I am about to take a rapid review of the history of the French revolution, which began the era of new societies in Europe, as the English revolution had begun the era of new governments. This revolution not only modified the political power, but it entirely changed the internal existence of the nation. The forms of the society of the middle ages still remained. The land was divided into hostile provinces, the population into rival classes. The nobility had lost all their powers, but still retained all their distinctions: the people had no rights, royalty no limits; France was in an utter confusion of arbitrary administration, of class legislation and special privileges to special bodies. For these abuses the revolution substituted a system more conformable with justice, and better suited to our times. It substituted law in the place of arbitrary will, equality in that of privilege; delivered men from the distinctions of classes, the land from the barriers of provinces, trade from the shackles of corporations and fellowships, agriculture from feudal subjection and the oppression of tithes, property from the impediment of entails, and brought everything to the condition of one state, one system of law, one people.

In order to effect such mighty reformation as this, the revolution had many obstacles to overcome, involving transient excesses with durable benefits. The privileged sought to prevent it; Europe to subject it; and thus forced into a struggle, it could not set bounds to its efforts, or moderate its victory. Resistance from within brought about the sovereignty of the multitude, and aggression from without, military domination. Yet the end was attained, in spite of anarchy and in spite of despotism: the old society was destroyed during the revolution, and the new one became established under the empire.

When a reform has become necessary, and the moment for accomplishing it has arrived, nothing can prevent it, everything furthers it. Happy were it for men, could they then come to an understanding; would the rich resign their superfluity, and the poor content themselves with achieving what they really needed, revolutions would then be quietly effected, and the historian would have no excesses, no calamities to record; he would merely have to display the transition of humanity to a wiser, freer, and happier condition. But the annals of nations have not as yet presented any instance of such prudent sacrifices; those who should have made them have refused to do so; those who required them have forcibly compelled them; and good has been brought about, like evil, by the medium and with all the violence of usurpation. As yet there has been no sovereign but force.

In reviewing the history of the important period extending from the opening of the states-general to 1814, I propose to explain the various crises of the revolution, while I describe their progress. It will thus be seen through whose fault, after commencing under such happy auspices, it so fearfully degenerated; in what way it changed France into a republic, and how upon the ruins of the republic it raise the empire. These various phases were almost inevitable, so irresistible was the power of the events which produced them. It would perhaps be rash to affirm that by no possibility could the face of things have been otherwise; but it is certain that the revolution, taking its rise from such causes, and employing and arousing such passions, naturally took that course, and ended in that result. Before we enter upon its history, let us see what led to the convocation of the states-general, which themselves brought on all that followed. In retracing the preliminary causes of the revolution, I hope to show that it was as impossible to avoid as to guide it.

From its establishment the French monarchy had had no settled form, no fixed and recognised public right. Under the first races the crown was elective, the nation sovereign, and the king a mere military chief, depending on the common voice for all decisions to be made, and all the enterprises to be undertaken. The nation elected its chief, exercised the legislative power in the Champs de Mars under the presidentship of the king, and the judicial power in the courts under the direction of one of his officers. Under the feudal regime, this royal democracy gave way to a royal aristocracy. Absolute power ascended higher, the nobles stripped the people of it, as the prince afterwards despoiled the nobles. At this period the monarch had become hereditary; not as king, but as individually possessor of a fief; the legislative authority belonged to the seigneurs, in their vast territories or in the barons' parliaments; and the judicial authority to the vassals in the manorial courts. In a word, power had become more and more concentrated, and as it had passed from the many to the few, it came at last from the few to be invested in one alone. During centuries of continuous efforts, the kings of France were battering down the feudal edifice, and at length they established themselves on its ruins, having step by step usurped the fiefs, subdued the vassals, suppressed the parliaments of barons, annulled or subjected the manorial courts, assumed the legislative power, and effected that judicial authority should be exercised in their name and on their behalf, in parliaments of legists.

