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must stand for reëlection every three months. If those actually holding office fear such a test, they thereby seek to create “an humiliating prejudice against that numerous class of inhabitants worthy by rank and merit to become officers in their turn, yet condemned to remain under the command of others, if excluded from office contrary to justice and political equality.” not surprised, after this preamble, to find in article 13 of the Code the injunction: "Messieurs the company
officers are requested to learn the elements of drill in order to teach their commands and give their orders."* When requested by the editors of a contemporary year-book on the French National Guards to send a list of their officers for publication, the militia of Rennes (the former capital of Brittany) refused, giving as their reason that "all inhabitants, without distinction of rank, who are worthy of the honorable title of citizen, having all equally contributed to the happy and honorable revolution,
have an equal claim to public distinction, and deserve, all of them, to have their names incribed on a list [the year-book in question] destined to make known those Frenchmen who have conquered, and who now protect, the public liberties."
But the devotion to equality was wounded most deeply in military matters by the introduction of "crack companies.” In the old regular army in each battalion of six companies there was a company of grenadiers, comprising the tallest men, who marched in front, and a company of chasseurs who brought up
These two were called the "crack companies.” The creation of grenadier and chasseur companies proved to be a veritable apple of discord thrown among the ranks of the national guards. Baron Thiébault, himself a Paris national guardsman, tells us that General Lafayette, being desirous of raising a select body of volunteers ready for any service, in or out of Paris, by day or by night, hit on the idea of these "crack companies” to do such extra work, which the ordinary guardsman would not consent to do. When the new companies of grenadiers and
8 Règlement provisoire pour le service et discipline de la milice nationale de Lisieux. National Library, Paris.
9 Etat Militaire de la garde nationale de France pour l'année 1790, II, 8790. Paris (1790).
chasseurs, with their distinguishing insignia of grenades and hunting horns respectively, appeared among their less-favored fellow militiamen, the innovation was denounced as “an outrage on equality and the forming of an aristocracy.”
“What are grenadiers?" exclaimed Tournon in his newspaper, the Révolutions de Paris." "They are men who wish to be conspicuous citizens, that is something more than a citizen. .. .Aristocracy is so very, very dangerous a disease that it infects almost always the best citizens." These dissensions and pretensions, brought about by the differences in uniforms and in epaulets, caused Camille Desmoulins to write in his newspaper that uniforms were dangerous to liberty."
As at Paris so in the provinces. At Montpellier, where grenadiers and chasseurs had been fighting for precedence, the solons of the municipal government decreed that one company should wear the united insignia of both grenadiers and chasseurs in order to make them keep the peace;' and at Melun (near Paris) the municipal council decided that the town companies should draw lots as to which company should march first. One more typical and amusing example of the equality craze may be cited before the subject is dismissed. At Corbeil (a few miles south of Paris) the national guards of the surrounding towns had come together, in June, 1790, to fraternize and confederate. One of these national guardsmen, desirous of cutting as fine a figure as possible, had invested in a pair of lace cuffs, which he rather ostentatiously paraded among his comrades of the same company. They strenuously objected to the lace cuffs on the ground that it was a distinction in dress which they could not themselves indulge in, and that it wounded the sentiment of equality. A heated discussion ensued, which was only settled at last by a superior officer, who assured the pretentious soldier that wearing lace cuffs with a regulation uniform was an unconstitutional proceeding."
10 Thiébault, Mémoires, I, 233 ff. Paris, 1893.
13 C. d'Aigrefeuille, Histoire de la ville de Montpellier, IV, 3856. Montpellier, 1882.
"Journal du Département de Seine et Marne, 16 June, 1790. 15 Affiches de Dauphiné (Grenoble paper), 21 June, 1790.
Lastly we come to the third great characteristic of the times : political intolerance. Mr. Lecky, in his History of England in the Eighteenth Centnry, says that in France politics partake of the nature of war: you must crush your adversary or be crushed by him. Certainly the assertion would not hold good of the France of to-day nor of any other civilized nation. Our long practice of self-government has made us very skeptical as to the efficacy of mere political programmes, even when embodied in legislation. Quid leges sine moribus? Yet the Frenchmen of 1789 were perfectly logical, if once we accept their premises, viz., that man's nature was like putty in the hands of the State, and might be moulded at will through State regulation. “What” (says Rousseau in substance in his Social Contract), "you will not join in our regenerated society! Then we will compel you to be free, we will compel you to be happy . !" To seize the lawmaking and administrative powers, to keep out political antagonists, as we would keep heretics from the fold of the Church, because of their infinite capacity to harm the State, such was the political creed of nearly every Frenchman of the time. Who can be tolerant if he believes that his political opponent may ruin the country and society itself? Yet what was the Frenchman of 1789 but the Frenchman of 1788, the Frenchman of the Old Régime with his superstitious awe for the power wielded by the State, formerly incorporated in the person of the king, but now identified with himself. Yes, he and his fellow-party men they are the State. Had not Frenchmen always looked to the State to dictate to them what to think, how to act, what to believe? “All is referred to your Majesty,” once wrote Turgot. “You are obliged to decide everything by yourself, or by your immediate agents.
