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The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 548 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.

[66] Aubertin, p.484 (according to Bachaumont).

[67] De Lavergne, 472.

[68] Mathieu Dumas, “Mémoires,” I.426. — Sir Samuel Romilly, “Mémoires,” I. 99.—­ “Confidence increased even to extravagance,” (Mme. de Genlis). — On the 29th June, 1789, Necker said at the council of the king at Marly, “What is more frivolous than the fears now entertained concerning the organization of the assembly of the States-General?  No law can be passed without obtaining the king’s assent” (De Barentin, “Mémoires,” p. 187). — Address of the National Assembly to its constituents, October 2, 1789.  “A great revolution of which the idea should have appeared chimerical a few months since has been effected amongst us.”

CHAPTER III.  THE MIDDLE CLASS.

   I. The past.

The former spirit of the Third-Estate. — Public matters concern the king only. — Limits of the Jansenist and parliamentarian opposition.

The new philosophy, confined to a select circle, had long served as a mere luxury for refined society.  Merchants, manufacturers, shopkeepers, lawyers, attorneys, physicians, actors, professors, curates, every description of functionary, employee and clerk, the entire middle class, had been absorbed with its own cares.  The horizon of each was limited, being that of the profession or occupation which each exercised, that of the corporation in which each one was comprised, of the town in which each one was born, and, at the utmost, that of the province which each one inhabited[1].  A dearth of ideas coupled with conscious diffidence restrained the bourgeois within his hereditary barriers.  His eyes seldom chanced to wander outside of them into the forbidden and dangerous territory of state affairs; hardly was a furtive and rare glance bestowed on any of the public acts, on the matters which “belonged to the king.”  There was no critical irritability then, except with the bar, the compulsory satellite of the Parliament, and borne along in its orbit.  In 1718, after a session of the royal court (lit de justice), the lawyers of Paris being on a strike the Regent exclaims angrily and with astonishment, “What! those fellows meddling too!"[2] It must be stated furthermore that many kept themselves in the background.  “My father and myself,” afterwards writes the advocate Barbier, “took no part in the uproars, among those caustic and turbulent spirits.” and he adds this significant article of faith:  “I believe that one has to fulfill his duties honorably, without concerning oneself with state affairs, in which one has no mission and exercises no power.”  During the first half of the eighteenth century I am able to discover but one center of opposition in the Third-Estate , the Parliament; and around it, feeding the flame, the ancient Gallican or Jansenist spirit.  “The good city of Paris,” writes Barbier in 1733, “is Jansenist

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