The major civic disturbances of the summer and fall of 1789 are well-known: the taking of the Bastille, the Great Fear, the murder of the Intendant of Paris and his father-in-law, and the almost constant ferment and unrest centered on the Palais Royal that spilled over into the October Days. But at the end of August 1789, there were serious disturbances originating in the Palais Royal that seem less well understood. These events - including the attempt of 1,500 or perhaps even 15,000 men to march on Versailles, led by the marquis de Saint Huruge - targeted not royal authority per se, but the possibility that the king would be granted negative power over the legislative acts of the National Assembly.[1] What is it about the veto - a technical term for that negative power - that made for such a contentious issue? It seems that the deputies to the Constituent Assembly, the Palais Royal crowd, as well as the officials of the newly organized Paris Commune all agreed that the resolution of the debate over the veto would determine the shape of a new, stable, consensual government. Nevertheless, it can be very difficult to determine what this "veto" was. It was not just the bluntly spoken count François-Henri Virieu who might believe that the participants in this debate over royal power and national sovereignty had a shaky and malleable set of definitions in mind.[2]

It is difficult to determine even the subject of the debates that lasted from 31 August to 21 September 1789, especially because the word "veto" comes to us modern scholars loaded with associations, in particular to the successful American form of a suspensive veto to which the French version has often been compared.[3] Historians of the 1789 debates have long truncated the various opinions about the veto into three main options: an "absolute" veto that would not be subject to override by the Assembly or people; a suspensive veto that could in some form be overridden; and a negative option that would deny the king any direct role in legislation whatsoever.[4] At the time, though, the journalist Antoine-Joseph Gorsas noted that, when the deputies came to vote on 11 September on the constitutional definition of the veto, there were hundreds of different formulations suggested, hundreds of amendments proposed, and hundreds of redactions of the movement on the floor.[5] This hardly speaks of a uniform definition, let alone clear distinctions between options. Moreover, the deputies' votes provide few clues about their formulation of the veto.[6] An instructive aside in this regard can be found in the example of the speech of Third Estate deputy Guillaume-François-Charles Goupil-Préfelne delivered on 3 September. Goupil-Préfelne adopts what seems to be a very conservative position, rooting the king's veto in ancient Roman precedent and arguing that the king must have not only a veto over legislation but over the constitution itself, noting that the deputies have been called to reform the old system, not to found a new one. Nevertheless, Goupil argued for a clear separation of powers, claiming that "[t]he king much have a veto to stand up to the legislative body; the legislative body must have a veto against the judiciary." Then in what seemed a quite conservative speech to that point, Goupil demanded that the king provide reasons when he vetoed a law and proposed that, if the king were presented a law after it had been approved three times by the Assembly, he must accept it.[7] This proposal crosses the boundaries between absolute and suspensive vetoes while vesting the king's powers in the ancient constitution. Into what category should we place Goupil-Préfelne? Was he the defender of the past, an architect of the new, or something in between?

The Third Estate deputy and center-right leader Jean-Joseph Mounier retroactively attempted to redefine the terms of the debate. After events had driven him from Paris, Mounier argued that the proper name for the veto he had proposed was "the indefinite negative power" (le droit négatif indéfini) and that it was those who opposed the king's power that had created the name "absolute veto" in the hopes of stirring up unrest in "several Parisian districts" and the Palais Royal.[8] The discussion below of the arguments in favor of an absolute veto for the king demonstrates that the deputies who supported such a veto overwhelmingly approved of the concept of national or popular sovereignty. Moreover, in the main supporters of the royal veto saw it as acting in much the same way as the proposed suspensive veto, while also preserving the dignity of the throne. In pursuing the subtleties of the debate, I seek to build on the work of Kenneth Margerison, who has ably shown that the absolute veto could appear suspensive in function, and I will cast into doubt Keith M. Baker's claim that the veto debates forced the deputies to make a "radical choice between those who would temper an existing monarchy and those who would create a new political order on the basis of national sovereignty,"[9] as supporters of the absolute veto seem to have supported national sovereignty as well. Several of the most earnest supporters of the absolute veto posed it not as a truly absolute power of the king himself, but as a veto held on behalf of the people and as a veto that would be suspensive in practice. In this, the most ardent supporters of an absolute veto clearly supported a strong sense of national sovereignty.