The states-general, which they convoked on pressing occasions, for the purpose of obtaining subsidies, and which were composed of the three orders of the nation, the clergy, the nobility, and the third estate or commons, had no regular existence. Originated while the royal prerogative was in progress, they were at first controlled, and finally suppressed by it. The strongest and most determined opposition the kings had to encounter in their projects of aggrandizement, proceeded much less from these assemblies, which they authorized or annulled at pleasure, than from the nobles vindicating against them, first their sovereignty, and then their political importance. From Philip Augustus to Louis XI. the object of all their efforts was to preserve their own power; from Louis XI. to Louis XIV. to become the ministers of that of royalty. The Fronde was the last campaign of the aristocracy. Under Louis XIV. absolute monarchy definitively established itself, and dominated without dispute.

The government of France, from Louis XIV. to the revolution, was still more arbitrary than despotic; for the monarchs had much more power than they exercised. The barriers that opposed the encroachments of this immense authority were exceedingly feeble. The crown disposed of persons by lettres de cachet, of property by confiscation, of the public revenue by imposts. Certain bodies, it is true, possessed means of defence, which were termed privileges, but these privileges were rarely respected. The parliament had that of ratifying or of refusing an impost, but the king could compel its assent, by a lit de justice, and punish its members by exile. The nobility were exempt from taxation; the clergy were entitled to the privilege of taxing themselves, in the form of free gifts; some provinces enjoyed the right of compounding the taxes, and others made the assessment themselves. Such were the trifling liberties of France, and even these all turned to the benefit of the privileged classes, and to the detriment of the people.

And this France, so enslaved, was moreover miserably organized; the excesses of power were still less endurable than their unjust distribution. The nation, divided into three orders, themselves subdivided into several classes, was a prey to all the attacks of despotism, and all the evils of inequality. The nobility were subdivided: into courtiers, living on the favours of the prince, that is to say, on the labour of the people, and whose aim was governorships of provinces, or elevated ranks in the army; ennobled parvenus, who conducted the interior administration, and whose object was to obtain comptrollerships, and to make the most of their place while they held it, by jobbing of every description; legists who administered justice, and were alone competent to perform its functions; and landed proprietors who oppressed the country by the exercise of those feudal rights which still survived. The clergy were divided into two classes: the one destined for the bishoprics and abbeys, and their rich revenues; the other for the apostolic function and its poverty. The third estate, ground down by the court, humiliated by the nobility, was itself divided into corporations, which, in their turn, exercised upon each other the evil and the contempt they received from the higher classes. It possessed scarcely a third part of the land, and this was burdened with the feudal rents due to the lords of the manor, tithes to the clergy, and taxes to the king. In compensation for all these sacrifices it enjoyed no political right, had no share in the administration, and was admitted to no public employment.

Louis XIV. wore out the main-spring of absolute monarchy by too protracted tension and too violent use. Fond of sway, rendered irritable by the vexations of his youth, he quelled all resistance, forbad every kind of opposition, - that of the aristocracy which manifested itself in revolt, - that of the parliaments displayed by remonstrance, - that of the protestants, whose form was a liberty of conscience which the church deemed heretical, and royalty factious. Louis XIV. subdued the nobles by summoning them to his court, where favours and pleasures were the compensation for their dependence. Parliament, till then the instrument of the crown, attempted to become its counterbalance, and the prince haughtily imposed upon it a silence and submission of sixty years' duration. At length, the revocation of the edict of Nantes completed this work of despotism. An arbitrary government not only will not endure resistance, but it demands that its subjects shall approve and imitate it. After having subjected the actions of men, it persecutes conscience; needing to be ever in motion, it seeks victims when they do not fall in its way. The immense power of Louis XIV. was exercised, internally, against the heretics; externally, against all Europe. Oppression found ambitious men to counsel it, dragoons to serve, and success to encourage it; the wounds of France were hidden by laurels, her groans were drowned in songs of victory. But at last the men of genius died, the victories ceased, industry emigrated, money disappeared; and the fact became evident, that the very successes of despotism exhaust its resources, and consume its future ere that future has arrived.

The death of Louis XIV. was the signal for a reaction; there was a sudden transition from intolerance to incredulity, from the spirit of obedience to that of discussion. Under the regency, the third estate acquired in importance, by their increasing wealth and intelligence, all that the nobility lost in consideration, and the clergy in influence. Under Louis XV., the court prosecuted ruinous wars attended with little glory, and engaged in a silent struggle with opinion, in an open one with the parliament. Anarchy crept into its bosom, the government fell into the hands of royal mistresses, power was completely on the decline, and the opposition daily made fresh progress.

