On the 6th of November of this year 1788, these Notables accordingly have reassembled; after an interval of some eighteen months. They are Calonne’s old Notables, the same Hundred and Forty-four,—to show one’s impartiality; likewise to save time. They sit there once again, in their Seven Bureaus, in the hard winter weather: it is the hardest winter seen since 1709; thermometer below zero of Fahrenheit, Seine River frozen over. (Marmontel, Memoires (London, 1805), iv. 33. Hist. Parl, &c.) Cold, scarcity and eleutheromaniac clamour: a changed world since these Notables were ‘organed out,’ in May gone a year! They shall see now whether, under their Seven Princes of the Blood, in their Seven Bureaus, they can settle the moot-points.
To the surprise of Patriotism, these Notables, once so patriotic, seem to incline the wrong way; towards the anti-patriotic side. They stagger at the Double Representation, at the Vote by Head: there is not affirmative decision; there is mere debating, and that not with the best aspects. For, indeed, were not these Notables themselves mostly of the Privileged Classes? They clamoured once; now they have their misgivings; make their dolorous representations. Let them vanish, ineffectual; and return no more! They vanish after a month’s session, on this 12th of December, year 1788: the last terrestrial Notables, not to reappear any other time, in the History of the World.
And so, the clamour still continuing, and the Pamphlets; and nothing but patriotic Addresses, louder and louder, pouting in on us from all corners of France,—Necker himself some fortnight after, before the year is yet done, has to present his Report, (Rapport fait au Roi dans son Conseil, le 27 Decembre 1788.) recommending at his own risk that same Double Representation; nay almost enjoining it, so loud is the jargon and eleutheromania. What dubitating, what circumambulating! These whole six noisy months (for it began with Brienne in July,) has not Report followed Report, and one Proclamation flown in the teeth of the other? (5th July; 8th August; 23rd September, &c. &c.)
However, that first moot-point, as we see, is now settled. As for the second, that of voting by Head or by Order, it unfortunately is still left hanging. It hangs there, we may say, between the Privileged Orders and the Unprivileged; as a ready-made battle-prize, and necessity of war, from the very first: which battle-prize whosoever seizes it—may thenceforth bear as battle-flag, with the best omens!
But so, at least, by Royal Edict of the 24th of January, (Reglement du Roi pour la Convocation des Etats-Generaux a Versailles. (Reprinted, wrong dated, in Histoire Parlementaire, i. 262.)) does it finally, to impatient expectant France, become not only indubitable that National Deputies are to meet, but possible (so far and hardly farther has the royal Regulation gone) to begin electing them.