There have been admirable attempts to tame the chaos of the debates. There is what we might call a "forgotten troop"[10] of authors on the issue running from 1899 to the 1950s, including such now-obscure figures as Albert Viatte, Raoul Bompard, Djordge Rafajlovic, and Maurice Maier and the less obscure and more deserving Eric Thompson. Better-known attempts to tame the debates belong to Jean Egret and Georges Lefebvre, with the defining modern analysis originating with Keith Baker. More recently we have seen attempts to reopen the debate from Ran Halévi, Timothy Tackett, Barry Shapiro, and Kenneth Margerison.[11]

Past discussions of the veto have relied heavily on the Archives Parlementaires, with occasional forays into supplementary materials, such as contemporary newspapers or published primary sources. In order to better reconstruct the debate I have consulted in addition the letters, diaries, and memoirs of more than twenty-five deputies present during the September 1789 debates, including the unpublished accounts of three deputies. I have also looked at contemporary newspapers and the letters and memoirs of the Americans Thomas Jefferson and Gouverneur Morris, both of whom were present in Paris at the time. Access to a broader range of sources reveals additional complexity in the debates that goes far beyond what has appeared in previous accounts.

Absolute Veto: Vested in the Past or Defender of General Will?

One supporter of the absolute veto, the abbé Jean-Sifferein Maury, argued on 3 September 1789 just as a common-sense view of the word "absolute" might dictate. Maury claimed that the king's veto was the king's by long tradition and by the necessities of reason; it was a prerogative of the monarch, one that already existed and thus could not be granted and should not be taken away. Maury argued that the king was an integral part of the legislative power and had a "negative power," a right to deny the acts of the legislative body the status of law.[12] This prerogative was necessary for the executive power, which otherwise would not have the freedom to respond to crises. Moreover, Maury called the king "the state's co-legislator . . . an integral part of the legistative body."[13] Maury's claim that the king held his powers by right raised a great murmur in the hall, and one suspects that few deputies supported his point of view.[14] In fact, the most prominent supporters of the absolute veto from the Third Estate did not agree. These center-right deputies who supported an absolute veto came to be known as the "Monarchiens."[15]

Claiming to draw inspiration from the English constitution, the Monarchiens argued that without the absolute veto the legislative body would gradually diminish the king's powers to the point where he would become only a figurehead. Their position can be differentiated from that of Maury in several ways. First, for the Monarchiens the king's veto was not his by right or even by tradition, but his to use as a representative of the people and/or of the nation. As such, the king would not use it on his own behalf but on behalf of the nation. His veto was meant in this formulation to protect the separation of powers and to provide a check on hasty or ill-informed legislation.[16] Supporters of the absolute veto included the Third Estate deputies Mounier, Pierre-Victor Malouet, Honoré Gabriel Riquetti, comte de Mirabeau, Guy-Jean-Baptiste Target, Paul Victor de Sèze, and the various members of the Constitutional Committee. They argued that the king's veto was his to use as a representative of the people and/or of the nation. In this representative capacity, the king would obviously respond to the will of the people and would not stand in the way of legislation desired by the nation as a whole. Instead, the king would act to bar the assembly from passing legislation that infringed on the powers of the executive, that signaled corruption within the assembly, or that infringed on the liberty of the people.

