Duquesnoy on the changes brought by revolution (1790)


Writing in his diary in January 1790, Adrien Duquesnoy, a delegate to the Estates General and a future deputy to the National Convention, reflected on what the French Revolution had achieved:

“January 16th 1790

…Putting aside priests, nobility, magistrates and financiers, it is clear that all the rest of the kingdom reaps infinite benefits from the revolution. And indeed, amongst those citizens whom I have just listed there are a great number who should judge it advantageous to them, because in truth it is. Thus the clergy of second degree and almost all provincial noblemen, who were recently oppressed by bishops and court nobles, should consider themselves fortunate to be relieved of this aristocracy.

Moreover, anyone who can for an instant put aside all private interest, cannot but bless this revolution. When one thinks of the great abuses of all kinds which burdened this poor kingdom, it seems obvious that only an upheaval of such intensity could achieve such an end. In any case, one thing is certain — it would be difficult for things to be worse than they were under the former regime.

I often hear people around me asking a very strange question: they enquire, ‘What has the assembly been doing for the last six months?’ I only know of one reply to this question: ‘Look, and observe: clergy and nobility abolished, provincial privileges gone, ecclesiastical property nationalised. Could you have achieved so much in ten years?'”