Barnave calls for an end to the revolution (1791)


On July 15th 1791 the moderate deputy Antoine Barnave addressed the National Constituent Assembly amid calls for a republic, and called for an end to the revolution:


“Gentlemen, the French nation has just suffered a violent shock – however if we are to believe all the omens that are manifesting themselves, this latest event, like all those that preceded it, will only serve to hasten the date, to ensure the stability of the Revolution that we have created.

Already the nation, in showing its unanimity, in noting the immensity of its strength in a time of concern and peril, has proved to our enemies what they would have to fear from the result of their attacks. Today, by attentively examining the Constitution she has given herself, she is developing a profound knowledge of it [and discovering] what the masses perhaps did not yet know. I am speaking of the nature of the monarchical government, its bases, its true usefulness for the nation to which you have given it…

I say that any change today is fatal. Any prolonging of the Revolution is disastrous. This is the question that I put here, and it is indeed here that it is marked by the national interest. Are we going to finish the Revolution, or are we going to recommence it? If you defy the Constitution once, at what point will you stop, and more importantly, where will our successors stop? …

A great evil is done us in the perpetuation of this revolutionary movement that has destroyed all there was to destroy, that has taken us to the point where we had to stop, and that will cease only with peaceful determination, common determination, a reconciliation… Consider, gentlemen, consider what will happen after you? You have done what was good for liberty, for equality. No arbitrary power was spared, no usurpation of pride or property escaped. You have made all men equal before the civil law and the political law. You have taken back, you have returned to the state all that had been taken from it.

From there comes this great truth – that if the Revolution takes one more step, it cannot do so without danger. If it is in the direction of liberty, the first act to follow could be the destruction of royalty; if it is in the direction of equality, the first act to follow could be the violation of property.”