The parliaments had undergone a change of position and of system. Royalty had invested them with a power which they now turned against it. No sooner had the ruin of the aristocracy been accomplished by the combined efforts of the parliament and of royalty, than the conquerors quarrelled, according to the common practice of allies after a victory. Royalty sought to destroy an instrument that became dangerous when it ceased to be useful, and the parliament sought to govern royalty. This struggle, favourable to the monarch under Louis XIV., of mixed reverses and success under Louis XV., only ceased with the revolution. The parliament, from its very nature, was only called upon to serve as an instrument. The exercise of its prerogative, and its ambition as a body, leading it to oppose itself to the strong and support the weak, it served by turns the crown against the aristocracy and the nation against the crown. It was this that made it so popular under Louis XV. and Louis XVI., although it only attacked the court from a spirit of rivalry. Opinion, without inquiring into its motives, applauded not its ambition but its resistance, and supported it because defended by it. Rendered daring by such encouragement, it became formidable to authority. After annulling the will of the most imperious and best-obeyed of monarchs; after protesting against the Seven Years' War; after obtaining the control of financial operations and the destruction of the Jesuits, its resistance became so constant and energetic, that the court, meeting with it in every direction, saw the necessity of either submitting to or subjecting it. It accordingly carried into execution the plan of disorganization proposed by the chancellor Maupeou. This daring man, who, to employ his own expression, had offered retirer la couronne du greffe, replaced this hostile parliament by one devoted to power, and subjected to a similar operation the entire magistracy of France, who were following the example of that of Paris.

But the time had passed for coups d'etat. The current had set in against arbitrary rule so decidedly that the king resorted to it with doubt and hesitation, and even encountered the disapprobation of his court. A new power had arisen - that of opinion; which, though not recognised, was not the less influential, and whose decrees were beginning to assume sovereign authority. The nation, hitherto a nonentity, gradually asserted its rights, and without sharing power influenced it. Such is the course of all rising powers; they watch over it from without, before they are admitted into the government; then, from the right of control they pass to that of co-operation. The epoch at which the third estate was to share the sway had at last arrived. It had at former periods attempted to effect this, but in vain, because its efforts were premature. It was then but just emancipated, and possessed not that which establishes superiority, and leads to the acquisition of power; for right is only obtained by might. Accordingly, in insurrections as in the states-general, it had held but the third rank; everything was done with its aid, but nothing for it. In times of feudal tyranny, it had served the kings against the nobles; when ministerial and fiscal despotism prevailed, it assisted the nobles against the kings; but, in the first instance, it was nothing more than the servant of the crown; in the second, than that of the aristocracy. The struggle took place in a sphere, and on the part of interests, with which it was reputed to have no connexion. When the nobles were definitively beaten in the time of the Fronde, it laid down its arms; a clear proof how secondary was the part it had played.

At length, after a century of absolute submission, it reappeared in the arena, but on its own account. The past cannot be recalled; and it was not more possible for the nobles to rise from their defeat than it would now be for absolute monarchy to regain its position. The court was to have another antagonist, for it must always have one, power never being without a candidate. The third estate, which increased daily in strength, wealth, intelligence, and union, was destined to combat and to displace it. The parliament did not constitute a class, but a body; and in this new contest, while able to aid in the displacement of authority, it could not secure it for itself.

The court had favoured the progress of the third estate, and had contributed to the development of one of its chief means of advancement, its intelligence. The most absolute of monarchs aided the movement of mind, and, without intending it, created public opinion. By encouraging praise, he prepared the way for blame; for we cannot invite an examination in our favour, without undergoing one afterwards to our prejudice. When the songs of triumph, and gratulation, and adulation were exhausted, accusation began, and the philosophers of the eighteenth century succeeded to the litterateurs of the seventeenth. Everything became the object of their researches and reflections; governments, religion, abuses, laws. They proclaimed rights, laid bare men's wants, denounced injustice. A strong and enlightened public opinion was formed, whose attacks the government underwent without venturing to attempt its suppression. It even converted those whom it attacked; courtiers submitted to its decisions from fashion's sake, power from necessity, and the age of reform was ushered in by the age of philosophy, as the latter had been by the age of the fine arts.

