The French Revolution – The First Constitution

The Estates General, which declared itself the National Assembly began work on a Constitution for France while still in Versailles and before its move to the Tuileries which occurred only days after the King and Queen were “invited to live in Paris among their subjects.”

The first fruits of its labor was “the Declaration of the  Rights of Man and of the Citizen.”  It was a statement of the rights which belong to men because they are human beings, which are not the gift of any government.  The Declaration was drawn up in imitation of the Americans,

The Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution brought forward a draft just before the storming of the Bastille.  He urged two chief reasons for its adoption: It would provide the people with a clear conception of the elements of liberty which, once understood, they would insist on possessing.  Secondly it would be an invaluable guide to the Assembly in drafting the Constitution, testing all propositions against its carefully defined principles.

Some feared is would lead to endless hair-splitting and debate but the Assembly took the side of Lafayette and composed the notable document in August 1789.  The King was forced to eventually accept it after the fall of the Bastille.

The final work was not that of an individual; there were many collaborators.  The political discussions of the 18th century counted for much as did the English and American examples.  While critics denounced it as “abstractions of doubtful philosophical theories, topics for everlasting discussion,” there was in reality a definitive link between the Declaration and a Constitution.

France was a country with no  historic principles of freedom.  It could not evolve from precedent to precedent as it had in England.  It had to begin abruptly for France had never known freedom.

The Declaration laid down the principles of modern government and the men who drew up this document believed these principles to be true and applicable everywhere.  They did not establish rights – they merely declared them.  They had a profound faith in truth and reason.  They believed in the power of ideas and that the truth was invincible.  They believed these dogmas to be so obvious that by declaring them it would become so for the people would adopt them and never give them up.

The seventeen articles asserted that all men are free and equal, that the people are sovereign, that law is the expression of the popular will, and in making law the people shall participate directly or indirectly.  All officials possess only that authority given to them by law.  Liberties of the person, of assembly, of free speech of justice administered by one’s peers, all of which had been worked out in England and America were asserted.

It was the direct opposite of the Old Regime.

And it changed the world.  When those unfree anywhere in the world wish to recall the rights of men it is this French document that they have in mind. The Declaration long ago passed by the frontiers of France for it has been said “five or six formulas as trenchant as mathematical propositions, true as the truth itself, intoxicating as a vision of  the absolute.”

With the Declaration in hand the Assembly began the work of writing France’s first constitution.How far would they go toward making the law of the land what they had proclaimed?

The constitution was drafted between 1789 and 1791 and codified into a single document.  Like the American constitution, it was a product of compromise.  It was permeated with two principles; the sovereignty of the people, all governmental powers issuing from them and by their will and secondly, the strict separation of powers sharply from eachother.

The form of government was monarchial.   Louis XVI would remain a constitutional monarch which was in conformity with the wishes of the people.  He was no longer to be an absolute monarch.  His former title “King of France was now amended  – he was King of the French.  And he was put on a salary and a budget. He could appoint his Ministers but not any member of the Assembly; nor could his Ministers appear before the Assembly.

The King was granted a veto power; he could delay any measure for no more than four years or two terms of the Assembly members.  If afterwards it was approved a third time it would have the effect of law.  Some wanted the King to have an absolute veto; some wanted no veto at all.  The result was a compromise.

The King could conduct foreign affairs and was to be head of the army and navy.  He could propose peace or war but the Assembly would make the final decision.  He could no longer declare war or peace on his own.

The Assembly would consist of 745 members elected for two years.  It was unicameral in nature;  the Assembly saw no need for a House of Lords since there no longer were any.  And the American Senate was considered a compromise involving states rights and France was to be a unified nation.  Thus a single legislative body..

Ah, but how was the legislature to be chosen?  If all men are equal should there not be universal suffrage?

It was here that the Assembly temporarily put away the Declaration of rights.  Universal suffrage was not to be the opinion of the Assembly which now made a distinction between “active” and “passive” citizens.  Active citizens had to be at  least 25 years old and paid the equivalent of three days wages in tax.  This excluded the poor; as many as 3 million were not qualified to vote.  Active citizens alone had the right to vote but even they did not vote directly for members of the Assembly.  They chose electors, who had to meet a much higher property qualification.  Perhaps as few as 43,000 out of a population of 25 million qualified.  These electors chose the members of the Assembly as well as judges.

