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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 8

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The court hoped at this time to become the umpire in the disputes betwixt the orders, and, in that capacity, to use the tiers in order to wrest from the nobles and clergy their pecuniary exemptions; and the nobles, aware of this, were equally anxious to create such embarrassments as should ultimately put an end to the states-general. But whilst the crown and noble? were thus manoeuvring, the tiers, by their imperturbable patience, were every day further augmenting their influence with the public.

The conferences were held, as the king proposed. But, at the very outset, the commissioners of the nobles raised all sorts of objections to the title of the commons, which the tiers had adopted, and about the form and signature of the minister, or proces-verbaux. These being got over, Necker proposed that each order should verify its powers separately, and then communicate them to each other; and should any dispute arise, they should refer the decision to the king. This was precisely what the court wanted, for, by this means, it would be able to decide to its own advantage. It was a critical moment for the tiers. If the tiers should refuse this royal proposal, and the others accept it, it would appear to prefer its own will to the good of the nation. The people were waiting the results of the states-general with increasing famine and misery, and the commons would appear indifferent to it. If the tiers accepted the proposal, the crown might settle the question in dispute by an order in council, and the three orders would remain separate. At all events, the tiers would become what they had hitherto stoutly resisted becoming, only one party against two, and all would be lost. Mirabeau pointed out the snare, and advised that the tiers should wait till the other orders had decided; and, to their great satisfaction, the nobles released them from the dilemma. The clergy accepted the proposal at once; but the nobles agreed to accept the proposal only conditionally. They insisted on verifying separately, and in only appealing to the king on certain questions - not on all. From that day, says Thiers, must be dated all their disasters. That day certainly brought the revolution to a crisis; but that crisis must have come sooner or later - it lay in the nature of things, not in any particular act.

The commons were now brought to a point. They must act for themselves, and for the people at large, or, by further delays, lose all the advantages of the moment. They resolved to assume the character of the representatives of the nation at large; yet, for a moment, there was a new snare thrown in their way by the prelates. The archbishop of Aix appeared in the hall, and made a most pathetic statement of the sufferings of the people in the rural districts. Labour had ceased, he said; those who could not find it at home sought it elsewhere, but they found it nowhere. They begged, but obtained nothing. Famishing bands ran through the country furious, murderous, raging. There was universal terror; all communication betwixt places was at an end; the dearth went on augmenting. He produced a piece of the most black and repulsive bread to show what the people ate when they could get anything. It required great tact to avoid the snare, that of refusing to quit their waiting position, and of thus appearing insensible to the misery of the people; but, when the archbishop had done, there arose a deputy, who had hitherto attracted little attention, but who was destined to electrify France and the world - it was Robespierre! Fixing his eye on the archbishop, he expressed his deep sympathy and the sympathy of the whole of the commons for the sufferings of the people, and he then added, in a stern and piercing voice - u Go tell your colleagues that if they are so anxious to relieve the people, they should hasten to unite themselves in this hall with the friends of the people. Tell them no longer to retard our proceedings by affected delays. Tell them not to employ paltry means like this to make us recede from the resolutions we have taken. Rather, ye ministers of religion, as worthy imitators of your Master, renounce the splendours which surround you, the luxury which insults the poor. Resume the humility of your origin, dismiss those insolent lacqueys who escort you, sell your gaudy equipages, and convert these odious superfluities into bread for the poor! "

At these words, astonishment ran through the assembly; every one was asking who was the speaker, and the archbishop retired to report his exemplary defeat. Mirabeau instantly rose, and said, " Any plan of reconciliation rejected by one party can no longer be examined by the other. A month is past; it is time to take a decisive step; a deputy of Paris has an important motion to make, let us hear him." He then introduced the Abbé Sieyes to the tribune. Sieyes had done much for the revolution by his proclamation of the Rights of Man. He now did a great deal more. He declared that the commons had now waited on the other orders long enough. They had conceded to all the conciliations proposed; their condescensions had been unavailing; they could delay no longer, without abandoning their duty to the country; and they ought to send a last message to the other orders.