Such was the condition of France, when Louis XVI. ascended the throne on the 11th of May, 1774. Finances, whose deficiencies neither the restorative ministry of cardinal de Fleury, nor the bankrupt ministry of the abbe Terray had been able to make good, authority disregarded, intractable parliaments, an imperious public opinion; such were the difficulties which the new reign inherited from its predecessors. Of all princes, Louis XVI., by his tendencies and his virtues, was best suited to his epoch. The people were weary of arbitrary rule, and he was disposed to renounce its exercise; they were exasperated with the burdensome dissoluteness of the court of Louis XV.; the morals of the new king were pure and his wants few; they demanded reforms that had become indispensable, and he appreciated the public want, and made it his glory to satisfy it. But it was as difficult to effect good as to continue evil; for it was necessary to have sufficient strength either to make the privileged classes submit to reform, or the nation to abuses; and Louis XVI. was neither a regenerator nor a despot. He was deficient in that sovereign will which alone accomplishes great changes in states, and which is as essential to monarchs who wish to limit their power as to those who seek to aggrandize it. Louis XVI. possessed a sound mind, a good and upright heart, but he was without energy of character and perseverance in action. His projects of amelioration met with obstacles which he had not foreseen, and which he knew not how to overcome. He accordingly fell beneath his efforts to favour reform, as another would have fallen in his attempt to prevent it. Up to the meeting of the states-general, his reign was one long and fruitless endeavour at amelioration.

In choosing, on his accession to the throne, Maurepas as prime minister, Louis XVI. eminently contributed to the irresolute character of his reign. Young, deeply sensible of his duties and of his own insufficiency, he had recourse to the experience of an old man of seventy-three, who had lost the favour of Louis XV. by his opposition to the mistresses of that monarch. In him the king found not a statesman, but a mere courtier, whose fatal influence extended over the whole course of his reign. Maurepas had little heed to the welfare of France, or the glory of his master; his sole care was to remain in favour. Residing in the palace at Versailles, in an apartment communicating with that of the king, and presiding over the council, he rendered the mind of Louis XVI. uncertain, his character irresolute; he accustomed him to half-measures, to changes of system, to all the inconsistencies of power, and especially to the necessity of doing everything by others, and nothing of himself. Maurepas had the choice of the ministers, and these cultivated his good graces as assiduously as he the king's. Fearful of endangering his position, he kept out of the ministry men of powerful connections, and appointed rising men, who required his support for their own protection, and to effect their reforms. He successively called Turgot, Malesherbes, and Necker to the direction of affairs, each of whom undertook to effect ameliorations in that department of the government which had been the immediate object of his studies.

Malesherbes, descended from a family in the law, inherited parliamentary virtues, and not parliamentary prejudices. To an independent mind, he united a noble heart. He wished to give to every man his rights; to the accused, the power of being defended; to protestants, liberty of conscience; to authors, the liberty of the press; to every Frenchman, personal freedom; and he proposed the abolition of the torture, the re- establishment of the edict of Nantes, and the suppression of lettres de cachet and of the censure. Turgot, of a vigorous and comprehensive mind, and an extraordinary firmness and strength of character, attempted to realize still more extensive projects. He joined Malesherbes, in order, with his assistance, to complete the establishment of a system which was to bring back unity to the government and equality to the country. This virtuous citizen constantly occupied himself with the amelioration of the condition of the people; he undertook, alone, what the revolution accomplished at a later period, - the suppression of servitude and privilege. He proposed to enfranchise the rural districts from statute labour, provinces from their barriers, commerce from internal duties, trade from its shackles, and lastly, to make the nobility and clergy contribute to the taxes in the same proportion as the third estate. This great minister, of whom Malesherbes said, "he has the head of Bacon and the heart of l'Hopital," wished by means of provincial assemblies to accustom the nation to public life, and prepare it for the restoration of the states-general. He would have effected the revolution by ordinances, had he been able to stand. But under the system of special privileges and general servitude, all projects for the public good were impraticable. Turgot dissatisfied the courtiers by his ameliorations, displeased the parliament by the abolition of statute labour, wardenships, and internal duties, and alarmed the old minister by the ascendancy which his virtue gave him over Louis XVI. The prince forsook him, though at the same time observing that Turgot and himself were the only persons who desired the welfare of the people: so lamentable is the condition of kings!

