Source Problems on the French Revolution


2. Barentin, Ménoire Autographe, 175–230.

His majesty, then at Marly, where he was to remain, as well as the queen, until the following Sunday morning, notified the ministers, Thursday, the 18th, of a council to be held the next day at noon. He ordered me to notify the four councilors of state, composing the commission of the states general, to be present.... All being assembled at Marly in the king’s study, the decree of the 17th was read. It was generally disapproved of, and it was agreed that it was impossible to let it stand. While we were considering means of action M. Necker, always desirous of taking the initiative, asked permission of the king to present two projects of declarations that he had prepared in advance, in case that his majesty should judge proper to hold a session; he had added the different speeches that he proposed to have the king deliver.... The time passed in the midst of these animated discussions; it was four o’clock; the matter called for the most mature consideration. His majesty adjourned the council until the next day, Saturday, at five o’clock, and instructed M. de la Galaisière to give an account in the council of the two projects, which he turned over to him. It was simply decided that the king should hold a session Monday, the 22d, in the large hall....

M. de la Galaisière, in preparing his report, discovered a pitfall adroitly arranged to prepare the destruction of the orders. In the grouping of his plan the minister had divided the objects into two classes. The first contained those susceptible of deliberation by order; the second embraced those upon which the deliberation would be in common. He had placed in this last, in few words and in a way not to attract attention, the organization of the future states general.... The reporter made known to me Saturday morning his discovery.... It appeared too important to us to allow him not to mention it that evening at the council meeting. He spoke of it calmly, furnishing M. Necker the means of escaping from the bad position which he had taken. In fact, M. de la Galaisière assumed that the place assigned to this article in the list of common deliberations, when it evidently pertained to those by order, could be due only to a mistake of the copyist which had escaped the eye of the minister, an error easily repaired by putting the article where it belonged. The turn was ingenious, and the king caught it without, however, being deceived as to the intention of the redacteur of the project, for he made a movement of impatience and discontent. The director general noted it, and was on the point of making use of the subterfuge offered him, but a sudden second thought made him see that in yielding his plan, based upon the confusion of the orders, would be ruined completely. He insisted, with a tenacity which astonished us, that the place of the article should not be changed. This insistence displeased the king. With a display of vivacity he took the paper from the hands of the reporter, struck out the article, and wrote it in the list of those relative to vote by order.... M. Necker proposed "for this time, and without establishing a precedent, to prescribe deliberation by head." I asserted that such a disposition, even for one time and without establishing a precedent, would violate the forms introduced at the birth of the monarchy.... I was supported by MM. de Villedeuil, de Puységur, and by the councilors of state. Another article stated "that one could attain to all civil and military employments without regard to class distinction."... The king himself on hearing this article had blamed M. Necker with firmness for having spoken of the army of which he was the sole master, and of which he could dispose at pleasure.... It should not be forgotten that the motive of the meeting of the council, the determination to hold a royal session, the content of the two groups of laws we were considering, were due to the deliberation of June 17th, by which the third estate had declared itself a national assembly. It ought to be expected, then, that the king, being no longer able to mistake the veritable intentions of this culpable order, would recall them to obedience, would scourge with merited qualifications a bold, illegal, and unconstitutional act. No, M. Necker, always inclined to partiality, always decided not to displease men emboldened by his protection, forgot himself to the extent of attempting to palliate, to excuse their crimes. He did not go to the extent of annulling their decree, he contented himself with proposing "to declare [the royal purpose], overlooking the acts of June 17th." [Baren-tin took the other side. He described the meeting of the tennis court, then taking place.] The session was not over when I left Versailles; if we are ignorant of the end of it, it is only too probable that it will be a new outrage for the royal majesty.... Everything, then, commands to annul, with fitting qualifications, the deliberation of June 17th and that which has followed it.... The king, calm during the whole of this discussion, did not lose a word of it. It was so prolonged that at ten o’clock his majesty had not yet begun to get the expression of opinion which decided him to postpone the council until the next day, Sunday, at five o’clock, at Versailles, to which he was to transfer his residence. He observed that, as nothing was settled, it was necessary to postpone the session twenty-four hours, and set it for Tuesday, the 23d, in order to give more exact form and more attention to the redaction [of the declarations].

When we met Sunday in the king’s apartments, we learned that he had just summoned his brothers and that he was with them in his room. After a conference of half an hour they all came in together, and the king announced that the two princes would take part in the council. M. Lambert, councilor of state and member of the council of despatches, was also called. He had not been present at Marly. The princes had not been present at the previous councils....

The princes not having been present at the previous councils, it became necessary to repeat all that had been said and done. The reporter made a very clear résumé of it; on both sides each defended his opinion with that force inspired by the strong conviction of the peril involved in adopting any other. ... M. Necker ended by testifying his fear touching the proposed changes. "It will change the laws to such an extent," he cried, "that it would be better to reject them than to adopt them disfigured and mutilated."

M. de Montmorin, ... closely allied with M. Necker, thought only of flying to his aid.

MM. de la Luzerne and de Saint-Priest seconded, it is true, the errors of the minister of finance, but they did it dispassionately and in very gentlemanly language.... With the exception of M. Necker and the three ministers who thought as he did, all the members of the council were of one opinion. The king adopted that of the majority.... Before adjourning the council the king instructed me to reformulate the matter, with the aid of the four councilors, and, for the purpose of listening to the reading of it, set a council meeting for the next day at five o’clock. The royal session was definitely set for June 23d....

Our work was finished Monday morning. I wanted M. Necker to see it before it was presented to the council.... [M. Vidaud de la Tour, one of the councilors, was sent to lay the reorganized material before Necker.] M. Necker received him haughtily and treated him coldly. He hardly listened to the two declarations, and made no observations. At the opening of the council (June 22d) I presented a summary of the original projects and the changes ordered by the king, and the manner in which we had executed his orders. The two laws were read and approved by his majesty. M. Necker said nothing or very little.... He [Necker] insisted that the meetings of states general should be periodic; we insisted with equal force that they should not be. Assemblies at fixed periods amounted to the abandonment, on the part of the monarch, of the royal prerogative to convoke and dissolve the states general; we considered it indispensable to conserve it.... The councils at Marly were not preceded by committee meetings relative to the declarations of June 23d.... The council was nearing its end when his majesty, who had received a whispered message, withdrew, asking us to wait.... When the king withdrew he had not yet reached a decision.... His majesty, on his return, adjourned the council until the next day, Sunday, and not for two days, as is alleged by the minister of finance. At the same time the royal session was changed from the 22d to the 23d.... M. Necker had intended to be present at the session, and his carriage waited a long time in the court.... Madame Necker dismissed the carriage, and Necker did not go out.


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Chicago: "2. Barentin, Ménoire Autographe, 175–230," Source Problems on the French Revolution in Source Problems on the French Revolution, ed. Fred Morrow Fling and Helene Dresser Fling (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1913), 88–94. Original Sources, accessed July 21, 2024,

MLA: . "2. Barentin, Ménoire Autographe, 175–230." Source Problems on the French Revolution, in Source Problems on the French Revolution, edited by Fred Morrow Fling and Helene Dresser Fling, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1913, pp. 88–94. Original Sources. 21 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: , '2. Barentin, Ménoire Autographe, 175–230' in Source Problems on the French Revolution. cited in 1913, Source Problems on the French Revolution, ed. , Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, pp.88–94. Original Sources, retrieved 21 July 2024, from