The Assembly, so zealous in abolishing old privileges was, in defiance of its own principles, establishing new ones.  The political class would consist of men of property.  While members of the Assembly had no property qualifications, the electors would most likely choose members of their own class.

The Assembly made several more serious mistakes.  It abolished the old 32 provinces and France was divided into 83 departments of uniform size within which local government was to be elected.  No representative of the central government would be appointed to ensure that law passed by the Assembly would be enforced.  The Assembly could not relieve the local administration, did not appoint it and left it strictly to the locals.  It had an anarchic effect – too decentralized for a united nation to develop.

Finally there was the seizure of church property.  The church held approximately one quarter of all the land in France.  Recall that the Estates General had been originally called to address the country’s financial problems.  Little had been done solve the problem.

The Assembly voted to seize the church’s property, arguing it had always  belonged to the nation in the person of the King and merely been “loaned” to the church so it could minister to the people.  The church merely “administered” the property.

Further, the Assembly decided it would appoint a Bishop for each parish/department without the approval of the Pope.   It passed the Constitution of the Clergy reducing the number of dioceses from 134 to 83 – one for each Department.  Bishops would be appointed and simply announced to the Pope.  Clergy would receive salaries from the state, in effect becoming state officials.

While it would not go as far as establishing a Church of France (the country being predominantly Catholic) the Assembly voted that all clergymen must take an oath to support the Civil Constitution of the Clergy.  Only 4 out of the 134 Bishops consented and perhaps a third of the parish priests.  Those who consented were called juring; those who refused non-juring.

France would witness the spectacle of two bodies of priests introducing religious discord into every village and hamlet.

And it put Louis XVI in a very difficult position; a sincere Catholic, he could not and did not approve of the measure.  It put him in the position of being an “enemy of the revolution.”  Civil war broke out in the Vendee and multitudes of priests who had supported the revolution now turned against it.  The poor who again found themselves without a voice in their government became restless.

Suffice to say no greater mistakes were made my the Assembly.  A small counter-revolutionary party was reinforced by millions of recruits.

King Louis signed the decree with a closing comment – “This will end soon.”

He was now through with his scruples and was resolved to call the monarchs of Europe to his aid and to escape the Tuileries.

Posted in history | 1 Comment

Surrounded By Cranes

We interrupt the French Revolution for a moment in time.


Standing in my driveway looking left at my neighbor’s house this morning.



Behind my house, joining me for coffee.


And looking right from my driveway as these three seek shade from the oppressive heat and humidity under my oak tree.


Momma would dust the venetian blinds
every Saturday morning
open and close them
with a pull of the cord
watching the world blink
appear, disappear and change
reappearing the same yet slightly different.

Now cranes appear through open blinds
unafraid messengers of a sort
spying from their perch, all stilt and neck;
do they despise us or think we are ugly
thick of leg and round of head
unable to dance?

I have left the city
where people cannot love themselves
to live among the cranes
promenading quietly passed blinded windows
treating me indifferently
as I revel in the accomplishments of quiet.


Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The French Revolution – The Bastille and the Arrest of the King

Tuileries Palace

With the ruling by Louis XVI that the three classes shoud meet as one body the National Assembly convened.  Months had gone by since the first meeting of the Estates General.  The Assembly now appointed a committee on the constitution and adopted the title of the Constituent Assembly because of the character of the work it intended to do.

Yet no sooner was the crisis of three chambers vs. one over than another began to develop.

A second attempt was made by the King – again inspired by the Court – to suppress  the Assembly or to effectively intimidate it, to regain the ground which had been lost.

Considerable bodies of soldiers began to appear at Versailles and around Paris.  They were chiefly foreign mercenaries or troops from frontier stations supposedly less responsive to the popular feelings in the streets.

On July 11, 1789 Necker was dismissed by the King as well as his colleagues favorable to reform.  Necker was ordered to leave the country immediately.  Reaction and repression were coming – were things going to be put back the way they were?

The Assembly was in great danger yet it possessed no physical force if troops were sent against it.  The violent intervention of the city of Paris saved the day and gave the Assembly the protection which the nation’s representatives lacked, assuring its continuance.

The storming of the Bastille seized instantly the imagination of the world.

The Bastille was a fortress commanding the eastern section of Paris.  It was used as a state prison and had many distinguished occupants, among others Voltaire and Mirabeau, thrown into it by the lettres de cachet without charge or trial.

