Source Problems on the French Revolution

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12. Duquesnoy, Journal, I, 117–123.

Versailles, June 24, 1789.

After hopes conceived too lightly perhaps, at the sight of the union of the clergy, good citizens learned with terror the day before yesterday that the ministerial existence of M. Necker was drawing to an end, that his friends were pressing him to quit, and that he had decided to do so. It was known in particular that he had proposed to the council a plan of conciliation which had been rejected, or to use the very expression of M. Necker, dislocated. It was learned the next morning that he persisted in his resolution; and certainly, to look at the situation from one point of view, to think only of his individual honor, it appeared impossible that he should remain. Some sensible people, few in number, it is true, realized clearly that he could not retire without producing a terrible shock, the ruin of many fortunes, and perhaps a shortage in the food supply, which has been retarded up to the present time only by the infinite pains and the personal credit of M. Necker. What increased still more the uneasiness was that it was thought that the plan which was going to be proposed was the work of M. Vidaud de la Tour, a man servilely devoted to authority and a personal enemy of M. Necker. It was known, further, that an artistically planned scheme existed, and that a cabal, at the head of which were the queen, the Comte d’Artois, the princes of Condé and Coigny, was working to ruin him. It was known, further, that the queen had passed a whole after-dinner period with the two princes of Condé and Conti, MM. de Luxembourg and de Coigny, ardent enemies of public liberty. Finally, at the moment the session opened no one doubted the retirement of M. Necker, and above all when it was noted that he was not present.

The royal session was set for ten o’clock; it did not begin before half past eleven. The commons had waited a long time in the vestibule; there was talk of making an appeal to the name of the king, but all the members refused to support it. Finally, when they had entered, one of the members noticed that Linguet had taken a seat among them; this man had published the day before a pamphlet in favor of the vote by order. A murmur arose: "No Linguet! The man who wrote in favor of the vote by order has no right to be present in the national assembly!" He was forced to retire, the guards themselves insisting on it.

Finally the king entered. No one had given him the slightest sign of approbation, and those who were in the back of the hall had noticed that he had entered only when he began to speak. I shall not analyze his three speeches, nor the declarations which have been published.... It is sufficient to know that never did despotism express itself in terms more audacious, that never did slaves listen to more imperious orders. Consequently, a profound silence reigned in the hall, the silence of indignation and anger. It was interrupted only by some very rare cries of "Vive le roi!" issuing from some episcopal or aristocratic mouths, but there was not a single one from the commons; far from it, one imposed silence upon hands and mouths which applauded elsewhere.

The king ended the session by ordering the deputies to retire and meet the next day in their separate chambers. The clergy and nobility withdrew, the commons remained in their places, and the grand master of ceremonies having come to say that he had orders to prepare the hall, the Comte de Mirabeau said to him: "Sir, go tell your master that the national assembly has decided it will not leave the hall. Let them make us leave by force, if they dare!" The Marquis de Brézé retired, and the workmen who were taking down the throne ceased making a noise.

M. Pison du Galland then proposed that we should pass a decree in about these terms: "The national assembly has charged two of its members to procure without delay an official copy of what has been read to it and has adjourned until to-morrow." This proposition was vigorously opposed by M. Camus and by a number of others, and it was proposed to substitute the following: "The national assembly declares that it persists in its preceding decrees." Several motions were made in succession, one by the Comte de Mirabeau upon the inviolability of the members of the assembly, and one by M. le Chapelier on the necessity of rendering the session public in spite of the fact that the king had just prohibited it. In the course of the discussion, the most bitter criticism was made of the morning’s performance, and without doubt that was an easy thing to do. Those who hazarded it, who thus compromised the royal authority, knew neither the men nor the times; they have not followed the progress of ideas since the opening of the estates; they have not felt that the hour of a great revolution has come, that they may, indeed, retard it, give it, if I may say so, another course, but it is impossible to prevent it.

After some debate the assembly passed the following decree:

[Here follow the two decrees, presented as one.]