Turgot was succeeded in 1776 in the general control of the finances by Clugny, formerly comptroller of Saint Domingo, who, six months after, was himself succeeded by Necker. Necker was a foreigner, a protestant, a banker, and greater as an administrator than as a statesman; he accordingly conceived a plan for reforming France, less extensive than that of Turgot, but which he executed with more moderation, and aided by the times. Appointed minister in order to find money for the court, he made use of the wants of the court to procure liberties for the people. He re-established the finances by means of order, and made the provinces contribute moderately to their administration. His views were wise and just; they consisted in bringing the revenue to a level with the expenditure, by reducing the latter; by employing taxation in ordinary times, and loans when imperious circumstances rendered it necessary to tax the future as well as the present; by causing the taxes to be assessed by the provincial assemblies, and by instituting the publication of accounts, in order to facilitate loans. This system was founded on the nature of loans, which, needing credit, require publicity of administration; and on that of taxation, which needing assent, requires also a share in the administration. Whenever there is a deficit and the government makes applications to meet it, if it address itself to lenders, it must produce its balance-sheet; if it address itself to the tax-payers, it must give them a share in its power. Thus loans led to the production of accounts, and taxes to the states-general; the first placing authority under the jurisdiction of opinion, and the second placing it under that of the people. But Necker, though less impatient for reform than Turgot, although he desired to redeem abuses which his predecessor wished to destroy, was not more fortunate than he. His economy displeased the courtiers; the measures of the provincial assemblies incurred the disapprobation of the parliaments, which wished to monopolize opposition; and the prime minister could not forgive him an appearance of credit. He was obliged to quit power in 1781, a few months after the publication of the famous Comptes rendus of the finances, which suddenly initiated France in a knowledge of state matters, and rendered absolute government for ever impossible.

The death of Maurepas followed close upon the retirement of Necker. The queen took his place with Louis XVI., and inherited all his influence over him. This good but weak prince required to be directed. His wife, young, beautiful, active, and ambitious, gained great ascendancy over him. Yet it may be said that the daughter of Marie Therese resembled her mother too much or too little. She combined frivolity with domination, and disposed of power only to invest with it men who caused her own ruin and that of the state. Maurepas, mistrusting court ministers, had always chosen popular ministers; it is true he did not support them; but if good was not brought about, at least evil did not increase. After his death, court ministers succeeded the popular ministers, and by their faults rendered the crisis inevitable, which others had endeavoured to prevent by their reforms. This difference of choice is very remarkable; this it was which, by the change of men, brought on the change in the system of administration. The revolution dates from this epoch; the abandonment of reforms and the return of disorders hastened its approach and augmented its fury.

Calonne was called from an intendancy to the general control of the finances. Two successors had already been given to Necker, when application was made to Calonne in 1783. Calonne was daring, brilliant and eloquent; he had much readiness and a fertile mind. Either from error or design he adopted a system of administration directly opposed to that of his predecessor. Necker recommended economy, Calonne boasted of his lavish expenditure. Necker fell through courtiers, Calonne sought to be upheld by them. His sophisms were backed by his liberality; he convinced the queen by fetes, the nobles by pensions; he gave a great circulation to the finances, in order that the extent and facility of his operations might excite confidence in the justness of his views; he even deceived the capitalists, by first showing himself punctual in his payments. He continued to raise loans after the peace, and he exhausted the credit which Necker's wise conduct had procured to the government. Having come to this point, having deprived himself of a resource, the very employment of which he was unable to manage, in order to prolong his continuance in power he was obliged to have recourse to taxation. But to whom could he apply? The people could pay no longer, and the privileged classes would not offer anything. Yet it was necessary to decide, and Calonne, hoping more from something new, convoked an assembly of notables, which began its sittings at Versailles on the 22nd of February, 1787. But a recourse to others must prove the end of a system founded on prodigality. A minister who had risen by giving, could not maintain himself by asking.

