Mirabeau on the nobility and the Estates General (1789)


In February 1789, Mirabeau delivered a public speech acknowledging his nomination as a deputy to the Estates General:

“In all countries, in all ages, the aristocrats have implacably pursued the friends of the people. And when, by some unknown combination of fortune, such a friend has risen up from the very bosom of the aristocracy, it has been at him that have struck, eager to inspire wider terror by the elevation of their victim…

But you, common people, listen to one who is not seduced by your applause, yet cherishes it in his heart. Man is strong only by union, happy only in peace. Be firm, not obstinate, courageous, not turbulent, free, not undisciplined, prompt, not precipitate. Stop not, except at difficulties of moment and be wholly inflexible… Your accusers dread the results of those Estates General, through which so many pretensions will be scattered, so many rights re-established, so many evils reformed… The Estates General is the means by which the Monarch himself desires that France should regenerate herself.

For myself… girt with my conscience and armed with my principles, I would brave the universe – whether it shall be my fortune to serve you with my voice and my exertions in a National Assembly, or whether I shall be enabled to aid you there with my prayers only… I have been, I am, I shall be, even to the tomb, the man of the public liberty, the man of the people rather than of the nobles. Then woe to the privileged orders. For privileges shall have an end, but the people are eternal!”