by
the farmers. These were the rights of the nobles concerning the
preservation of game, and the cognate right of keeping pigeons. The
country-folk speak of doves as "the scourge of laborers," and ask that
they may be destroyed, or at least shut up during seed-time and
harvest. One gentleman answers with the remonstrance that, being very
warm, they are used in medicine, but that sparrows devour every year a
bushel of grain apiece, and that each village should be obliged to
kill a certain quantity of them. The peasants ask that wild boars and
rabbits be alike destroyed. The royal preserves are particularly hated
by all the agricultural population living near Paris. Land naturally
of the first class is said to be made almost worthless by the
abundance of the game. The hare feeds on the tender shoots of the
growing grain. The partridge half destroys the wheat. Rabbits and
other vermin browse on the vines, fruit-trees, and vegetables. Farmers
are not allowed to destroy weeds for fear of disturbing game. Mounted
keepers ride all over the fields, trampling down the crops. The king
is begged to reduce his preserves, in so far as he can do so without
interfering with his own amusement, or even to suppress them
altogether.[Footnote: _T._, Pecqueuse (Paris, _extra muros_),
_A. P._, v. 11, Section 36. _T._, Alençon, _A. P._, i. 719,
ch. viii. Section 3. Exmes, _A. P._, i. 728, Sections 20,
21. Verneuil, _A. P._, i. 731, Section 44. Seigneur de Pierrefitte,
_A. P._, v. 19, Section 16. Port au Pecq (Paris, _ex. m._), _A. P._,
v. 12, Section 18. Plaisir (Paris, _ex. m._) _A. P._ v. 25.
Amont-Gray, _A. P._, i. 780. Périgny en Brie (Paris, _ex. m._)
_A. P._, v. 14, Sections 5-11, and many others.]

As for the feudal rights which brought in money to their owners, it
was generally felt, at least by the Commons, that they must be
redeemable; that the persons liable to pay on their account must be
allowed to buy them off by the payment of a certain sum down, where
the ownership was true and fair. Here, however, a great trouble seemed
likely to arise from an important divergence of ideas. The French
nobles believed, as the vast mass of property holders has believed in
all ages, that prescription or ancient use was sufficient evidence of
property. If it could be shown that a man, or his predecessors in
title, had held a certain piece of land or a certain right over the
land of another, from time immemorial, or for a very long time,
nothing more was needed to establish his property. Unless this theory
be admitted, at least to some extent, it would seem that all rights of
property must perish. In respect therefore to land in actual
possession the French nation held firmly to prescription. But in
respect to those more subtle rights in land which had been enormously
favored by the feudal system, another theory came in. Those rights
were thought in the eighteenth century to be unnatural in themselves,
and therefore abusive. It was believed, moreover, that many of them
had been usurped without reason or justice. [Footnote: _T._, Béarn,
_A. P._, vi. 500. Rennes, _A. P._, v. 546.] It was commonly held by
the Third Estate that unless an express charter or agreement could be
shown establishing such rights, they should be abolished without
compensation, and that some of them were so unjust and objectionable
that not even an agreement or a charter could sanction them. Such were
many feudal payments and monopolies; common bulls, common ovens,
rights to labor and to services. Such above all, where it lingered,
was serfdom.[Footnote: For the desire to retain feudal rights, see
_N._, Condom, _A. P._, iii. 38, Section 5. _N._, Dax, _A. P._, iii.
94, Section 21. _N._, Etain, _A. P._, ii. 215, Section 10. _N._, Bas
Vivarais, _A. P._, vi. 180, Section 19. For the desire to abolish
them, _T._, Avesnes, A. P., ii. 153, Sections 34-40. _T._, Bar-le-duc,
_A. P._, ii. 200, Sections 49, 50. _T._, Beaujolais, _A. P._, ii. 285,
Section 22. _T._, Cambrai, _A. P._, ii. 520, Sections 14-16. _C._,
Clermont en Beauvoisis, _A. P._, ii. 746. _T._, Crépy, _A. P._, iii.
74, Section 21. _T._, Linas, _A. P._, iv. 649, Section 17. _T._,
Ploermel, _A. P._, v. 379, Sections 14-20 (a very full exposition),
and many others.]

When we pass from the property of private persons to that of clerical
corporations, whether sole or aggregate, we find the case still
stronger. It has been said that the greater number of the cahiers of
the clergy were composed under the prevailing influence of the parish
priests. These men felt themselves to be wronged in the distribution
of church property. They thought it outrageous that the working part
of the clergy should receive but a pittance, while useless drones
fattened in idleness.[Footnote: _C._, Paroisse de St. Paul, _A. P._,
v. 270, Section 11.] Their proposals were radical. They would take
from the few who had much and give to the many who had little. The
salaries of those who ministered in parishes should be increased, by
fixing a minimum, and the money should come out of the pockets of
abbots, chapters, and monasteries. Not only are future appointments to
be made so as to favor the parish priests, but for their benefit the
present incumbents of fat livings are to be dispossessed. The schemes
for this purpose were not identical everywhere, but the spirit was the
same throughout the popular part of the order.

While the Third Estate agreed with the Clergy in wishing to readjust
clerical incomes, an attack was made in some quarters on the payment of
the tithe itself. This, however, was not general. The people were
willing to pay a reasonable tithe, although some of them would have
preferred that the priests should receive salaries, paid from the
product of ordinary taxation. Compulsory fees for religious ceremonies,
such as weddings and funerals, were very unpopular. It was repeatedly
asked that such fees should be abolished, when the incomes of the
priests were made sufficient.[Footnote: Poncins, 179. _T._,
Ploermel, _A. P._, v. 380, Section 22. Soissy-sous-Etioles, _A.
P._, v. 121, Section 16.]