The notables, chosen by the government from the higher classes, formed a ministerial assembly, which had neither a proper existence nor a commission. It was, indeed, to avoid parliaments and states-general, that Calonne addressed himself to a more subordinate assembly, hoping to find it more docile. But, composed of privileged persons, it was little disposed to make sacrifices. It became still less so, when it saw the abyss which a devouring administration had excavated. It learned with terror, that the loans of a few years amounted to one thousand six hundred and forty-six millions, and that there was an annual deficit in the revenue of a hundred and forty millions. This disclosure was the signal for Calonne's fall. He fell, and was succeeded by Brienne, archbishop of Sens, his opponent in the assembly. Brienne thought the majority of the notables was devoted to him, because it had united with him against Calonne. But the privileged classes were not more disposed to make sacrifices to Brienne than to his predecessor; they had seconded his attacks, which were to their interest, and not his ambition, to which they were indifferent.

The archbishop of Sens, who is censured for a want of plan, was in no position to form one. He was not allowed to continue the prodigality of Calonne; and it was too late to return to the retrenchments of Necker. Economy, which had been a means of safety at a former period, was no longer so in this. Recourse must be had either to taxation, and that parliament opposed; or loans, and credit was exhausted; or sacrifices on the part of the privileged classes, who were unwilling to make them. Brienne, to whom office had been the chief object of life, who with, the difficulties of his position combined slenderness of means attempted everything, and succeeded in nothing. His mind was active, but it wanted strength; and his character rash without firmness. Daring, previous to action, but weak afterwards, he ruined himself by his irresolution, want of foresight, and constant variation of means. There remained only bad measures to adopt, but he could not decide upon one, and follow that one; this was his real error.

The assembly of notables was but little submissive and very parsimonious. After having sanctioned the establishment of provincial assemblies, a regulation of the corn trade, the abolition of corvees, and a new stamp tax, it broke up on the 25th of May, 1787. It spread throughout France what it had discovered respecting the necessities of the throne, the errors of the ministers, the dilapidation of the court, and the irremediable miseries of the people.

Brienne, deprived of this assistance, had recourse to taxation, as a resource, the use of which had for some time been abandoned. He demanded the enrolment of two edicts - that of the stamps and that of the territorial subsidies. But parliament, which was then in the full vigour of its existence and in all the ardour of its ambition, and to which the financial embarrassment of the ministry offered a means of augmenting its power, refused the enrolment. Banished to Troyes, it grew weary of exile, and the minister recalled it on condition that the two edicts should be accepted. But this was only a suspension of hostilities; the necessities of the crown soon rendered the struggle more obstinate and violent. The minister had to make fresh applications for money; his existence depended on the issue of several successive loans to the amount of four hundred and forty millions. It was necessary to obtain the enrolment of them.

Brienne, expecting opposition from the parliament, procured the enrolment of this edict by a lit de justice, and to conciliate the magistracy and public opinion, the protestants were restored to their rights in the same sitting, and Louis XVI. promised an annual publication of the state of finances, and the convocation, of the states-general before the end of five years. But these concessions were no longer sufficient: parliament refused the enrolment, and rose against the ministerial tyranny. Some of its members, among others the duke of Orleans, were banished. Parliament protested, by a decree, against lettres de cachet, and required the recall of its members. This decree was annulled by the king, and confirmed by parliament. The warfare increased.

The magistracy of Paris was supported by all the magistracy of France, and encouraged by public opinion. It proclaimed the rights of the nation, and its own incompetence in matters of taxation; and, become liberal from interest, and rendered generous by oppression, it exclaimed against arbitrary imprisonment, and demanded regularly convoked states-general. After this act of courage, it decreed the irremovability of its members, and the incompetence of any who might usurp their functions. This bold manifesto was followed by the arrest of two members, d'Epremenil and Goislard, by the reform of the body, and the establishment of a plenary court.

