CHAPTER I. FROM THE 5TH OF MAY, 1789, TO THE NIGHT OF THE 4TH OF AUGUST
Such firmness and foresight excited the enthusiasm of the nation. But those who directed the court saw that the divisions thus excited between the orders had failed in their object; and that it was necessary to resort to other means to obtain it. They considered the royal authority alone adequate to prescribe the continuance of the orders, which the opposition of the nobles could no longer preserve. They took advantage of a journey to Marly to remove Louis XVI. from the influences of the prudent and pacific counsels of Necker, and to induce him to adopt hostile measures. This prince, alike accessible to good and bad counsels, surrounded by a court given up to party spirit, and entreated for the interests of his crown and in the name of religion to stop the pernicious progress of the commons, yielded at last, and promised everything. It was decided that he should go in state to the assembly, annul its decrees, command the separation of the orders as constitutive of the monarchy, and himself fix the reforms to be effected by the states-general. From that moment the privy council held the government, acting no longer secretly, but in the most open manner. Barentin, the keeper of the seals, the count d'Artois, the prince de Conde, and the prince de Conti conducted alone the projects they had concerted. Necker lost all his influence; he had proposed to the king a conciliatory plan, which might have succeeded before the struggle attained this degree of animosity, but could do so no longer. He had advised another royal sitting, in which the vote by poll in matters of taxation was to be granted, and the vote by order to remain in matters of private interest and privilege. This measure, which was unfavourable to the commons, since it tended to maintain abuses by investing the nobility and clergy with the right of opposing their abolition, would have been followed by the establishment of two chambers for the next states-general. Necker was fond of half measures, and wished to effect, by successive concessions, a political change which should have been accomplished at once. The moment was arrived to grant the nation all its rights, or to leave it to take them. His project of a royal sitting, already insufficient, was changed into a stroke of state policy by the new council. The latter thought that the injunctions of the throne would intimidate the assembly, and that France would be satisfied with promises of reform. It seemed to be ignorant that the worst risk royalty can be exposed to is that of disobedience.
Strokes of state policy generally come unexpectedly, and surprise those they are intended to influence. It was not so with this; its preparations tended to prevent success. It was feared that the majority of the clergy would recognise the assembly by uniting with it; and to prevent so decided a step, instead of hastening the royal sitting, they closed the Salle des Etats, in order to suspend the assembly till the day of the sitting. The preparations rendered necessary by the presence of the king was the pretext for this unskilful and improper measure. At that time Bailly presided over the assembly. This virtuous citizen had obtained, without seeking them, all the honours of dawning liberty. He was the first president of the assembly, as he had been the first deputy of Paris, and was to become its first mayor. Beloved by his own party, respected by his adversaries, he combined with the mildest and most enlightened virtues, the most courageous sense of duty. Apprised on the night of the 20th of June, by the keeper of the seals, of the suspension of the sitting, he remained faithful to the wishes of the assembly, and did not fear disobeying the court. At an appointed hour on the following day, he repaired to the Salle des Etats, and finding an armed force in possession, he protested against this act of despotism. In the meantime the deputies arrived, dissatisfaction increased, all seemed disposed to brave the perils of a sitting. The most indignant proposed going to Marly, and holding the assembly under the windows of the king; one named the Tennis- court; this proposition was well received, and the deputies repaired thither in procession. Bailly was at their head; the people followed them with enthusiasm; even soldiers volunteered to escort them, and there, in a bare hall, the deputies of the commons standing with upraised hands, and hearts full of their sacred mission, swore, with only one exception, not to separate till they had given France a constitution.
This solemn oath, taken on the 20th of June, in the presence of the nation, was followed on the 22nd by an important triumph. The assembly, still deprived of their usual place of meeting, unable to make use of the Tennis-court, the princes having hired it purposely that it might be refused them, met in the church of Saint Louis. In this sitting, the majority of the clergy joined them in the midst of patriotic transports. Thus, the measures taken to intimidate the assembly, increased its courage, and accelerated the union they were intended to prevent. By these two failures the court prefaced the famous sitting of the 23rd of June.