The proposition of Sieyes was received with acclamation. It was suggested only that the word " invitation " was not sufficiently firm; not worthy enough of the assembly. They should demand a compliance, and that within an hour! This was also enthusiastically approved, but the morrow being the Fete Dieu, or Corpus Domini, the summons wag deferred to the next day, Friday, when it was duly delivered. The answer from the two orders was that they would take the message into consideration, and the king, to whom the communication had also been sent, replied that he would inform them of his intentions.

In strict accordance with their message, that the call of all the baillages convoked would commence within an hour, the tiers proceeded to the verifications, declaring that all such persons as did not appear should be proclaimed defaulters. Whilst engaged in this work, three cures entered, and were received as members with tumultuous applause. The next day, six more entered and took their places as part of the house; on the third day, ten more, amongst whom was the Abbd Gregoire. During the call of the baillages, a great debate arose regarding the name which the body of deputies which resolved to become the real legislative power should choose. Mirabeau proposed, the " Representatives of the People;" Mounier, " The Deliberative Majority in the absence of the Minority;" and Legrand, u The National Assembly." The proposal of Mounier was soon disposed of; but there was a strong inclination for the National Assembly, and Mirabeau vehemently opposed it in favour of his own suggestion. The name of National Assembly had, it is said, been recommended to Lafayette by Jefferson, the American minister, and, as Lafayette had not yet ventured to move before his order and join the tiers, Legrand, an obscure member, and lately a provincial advocate, was employed to propose it. But Sieyes had, in his famous brochure on the " Rights of Man," long before thrown out these words: - " The tiers alone, it will be said, cannot form a statesrgeneral. So much the better; it will constitute a National Assembly!" On the 15th of June, Sieyes proposed that the title should be "The National Assembly of Representatives, known and verified by the French Nation." This addition to the simple title was meant to indicate that the tiers had verified its deputies publicly, the other orders in secret, and that, therefore, there was some dubiousness regarding their verification.

Mirabeau indignantly repelled the title in any shape. He declared that such a title, by denying the rights and existence of the other two orders, would precipitate the nation into a civil war. Legrand proposed to modify the name by making it "The General Assembly." Sieyes then came back to his original title of simply " The National Assembly," as devoid of all ambiguity, and Mirabeau still more violently opposed- it. But it was soon seen that this name carried the opinion of the mob with it; the deputies cried out loudly for it; the galleries joined as loudly in the cries. Mirabeau in a fierce rage read his speech, said to have been written by his friend Dumont, before the president, Bailly, and withdrew, using violent language against the people who had hooted him down, declaring that they would soon be compelled to seek his aid. He had protested in his speech that the veto, which some of the deputies wished to refuse to the king, must be given to him; that without the royal veto he would rather live in Constantinople than in France; that he could conceive nothing more dreadful than the sovereignty of six hundred persons; that they would very soon declare themselves hereditary, and would finish, like all other aristocracies that the world had ever seen, by usurping everything. These words, only too prophetic, had brought down upon him a tempest of execration; and writhing under it he had hastened to the court and had an interview with Necker, warning him of the danger of the crisis, and offering to use his influence in favour of the king's authority. Necker received him coldly, and thus Mirabeau was thrown back on the people.

Meantime, the debate had continued till one o'clock of the night of the 16th of June, when the term " national assembly " was put to the vote. There were four hundred deputies in favour of it, and less than two hundred against it; but this minority, seeing itself about to lose, maintained such a clamour of cries and opposition that the voting could not be completed. There was a call for adjournment, but this was firmly resisted, on the ground that the court, which had surrounded Versailles with troops, might employ them to defeat the ultimate decision. Amid the deafening cries of " adjourn! adjourn!" "vote! vote!" president Bailly sate for above an hour in immovable silence. Amongst the fiercest leaders of the noisy opposition was Malouet. A member suddenly darted upon him, seized him by the collar, and by main force expelled him from the hall. By degrees the uproar ceased, when Bailly himself proposed that they should adjourn till daylight, and this wise desire was complied with.