Brienne understood that the opposition of the parliament was systematic, that it would be renewed on every fresh demand for subsidies, or on the authorization of every loan. Exile was but a momentary remedy, which suspended opposition, without destroying it. He then projected the reduction of this body to judicial functions, and associated with himself Lamoignon, keeper of the seals, for the execution of this project. Lamoignon was skilled in coups d'etat. He had audacity, and combined with Maupeou's energetic determination a greater degree of consideration and probity. But he made a mistake as to the force of power, and what it was possible to effect in his times. Maupeou had re-established parliament, changing its members; Lamoignon wished to disorganize it. The first of these means, if it had succeeded, would only have produced temporary repose; the second must have produced a definitive one, since it aimed at destroying the power, which the other only tried to displace; but Maupeou's reform did not last, and that of Lamoignon could not be effected. The execution of the latter was, however, tolerably well framed. All the magistracy of France was exiled on the same day, in order that the new judicial organization might take place. The keeper of the seals deprived the parliament of Paris of its political attributes, to invest with them a plenary court, ministerially composed, and reduced its judicial competence in favour of bailiwicks, the jurisdiction of which he extended. Public opinion was indignant; the Chatelet protested, the provinces rose, and the plenary court could neither be formed nor act. Disturbances broke out in Dauphine, Brittany, Provence, Flanders, Languedoc, and Bearn; the ministry, instead of the regular opposition of parliament, had to encounter one much more animated and factious. The nobility, the third estate, the provincial states, and even the clergy, took part in it. Brienne, pressed for money, had called together an extraordinary assembly of the clergy, who immediately made an address to the king, demanding the abolition of his plenary court, and the recall of the states-general: they alone could thenceforth repair the disordered state of the finances, secure the national debt, and terminate such conflicts of authority.

The archbishop of Sens, by his contest with the parliament, had postponed the financial, by creating a political difficulty. The moment the latter ceased, the former re-appeared, and made his retreat inevitable. Obtaining neither taxes nor loans, unable to make use of the plenary court, and not wishing to recall the parliaments, Brienne, as a last resource, promised the convocation of the states-general. By this means he hastened his ruin. He had been called to the financial department in order to remedy embarrassments which he had augmented, and to procure money which he had been unable to obtain. So far from it, he had exasperated the nation, raised a rebellion in the various bodies of the state, compromised the authority of the government, and rendered inevitable the states-general, which, in the opinion of the court, was the worst means of raising money. He succumbed on the 25th of August, 1788. The cause of his fall was a suspension of the payment of the interest on the debt, which was the commencement of bankruptcy. This minister has been the most blamed because he came last. Inheriting the faults, the embarrassments of past times, he had to struggle with the difficulties of his position with insufficient means. He tried intrigue and oppression; he banished, suspended, disorganized parliament; everything was an obstacle to him, nothing aided him. After a long struggle, he sank under lassitude and weakness; I dare not say from incapacity, for had he been far stronger and more skilful, had he been a Richelieu or a Sully, he would still have fallen. It no longer appertained to any one arbitrarily to raise money or to oppress the people. It must be said in his excuse, that he had not created that position from which he was not able to extricate himself; his only mistake was his presumption in accepting it. He fell through the fault of Calonne, as Calonne had availed himself of the confidence inspired by Necker for the purposes of his lavish expenditure. The one had destroyed credit, and the other, thinking to re-establish it by force, had destroyed authority.

The states-general had become the only means of government, and the last resource of the throne. They had been eagerly demanded by parliament and the peers of the kingdom, on the 13th of July, 1787; by the states of Dauphine in the assembly of Vizille; by the clergy in its assembly at Paris. The provincial states had prepared the public mind for them; and the notables were their precursors. The king after having, on the 18th of December, 1787, promised their convocation in five years, on the 8th of August, 1788, fixed the opening for the 1st of May, 1789. Necker was recalled, parliament re-established, the plenary court abolished, the bailiwicks destroyed, and the provinces satisfied; and the new minister prepared everything for the election of deputies and the holding of the states.