Men await your special orders, not only to manage the affairs of the State, but even to attend to their own business.” Notwithstanding the chorus of approval that hailed the opening year of the Revolution, there were liberals other than Edmund Burke, even several months before his famous “Reflections" appeared," who despaired of the success of the Revolution because of the political unripeness of the French.
One of these was the Swiss traveller Johann George Fisch, whose book, Letters About the Southern Provinces of France," was written from 1786 to 1788, and published early in 1790. In a postscript to the book, written in March, 1790, Fisch asks himself the question, Should he now publish this book, composed before such great and important changes had come over France, changes so momentous that the free nation in many respects no longer resembles the other “dishonored by despotism"? Would the words written of the Frenchmen of 1788 still apply to the French of 1790? Fisch thinks they would. No nation, he believes, can be born anew, and slough off like a skin the spirit, manners, and customs of the people. Frenchmen had always attached a deep veneration to all who exercised authority in the king's name. As an example of this bowing down to the official, rather than to the law, Fisch cites a case which came under his own observation. During a theatrical performance in a town in Southern France, certain young fellows, wearied at a long delay between the acts, had, in a merry mood, improvised a dance in the theatre. Some one, annoyed by the performance, complained to the governor of the province. That worthy caused the youthful offenders to be imprisoned for six weeks in underground dungeons so damp that the prisoners became cripples for life. Yet, nowhere, not even in the most enlightened circles, could Fisch find anyone to condemn this sentence. Nor could anyone even understand Fisch's own contention that no regard had been shown for legal rights, no proportion observed between offence and punishment. He was answered that they had been guilty of lèse-majesté in continuing after warning. Surely, concluded our Swiss liberal, men with such opinions are not yet ripe for liberty. Another contemporary, the lyric poet André Chénier wrote in August, 1790, a pamphlet entitled “Who are the Real Enemies of the French People?”1 In this the great poet, who proves himself a great citizen as well, points out with admirable insight that the French people was its own worst enemy, and had simply replaced the despotic and
17 Briefe über die Südlichen Provinzen Frankreichs Zürich, 1790.
18“ Avis au Peuple français sur ses véritables ennemis." (No place, nor printer.) National Library, Paris.
arbitrary methods of the king's officials by those of its own elected representatives. Why, asks Chénier, do so many innocent French émigrés continue their wanderings in foreign lands without ties, without friends or relatives, the butt of curiosity or of humiliating pity? Why are they afraid to reënter France?" They are afraid because letter after letter from their relatives and friends who have remained at home tells them of house to house searches, more annoying by far to the innocent than terrifying to the guilty; of desks broken open and private papers and family secrets violated and laid bare to the world; of innocent people haled before officials and compelled to undergo interminable cross-questionings; of all France living in an atmosphere of suspicion and tale-bearing; of mobs who persist in putting themselves in the places of the magistrates, and who seem to take a sort of pleasure in dealing out the sentence of death. “Instead of that freedom of thought engraved in indestructible characters in nature's code," wrote an officer in the Grenoble National Guard in April, 1790, "we have had during the last few months an odious inquisition : never was more lip-service paid to the principle itself [liberty of opinion) yet never was there more shocking intolerance.” 30
In conclusion, it may be said that the chief lesson conveyed to us by the beginnings of the French Revolution is that the road to political liberty is long and hard. Men could not cast off the shackles of the Old Régime and proclaim, “Let there be liberty!" as God had said, “Let there be light!” It requires a long apprenticeship for the freedman to acquire the virtues and the self-restraint--the soul, in fact of the free man. To understand the men of the Revolution, one must begin by understanding the men of the Old Régime.
SEDLEY LYNCH WARE. University of the South.
19 The reader should be reminded that as yet no harsh laws had been passed against the émigrés.
20 Pamphlet in Bib. Hist. de la Ville de Paris, signed Allemand-Dulauron. Shelf number 60,3910.