Supporters of a royal absolute veto quickly made it clear that while the king's veto would be absolute in theory, it would only be suspensive in practice. The Monarchiens argued or assumed that when the people were able to make their opinion clear to their monarch, the king would feel obliged to act on that opinion. The absolute veto enabled the king to protect himself and to represent in controversial legislative matters a version of public opinion taken to be superior to that of the majority of elected representatives. As Viatte saw it, the intent of those supporting the absolute veto was to influence the kind of legislation that would be proposed. Fearing a veto, deputies would propose more moderate laws, and fearing a loss of popularity, the king would not wish to veto laws passed. Instead, the two parties would have to work together to find laws that satisfied both. If the two parties could not agree, the noble deputy Emmanuel-Henri-Louis-Alexandre d'Antraigues argued, the ultimate veto, insurrection, would still belong to the nation.[17] In essence, politics was to be carried out before the matter could reach a point of confrontation.[18] In practice, then, this veto would achieve many of the same goals as the suspensive veto proposed by the Third Estate deputies Jean-Baptiste Salle and Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve. The king would remain in sole charge of the executive branch while acting as a potent check on the Assembly's legislative role. The major difference was over how this check would function, not whether or not the king should wield it.

As a group, the Monarchiens and their allies fully accepted the notion of popular sovereignty expressed in Article 6 of the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen. They argued, however, that the practical, day-to-day exercise of sovereignty could and indeed had to be delegated to the National Assembly and the king.[19] What was needed was a way to ensure that the acts of the legislature reflected the will of the sovereign nation. On 4 September, Mounier spoke on behalf of the Constitutional Committee. He pointed out that the only way to keep the legislative power fully in the hands of the people themselves would be to retain the system in which all deputies could receive binding mandates. The Assembly's decision of 8 July to forbid imperative mandates, he argued, implied that the people themselves were no longer in the position to act directly as the sovereign.[20] Mounier then claimed that what the assembled deputies arrived at through their deliberations was not the general will, that is, "that each citizen have expressed his will;" rather, it was "the legally presumed general will."[21] Through an absolute veto and the right to call for new elections, the role of the king would be to ensure that these two wills were in accord.[22] The king held these rights as the people's "first delegate," a representative much like the deputies themselves. Moreover, the people had charged the king and the Assembly with "jointly express[ing] the general will," so that when the king refused his sanction, he was acting prior to the formation of the general will.[23] Mounier also argued that the king's veto would have a preemptive effect, encouraging the Assembly to consider the rights of the people and the prerogatives of the king before submitting legislation for the king's approval.

The Monarchiens argued consistently that the king's powers arose from his status as a representative of the people rather than from some personal privilege. The conservative deputy Malouet spoke of the king's veto as a service performed on behalf of the people, not as a right belonging to the king. According to Malouet, the veto "is a right and a national prerogative, conferred on the head of the nation by the nation itself, in order to proclaim and guarantee that any resolution of its representatives is or is not the expression of the general will."[24] He argued that the king, "an integral part of the legislative body," could not be deprived of a right demanded for him by the people in the instructions they had given their representatives.[25] Malouet posed the king as a special kind of representative, noting that "it is quite true that the King is the nation's delegate . . . but the deputies chosen in each district are not the nation; they too are only its delegates." France expressed its will through the agreement of the king and the Assembly, as the king was part of the legislative power.[26] Similarly, Sèze stated that the king was a representative and proxy of the nation, and that if the king were excluded from the legislative process, the government would cease to be a monarchy.[27]

Where Maury had emphasized the origins of a royal veto in ancient precedent, the Monarchiens put more emphasis on the king's role as a participant in the legislative process and as a true representative of the sovereign people. These deputies went to great lengths to declare that without the king's explicit and unforced approval, the actions of the assembly could not be taken as laws. Antraigues saw the root of the disagreement over the king's powers in the deputies' confusion over the meaning of the word "sanction" and proposed to provide a clearer definition: "Royal sanction," he said, "is the power the nation gives the King to intervene as an essential and integral part of the legislative function in such a fashion that his consent to legislative acts transforms these acts into laws and his opposition renders these acts null."[28] Antraigues noted that the veto was a means to make certain that the will of the assembly matched the will of the people and that, given the right of the people to resist oppression, this check in the hands of the king would make popular revolt less likely.[29] Mounier posed the role of the veto in a similar way. In a constitutional monarchy, the king would of necessity be a part of the legislative power, his role being to maintain "forever the division of powers, to defend his prerogatives, and thereby to preserve the liberty of the people." Mounier later went on to argue that it would be truly bizarre to deny the king of France a power given to the president of the United States.[30]

