“The Rights of Man” were received with acclaim and approved almost without a dissenting voice, and then was introduced the main theme of the discussion—the new constitution projected by the Assembly. So incredibly frank were the deliberations that the three American gentlemen could not but marvel that they were allowed to be present. ’Twas a curious exhibition of weakness, thought Calvert, that they should be allowed, nay, urged, to participate in such a session. So intimate, indeed, were the details presented to the company by its different members, so momentous the questions raised and settled, that even Mr. Morris, usually so impetuous, hesitated to express an opinion. Only when it had been decided that the King should have a suspensive veto; that the Legislature should be composed of but one chamber, elected by the people; only when it was evident that the noblesse were to be rendered powerless and that Lafayette had abandoned his King, did Mr. Morris burst forth.
“This is madness, Marquis,” he says, scarce able to contain himself. “Take from the King his power and this realm will fall into anarchy, a bloody disunion, the like of which the world has never seen! This country is used to being governed, it must continue to be governed. Strengthen the King’s hands—for God’s sake, do not weaken them! Attach yourself to the King’s party—’tis this unhappy country’s only hope of salvation. Range yourself on the side of His Majesty’s authority, not on that of this insane, uncontrollable people. What have I seen to-day? As I walked under the arcade of the Palais Royal, what was the horrible, the incredibly horrible sight that met my eyes? The head of one of your chief men—of Foulon, Counsellor of State, borne aloft on a pike, the body dragged naked on the earth, as though ’twere some dishonored slave of Roman days. Gracious God! what a people! Have we gone backward centuries to pagan atrocities? And you talk of making this people the supreme authority in France! Your party is mad!”
“If ’tis madness,” says Monsieur de Lafayette, coldly, “I am none the less determined to die with them.”
“’Twould be more sensible to bring them to their senses and live with them,” returned Mr. Morris, dryly.
“We cannot hope to gain the liberty, so long and so hardly withheld from us, without bloodshed. Mr. Jefferson himself hath said that the tree of liberty must be watered with blood.”
“’Tis a different creed from the one you believed in but a short time ago,” rejoined Mr. Morris. “’Twas not very long since I heard you prophesying a bloodless revolution. And this horde of undisciplined troops, for which you are responsible—do you not tremble for your authority when you deny the King’s?”
“They will obey me, they love me,” cried Lafayette, rising in some confusion, not unmixed with anger. “At any rate, ’tis too late to draw back. Our dispositions are taken, gentlemen,” he adds, turning to the company, which had risen at his signal, “and we will now withdraw, sensible of the courtesy and hospitality we have received,” and with a bow to Mr. Morris and Calvert, he passed from the room, accompanied by Mr. Jefferson and followed by the rest of the gentlemen.