Thus the cahiers do not attack the right of property in the abstract; on
the contrary, they maintain it. But they shake its foundations by blows
aimed at vested rights and at prescription.

The question of taxation is postponed in the cahiers to that of
constitutional rights. But financial necessities were the very cause of
the existence of the Estates General, the opportunity for all reforms.
On the most important principle of taxation the country was almost
unanimous. Thenceforth the burdens were to be borne by all. Only here
and there did some privileged body contend for old immunities, some
chapter put in a claim that the Clergy should still pay only in the form
of a voluntary gift. The privileged orders generally relinquish their
freedom from taxation. Sometimes they applaud themselves for so doing.
The Clergy, in many cases, undertake to bear their share of taxation
only on condition that their corporate debt shall be made a part of the
debt of the nation.

The Third Estate, on the other hand, maintains that it is but fair and
right that all citizens shall be taxed alike. Its cahiers demand as a
right what those of the higher orders offer as a gift.[Footnote: A few
cahiers of the Nobility request that a certain part of the property of
poor nobles be exempt from taxation. _N._, Clermont-Ferrand, _A. P._,
ii. 767, Section 23. _N._, Bas Limousin, _A. P._, iii. 538, Section 14]

As to the method of taxation to be employed there was some approach to
agreement. Many of the old taxes were utterly condemned, at least in
their old forms. The salt tax was to be equalized, if it were not
entirely done away. The monopoly of tobacco, that "article of first
necessity," was to receive the same treatment. Many demands were made
concerning the excise on wine. "We find it hard to believe," cry the
people of the village of Pavaut, "that all this multitude of duties
goes into the king's strong-box; we rather believe that it serves to
fatten those who are at the head of the excise; and that at the
expense of the poor vine-dresser." All the taxes were to be converted
as fast as possible into one on land and one on personal property. But
the minds of the reformers had not grasped the real difficulties of
the subject. They were in that stage of thought in which great
questions are answered off-hand because the thinker has not fully
apprehended them. Should the personal tax be based on capital or on
incomes, and how should these be ascertained? It is far easier to
formulate general principles of taxation than to apply them
successfully.[Footnote: Salt and tobacco, _T._, Perche, _A. P._, v.
327, Section 38. Loisail, _A. P._ v. 334, Section 7. Wine, Pavaut, _A.
P._, v. 9.]

A common demand is for the taxation of luxuries, such as servants,
carriages, or dogs. The people of Segonzac propose a charge on rouge,
"which destroys beauty," and strike at a fashionable folly of the day
by suggesting a special payment by those "who allow themselves to wear
two watches." This is perhaps not the place to mention the proposal to
impose an additional tax on persons of both sexes who are unmarried
after "a certain age." The great movement from the country to the
cities was already exciting alarm. The people of Albret think that a
tax on luxuries will have the double advantage of weighing on the
richest and least useful citizens, and of sending the population back
to the country from the cities, which will receive just limits. And
the people of Domfront speak of Paris as an "awful chasm," in which
the wealth, population, and morals of the provinces are swallowed up
together. [Footnote: Taxation of luxuries in general, _C._, Douai, _A.
P._, iii. 174, Section 19. _N._, Alençon, _A. P._, i. 715. _C._,
Amiens, _A. P._, i. 735. _T._, Aix, _A. P._, i. 696. _T._, Laugon, _A.
P._, ii. 270, Sections 26, 27, and many others. Bachelors, _T._,
Rennes, _A. P._, v. 544, Section 115. Vicheray, _A. P._, vi. 24,
Section 30. Cities, _T._, Albret, _A. P._, i. 706, Section 38.
Domfront, _A. P._, i. 724, Section 14.]

Theoretical attacks on luxury are common in all ages, and not very
significant. Far more so are proposals for progressive taxation. These
are of occasional occurrence in the cahiers. The Third Estate of Rennes,
whose cahier is considered typical of the more revolutionary aspirations
of the times, asks that "the tax on persons shall be established and
assessed with reference to their powers, so that he that is twice as
well off as the well to do people of his class shall pay three times the
tax, and so following." The spirit of this demand is more clear than its
application. The town of Bellocq, in the province of Béarn, is more
explicit. It would pay the public debt by a special tax, justly
assessed, first on farmers general and other collectors of the revenue,
who have made fortunes quickly for themselves and their relations, by
money drawn from the nation; next on all persons who have an income
exceeding two hundred pistoles, whether from lands, contracts, or
manufactures; then on the feoffees of tolls, where the amount of the
tolls is more than double the rent paid for them; and lastly, if the
above do not suffice, it is proposed to obtain a sum of money by seizing
a part of all articles of luxury and superfluity, wherever found; and it
is explained that the plate of the rich and the ornaments of churches
are especially intended.[Footnote: _A. P._, ii. 275, Section 42

The financial scheme outlined in the cahiers is, in the main, as
follows. As soon as the constitution shall have been settled, the
deputies shall call on the royal ministers for accounts and estimates.
The latter shall be furnished in two parts. First shall come those for
the necessary, current expenses of the government, including those of
the king and his family and court, to be maintained in a style suitable
to the splendor of a great monarchy. It shall then be considered what
economies can be introduced into every department. Among these
economies, the suppression or reduction of extravagant pensions,
especially of such as are bestowed for mere favor, and not for service
to the state, shall take a prominent place. When the estimates have been
duly considered, special appropriations shall be made by the Estates,
and ministers shall be held to a strict responsibility in expending

Next, concerning the debts of the state, a separate and detailed account
shall be rendered to the Estates General. This also shall be
scrutinized, the justice of the various claims considered, and means
provided for their gradual payment. It is taken for granted that,
henceforth, the French nation is usually to live within its income; but
if debts are contracted at any time, special provision must be made for
the repayment of principal and interest.[Footnote: _N._, Amont,
_A. P._, i. 766. _N._, Agenois, _A. P._, i. 682.]