The Monarchiens' plan for an absolute or "royal" veto had a good deal of support in the Assembly. On 1 September, Mirabeau had argued that the king was first and foremost a representative of the people who drew his powers from his position as the sole representative of the entire nation. Mirabeau posed the main problem facing the nation as that of an aristocracy seeking to usurp the prerogatives of both the people and their king. He argued that the "legislative power must be entrusted to representatives owing to the complete inability of the people to exercise it themselves;" that it was "in the nature of things that the choice of representatives does not necessarily fall to the most worthy;" and that the selection of representatives results in "a kind of aristocracy of fact which, ceaselessly tending to acquire a legal character, will become hostile both to the monarch, whom it will wish to equal, and to the people, whom it will always seek to hold down." For these reasons a separate power was needed to counterbalance the vanity of the representatives.[31] This power, the king, would act to represent the people's will and interests against the National Assembly.

Mirabeau presented several possible cases of the aristocratic tyranny possible within an elected assembly and argued that from the need to prevent abuses of legislative power "springs the natural and necessary alliance between the Prince and the people . . . based on the fact that, having the same interests and fears, they must have the same objective and consequently the same will."[32] Thus, the king was a representative in his person of the will of the people and could be counted on to correct the legislature when the particular interests of its members threatened to draw it away from the general will or to infringe on the prerogatives of the executive power. Mirabeau presented the king's veto as a way to correct the dangers of tyranny inherent in a representative government and to prevent the "upheavals and dismemberments" that would occur if there were not some centralizing force.[33]

Mirabeau also argued that the king's unique representative status did not imply unique powers separate from those granted by the nation. It was the special knowledge the king could gain from his relationship with the people that led him to be their best advocate in legislative affairs. Mirabeau argued that "executive power, acting continually on the people, has a more immediate relationship with the people." The king, Mirabeau maintained, "is the perpetual representative of the people, just as the deputies are representatives elected for particular moments." Since no one dreamed of denying the Assembly the ability to refuse legislation proposed by the king, he continued, why should the deputies argue that the king, also a representative of the people, could have no veto? The Assembly and the people had a wide array of options, from tax strikes to civil disobedience, should the king violate the popular will. Further, if the Assembly were to be permanent, the king's veto would become vital as a means of checking its influence.[34] Thus, the king needed to be able to act in the name of the people to defend its interests as well as his own against the Assembly. Mirabeau argued that setting the long-term interests of the monarch against the opinions of regularly elected deputies would lead to just government.

On 4 September, Sèze sought to show the major differences between what he called the "royal" veto and the "popular" or suspensive veto that would submit the king's will to some kind of review. In line with his allies, Sèze posed the veto as a primary means of preserving public order and claimed that the suspensive veto was destined to stir unrest by involving the broad public in legislative matters, leading to anarchy. In contrast, the royal veto as proposed by the Committee would prevent the Assembly from making errors of judgment when legislating and would help the king to preserve the peace.[35] As had his fellow supporters of the absolute veto, Sèze pointed out that the king's negative power would be suspensive in fact, though not in name, because of the many and varied means the people had to make their will known and, presumably, because the king would be certain to respect the will of the people insofar as it benefited the public good.[36] As if to emphasize his acceptance of national sovereignty, Sèze noted that the king's veto opposed "a permenent will" to "a fleeting will [i.e., that of the Assembly]," both of which were parts of the general will. "The King," he noted, "represents the nation, and the nation itself pronounces this veto."[37] Sèze's version of the absolute veto shares much with that of the supporters of the veto as a popular referendum. Both parties sought a way for controversial matters to be settled without recourse to civil unrest.[38] They differed in what they saw as the greatest threat: the king or the Assembly. Following a similar line of reasoning, Malouet pointed out that the veto

can only be suspensive, because if the people persist in desiring the proposed law, if the people persevere in charging their representatives to pursue that law, the monarch no longer has either right or ability to resist. Though the limits of the royal veto are established by principle, its expression must be simple and absolute, without any requirement for explanation.[39]
Those who supported an absolute veto argued that the king could not resist the will of the people if it was expressed with perseverance, but it was necessary for the king to have an absolute veto nonetheless to prevent the assembly from infringing on his prerogatives or leading the people into error. Even Mounier's formulation of the absolute veto ended up being functionally suspensive: he argued that rather than rejecting the law, the king could encourage the assembly to reconsider the terms of the law and resubmit it during the following year.[40]


