The Wednesday meeting proposed a decree which merits attention.
The constitution committee had proposed this draft law: The electors may be allowed to select deputies to the National Assembly from amongst those eligible in all departments. Mirabeau, Desmeuniers and Chapelier supported this motion strongly. Nevertheless, following a motion from M. d’Ambly adopted another decree, of which this is the tenor:
All the deputies to the National Assembly will be chosen from within the elector’s department, without the opportunity of being selected from outside this department.
Since this thing was considered, and the decree was passed, the nation must respect it until such time as it may be reformed by another election. With the aim of preparing for this reform, I will put forward some after thoughts, and show how much the motion of M. d’Ambly violates the rights of man and citizen.
All these considerations which have been put forward, that there would be couriers in the bailliages, people such as M. Limon who would exhaust the post horses, and going from bailiwick to bailiwick, sowing gold, appealing to the electors and going among the candidates so that in this way the court can thus scatter fifty odd collectors of votes and confidence in the departments! Do the provinces still see themselves separately? Do you want us to be disunited, penned, cantonised? Aren’t we just one big family? Are there hurdles and barriers in the field of May? Aren’t we all in the same tent? What! You can do sacrilegious violence to my conscience but I am not allowed to speak of the thing I hold most worthy! There is no truly free state except one where every citizen can write on his shell:
I speak out against Aristides because it is the right thing to do.
But I, however, cannot write on my ballot paper: I give my vote to Rethion because he has never deviated from his principles. Is there anything more tyrannical? St. Paul, who spoke with some eloquence two or three times in his life, wrote admirably somewhere:
< All those of you who have been reborn through baptism, you are no longer Jews or Samaritans, you are all Christians>
So it is that all of us who have been reborn through the National Assembly are no longer Picards or Bretons, we are no longer from Aix or Arras, we are all French, all brothers. It is clear to me that M d’Ambly has never read the Offices of Cicero, that seminal work of common sense. Within this catechism he would have learned that freedom means being able to do as one wishes, so long as no harm is caused to anyone else. There we have the rights of man and of the citizen which the National Assembly herself cannot change. Oh M. d’Ambly, you may well run from bailiwick to bailiwick, if there are philosophers you will never get their votes.
This decree, from a small number of those who want to make work for the National Assembly, amused me so much that I went off to the Cordeliers. That is where our principles are maintained; the seven sages of Greece would become members of the Cordeliers district, clasping to their breasts all the schools of philosophy and academia plus those of Epicurus and the Lyceum and Portique; I defy you to seek out any more sound logic.
I congratulate myself on having published the November 17th decree and I take the French nation as my judge. But first we must go into some details on the provinces.
Like the others, the Cordelier district has five representatives in the commune to deal with a multitude of affairs which it would be ridiculous to deal with separately in each of the sixty districts. Clearly it would be absurd to judge the same man sixty times, to make the same purchase sixty times or to debate a thousand minor details sixty times.
Therefore, these things are decided by the representatives to the commune and no one is mad enough to want to divide Paris into sixty separate republics.
But if those people, whom I only sent to the ville to fill in for me with the executive powers those jobs which I cannot carry out, claim to take for themselves the legislative power which I reserved for myself, and if they claim to represent me despite myself, is that not a cause for indignation? It is precisely the same as the righteous anger of Sosie, on seeing Mercury representing him, against his wishes, at the court of Amphitryon [ref to a play by Moliere] I use this comparison because there are some things so evident that they have no need of proof. This argument will prove to my representative that he cannot represent me against my wishes. Such an obvious thing can only be proved by the most powerful rationale.
So the Cordelier district, desirous of maintaining legislative power for itself, has required its representatives an oath to protest against any formations, be they civil or military, not covered by a majority vote in the districts. We see that it abandons even the initiative of the law; it reserves only the sanction, or rather it reserves, not to itself but to the majority, and it leaves executive power entirely to the commune. Certainly it is in no way setting itself up as a petty republic.
Again the Cordeliers District has required its representatives to accept that they can be recalled at the behest of the District after three consecutive assemblies have been held since whatever the regulations to the contrary the general representatives would try to become established.