Having considered the general matters of constitutional government, law,
property, and taxation, we may pass to those questions which more
particularly interested one of the great orders of the state, or on
which the opinions of one order might be expected to differ from those
of another. In general policy the clergy agreed with the nobility and
the Third Estate, but in some matters they differed. Yet the differences
were greater in degree than in kind. I mean that the clergy, as was
natural, had most to say about ecclesiastical, religious, and moral
questions, and differed from the nobility and the commons more by the
relative prominence which it gave to these, than by the nature of its
opinions concerning them.

The Roman Catholic and Apostolic Religion is the religion of the
state; and the public worship of no other shall be allowed in France.
This was the universal demand of the clergy, and in it the other
orders usually acquiesced. As for the granting of civil rights to
those who are not Catholic, the clergy is of opinion that quite
enough, perhaps too much, has already been done in that direction.
Such rights as have already been granted must be limited and defined,
and a stop put to the encroachments of heresy. Sometimes the lay
orders would go farther in toleration. One cahier of the nobility
proposes a military cross for distinguished Protestant officers,
another that non-Catholics may be electors, but not elected, to the
Estates General. The inhabitants of some of the central provinces
would restore the property of exiles for religion's sake to their
families. The people of one quarter of Paris would allow the free
worship of all religions. Expressions of approval of the recent
concession of a civil status to Protestants are not unusual in the
cahiers. But the country and all the orders are undoubtedly and
overwhelmingly Catholic.[Footnote: For toleration, Bellocq, _A. P._,
ii. 276, Section 59. N., Agen, _A. P._, i. 684, Section 14. _T._,
Perigord, _A. P._, v. 343, Section 45. _T._, Poitou, _A. P._, v. 414.
Vouvant, _A. P._, v. 427, Section 18. T. Paris-Theatins, _A. P._, v.
316, Section 29. _T._, Montargis, _A. P._, iv. 23, Section 10.]

The clergy asks that the observance of Sundays and holidays be
enforced. The Third Estate, in some places, thinks that there are too
many holidays already. It would abolish many of them, transferring
their religious observances to the Sunday to which they fall nearest.
[Footnote: _T._, St. Pierre-le-Moutier, _A. P._, v. 640, Section 63.
_T._, Paris-hors-les-murs, _A. P._, 241, Section 2.]

In regard to the liberty of the press the clergy is at variance with the
other orders. It would maintain a stricter censorship than heretofore,
and is inclined to attribute all the immorality of the age to the
unbridled license of authors. The nobility and the Third Estate, on the
other hand, would generally allow the press to be free, but would exact
responsibility on the part of authors and printers, one or both of whom
should always be required to sign their publications. Thus anonymous
libels should no longer be suffered to appear, and bad books generally
should bring down punishment on their authors.

The cahiers of the clergy, more, perhaps, than any others, insist on
the importance of education; and the ecclesiastics generally wish to
control it themselves. Here the commons sometimes go farther than
they; asking that all monks and nuns be obliged to give free
instruction.[Footnote: _C._, Aix, _A. P._, i. 692, Section 6. _C._,
Labourt, iii. _A. P._, 424, Section 27. Ornans, _A. P._, iii. 172,
Section 4. _T._, Douai, _A. P._, iii. 181, Sections 28, 29.]

As for the administration of their own order the clergy, under the
lead of the parish priests, demand extensive reforms. There must be no
more absenteeism; no bishops and abbots drawing large incomes and
amusing themselves in Paris or Versailles. There must be no more
pluralities, which are contrary to the decrees of the Council of
Trent. Promotion must be thrown open to the parochial clergy. Faithful
clergymen must be provided for in their old age. Frequent synods and
provincial councils must be held. The laity agree with the clergy in
calling for these reforms, and would in many cases go a great way in
the suppression and consolidation of monasteries.[Footnote: Poncins,
190, _A. P._, _passim_. _N._, Agenois, _A. P._, i. 682, Section 8.]

Both clergy and laity are intensely Gallican. They do not wish to pay
tribute to Rome, but desire that the church of France shall preserve
her privileges and immunities. Dispensations for the marriage of
relatives should, they think, be granted by French bishops, and the
fees payable therefor should be kept in the country. Annats, or
payments to the Pope on the occasion of appointment to French
benefices, should be discontinued. An importance far beyond what their
amount alone would seem to justify was attached in French minds to
these payments to the Holy See. They were repugnant to the national
sense of dignity. In some places the idea that the church of France
was to govern herself went so far as to threaten orthodoxy. The clergy
of the province of Poitou ask for the composition by the French
bishops, "who would doubtless think proper to consult the
universities," of a body of theology, "divested of all useless
questions," which shall be exclusively taught in all seminaries,
schools, and monasteries. We have here an instance of that impatience
of all complicated and difficult thought, of that simple faith that
all questions admit of short and sensible answers, which characterized
the eighteenth century. The clergy of Poitou ask also for a great and
little catechism, common to all dioceses. "Uniform instruction
throughout all the Gallican Church," they say, "would have so many
advantages that the bishops will not fail to apply themselves to
obtain it. A common breviary and a common liturgy would be equally
desirable."[Footnote: _A. P._, v. 391, Section 19.]