It was the odious symbol of arbitrary government and was also a strong fortress which the newly arriving troops might use.

There was a large, discontented and miserable class in Paris and also a lively class of radicals and liberal men in favor of reform.  They were alarmed and indignant at every  rumor that the Assembly upon which their hopes were pinned was in danger.

When the news of Necker’s dismissal arrived Paris took fire.  Rumors of the most alarming character spread rapidly.  The people began to pillage shops where arms could be found.

Finally they attacked the Bastille and after a confused and bloody battle of several hours, the fortress was in their hands.   They had lost about 200 men killed or wounded.  The crowd savagely murdered the commander of the guard and several of the Swiss guards.

Not withstanding the acts of barbarism, the taking of the Bastille was everywhere regarded, in France and abroad as the triumph of liberty.  July 14 became a national holiday and a new flag, the tricolor, was adopted.

Paris adopted a new form of government and organized the National Guard.

Three days later the King came to Paris and formally ratified these changes.  Similar changes were made all over France.  Municipal governments on an elective basis were formed and national guards were created even in rural areas.  Peasants took things in their own hands impatient to suppress feudal dues making violent “war on the chateaux” distroying the records of feudal dues if they could find them  If not, they burned down the chateaux.

During the closing week of July, 1789 the destructive and incendiary process went on and by this method feudalism was abolished – not legally but practically.  It remained to be seen what the effect of this victory of the people would be on the National Assembly.

The effect was immediate and sensational.

On August 14, a committee on the state of the nation made a report, describing the incidents which were occurring throughout the length and breathe of the land, chateaux burnings, tax collectors assaulted, millers hanged, lawlessness triumphant.  It was the night before the  report was finished.

Suddenly at eight o’clock in the evening when the session was about toclose. a nobleman. the Viscount of Noailles, took  to the platform.  He stated that the only reason the people had burned the chateaux was because of the heavy burden of feudal dues, odious reminders of the past.

These, he said, must be swept away.  Instantly another noble, the Duke d’Aiguillon, next to  the King, the greatest feudal lord in France, seconded the motion.  A frenzy seized the Assembly with noble after noble joing the renunciations.

The Bishop of Nancy renounced the privileges of his order.  Parish priests renounced ttheir fees.  Judges discarded their distinctions.  Rights of tithes went by the board.  Cities and provincses gave up their privileges.  A veritable delirium of joys went over the assembly,  swept in wave after wave.

All night long the excitement continued amid tears, embraces annd rapturous applause and by morning thirty decrees had been passed and the most extraordinary social revolution that any nation has known had been voted.

The feudal dues were dead.  Tithes were abandoned; guilds with their narrow restrictions were swept away.  No longer were offices to be purchasable, for henceforth all Frenchmen were to be equally able to hold public positions.  Justice was to be free.  Provinces and individuals were to be on the same plane.  Distinctions of class were abolished.  The principle of equality was to be the basis of the state.

In closing, a service was held at the chapel of the royal palace, and Louis XVI, who had no more to do with this than you or I was officially proclaimed by the assembly as the “Restorer or French Liberty.”

Now none of these rapturous resolutions were law but that fact was ignored by the people as a whole, who regarded them as real legislation, not a program merely sketched.  So when they awoke and saw no real change, there was disappointment, impatience.

For example, just because some nobles and bishops had renounced their privileges did not ensure that their deeds would be ratified by their orders and apply to all.  Indeed it was likely that the opposite would prove true.  Even those who had shared the night of enthusiasm might change their minds in the morning.

And indeed it was true.  Soon two parties emerged – those who supported the revolution and what it had thus far accomplished and the counter-revolutionaries who wanted to recover their lost privileges.  Many stiff necked nobles, including the brother of the King. the Count of Artois began leaving France.  Those nobles who stayed, lead by the Queen pressured and played upon the weak willed monarch.

Thus were planted the seeds of future trouble and the general sense of anxiety and insecurity.  Two months went by yet the King did not accept or ratify the decrees of August 4 which, without his acceptance lacked legal force.  Several articles of the new constitution had also been submitted without royal response.

Was the King plotting something or were the plotters about him getting control of him once more?  The people were suspicious while thousands upon thousands were at the point of starvation.

In October rumor reached Paris that the Queen had hosted a banquet for some crack regiments which had been sent to protect Versailles and at the affair the tricolor had been stomped upon and threats made against the assembly.

