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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
On the Removal of the Troops around Paris
By Mirabeau (1749–1791)
 
From a Speech in the National Assembly, July 1789

GENTLEMEN, the time presses. I reproach myself for every moment that I steal from your sage deliberations; and I hope that these considerations, rather indicated than presented by me,—but whose evidence appears to me irresistible,—will be sufficient to pass the motion which I have the honor now to propose to you:—  1
  That there be presented to the King a humble address, describing to his Majesty the vivid alarm which has been felt in this National Assembly of his kingdom by reason of the abuse which has been made of the King’s name, within a short time, in order to permit the approach to the capital, and to this city of Versailles, of an artillery train, and of enormous bodies of troops, foreign and national; a large number of which troops are already quartered in neighboring villages: and also, through this abuse of the King’s name, the announced formation of fixed camps in the neighborhood of these two cities.  2
  That there be represented to the King, not only how much these measures are opposed to the gracious intentions of his Majesty toward relieving his people, in the present unhappy conditions of the dearness and scantiness of grain, but also how much these measures are contrary to the liberty and to the honor of the National Assembly; how adapted they are to alter that mutual confidence between the King and his people which makes the glory and the security of a monarch, and which alone can insure the repose and the tranquillity of his kingdom; and in fine, procure for the nation the inestimable results which the country awaits from the labors and the zeal of this Assembly.  3
  That his Majesty most respectfully be urged to reassure his faithful subjects, by giving all necessary orders for the immediate cessation of these measures, which are equally useless, dangerous, and alarming; and also for the prompt return of the troops in question, and of the artillery train, to the places from which they have been brought.  4
  And while waiting for this measure to be decided, and in consequence of the disquietude and alarm which such a state of affairs has brought to pass in the heart of the people, and in order provisionally to maintain calm and tranquillity, let his Majesty be begged to issue a command that in the two cities of Paris and Versailles there shall be a levy of the civil guard, which, acting under the orders of the King, will entirely suffice for such duty without augmenting around the two cities in question a population that must be supplied with food.  5
 