The election of bishops is asked for in several cahiers, and many
parishes wish to elect their priests. These requests were not as radical
as they may now seem to have been,--at least they did not interfere with
the prerogatives of Rome,--for the bishops in France were nominated by
the crown, as they still are by the French government, and the appointment
of the priests, then in France as now in England, was often in the hands
of lay patrons.[Footnote: Poncins, 168.]

The French nation in general wished to retain its nobility as a
distinct part of the state. In but few cahiers do we find so much as a
hint of the suppression of the order.[Footnote: Poncins, 111. Hippean,
p. x., etc. My own study of the cahiers confirms this opinion. See,
however, a long, argumentative article in the cahier of the Third
Estate of Rennes, _A. P._, v. 540, Sections 48-50. See also that of
Bellocq, _A. P._, ii. 276, Section 61. _T._ Aix. _A P._, i. 697.
Villiers-sur-Marne, _A. P._, v. 216. Carri, _A. P._, vi. 280 Section
35, etc.] The Third Estate would, however, reduce the advantage of the
nobility to little more than a distinction and a political weight. The
nobles, being in numbers perhaps one hundredth part of the nation, are
to be allowed one quarter of the representatives in the Estates
General and in the Provincial Estates. They are to have a large share
of honors, offices, and emoluments. Their order is to be made more
exclusive than it has been. Nobility is no longer to be bought and
sold, but shall be accorded only for merit or long service, perhaps
only on the nomination of the Provincial Estates. Except in the most
democratic cahiers, these concessions are not disputed.

On the other hand, the Commons ask for a share of the chances hitherto
reserved for the nobles. The exclusive right held by the upper order,
of serving as judges in the higher courts of justice, or as officers
in the army, is to disappear. To the latter right the nobles strongly
cling. The career of arms, they say, is their natural, their only
vocation. In some cases, however, they ask to be allowed to practice
other means of earning a livelihood without derogating from their
nobility. But they join with the other orders in the cry for reforms
in the army. [Footnote: _T._, Perche, _A. P._, 326, Section 17. _N._,
Agenois, _A. P._, i. 683, Section 14]

The general irritation caused by the new military regulations has been
noticed in another chapter. The cahiers unanimously give it voice. The
French soldier shall no longer be insulted with blows. The
organization of the army shall be amended. It must not be subjected
"to the versatility of the spirit of system and to the caprice of
ministers." Many are the requests that the soldier be better treated.
Not a few, that his necessary leisure be turned to good account by
employment in road-building or in other public works.[Footnote: _N._,
Ponthieu, _A. P._, v.434, Sections 40-42. _T._, Perche, _A. P._, v.
326, Section 19. Soldiers to work on roads, etc., Poncins, 212. Arles,
_A. P._, ii. 61, Section 3. _T._, Bourbonnais, _A. P._, ii. 449,
Section vi., 1. _N._, Chateau-Thierry, _A. P._, ii. 665, Section 56.
_T._, Étampes, _A. P._, iii. 287, Section 12, etc.] More numerous,
perhaps, are those for fairness of promotion. It was in this matter
that the poorer nobility was most bitter in its jealousy of the great
court families. With but one path for their ambition, the country
nobles saw their way blocked by the glittering figures of men no
better born than themselves. The wrinkled old soldier, descended from
Crusaders, personally distinguished in twenty battles, stood on his
wounded legs and presented his halberd as a captain at fifty; while a
Noailles, or a Carignan, with no more quarterings and no service at
all, perhaps hardly a Frenchman and only twenty years old, but with a
duke for an uncle, or a queen's favorite for a sister, pranced on his
managed charger at the head of the regiment as its colonel. Nor was
this all. The worthy veteran might, on some trifling quarrel, be
deprived of the rank he had won with his sweat and his blood, and sent
back to his paternal hawk's nest, a broken and disgraced man. The
cahiers demand that there shall be no more dismissals without trial;
and many of them ask that particular cases of hardship may be
rectified. For now the world is to be set right again; commissions and
appointments to the military school are to be fairly distributed;
promotion is to be by merit and term of service; and the loyal
nobility of France is once more to be the bulwark of an adored king
and a grateful nation.
The Commons also have their particular wishes. They desire not only to
be rid of feudal oppression, but of administrative regulations. These
are sometimes so combined with privileges, or with taxation, that it is
not easy to distinguish their cause. The fishermen of Albret, for
instance, ask to be allowed to use any kind of boat that may suit their
convenience.[Footnote: _A. P._, i. 706, Section 57.] We can only
guess why any one should have interfered with their boats. Was it a
corporation of boat-builders having a monopoly that restricted them, or
was it only the paternal fussiness of Continental police regulations?