On the morning of the 17th, as the deputies were proceeding to vote, it was announced to the president that he was commanded to attend at the palace to receive a letter from the king. This letter, which was to represent that the tiers could do nothing without the other two orders, would have come in most malaprapos to give a new vigour to the opposition. The tiers, therefore, calmly adjourned the receipt of the letter, and forbade the president to quit the hall until the close of the sitting. The three motions were then, in the absence of Mirabeau, resolved into two, that of Mounier for the title of representatives of the majority, Mirabeau's motion for comprehending the word "people" being included in it. Sieyes's motion, however, was put first, and was carried by a majority of four hundred and ninety-one against ninety; and the National Assembly was proclaimed amid loud acclamations, mingled with cries of " Vive le Roi! " Thus the proposition of Sieyes, which gave the preference to man over mere contingents, trampled over that of Mounier, who was the advocate of property against the population, of land against men. The nation now represented one great unity; there was, so far as the name and institution went, an end of ancient injustice. The middle ages now ceased in France - the barbarous system, in which the globe counted for more than humanity - where earth, manure, and ashes were paramount to spirit. It was a noble commencement, had the French had the necessary qualities to carry out the idea worthily.

Sieyes was appointed to report the motives of this transaction, and justified them on these grounds: - That the assembly had found that it represented at least ninety-six hundredths of the nation, and that all the baillages having been called, the defaulters had no right to suspend the action of the majority, such a majority as it was; that all who verified these returns were admissible into the assembly, and therefore had no right to act separately, or to complain of the assembly acting without them; that there could be no veto betwixt the assembly and the throne; that the assembly would never relinquish the hope of collecting into its bosom all the deputies still absent, and pledged itself to receive them, or any of them, at any period during the session about to be opened.

There were two attempts made to delay the taking of the oath to maintain the new institution: one was a message from the noblesse on some pretext, and the other was a motion by certain deputies that, before taking the oath, the president should be elected, for Bailly was yet only provisionally president; and the second that the assembly should appoint its complete staff of officers. The house passed to the order of the day, and Bailly reading aloud the oath, all, raising their right hands, and looking fixedly on the president, cried, " We swear! "

The assembly was thus founded; but, to give it a more real air of life, it was deemed desirable to commence immediate legislative enactment, and it at once passed resolutions sanctioning the collection of the taxes, although they had been imposed without the national consent; but it confined this validity of collection to the term of the existence of the present assembly; and to prevent the possibility of the other orders or the crown declaring a national bankruptcy, and thus dispensing with their concurrence, they guaranteed the national debts, and declared that they would proceed directly to consider the causes of the public dearth and distress, and the remedies for them.

The minister, Necker, was confounded at the boldness of these proceedings. He had imagined that he could lead the world, and the world was advancing without him. He had advised the king to be calm and prudent, and, behold! the assembly had pushed down all the old barriers without even casting a look on him. In his stupefaction, he was counselled by persons of opposite political creeds, but whose counsels issued in the same result. These were the old intendent Bertrand de Molleville, an ultra-royalist, who has left us his memoirs, and Durovray, a republican of Geneva, who had been in England and indoctrinated himself with an admiration of its constitution. They advised that the king should annul the decree of the assembly establishing its name; should command the union of the three orders; should assume to himself the sanction of resolutions passed by the three united orders; and forbid any institution hostile to a limited monarchy. Durovray believed that by this decided conduct the assembly would be broken and humiliated, and be perfectly docile in its functions of legislation. Molleville believed that after this coup Louis would only have occasion to dissolve the states-general.

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