Out of  wretched conditions this rumor sparked  “the march of the women.”   On October 5 several thousand women began a march to Versailles, dragging cannon, ostensibly to demand a reduction in the price of bread and punishment of those who had insulted the national flag.  They were followed by several thousand unemployed men and the Marquis de Lafayette leading a number of guardsmen he had gather up. That evening the crowd bivouacked in the vast courtyards of the palace.

In the morning the crowd forced the gates, killed several of the guards and invaded the palace.  Reaching the entrance to the Queen’s apartments it was discovered she had fled to the King’s apartments for safety.

The King finally appeared on the balcony, addressed the crowd and promised them food.  By the end of this humiliating day, the King was “persuaded” to come to Paris “to live among his subjects”

At two o’clock the grim procession began.  The entire royal family, 8 persons packed into a single carriage started for Paris, drawn at a walk surrounded by women and men who  carried on pikes the heads of the guards killed at the entrance to the palace.

“We are bringing back the baker, the baker’s wife and the baker’s son!” shouted the women.

The National Assembly Hall at Tuileries

That night Louis XVI was in the Tuileries.  Ten days later the Assembly followed.  The King and the Assembly were now under the daily supervision of the people of Paris.  In reality they both were prisoners.

Versailles was abandoned.  From this moment dates the great influence of the capital.  A single city was henceforth always in a position to dominate the assembly.  The people took to the gallery of the hall which held over a thousand on-lookers now free to hiss unpopular speakers and shout their wishes.  Thousands more gathered outside ensuring the members of the assembly could hear them when hey disapproved.

And the Kings and Queens of Europe began to seriously listen.

to be continued.


Posted in history | 1 Comment

The French Revolution – the Beginning

King Louis XVI

It was the middle of the 1780s and the King of France was broke.

Extravagant levels of spending by the monarchy and nobility, both of whom and the church were exempt from taxation on their lands or incomes, had led to perpetual annual deficits.  The deficits had been covered by borrowings which of course only made the situation worse.  A goodly portion of tax receipts from the Third Estate were now going to interest payments.

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de l’Aulne  and Minister of Finance had had enough.   The continuance of annual deficits could mean nothing else than ultimate bankruptcy.  Turgot announced his program to the King in the words “No bankruptcy, no increase in taxation, no more borrowing.”

Turgot, an economic liberal proposed cutting expenditures and developing public wealth so that receipts would be larger by introducing a regime of liberty into agriculture, industry and commerce.

Turgot was able to save many millions but he offended all who enjoyed those privileges and they flew into arms.  He introduced free trade in grain thus making enemies of grain speculators.  He abolished trade guilds which restricted production, which was desirable but turned the masters of the guilds against him.  He abolished the royal corvee, an odious tax which required peasants to work without pay on public roads, requiring land owners to pay a tax in order to pay the workers.  All landowners opposed him, arguing that there should not be equality of all before the tax collector.

Queen Marie Antoinette

All lobbied the King including the Queen Marie Antoinette and so the weak willed Louis XVI gave in and relieved the obnoxious Minister.   In doing so he fired the most able supporter the throne had.

The fall of Turgot taught all of the reformers a lesson – No changes that could affect the privileged classes!  Yet without reform affecting those classes there was no way out of the annual deficits.

Jacques Necker, a Geneva banker succeeded Turgot.  A man who had risen from poverty to great wealth, he too encountered opposition as he proposed economies.  Then he took a step which infuriated the members of the Court  – he published a financial report showing the income and expenditures of the state.

This had never been done before. secrecy having always prevailed in such matters. The Court was indignant that such high mystery should be revealed to common folk particularly that it showed just how much went in annual pensions to the courtiers as free gifts for which they rendered no service.

For such audacity Necker was overthrown.

This time the King took no chances.  He appointed Charles de Calonne as Finance Minister.  Calonne lived to please; the members of the Court had only to make their wishes known.  In the space of 3 years Calonne borrowed some half a billion dollars in current funds from money lenders to cover the spending.  Money flowed like water.

It seemed to good to be true  – and it was.  The evil days grew neigh for an accounting.

In August 1786 the Treasury was empty and there were no more lending fools.  Calonne proposed a general tax on the nobles as well as the commoners; it was his turn to go.

His successor Lomenie de Brienne encountered the same fate.  He proposed new taxes.