There was indeed confusion over what an "absolute" veto might be; certainly its enemies feared it as a veto by which the king or his ministers could easily thwart national sovereignty, in the sense of "absolute" monarchy. Nevertheless, this was not at all what Mounier or his allies suggested or defended. It is in the contrasting notions of the king's role as a representative - as defender of the general will through an absolute or through a suspensive veto - that we can most clearly see the overlapping intent of those who supported the absolute and suspensive vetoes, all of whom agreed on the essential sovereignty of the nation. Given this overlap, it was possible for a centrist coalition around Lafayette, Duport, and the Lameth brothers to forge a large majority in favor of the powerful variant of the suspensive veto supported by Goupil-Préfelne, which mixed the strength of the absolute veto with the National Assembly's superior claim to legitimacy.

    1. These disturbances are recounted in considerable detail in Louis Gottschalk and Margaret Maddox, Lafayette in the French Revolution, Through the October Days (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 229-43; Georges Lefebvre, The Great Fear of 1789: Rural Panic in Revolutionary France, trans. Joan White (New York: Pantheon, 1973); Georges Lefebvre, Quatre-vingt-neuf (Paris: Maison du livre français, 1939). The events are also analyzed by Kenneth Margerison, Pamphlets and Public Opinion: The Campaign for a Union of Orders in the Early French Revolution (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1998), 166-67, and in less detail by Timothy Tackett, Becoming a Revolutionary: The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996). On 31 August, the journalist Elisée Loustalot led a deputation to Paris City Hall also seeking to thwart the adoption of a strong veto: Gottschalk and Maddox, 235-37.return to text

    2. For Virieu's speech of 7 Sept. 1789 in which he declared that some Parisians saw the veto as a kind of tax, see M. J. Mavidal and M. E. Laurent, eds., Archives parlementaires de 1787 à 1860, première série (1787 à 1799), 2nd ed., 82 vols. (Paris, 1879-1913), 8:590 [hereafter AP].return to text

    3. Albert Viatte, Le Veto législatif dans la constitution des États-Unis (1787) et dans la constitution française de 1791 (Paris: V. Giard et E. Brière, 1901); Raoul Bompard, Le Veto du Président de la République et la sanction royale (Paris: A. Rousseau, 1906); Maurice Maier, Le Veto législatif du Chef de l'Etat (Geneva, 1948); Djordge Rafajlovic, Veto: Met-il en question l'existence même de l'ONU? (N.P., 1951; originally published as a dissertation, Le veto au cours des temps (Lausanne, 1951)).return to text

    4. Generally, Jean-Joseph Mounier and the Monarchiens are associated with the absolute veto, Jean-Baptiste Salle and Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve with the suspensive, and Emmanuel Sieyès and Maximilien Robespierre with refusal to accept any veto at all. Ran Halévi has suggested that there were really only two possible options: support for Pétion's position and support for Sieyès'. See Halévi, "La République monarchique," in Le Siècle de l'avènement républicain, eds. François Furet and Mona Ozouf (Paris: Gallimard, 1993).return to text

    5. One suspects that he exaggerates, but the point is still valid. Antoine-Joseph Gorsas, Le Courrier de Versailles, 12 Sept. 1789. return to text

    6. Edna Hindie Lemay et. al. have attempted to categorize each deputy's opinion on the veto. See Lemay, Dictionnaire des Constituants, 1789-91, 2 vols. (Paris: Universitas, 1991).return to text

    7. For Goupil-Préfelne's speech, see AP 8:551. It is always necessary to crosscheck speeches from the AP against contemporary sources. In this case, see Gorsas, Le Courrier de Versailles, 6 Sept. 1789. The version reported by Gorsas is similar in detail, but reads much more like a redaction of speech given in public rather than the carefully written version we see in the AP. For example, Gorsas reported that the speech was interrupted many times and ill received by the Assembly. [Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the French are by Carol Harrison.]return to text

