CHAPTER I. FROM THE 5TH OF MAY, 1789, TO THE NIGHT OF THE 4TH OF AUGUST
The departure of Necker, which threw the capital into this state of excitement, had no less effect at Versailles and in the assembly. It caused the same astonishment and discontent. The deputies repaired early in the morning to the Salle des Etats; they were gloomy, but their silence arose from indignation rather than dejection. "At the opening of the session," said a deputy, "several addresses of adherence to the decrees were listened to in mournful silence by the assembly, more attentive to their own thoughts than to the addresses read." Mounier began; he exclaimed against the dismissal of ministers beloved by the nation, and the choice of their successors. He proposed an address to the king demanding their recall, showing him the dangers attendant on violent measures, the misfortunes that would follow the employment of troops, and telling him that the assembly solemnly opposed itself to an infamous national bankruptcy. At these words, the feelings of the assembly, hitherto restrained, broke out in clapping of hands, and cries of approbation. Lally-Tollendal, a friend of Necker, then came forward with a sorrowful air, and delivered a long and eloquent eulogium on the banished minister. He was listened to with the greatest interest; his grief responded to that of the public; the cause of Necker was now that of the country. The nobility itself sided with the members of the third estate, either considering the danger common, or dreading to incur the same blame as the court if it did not disapprove its conduct, or perhaps it obeyed the general impulse.
A noble deputy, the count de Virieu, set the example, and said: "Assembled for the constitution, let us make the constitution; let us tighten our mutual bonds; let us renew, confirm, and consecrate the glorious decrees of the 17th of June; let us join in the celebrated resolution made on the 20th of the same month. Let us all, yes, all, all the united orders, swear to be faithful to those illustrious decrees which now can alone save the kingdom." "The constitution shall be made, or we will cease to be," added the duc de la Rochefoucauld. But this unanimity became still more confirmed when the rising of Paris, the excesses which ensued the burning of the barriers, the assembling of the electors at the Hotel de Ville, the confusion of the capital, and the fact that citizens were ready to be attacked by the soldiers or to slaughter each other, became known to the assembly. Then one cry resounded through the hall: "Let the recollection of our momentary divisions be effaced! Let us unite our efforts for the salvation of the country!" A deputation was immediately sent to the king, composed of eighty members, among whom were all the deputies of Paris. The archbishop of Vienne, president of the assembly, was at its head. It was to represent to the king the dangers that threatened the capital, the necessity of sending away the troops, and entrusting the care of the city to a militia of citizens; and if it obtained these demands from the king, a deputation was to be sent to Paris with the consolatory intelligence. But the members soon returned with an unsatisfactory answer.
The assembly now saw that it must depend on itself, and that the projects of the court were irrevocably fixed. Far from being discouraged, it only became more firm, and immediately voted unanimously a decree proclaiming the responsibility of the present ministers of the king, and of all his counsellors, of whatever rank they might be; it further passed a vote of regret for Necker and the other disgraced ministers; it resolved that it would not cease to insist upon the dismissal of the troops and the establishment of a militia of citizens; it placed the public debt under the safeguard of French honour, and adhered to all its previous decrees. After these measures, it adopted a last one, not less necessary; apprehending that the Salle des Etats might, during the night, be occupied by a military force for the purpose of dispersing the assembly, it resolved to sit permanently till further orders. It decided that a portion of the members should sit during the night, and another relieve them early in the morning. To spare the venerable archbishop of Vienne the fatigue of a permanent presidency, a vice-president was appointed to supply his place on these extraordinary occasions. Lafayette was elected to preside over the night sittings. It passed off without a debate; the deputies remaining in their seats, observing silence, but apparently calm and serene. It was by these measures, this expression of public regret, by these decrees, this unanimous enthusiasm, this sustained good sense, this inflexible conduct, that the assembly rose gradually to a level with its dangers and its mission.