The city government of Paris, known as the parliament of Paris demanded a convocation  the Estates General arguing that taxes can only be imposed by those who have to pay them.  The King tried to overawe the parliament but soon found that this was no way to fill an empty Treasury.

He gave in and called a meeting of the Estates which had not happened for 175 years.  The convocation was called to meet in Versailles on May 1, 1789.  A new chapter of incalculable possibilities was opened in the history of France.

Necker was recalled tp head the Ministry and preparations for the coming meeting.  The Estates General had been virtually dead but was now revived to help pull the state out of its deplorable condition.  But it was a thoroughly feudal organization no longer conforming to the wishes or needs of the nation.

Previously it consisted of three chambers, nobility, clergy and third estate, consisting of an equal number of members and each meeting separately.  Two of the three chambers consisted entirely of privileged classes.  There was immediate objection to this as, with two  against one the nation was exactly where it had been.  The two could veto anything the Third Estate alone wanted.  All reform could be prevented.

Necker proposed the Third Estate should have as many members as the other two combined (it represented 90% of the French population) but the issue of meeting as one body went unresolved.  Meeting as one body, the Third Estate would be a majority counting on lowly priests and a minority of nobles to join them.  The Third Estate wanted a vote by individuals, not by chambers.

The Convocation met on May 5, 1789 with about 1,200 members; over 600 members were of the Third Estate.  Each group drew up a list of grievances.  Some were almost unanimous.  All described the ills from which the country suffered due to arbitrary government;  all talked of the necessity of confining  government within limits, of establishing a Constitution.

The nobility almost unanimously agreed to relinquish their exemptions for which they had fought so resolutely only 2 years before.  The Third Estate wanted the suppression of feudal dues and was willing to leave the nobility with its honors and rights.  All expressed love of the Kng.

A wave of hope swept the land.  Then the King made a speech at the Convocation – and mentioned not a word of a Constitution for France.  He was only interested in bringing order to the country’s finances. And he made no comment on whether or not the vote should be by order or by head.  He came with no program whatsoever.

A crisis was the result; the public disappointed.  A conflict between the orders began and lasted until the end of June.   One chamber or three?  Both sides stood firm.  Nothing could be done until the crucial question was settled.  Vote by head was viewed as the end of the class system and preponderance of the Third Estate – which it felt was only right considering that it represents nine-tenths of the French population.

Eventually the parish priests began to come over sympathizing with the commoners rather than their own order.

Finally on June 17, 1789 the Third Estate took the momentous step of declaring itself the National Assembly, a distinctly revolutionary proceeding.

The King under pressure from the Court and the Queen did a highly unwise thing.  On June 20 the Third Estate, proceeding to its usual meeting place, found the entrance blocked by troops.   Members of the order first thought the whole experiment was over.  On impulse they rushed to an ajoining building which served as a tennis court

Surging around their leader, the noted astronomer Bailly, they took the Tennis Court Oath.

They swore they would never separate and would reassemble wherever circumstances required, until the nation had a Constitution.  The King called the action illegal and ruled that the orders should meet separately.  He ordered the Third Estate to withdraw.

“You heard the King’s orders!”

It would be the abandonment of all the Third Estate stood for; alternatively defying the express orders of the King could result in severe punishment.

The occasion brought forth its man:  Honore Gabriel Riqueti. Count of Mirabeau.

He had been refused by the nobles to represent their order and was subsequently chosen by the commoners.  He arose and advanced imperiously toward the guard commander and with a thunderous voice exclaimed:

“Go tell your master that we are here by the will of the people and that we shall not leave except at the point of a bayonet!”  

Further anyone who laid hands on a member of the National Assembly would be “infamous traitors to the nation and guilty of a capital crime!”

Three days later the King ordered the nobles and clergy to sit with the commoners in the National Assembly.

to be continued.


If you intend to continue to follow subsequent posts on this subject suggest you read my first post if you haven’t done so:

Posted in history | 4 Comments

The Insulin Racket – Driving to Canada

I’ve written about the insulin drug racket before – last time just this past January.

Diabetics are walking cash cows to be milked by big pharma on everything from insulin, to substitute diabetes drugs to blood meter testing strips.  Nobody, but nobody wants to “cure” diabetes;  it is simply to be managed and milked for profits.

Insulin prices have risen by triple digits in the last 5 years and are now endangering the lives of those who cannot afford to pay.  Read my last post if you haven’t already.

We have gotten to the point where our people, tax paying citizens of the richest country on earth are now making (probably illegal) drug runs to Canada.