In matters of commerce the national feeling was far from unanimous.
Most of the cahiers asked that trade be free within the kingdom;
although some of the border provinces, which had enjoyed a
comparatively free trade with Germany and had been cut off from
France, preferred the maintenance of that state of things,[Footnote:
Alsace, Lorraine, and the Three Bishoprics. Poncins, 282, Mathieu,
441. _C_., Verdun, _A. P._, vi. 130.] and although the retention of
the _octrois_, or custom-houses at the town gates, was sometimes
contemplated. Uniformity of weights and measures was also desired; but
was sometimes asked for in a half hopeless tone, as if so great a
change could hardly be expected. The request was made that all loans
with interest be not considered usurious; a request resisted in some
cases by the clergy, which clung to the old laws of usury. The
abolition of monopolies is generally called for; certain odious
restrictions, such as the mark on leather and on iron, are condemned,
but rather as taxes than as commercial regulations. On economic
questions the nation has no very fixed opinions, nor have definite
parties been formed. Free trade and free manufactures commend
themselves to the ear; but regulations as to quality and protection
against English competition may be highly desirable. Agriculture needs
more hands, and is the first, the most necessary, the noblest of arts.
Furnaces and foundries use wood, and make fuel dear. Trade should be
entirely free,--but peddlers are nuisances, and interfere with regular
shop-keepers. Manufactures are a source of wealth,--but dangerous
unless well managed; none of them should be established without the
consent of the Provincial Estates. If only our king and "his august
companion" would wear none but French stuffs, and set a fashion that
way, our languishing factories would soon be active again.[Footnote:
Concerning usury, _T._, Agenois, _A. P._, i. 690. _T._, Comminges, _A.
P._, iii 27, Section 24. St-Jean-des-Agneaux, _A. P._, iii. 65,
Section 4. _C., N._, and _T._, Dôle, _A. P._, iii. 152, Section 14;
158, Section 57; 165, Section xiv. 6. Paris, St. Eustache, _A. P._, v.
304, Section 52. _C._, Soûle, v. 774, Section 17, etc. See also _N._,
Agenois, _A. P._, i. 684, Section 7. _T._, Paris, _A. P._, v. 285,
Sections 3, 4, and _n_.]

Certain demands of the cahiers excite surprise by their frequent
recurrence. Among them is that for the more severe treatment of
bankrupts, who were able in old France to evade the law of the land
and even to take sanctuary. Some cahiers go so far as to ask that
those convicted of fraud be made habitually to wear a green cap in
public, or that they be whipped, or sent to the galleys for life, or
even put to death.[Footnote: Poncins, 285. _T._, Pont-à-Mousson, _A.
P._, ii. 232, Section 11. _N._, Lille, _A. P._, iii. 531, Section 54.
_T._, Lyon, _A. P._, iii. 613. _T._, Mantes et Meulan, _A. P._, iii.
672, Section ix. 2. _C._, Lille, _A. P._, iii. 524, Sections 35, 37.]

All orders ask for the suppression of begging. The demand is commonly
accompanied by one looking to some humane provision for the poor,
sometimes by a request for a regular poor-law, or even for regulation
of wages. The people of the parish of Pecqueuse ask that there be
public works always going on, where the poor may earn wages calculated
on the price of grain; and, what is more significant, the Third Estate
of Paris makes a similar request for public work-shops.[Footnote: _A.
P._, v. 11, Sections 17,18. _A. P._, v. 287, Section 28.] Yet the
universal cry for the suppression of mendicity, and the form in which
it was made, show that begging was considered a great evil on its own
account, whether mendicant monks or less authorized persons were the
beggars. The begging monks, indeed, were either to be abolished, or
their maintenance in their own monasteries was to be provided for in
the general readjustment of ecclesiastical benefices.

Another common request is that letters in the post-office be not
tampered with. All readers who are familiar with the history, and
particularly with the diplomatic history of the last century, know how
common was the practice of breaking open and taking copies of
political correspondence. The letters of Franklin and Silas Deane, and
of many less prominent persons, were continually opened in the mail,
both in France and in England. Regular ambassadors were driven to the
habitual use of bearers of dispatches; and even these might be waylaid
and robbed, by the agents of friendly governments disguised as
highwaymen. [Footnote: Ciphers were in common use, and governments
employed decipherers. Great skill had been attained in opening letters
and closing them again so that they might not appear to have been
tampered with. "This institution, if well directed, has the property
of serving as a compass to those who hold the reins of government,"
writes, with a fine jumbling of metaphors, one who has been a clerk in
the post-office. Sorel, i. 77. The _Facsimiles of MSS. in European
Archives relating to America_, now in process of publication by
Stevens, furnish numerous examples of these practices.] But it is
astonishing to find that the evil had gone so far as to excite the
fears of private persons for the maintenance of that privacy of which
all decent Frenchmen, with their strong feeling of the sanctity of the
family and their great dread of ridicule, are peculiarly
jealous.[Footnote: _T._, Agenois, _A. P._, i. 690.]

Again, the frequent recurrence of the request for the restraint of
quack doctors is somewhat surprising. The need of competent surgeons
and midwives was much felt in the country, and recourse was had to the
Estates General to provide them. In calling for legislation to
prohibit quackery and to forbid lotteries, the people asked to be
protected against themselves, any extravagant theories of the liberty
of man to the contrary notwithstanding.[Footnote: Quack doctors, _C._,
Nemours, _A. P._, iv. 108, Section 31. Cormeilles-en-Parisis, _A. P._,
iv. 463, Section 17. _N._, Troyes, _A. P._, vi. 79, Section 80. _T._,
Chalons-sur-Marne, _A. P._, ii. 595, Section 24.]

Such were the desires of the French nation in the spring of 1789. In
them we may note several important points of agreement. First,
government by the nation and the king together. France was still to be a
monarchy; not a republic, open or disguised; but it was to be a limited
and not an absolute monarchy. In this all the orders were agreed, and
the king, by the mere summoning of the Estates General, as well as by
his whole attitude, seemed to acquiesce.