This decree passed, the session was ended and adjourned until the next day. It must be confessed that it is impossible to show a more marked disregard for the royal authority, and never, without doubt, was there better reason for it. It is when kings forget, when they prostitute their powers, when they degrade them themselves by making use of them to the detriment of public liberty, that it is necessary to teach them that there is a force superior to that of all the kings of the earth, that of reason, of justice, of truth, when it calls public opinion to its aid.

It was noted that the king talked in a trembling and weak tone. Was it the consciousness of the wrong he was doing? Was it the fear with which he had been inspired?

The guard of the seals was hooted as well as the Archbishop of Paris; good people are irritated to see two such different men confounded. The Duc d’Orleans was enthusiastically applauded by the people; on the contrary, the moment the king entered his carriage no sign of joy was given, and how could one show it when the streets and the highways were lined with armed men, who can, to be sure, command silence, but who are never sufficiently strong to make the heart speak.

Toward five o’clock in the evening, the report having started that M. Necker had resigned, five hundred deputies of the commons hastened to his residence, without deliberation, without any understanding, by this involuntary and irrational movement produced by the irresistible ascendancy of virtue, of probity, and of generosity. The street, the court of the mansion, were filled with people, two thousand people had followed him into the court of the château, and there, under the very windows of the king, they cried: "Long live M. Necker! Give us M. Necker!" At Necker’s there was the greatest agitation, and yet Madame Necker maintained a calm and serene air, and I did not see her join a single tear to those shed around her.

Finally they came to announce his return. From the court of the chateau to his house he was followed by an infinite number of people of every class, who did not cease to cry: "Vive M. Necker!" When he had entered, they were still ignorant whether he would stay; they simply abandoned themselves to their joy; the shouts redoubled; he could not speak; he asked to be permitted to retire a minute with his wife. He at once returned and found in his salon all the deputies of the commons, who received him with expressions of joy difficult to describe, Some words of gratitude escaped him, and then he took advantage of the occasion to preach union, harmony. I especially noted this remark, full of reason and sense: "Gentlemen, you are very strong, but do not abuse your power." A hundred voices repeated: "Sir, we have no more need of orders; tell us your desires." Others: "They did not know the French people; they did not know how generous and loyal it is." Others: "It is your happiness we wish to consummate, and the best way of doing it is to come to an understanding among ourselves; show us the road, and we will follow it." Finally, expressions of joy took the character of those who talked, but all breathed that kind of love which one has only for people truly good, and which talents and great qualities do not inspire.

The Comte de Luzerne had been one of the first to reach M. Necker’s house; no one showed any interest in him. The Comte de Montmorin seems never to have left him; it is said M. Necker presented him as his second self; what is certain is that he was much applauded and that there were many cries of "Vive M. de Montmorin!" and that all the deputies of the commons went to call upon him. To the cries that are heard are always joined those of "Long live the third estate! Long live the commons! Long live the national assembly!" And when a deputy of the commons passed he was applauded.

In the evening bonfires were lighted and fireworks were set off before the house of M. Necker, and people filled the streets for a part of the night, displaying great signs of joy and stopping before the houses where the deputies lodged.

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Chicago: "12. Duquesnoy, Journal , I, 117–123," Source Problems on the French Revolution in Source Problems on the French Revolution, ed. Fred Morrow Fling and Helene Dresser Fling (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1913), 141–148. Original Sources, accessed January 20, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QBLIFFUC42QSM9N.

MLA: . "12. Duquesnoy, Journal , I, 117–123." Source Problems on the French Revolution, Vol. I, in Source Problems on the French Revolution, edited by Fred Morrow Fling and Helene Dresser Fling, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1913, pp. 141–148. Original Sources. 20 Jan. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QBLIFFUC42QSM9N.

Harvard: , '12. Duquesnoy, Journal , I, 117–123' in Source Problems on the French Revolution. cited in 1913, Source Problems on the French Revolution, ed. , Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, pp.141–148. Original Sources, retrieved 20 January 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QBLIFFUC42QSM9N.