In effect, there is nothing certain unless it is this axiom:
Ejus est destituere cujus est instituere. It is for the one who appoints to dismiss. One is dismissed in the same way as one is appointed, and our representatives, who have been elected at our pleasure, should they not be subject to recall in the same way? Do they have any rights which do not derive from us? And if we haven’t given them the right of immovability, by virtue of what title do they give themselves this right? Are they no longer the work of my hands? Can the creature place itself above the creator?
What insolent clay holds itself to be unbreakable, and struggles against the potter?
I regret not being able to mention here the heavenly motion of our dear abbe Fauchet; it is the nec plus ultra of Utopia. But this motion may have been premature. My dear abbe, although your importance is undeniable, you know what St Paul said
<There is an excess of good sense and wisdom which we have to ignore. Opportet sapere ad sobrietatem>
In the sea of human opinions, the ship of state has only one anchor, which is the noble National Assembly. If you weigh this anchor you will see us deliver the sixty districts to the sixty four winds.
O navis referent in mare te novi fluctus!
This would make the abbe Sabatier and the aristocrats laugh immoderately.
At the Friday meeting we heard about the example of the inhabitants of d’Issoudun giving away their silver buckles. Our deputies were determined not to be outdone in their patriotism. Instantly they all threw their silver buckles at the feet of the president. Today we can no longer wear silver buckles, and the whole of Paris has de- buckled itself! The goldsmiths are delighted by this general refashioning. I am surprised that the prelates in the National Assembly were allowed to keep their crosses.
Neque aurum, neque argentum habeo,
Following the example of the apostles, five religious members of the Assembly, who had neither buckles of silver nor crosses of gold, have each left an offering of ten ecus on the altar of the patrie.
Discussing M. Necker’s finance plan took up more than a day; with the exception of M. Dupont everyone delivered a dagger blow to the financial dictator. It was like a conspiracy.
M. Freteau asked M. Necker to stop presenting speeches and plans to the assembly and to give them the state of the economy and to pass on his portfolio. The decree conformed; finally we would see how things stood.
M.Bouche called for the restoration of Comtat-Venaissin to France. Bravo! Monsieur Bouche.
The town of Sisteron had complained that the laws of our noble Congress had not reached them. M. Rabeau made the same complaint on behalf of the town of Nismes. It is strange, he said, that there was such a rush to publish our decrees which cause alarm, such as the martial law, and yet the renown of the popular laws is stifled. For these reasons, on his motion, the assembly appointed a committee of four overseers to the Keeper of the Seals and to the Ministers, to ensure that the decrees were sent. Pulchre, bene, recte.
The Storming of the Bastille is still playing in London and at the moment when Launay is led to the Ville, the actors shout: <long live the French> The orchestra section and the theatre boxes take up the cry and, enthused by the play, all the genuine people of London are getting drunk on our wine and toasting the health of the French people. Oh, my English brothers, I wish you well, and I too will drink punch to your health; from morning to evening I will shout < Long live the English! Long live the Americans! Long live the French patriots![because there is still some wild grain] Long live the patriots of Brabant! English, Americans, French, shall we not go to the aid of our patriotic brothers of Brabant whom that evil Joseph II wishes to enslave? Will we remain like Moses, lifting up his arms to heaven and making wishes on the mountain top, while Joshua is battling down on the plain?>
A letter from M. Malouet to the comte d’Estaing has been denounced by his colleagues of the research committee. The debate went on till midnight, the majority sent the accusation back. For us, here is our judgement: Non liquet.
On Thursday an abbe threw himself off the tower of Notre Dame. A packet of crushed glass was found on him and part of a letter which contained his complaints against a superior at the seminary, some Busiris in a cassock, whom this poor man accused of being the author of his despair. I remember that in my childhood I said to my father: there are so many suicides, how does it not turn out that they tell themselves, before quitting this world, at least I would like to free them from their tyrants and to serve society.
I will die no less, but I will die less culpable.
It is true that as there are no more tyrants in France, this unfortunate abbe would have had a long trip to make, and he had only four livres and four sols in his pocket. Oh, how many poor devils there are!