Then, the desires of the nation included a diminution of the privileges
of the upper orders, not a complete abolition of them. Like all
Catholics, Frenchmen wished to leave the control of religious affairs
largely in the hands of the clergy. To the nobility, all but a few
extremists were willing to concede many privileges, honors, and

But while retaining a government of limited monarchy and moderate
aristocracy, the nation in all its branches had determined that public
burdens and public benefits should be more equally divided than they had
ever been before. Proportionate equality of taxation, and a chance to
rise--these the Commons were determined to have, and the higher orders
were ready to concede.

In another feeling all France shared. Churchmen, nobles, and common
people alike dreaded and hated the little ring of courtiers. These had
grown great on the substance of the nation. They should be restrained
hereafter, and obliged as far as possible to surrender their ill-gotten

And all men wanted administrative reforms. The courts of justice, the
army, the finances, were to be put in order and improved. Here all
agreed as to the end sought, and if there was much difference of opinion
as to the methods, parties had not yet formed, nor had feeling run very
high on these subjects.

What, then, were the dangers threatening France? They were to be looked
for in the very magnitude of the changes proposed, changes which could
not fail to startle and alarm all Europe. They were to be seen in the
opposition of the nobles, who were ready to give up much, but were asked
to give up more. They were to be feared most of all in a monarch so weak
and an administration so faulty, that the first attempt at reform was
likely to destroy them altogether.




France had become a despotism in the attempt to escape from mediaeval
anarchy. What she asked of her kings was security from external enemies,
and good government at home. The first of these they had given her. No
country in Europe was more respected and feared. In spite of occasional
and temporary reverses, her borders had been enlarged from reign to
reign, and her fields, for nearly three centuries, had seldom been
trodden by foreign armies.

Within the country the house of Capet had been partially successful. It
had put down armed opposition, it had taken away the power of the feudal
nobility, it had maintained tolerable security against violent crime.
But here its zeal had slackened. Civilization was advancing rapidly, and
the French internal government was not keeping pace with it.

This better performance of its external than of its internal tasks is
almost inevitable in a despotism. To protect his country, and to add to
it, is the obvious duty and the natural ambition of a despot. His
dignity is concerned; his pride is flattered by success; and whether he
has succeeded or failed is obvious to himself and to every one else. To
control and improve the internal administration is a hard and ungrateful
labor, in which mistakes are sure to occur; and the greatest and truest
reform when accomplished will injure and displease some persons. The
most beneficent improvements are sometimes those which involve the most
labor and bring the least reputation.

Moreover, it is not the people who surround kings that are chiefly
benefited by the good administration of a country. Courtiers are likely
to be interested in abuses, and in the absence of a free press courtiers
are the public of monarchs. If we compare the facilities possessed by
Louis XVI. for ascertaining the true condition of his country with those
possessed by the sovereigns of our own day, an emperor of Germany or of
Austria, or even a Russian Czar, we shall find that the king of France
was far worse off than they are. There were no undisputed national
accounts or statistics in France. There was no serious periodical press
in any country, watching events and collecting facts. There were no
newspapers endeavoring at once to direct and to be directed by public
opinion. True, the satirists were everywhere, with their epigrams and
their songs; but who can form a policy by listening to the jeers of the

The absolute monarchy, therefore, while it protected the French nation,
was failing to secure to it the reasonable and civilized government to
which it felt itself to be entitled. It was failing partly from lack of
information, but largely also from lack of will. The kings in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had beaten down the power of the
nobility and of the Parliaments; the kings of the eighteenth century
shrank before the influence of the very bodies which their ancestors had
defeated. It is vain to try to eliminate the personal element from
history. France would have been a very different country in 1789 from
what she was, had Louis XV. and Louis XVI. been strong and able men. The
education of a prince is not necessarily enfeebling. Perhaps the
commonest vice of despots is willfulness; but the last absolute king of
France might have known a far happier fate if he had had a little more
of it.

The French government was not aristocratic. There was no class in the
country, unless it were the clergy, that was in the habit of exercising
important political rights. But the nobility comprised all those men and
all those families which were trained to occupy high administrative
place. The secretaries of state, the judges of the higher courts, the
officers in the army, were noblemen. The order also included a large
proportion of the educated men and the possessors of a considerable part
of the wealth of the country. It was, therefore, a true power, which
might appropriately be considered. Moreover, it was popularly supposed
to have political rights, although in fact these were mostly obsolete.
Could a good deal of weight have been given, for a time at least, to the
nobility, the result would probably have been favorable to the national
order and prosperity.

Government, to be stable, should represent the true forces of the state.
In a country where all men are of the same race, and where a large
portion of the population has some property and some education, numbers
should be given weight in government; for the simple reason that, in
such a country, many men are stronger than a few, and may choose to use
their strength rather than that a few should govern them. What a large
majority of the people desires, it can enforce. It is often agreed, in
favor of peace and to end controversy, that what a small majority
decides shall be taken as decided for all. On this agreement rests the
legitimacy of democracy. The compromise is an arbitrary one in itself,
but reasonable and sensible; and in a nation that has a good deal of
practical good sense, a feeling of loyalty may gather about it. But
sensible and practical as it may be, it remains a compromise after all.
There is no divine right in one half the voters plus one. Some other
proportion may be, and often is agreed on; or some compromise entirely
different may be found to be more in accordance with the national will.

