Our lost constitution

Published January 21, 2021 10 Views

Rumble " I will never lose sight of the fact that the spirit with which the King will be judged will be the same spirit with which the Republic will be established. The theory of your judgment will be that of your magistrates. And the measure of your philosophy, in this judgment, will also be the measure of your liberty in the Constitution.

I repeat, a king cannot be judged according to the laws of the country, or rather the laws of the city. The Reporter has told you this well; but his idea died too early in his soul; he has lost the fruit of it. There was nothing in the laws of Numa to judge Tarquin, nothing in the laws of England to judge Charles I: they were judged according to the laws of the people; they repelled force by force, they repelled a stranger, an enemy. That is what legitimized these expeditions, and not vain formalities, which have as a principle only the consent of the citizen, by the contract.

I will never be seen to oppose my particular will to the will of all. I will want what the French people, or the majority of their representatives, will want, but since my particular will is a part of the law that has not yet been made, I explain myself here openly.

It is not enough to say that it is in the order of eternal justice that sovereignty should be independent of the present form of government, and to draw this consequence, that the king must be judged; natural justice and the principle of sovereignty must still be extended to the very spirit in which it should be judged. We will have no Republic without these distinctions which put all parts of the social order: in their natural movement, as nature creates life from the combination of the elements.

Everything I have said therefore tends to prove to you that Louis XVI must be judged as a foreign enemy. I add that it is not necessary that his judgment to death be subject to the sanction of the people; for the people may well impose laws by their own will because these laws are important to their happiness; but since the people themselves cannot erase the crime of tyranny, the right of men against tyranny is personal; and there is no act of sovereignty that can truly oblige a single citizen to forgive him.

It is therefore up to you to decide whether Louis is the enemy of the French people, whether he is a foreigner, and if your majority were to absolve him, it would be then that this judgment would have to be sanctioned by the people; for if a single citizen could not be legitimately compelled by an act of sovereignty to forgive the king, even more so an act of magistracy would not be obligatory for the sovereign.

But hasten to judge the king, for there is no citizen who has not the right over him that Brutus had over Caesar; you could not rather punish this action towards this stranger than you have blamed the death of Leopold and Gustav.

Louis was another Catilina; the murderer, like the consul of Rome, would judge that he saved the fatherland. Louis fought the people: he is defeated. He is a barbarian, he is a foreigner, a prisoner of war. You have seen his treacherous designs; you have seen his army; the traitor was not the king of the French, but the king of a few conspirators. He made secret levies of troops, had particular magistrates; he regarded the citizens as his slaves; he had secretly outlawed all people of goodness and courage. He is the murderer of the Bastille, Nancy, the Champ-de-Mars, Tournay, the Tuileries: what enemy, what stranger has done us more harm? He must be judged promptly: this is the advice of wisdom and sound politics: he is a kind of hostage that the rascals keep. They seek to stir up pity; they will soon buy tears; they will do everything to interest us, to corrupt us even. People, if the king is ever absolved, remember that we will no longer be worthy of your trust, and you may accuse us of perfidy."

Louis Antoine de Saint-Just
French politician (1767 – 1794)