Rebel Daughters: Women and the French Revolution

By Sara E. Melzer; Leslie W. Rabine | Go to book overview

7

Outspoken Women and
the Rightful Daughter
of the Revolution: Madame de Staël's
Considerations sur la Révolution Française

LINDA ORR

In the Considérations sur la Révolution française, Madame de Staël refuses to separate out her own family romance from her analytic reflections on history and politics. Her family romance and political or historical theory not only complement, but mutually constitute each other. This strange dialectic may make Staël's history less than legitimate in the context of historiographical tradition, but it also engenders a different kind of history, less restricted in its self-definitions, in its ways of knowing and expression.

Her father, Jacques Necker, the popular Finance Minister on the eve of the revolution, embodies within him the key connection between the modern state and its new reference, public opinion. Her mother, Madame Necker, shows her daughter a space where this public opinion is formed in the presence of women, the salon. Daughter Germaine does not just synthesize these influences, for they are both inadequate to the full realization of the revolution Staël would like to articulate herself. But she has a rival: Napoleon.


Father/Trust

As Louis XVI's Director General of Finances, Necker understood the way public borrowing would change the political situation. Staël recounts her father's analysis of the historical conjuncture that produced the interdependence of fiscal planning and people: "for no country can nor should wage war with its revenue alone: credit is therefore the true modern discovery which has linked governments with peoples." 1 Modern warfare made old resources of tax collecting inadequate; like the first investment companies (proto-trusts in which Necker participated), the monarchy needed the promise of future funds. Thus, it had to instill confidence in its people. Necker knew that the original trust between king and subjects derived from those long-forgotten medieval

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