In old France the conditions required for democratic government were but
partially fulfilled. The population was fairly homogeneous. Property and
education were more or less diffused. But of political experience there
was little, and the democratic compromise, to be thoroughly successful,
requires a great deal. It was rightly felt that a proper regard was not
had to the desires of the more numerous part of the inhabitants of the
country; that a few persons had privileges far beyond their public
deserts or their true powers; but how was this state of things to be
remedied? What new relations were to take the place of the old? No
actual compromise had been effected, and the idea of the rights of a
majority, with the limitations to which those rights are subject, was
not clearly defined in men's minds.

A government should represent the sense of duty of a country. All men
believe that something better is imaginable than that which exists,
and that the better things would be attainable if only men would act
as they ought. Most men strive somewhat to improve their own condition
and conduct. Every man believes at least that others should do so. But
in making laws men are trying to regulate the conduct of others, and
are willing, therefore, that the laws should be a little nearer to
their ideals than their own practice is. All sensible men believe that
they ought to obey the laws, and that if they suffer for not doing so
their suffering is righteous. This opinion is one of the forces in the
world that makes for good.

Now what were the qualities considered really moral and desirable by
the Frenchmen of 1789, and how far did the government of the Bourbons
tend toward them? The duty first recognized by the whole country was
patriotism. The love of France has never grown cold in French hearts.
It is needless to insist on this, for no one who has ever met a
Frenchman worthy of the name, or read a French book of any value, can
doubt it. With all its noble and all its petty incidents, patriotism
is a French virtue.

Under the kings of France its aspirations were satisfied. The country
was great and glorious.

That loyalty was held to be a duty will perhaps be less generally
recognized, but I think that enough has been written in this book to
show it. The evidence of the cahiers is chiefly on that side. Most
Frenchmen believed that a king should govern, and that they had a good
and well-meaning king. Toward him their hearts were still warm and
their sense of duty alive. He was misled, thwarted, overruled, by
selfish and designing courtiers. If he could but have his way all
would be well. Only a very few persons had eyes strong enough to see
that they were worshiping a stuffed scarecrow. A man inside those
clothes could really have led them.

Next among the ideals of France, and far above loyalty in many bosoms,
came liberty and equality. They were not very clearly comprehended. By
liberty was chiefly meant a share of political power; few Frenchmen
believed then, or ever have believed, in letting every man do what
seemed good in his eyes. Such a theory of liberty does not take a very
strong hold on a race so sociable as theirs; nor does such unbridled
liberty seem consistent with civilization to men accustomed to the rigid
system of Continental police. Equality of rights was an ideal, but most
people in France were not prepared to demand its entire carrying out.
Equality of property and of enjoyment many persons, especially such as
considered themselves Philosophers,--persons who had read Rousseau or
Montesquieu,--considered desirable; but no one of any weight had the
most distant intention of trying to bring about such a state of things
in the work-a-day world. Communistic schemes were not quite unknown in
the eighteenth century, but they belong to the nineteenth.[Footnote:
See for eighteenth century communism the curious essay of Morelly.]

With the general growth of comfort, with the general hope of an improved
world, _humanity_, the hatred of seeing others suffer, had begun to
bestir itself. For many ages people had believed that another life, and
not this one, was really to be considered. Kind-hearted men had tried to
draw souls to heaven, stern men to drive them thither. The effort had
absorbed the energy and enthusiasm of a great proportion of those
persons who were willing to think of anything but their own concerns.
But in the eighteenth century heaven was clouded. Men's eyes were fixed
on a promised land nearer their own level. This world, which was known
by experience to be but too often a vale of tears, was soon, very soon,
by the operation of the fashionable philosophy, to be turned into
something like a paradise. To bring about so desirable a condition of
things, the tears must be stopped at their source. Nor was this all. The
world had acquired a new interest. It was capable of improvement. Hope
in temporal matters had led to Faith,--Faith in progress and happiness
here below. The new direction given to Faith and Hope was followed by
Charity. The task of relieving human pain was fairly undertaken.
Sickness and insanity were better cared for; torture was abolished,
punishment lightened. In these matters the government rather followed
than led the popular aspirations. In its general inefficiency, it came
halting behind the good intentions of the people.

The virtues toward which the government of old France tried to lead the
French nation were not, as we have seen, exactly the virtues toward
which the national conscience led. The government upheld loyalty and
humanity, and the people agreed with it; the government upheld a
centralized despotism and privileges, and the popular conscience called
for liberty and equality. In religion there was both agreement and
divergence. The country, in spite of Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists,
believed itself to be fervently Catholic; but its ideal of Catholicism
was of a reformed and regenerated type; while that maintained by the
government was corrupt and lifeless in high places. The country wanted
provincial councils, resident bishops, a purified church.

And in so far as the ideals of the government differed from those of the
people, the monarchy did not stand for something nobler and higher than
the moral forces that attacked it. The French nation was in fact better
than its government, more honest and more generous. The country priests
were more self-devoted than the bishops who ruled over them; the poorer
nobles were more public-spirited and more moral than the favored
nobility of the court; the citizens of the Third Estate conducted their
private business more honorably than the administration conducted the
business of the country.