    8. Jean-Joseph Mounier, Exposé de la conduite de M. Mounier dans l'Assemblée nationale et des motifs de son retour en Dauphiné (Paris, 1789), 55. I have found no evidence in the debates themselves to support such a claim; deputies who supported the king's negative power seem to have used "veto absolu" from the beginning of the debate.return to text

    9. Margerison, 168-71. The quoted text is from Keith M. Baker, Inventing the French Revolution: Essays on French Political Culture in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 274.return to text

    10. The term is Jacques Barzun's. See his From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present (New York: Harper Collins, 2000).return to text

    11. Jean Egret, La Révolution des notables: Mounier et les monarchiens (Paris: A. Colin, 1950); Eric Thompson, Popular Sovereignty and the French Constituent Assembly, 1789-91 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1952); Baker; Barry Shapiro, "Opting for the Terror: A Critique of Keith Baker's Analysis of the Suspensive Veto of 1789," Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History 26 (1999): 324-34.return to text

    12. AP 8: 552 (3 Sept. 1789). return to text

    13. Bertrand Barère, Le Point du Jour, 4 Sept. 1789.return to text

    14. AP 8: 553 (3 Sept.). Barère commented on 4 Sept. that Maury was the best speaker in support of the absolute veto but that the argument "appeared to have died on his lips." Barère, Le Point du jour, 4 Sept. 1789. Gorsas wrote about Maury: "Someone has heaped a great deal of praise on the eloquence and the brilliant perorations of the abbé Mauri [sic]; that someone undoubtedly mistook massive erudition, Latin citations about the French constitution, pedantic research and dialectical definitions smothered in pomposity for true eloquence." Gorsas, Le Courrier de Versailles, 6 Sept. 1789.return to text

    15. Mistakenly attributing a uniform viewport to the Monarchiens is not a recent error; almost a century ago Raoul Bompard uncritically jumbled claims made by the abbé Maury with those of Mounier, Malouet, Lalley-Tollendal, d'Antraigues, and Mirabeau. See Bompard, 156-57. Thompson (42) makes the same error. Baker (283) claims that the Monarchiens had a "weak" sense of the sovereignty of the general will, meaning that it could be efficiently represented and need not be consulted on legislative issues. Tackett (185-88) has demonstrated that the Monarchiens were an increasingly well-organized political group able to dominate the elected offices within the assembly during the July-September debates. See also Egret; Robert Griffiths, Le Centre perdu: Malouet et les "monarchiens" dans la Révolution française (Grenoble: Presses universitaires de Grenoble, 1988).return to text

    16. This veto does not seem to have been meant to be absolute in the sense of an English royal veto. In the largely unwritten English constitution, the royal veto was meant to be the end of the matter, but the most prominent supporters of the absolute veto clearly did not follow this formulation. This formulation follows much more clearly the definition of the executive veto arising from the American case.return to text

    17. Viatte, 84-85. For Antraigues's speech, see AP 8: 545.return to text

    18. A functional example of this could be seen in the English case. After 1707, the English monarchs had sought to influence Parliament as to the wisdom of the royal will before legislation was passed rather than refusing consent. Rafajlovic (52, 55-56) argues that the royal veto fell out of use as the government came to be formed by the majority party in Parliament. Any use of the veto would have clearly indicated a lack of faith in the majority party and would thus be a violation of the English constitutional principle that the sovereignty of the government lies within the majority party in Parliament. return to text

    19. It is worth noting that Margerison (168) has claimed that even those who supported the suspensive veto would have agreed.return to text

    20. AP 8: 560 (4 Sept.). return to text

    21. AP 8: 561 (4 Sept.).return to text

    22. On these specific proposed powers, see AP 8: 557, 561 (4 Sept.).return to text

    23. AP 8: 561 (4 Sept.).return to text

    24. AP 8: 536 (1 Sept.).return to text

    25. Ibid. François-Antoine Boissy d'Anglas also referred to the king's mandate and cahiers when discussing his support of the suspensive veto. Boissy d'Anglas, "Lettres inédites sur la Révolution française," Bulletin de la Société de l'histoire du Protestantisme français, ed. René Puaux, 75 (1926): 433 (Letter of 12 Sept. 1789 to M. d'Ayme, Maréchal de camp, Annonay).return to text

