[The following passages come from the author's Life of Maximilien Robespierre (1849) in the Hathi Digital Library Trust web edition. — George P. Landow]

Decorative Initial The Convocation of the States-General, in 1789, is, as Michelet truly observes, the era of the birth of a people; it called the whole nation to the exercise of their rights; it allowed them, at least, to utter their complaints, their wishes, and to choose for themselves their own electors. Small republican states had already admitted all their members to a participation of political rights, but never had a great kingdom, an empire, like that of France, done such a thing. It was new, not only in French annals, but in those of the world. It is affirmed, that 5,000,000 of men took part in the election. It was a grand, surprising spectacle, to see a whole people emerging at once from nonentity to existence; who, silent until then, suddenly found a voice. Curious also it is to think, that the Ministers and Parliament, who convoked the people, only meant, by this solemn convocation of the great lifeless mass, to frighten the privileged classes. This lifeless mass, however, had a voice, many voices; and they spoke out. [54]

Decorative Initial T he constitution was now completed, and on the 3rd of September it was presented to the King, who, after several days' careful examination, declared his acceptance in the following terms: "I accept the constitution, and I engage to maintain it alike against civil discord and foreign aggression; and to enforce its execution to the utmost of my power." . . .

Once more it seemed as if the revolution was completed) and the reign of peace was to return! . . . The Constituent Assembly was no more ; but, as Mr. Alison remarks, it had done great things for France and for Europe. Some of the greatest evils which afflicted France had been removed by its wise decrees. Liberty of worship was secured in its fullest extent. Torture, punishment of the rack, and all cruel corporeal inflictions, except death, were abolished; trial by jury was established; publicity of criminal proceedings, the examinations of witnesses before the accused, and counsel for his defence, were fixed by law; the ancient parliaments, though ennobled by great exertions in favour of freedom, were suppressed; and one uniform system of criminal jurisprudence was introduced. Lettres de cachet were abolished; exemptions from taxation, on the part of the nobles and the clergy, were extinguished; an equal system of finance was established throughout the whole kingdom ; while the most oppressive taxes, those on salt and tobacco, taille and corvee, and tithes, were suppressed; the privileges of the nobility, and other feudal burdens were abolished. A national guard was established, and the highest ranks in the army were thrown open to every class. [206-07]


Lewes, George Henry. The life of Maximilien Robespierre; with extracts from his unpublished correspondence. London, Chapman and Hall, 1849. Hathi Digital Library Trust online version of a copy in the Harvard University Library. Web. 25 April 2017.

Last modified 28 April 2017