If the stability and legitimacy of government depend on its
correspondence with the real powers of the nation and with the
national conscience, the functions of government embrace something
harder to attain even than this agreement. No sovereign power, be it
that of an autocrat on his throne or of a nation in its councils, can
directly carry out the policy which it desires to adopt. The sovereign
must act through agents; and on the proper selection of these the
success of his undertakings will largely depend. Jurists must draft
the laws, judges must interpret them, officers must enforce obedience.
Generals, commanding soldiers, must defend the land. Engineers must
construct forts and roads; marine architects must furnish plans for
practical ship-builders. Financiers must devise schemes of taxation,
to be submitted to the sovereign; collectors of various kinds must
levy the taxes on the people. All these should be experts, trained to
do their especial work. The choice of experts, then, is one of the
most important functions of government.

In this respect the administration of King Louis XVI. and his immediate
predecessor was usually, although not uniformly bad. The army and navy,
until the last years of disorganization, were reasonably efficient, the
naval engineers in particular being the best then at work in the world.
The civil and criminal laws were chaotic, more from a defect of
legislation than of administration. Old privileges and anomalies were
supported by the government, but good jurists and magistrates were
produced. Those lawyers can hardly have been incompetent in whose school
were trained the framers of the Code Napoleon, the model of modern
Europe. Internal order and police were maintained with a thoroughness
that was remarkable in an age when the possession of a good horse put
the highwayman very nearly on an equality with the officer. The worst
experts employed by the government appear to have been those connected
with taxation and expenditure, from the Controller of the Finances to
the last clerk in the Excise. The schemes of most of them were
blundering, their actions were too often dishonest. They never reached
the art of keeping accurate accounts.

The condition of the people of France, both in Paris and in the
provinces, was far less bad than it is often represented to have been.
The foregoing chapters should have given the impression of a great,
prosperous, modern country. The face of Europe has changed since 1789
more through the enormous number and variety of mechanical inventions
that have marked the nineteenth century than through a corresponding
increase in mental or moral growth. While production and wealth have
advanced by strides, education has taken a few faltering steps forward.
Pecuniary honesty has probably increased, honesty and industry being the
virtues especially fostered by commerce and manufactures. Bigotry, the
unwillingness to permit in others thought and language unpalatable to
ourselves, has become less virulent, but has not disappeared. It is
shown alike by the church and by her enemies. Yet the tone of
controversy has softened even in France. There are fewer Voltairean
sneers, fewer episcopal anathemas. Humanity has been growing; the rich
and prosperous becoming more alive to the suffering around them. But it
is the material progress that is most striking, after all. The poor are
better off than they were a hundred years ago, and the rich also. The
minimum required by custom for the decent support of life has risen. The
earners of wages are better housed, fed, and clothed in return for fewer
hours of labor. In France, as in the world, there are many more things
to divide, and things are, on the whole, more evenly divided.

If we compare the France of 1789 no longer with the France of 1892, but
with the other countries of Continental Europe as they were in the days
preceding the great Revolution, we find that she was worse governed than
a few of them. The administration of Prussia while the great King
Frederick sat on the throne was probably better than that of France.
After his death it rapidly fell off, until a series of defeats had been
earned by mis-government at Berlin. In a few of the smaller states,
such as Holland, the Swiss cantons, or Tuscany, the citizen was perhaps
better governed than in France. But in general, life and property appear
to have been less safe beyond the French border than within it. A small
despotism, when it is bad, is more searching and interfering than a
large one. The lords of France were tyrannous enough at times, but there
were always courts of law and a royal court above them, and appeals for
justice, although doubtful, might yet be attempted with a hope of

The intellectual leadership of France in Europe was very clearly marked
under Louis XV. French was unquestionably the language of the well-born
and the witty as it was the favorite language of the learned all over
the Continent. The reputation of Voltaire, Diderot, d'Alembert, and
Rousseau, was distinctly European. Frederick of Prussia was glad to
compose his academy at Berlin of second-rate French men of letters, and
to make his own attempts at literary distinction in the French language.
Smaller German princes modeled their courts on that of Versailles, and
ruined themselves in palaces and gardens that were distant copies of
those of that famous suburb. This spirit lasted well down to 1789,
although the masterpieces of Lessing were already twenty years old, and
those of Goethe and Schiller had begun to appear.

But while France was great, prosperous, and growing, and a model to her
neighbors, she was deeply discontented. The condition of other countries
was less good than hers, but the minds of the people of those countries
had not risen above their condition. France had become conscious that
her government did not correspond to her degree of civilization. The
fact was emphasized in the national mind by the mediocrity of Louis XV.
as a sovereign and by the utter incompetence of his well-meaning
successor. In hands so feeble, the smallest excess of expenditure over
income was important as a symptom of weakness, and for many years the
deficit had in fact been increasing. The financial situation gave the
nation a ground of attack against its government; it was not the cause
of the Revolution, but its occasion. All the machinery of the state
needed to be inspected, repaired, or renewed. The people entered into
the task with good will, and the warmest interest. But they were
entirely without experience. They knew and believed that old forms were
to be respected as far as might be compatible with new conditions; they
thought that the improvements needed were so obvious that nothing but
fairness was required to recognize them. In their ignorance of the
working of popular assemblies they supposed them to be inspired with
wisdom and virtue beyond that of the individuals who compose them.

This is a mistake not likely to occur to any one who has experience of
public meetings; but among the twelve hundred deputies to the Estates
General, and among their constituents all over France, no one had much
experience. A hundred and forty Notables, in 1787 and 1788, had
deliberated on public questions; but their work had been done
principally in committee, and their conclusions were without binding
force on anybody, their functions being merely advisory. A good many
delegates had been members of provincial assemblies or provincial
estates; but these, in most of the provinces, had met but a few times,
and their powers had been very limited. Such assemblies could do some


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