d’Anglas on the Constitution of Year III (1795)


François Boissy d’Anglas was a conservative Thermidorian deputy who played a leading role in drafting the Constitution of Year III. Speaking in June 1795, d’Anglas says the best form of republican government is a government of property owners:


“Finally the happy hour has arrived when, ceasing to be the gladiators of liberty, we can be its true founders. I no longer see in this assembly the villains who tarnished it. The archways of this temple no longer echo with their bloody vociferation, with their treacherous propositions. Our deliberations are no longer chained by the tyranny of the de?cemvirs [committee men]. They will no longer be led astray by the demagogy of their accomplices. Their many and fierce satellites, disarmed, vanquished, imprisoned, will no longer have the insolence to bring their daggers here and point out their victims among you…

You must offer to the French nation a republican constitution that ensures its independence. You must, with its imminent establishment, finally guarantee the property of the rich man, the existence of the pauper, the enjoyment of the industrious man, the freedom and the safety of all. You must make the French people, in the midst of the nations that surround them, take the rank that their nature assigns them, and the influence that their strength, their knowledge, their trade must give them. Make tranquillity reign without oppression, liberty without unrest, justice without cruelty, humanity without weakness…

We should be governed by the best among us. The best are the most learned and those most interested in maintaining the law. Now, with very few exceptions, you will find such men only among those who, possessing property, are attached to the country where it is located, to the laws that protect it, to the tranquillity that preserves it, and who owe to this property and to the affluence that it brings…

The man without property must constantly make virtuous efforts to interest himself in the order that holds nothing for him, and to oppose the movements that offer him some hope… If you give political rights to men without property unreservedly, and if they ever find themselves on the benches of the legislature, they will arouse unrest – or allow it to be aroused – without fear of its outcomes. They will establish – or allow to be established – taxes that are disastrous to trade and agriculture… And finally, they will lead us headlong into those violent convulsions from which we have barely emerged, and whose agonies will continue to be felt for such a long time across all of France. A country governed by property owners is in the social order…”