The Address

  SIRE,—You have invited the National Assembly to bestow on you a mark of its confidence; in such a request you have gone further than the most eager of its fervent hopes.
  6
  We have been imparting to your Majesty our most vivid alarms: if we only were the object of them, if we had been so weak as to be fearful only for ourselves, then your goodness would condescend to reassure us; and moreover, in blaming us for having been doubtful of your intentions toward us, you would concentrate all our inquietudes, you would dissipate the cause of them, and you would leave no uncertainty as to the position before you of the National Assembly.  7
  But, Sire, we do not implore your protection, for that would be to accuse your justice: we have indeed felt fears, and we dare to say that our fears are a part of the purest patriotism,—the interest of those who trust in us, of public tranquillity, and of the happiness of that dear monarch, who, in making smooth for our feet the road of happiness, certainly deserves to walk in it himself without obstacles.  8
  The promptings of your own heart, Sire—behold in them the true safety of the French people. As soon as troops pour in from all sides, as soon as camps are formed around us, the very capital invested, we ask ourselves with astonishment, “Does the King distrust the fidelity of his own people? If he had doubted that, would he not have confided to us his paternal chagrin? What are we to understand by this menacing procedure? Where are those enemies of the State and of the King to be overcome? Where are the rebels, the conspirators, that it is necessary to reduce to subjection?” One unanimous voice replies to this in the capital and throughout the kingdom: “Our King is true to us; we bless Heaven for the gift which Heaven has bestowed upon us in his love.”  9
  Sire, the religious convictions of your Majesty cannot waver except under the pretext of public benefit.  10
  If those who have given these counsels to our King had had enough confidence in their own principles to unfold them to us, such a moment would bring in the fairest triumph of truth.  11
  The State has nothing to dread from the evil ideas of those who dare to lay siege even to the throne, who do not respect the confidence of the purest and most virtuous of princes. And how do they contrive, Sire, to make you disbelieve in the attachment and the love of your subjects? Have you shed their blood? Are you cruel, implacable? Have you abused justice? Do the people impute to you their own misfortunes? Do they connect your name with their calamities? Can they have said to you that the nation is impatient under your yoke, that it is weary of the sceptre of the Bourbons? No, no, they have not done this. The calumny they employ is at least not absurd; they seek something like probability to give color to their dark treacheries.  12
  Your Majesty has seen recently all your own government can do for your people: subordination is re-established in your perturbed capital; the prisoners set at liberty by the multitude have themselves reassumed their chains; public order, which would perhaps have cost torrents of blood to re-establish had it been done by force, has been re-established by one single word from your mouth. But that word was a word of peace; it was the expression of your heart, and your subjects feel it their glory never to resist that. How grand to exercise such authority! It is that of Louis IX., of Louis XII., of Henri IV.; it is the only authority which can be worthy of you.  13
  We should deceive you, Sire, if we did not add, forced by circumstances, that this kind of rule is the only one which to-day it would be possible to exercise in France. France will not tolerate the abuse of the best of kings, or that there should be set aside, through untoward measures, that noble plan which he himself has outlined. You have called us hither to adjust in concert with you, the Constitution; to take measures for the regeneration of the kingdom: this National Assembly has just declared solemnly to you that your wishes shall be accomplished, that your promises are not vain, and that difficulties and terrors shall not retard the work of the Assembly, nor intimidate in any way its courage.  14
  But our enemies will presume to say, “What now is the harm in the coming together of the troops?”  15
  The danger, Sire, is pressing, is general, beyond all the calculations of human prudence.  16
  The danger affects the people of your provinces. Once alarmed as to our liberty, this alarm cannot be checked. Distance only makes more of the matter, exaggerates everything, doubles, sharpens, and poisons their disquietude.  17
  The danger threatens the capital. With what sort of an eye can a people in poverty, and tormented by most cruel anxieties, see the poor relics of its own daily bread quarreled over by a host of menacing soldiery? The mere presence of the military will kindle excitement, and produce a general fermentation; and the first act of real violence, originating under the pretext of a matter for the police, may be the beginning of a horrible series of calamities.  18
  The danger threatens the troops themselves. French soldiers brought near to the very centre of discussion, sharing in the passions as well as in the interests of the people, can easily forget that enlistment has made them soldiers, in remembering that nature has made them men.  19
  The danger, Sire, menaces our own labors, which are our first duty, and which will not have full success, genuine permanence, except so far as the people regard them as the work absolutely of our own free will. Besides this, there is a contagion in passionate popular movements. We are only men. Our defiance of ourselves, the fear of appearing weak, can make us overshoot our mark; we are besieged by violent and unregulated counsels; calm reason and tranquil wisdom do not utter their oracles in the midst of tumult, disorders, and scenes of faction.  20
  The danger, Sire, is even more terrible; judge of its extent by the alarms which bring us to you. Great revolutions have had causes much less intelligible; more than one enterprise fatal to nations and to kings has announced itself in a way less sinister and less formidable. Do not give credence to those who speak lightly to you of the nation at large; those who do not know how to represent it before you except according to their own views,—sometimes as insolent, rebellious, seditious,—sometimes as submissive, docile under the yoke, and ready to bend its head to receive it. These two pictures are equally untruthful.  21
  Always ready to obey you, Sire, since you command us in the name of the law, our fidelity is without limits, as it is without stain.  22
  Ready to resist to a man the arbitrary commands of those who are abusing your name,—since they are enemies of the law,—our devotion to your Majesty itself commands such resistance; and it shall be to our eternal honor to have merited the reproaches that our firmness may bring upon us.  23
  Sire, we conjure you, in the name of our fatherland, in the name of your happiness and your glory, send back your soldiers to the garrison posts whence your counselors have brought them; dismiss that artillery destined to protect our frontiers; and above all, send away the foreign troops,—those allies of the nation that we paid to defend and not to disturb our firesides. Your Majesty has no need of them: why should a monarch, adored by twenty-five millions of Frenchmen, at an enormous cost draw together around his throne so many thousands of foreigners?  24
  Sire, surrounded by your children, let our love be your guard! The deputies of the nation are summoned to consecrate with you the supreme rights of royalty, upon the immovable basis of a people’s liberty: while they are doing their duty, while they are yielding to the dictates of their reason, of their sentiment, will you expose them to the suspicion of having yielded not to these things, but to fear? Ah! the authority that all hearts confer on you is the only authority that is pure, the only authority that cannot be defied; it is the just return for your benefits, and it is the immortal appanage of princes, of whom you are the model.  25
 
 
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