The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson
FRANCE / GOVERNMENT / REFORM OF
As to the affairs of this country, they have hitherto gone on well.
The Court being decided to call the States General, know that the form
of calling and constituting them would admit of cavil. They asked the
advice of the Notables. These advised that the form of the last States
General of 1614 be observed. In that, the commons had but about
one-third of the whole number of members, and they voted by orders.
The Court wished now that they should have one-half of the whole
number of members, and that they should form but one house, not three.
The parliament have taken up the subject, and given the opinion which
the Court would have wished. We are, therefore, in hopes that,
availing themselves of these contrary opinions, they will follow that
which they wished. The priests and nobles threaten schism; and we do
not know yet what form will ultimately be adopted. If no schism of
this kind prevents it, the States will meet about March or April, and
will obtain, without opposition from the Court, 1. Their own
periodical convocation; 2. A share in the legislation; 3. The
exclusive right to tax and appropriate the public money. They will
attempt also to obtain a habeas corpus law and free press; but it does
not appear to me that the nation is ripe to accept of these, if
to Thomas Paine, 23 December 1788