    26. AP 8: 586 (5 Sept.).return to text

    27. He implied that it would be a democratic or aristocratic republic, hardly the desired outcome of the constitutional process. AP 9: 87 (21 Sept.).return to text

    28. AP 8: 543 (2 Sept.). In discussing Antraigue's speech and the necessity that the different branches of government be armed against one another, Gorsas claimed sarcastically that even Machiavelli would have been convinced: Gorsas, Le Courrier de Versailles, 5 Sept. 1789.return to text

    29. AP 8: 543, 545 (2 Sept.). This speech clearly reflects current events in Paris. The right to resist oppression appears in article two of the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen. The noble deputy François-Alexandre-Frédéric, duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, later derived the king's veto power from his legislative role, claiming that "the monarch must at all times be an essential and integral part of legislation." AP 9: 78-79 (21 Sept.). return to text

    30. AP 8: 559 (4 Sept.).return to text

    31. Honoré Gabriel Riquetti, comte de Mirabeau, Discours de M. le comte de Mirabeau sur la sanction royale (s.l., n.d). English translation in Paul H. Beik, The French Revolution (New York: Walker, 1970), 99.return to text

    32. Ibid., 99-101. What Mirabeau desired as a way to balance the government was seen as a danger by baron de Jessé, who argued that the veto should be suspensive; an absolute veto would cast the Assembly and the king into roles as antagonists: AP 8: 551 (3 Sept.). return to text

    33. Mirabeau, Discours, 98. The noble deputy François-Henri, comte de Virieu, also thought the veto necessary to prevent France from becoming a loose federation of provinces on the model of the United States: AP 8: 589-90 (7 Sept.). Sièyes was also of the opinion that France had to be rescued from decentralization though he opposed any veto for the king: see his speech of 7 Sept., AP 8: 593.return to text

    34. AP 8: 538, 539, 540 (1 Sept.). Likewise, Malouet claimed that he voted for the absolute veto "not finding that the suspensive was a sufficient barrier to democracy in the face of a permanent Assembly composed of a single Chamber." Pierre-Victor Malouet, Correspondance de Malouet avec les officiers municipaux de la ville de Riom, 1788-89, ed. François Boyer (Riom, n.d.), 115 (Letter of 11 Sept. 1789). Target had claimed that while the veto would be absolute to the representatives of the people, it could only be suspensive to the people themselves. Jacques Brissot, Le Patriot Français, 5 Sept. 1789; 7 Sept. 1789; Barère, Le Point du jour, 4 Sept. 1789.return to text

    35. AP 9: 86 (21 Sept.).return to text

    36. AP 9: 89 (21 Sept.).return to text

    37. AP 8: 564 (4 Sept.). It is worth noting that Brissot found it impossible to make any sense of Sèze's speech upon hearing it. Brissot, Le patriote français, 7 Sept. 1789.return to text

    38. On veto as referendum, see Baker, Margerison, Shapiro as cited above.return to text

    39. Cited by Alexandre de Lameth, no date given. Alexandre-Théodore-Victor, comte de Lameth, Histoire de l'Assemblée et Constituante, 2 vols. (Paris, 1828-29), 1: 133-34. Malouet was distressed that the king might be given only a suspensive veto and worried "that any king other than Louis XVI would revolt against this Constitution. . . . We would be faced with a new revolution whose final result would be despotism." Malouet, 113 (Letter of 7 Sept.).return to text

    40. Mounier claimed that he modeled this veto explicitly on that held by the king of England. AP 8: 561. One might also note that Mounier later came out in favor of a kind of suspensive veto; after fleeing Paris following the October Days, Mounier argued that if the king and Assembly disagreed over constitutional matters, the dispute needed to be resolved through a kind of referendum: Mounier, 54-55.return to text