At this epoch a great change took place in the opposition, which till then had been unanimous. Under Brienne, the ministry had encountered opposition from all the various bodies of the state, because it had sought to oppress them. Under Necker, it met with resistance from the same bodies, which desired power for themselves and oppression for the people. From being despotic, it had become national, and it still had them all equally against it. Parliament had maintained a struggle for authority, and not for the public welfare; and the nobility had united with the third estate, rather against the government than in favour of the people. Each of these bodies had demanded the states-general: the parliament, in the hope of ruling them as it had done in 1614; and the nobility, in the hope of regaining its lost influence. Accordingly, the magistracy proposed as a model for the states-general of 1789, the form of that of 1614, and public opinion abandoned it; the nobility refused its consent to the double representation of the third estate, and a division broke out between these two orders.

This double representation was required by the intellect of the age, the necessity of reform, and by the importance which the third estate had acquired. It had already been admitted in the provincial assemblies. Brienne, before leaving the ministry, had made an appeal to the writers of the day, in order to know what would be the most suitable method of composing and holding the states-general. Among the works favourable to the people, there appeared the celebrated pamphlet of Sieyes on the Third Estate, and that of d'Entraigues on the States-general.

Opinion became daily more decided, and Necker wishing, yet fearing, to satisfy it, and desirous of conciliating all orders, of obtaining general approbation, convoked a second assembly of notables on the 6th of November, 1788, to deliberate on the composition of the states-general, and the election of its members. He thought to induce it to accept the double representation of the third estate, but it refused, and he was obliged to decide, in spite of the notables, that which he ought to have decided without them. Necker was not the man to avoid disputes by removing all difficulties beforehand. He did not take the initiative as to the representation of the third estate, any more than at a later period he took it with regard to the question of voting by orders or by poll. When the states-general were assembled, the solution of this second question, on which depended the state of power and that of the people, was abandoned to force.

Be this as it may, Necker, having been unable to make the notables adopt the double representation of the third estate, caused it to be adopted by the council. The royal declaration of the 27th of November decreed that the deputies in the states-general should amount to at least a thousand, and that the deputies of the third estate should be equal in number to the deputies of the nobility and clergy together. Necker moreover obtained the admission of the cures into the order of the clergy, and of protestants into that of the third estate. The district assemblies were convoked for the elections; every one exerted himself to secure the nomination of members of his own party, and to draw up manifestoes setting forth his views. Parliament had but little influence in the elections, and the court none at all. The nobility selected a few popular deputies, but mainly such as were devoted to the interests of their order, and as much opposed to the third estate as to the oligarchy of the great families of the court. The clergy nominated bishops and abbes attached to privilege, and cures favourable to the popular cause, which was their own; lastly, the third estate selected men enlightened, firm, and unanimous in their wishes. The deputation of the nobility was comprised of two hundred and forty-two gentlemen, and twenty-eight members of the parliament; that of the clergy, of forty-eight archbishops or bishops, thirty-five abbes or deans, and two hundred and eight cures; and that of the communes, of two ecclesiastics, twelve noblemen, eighteen magistrates of towns, two hundred county members, two hundred and twelve barristers, sixteen physicians, and two hundred and sixteen merchants and agriculturists. The opening of the states-general was then fixed for the 5th of May, 1789.

Thus was the revolution brought about. The court in vain tried to prevent, as it afterwards endeavoured to annul it. Under the direction of Maurepas, the king nominated popular ministers, and made attempts at reform; under the influence of the queen, he nominated court ministers, and made attempts at authority. Oppression met with as little success as reform. After applying in vain to courtiers for retrenchments, to parliament for levies, to capitalists for loans, he sought for new tax-payers, and made an appeal to the privileged orders. He demanded of the notables, consisting of the nobles and the clergy, a participation in the charges of the state, which they refused. He then for the first time applied to all France, and convoked the states-general. He treated with the various bodies of the nation before treating with the nation itself; and it was only on the refusal of the first, that he appealed from it to a power whose intervention and support he dreaded. He preferred private assemblies, which, being isolated, necessarily remained secondary, to a general assembly, which representing all interests, must combine all powers. Up to this great epoch every year saw the wants of the government increasing, and resistance becoming more extensive. Opposition passed from parliaments to the nobility, from the nobility to the clergy, and from them all to the people. In proportion as each participated in power it began its opposition, until all these private oppositions were fused in or gave way before the national opposition. The states-general only decreed a revolution which was already formed.