As their minivan rolled north, they felt their nerves kick in — but they kept on driving.

“At the wheel: Lija Greenseid, a rule-abiding Minnesota mom steering her Mazda 5 on a cross-border drug run.

Her daughter, who is 13, has Type 1 diabetes and needs insulin. In the United States, it can cost hundreds of dollars per vial. In Canada, you can buy it without a prescription for a tenth of that price. 

So Greenseid led a caravan last month  to Ontario where she and 5 others paid $1,200 for drugs which would have cost $12,000 in the United States.

“It felt like we were robbing the pharmacy,” said Quinn Nystrom, a Type 1 diabetic who joined the caravan that day. “It has been years since I had 10 vials in my hands.”

They’re planning another run to Canada this month to stock up on insulin — and to call attention to their cause. This time, they’ll be taking the scenic route, driving from Minnesota through Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan in route to London, Ontario, where insulin was discovered nearly a century ago.

Like millions of Americans, Greenseid and Nystrom are stressed and outraged by the rising costs of prescription drugs in the United States — a problem Republicans and Democrats alike have promised to fix.

Don’t hold your breath.

Insulin is a big part of the challenge. More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. About 7.5 million, including 1.5 million with Type 1 diabetes, rely on insulin.  Including me.

Between 2012 and 2016, the cost of insulin for treating Type 1 diabetes nearly doubled, according to the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute.

Some pharmaceutical companies, under pressure from U.S. lawmakers, have tried to reduce the cost for some patients. But many who rely on insulin still struggle. Large numbers resort to rationing — a dangerous and sometimes deadly practice.

Some diabetics and their families are taking matters into their own hands. They meet in coffee shops and strip mall parking lots to exchange emergency supplies. An unknown number travel outside the country to buy the lifesaving drug for less.

None of this is recommended by U.S. officials, and some of it might be illegal under Food and Drug Administration guidelines. But the organizers of the caravan are speaking out about their trips because they want Americans to see how drug prices push ordinary people to extremes.

“When you have a bad health-care system, it makes good people feel like outlaws,” Greenseid said.

“It’s demeaning. It’s demoralizing. It’s unjust.”

Insulin prices are controlled in Canada through policy, price caps and negotiations with manufacturers, which is of course something we could do – but don’t.

I remember distinctly that the insulin I take today, Novolin 70/30, was considerably cheaper than the older pig/beef based insulins. My doctor encouraged me to change – “it’s human!”

It was also patented.  No one today outside of the drug companies knows exactly what it costs to make a vial or pen of insulin.  That’s “proprietary knowledge.”  Whatever the actual cost seems to be pretty damn profitable.

Today the cheapest bottle of Novolin 70/30 insulin  you can find in America is about $175 for a ten milliliter vial – which lasts me about three weeks.  That would be the lower end of the cost for a vial for those without prescription insurance.  That same identical vial would cost you considerably less in Canada, without insurance coverage or a prescription.

I know.  I’ve ordered drugs from Canada on line, shipped to me in a cooler.  Same identical insulin I buy here at home.  Cost me $250 for $1,000 worth of inulin – by mail. Yes, it was illegal.

The new “analog” insulins are even more expensive running over $500 a pen for some brands.  Analog insulins mimic more closely how the body actually responds to rising blood sugars.  I keep a pen or two in the house;  if I find my sugar levels running too high; these insulins can knock it down pretty quickly.

I can afford all of this because I have that “socialist” Medicare, including its drug program.  I can’t imagine how I would get along without it.  It does, however have it limitations.

Part D drug coverage under Medicare was instituted by Bush the Lesser and seemed to work really well for awhile.  Unfortunately the legislation omitted any effort by the government to negotiate the price of drugs with drug companies; the law was probably written by the drug companies themselves.

Part D drug coverage this year basically covers the first $3,820 total of annual drug costs  paid by the individual and the insurer.  This amount has increased by about $500 over the last several years.  After a total of $3,820 the individual enters into the dreaded “donut hole” where coverage by the insurer is severely reduced and the individual is burdened with a larger percentage of the cost.

Recently I paid $33 for five vials.  The retail pharmacy billed Medicare a further $817 for a total of $170 per vial.   At this very moment I can buy 5 vials of my insulin from a major pharmaceutical outlet in Canada, shipped express in a sealed cooler packed with dry ice for exactly $500 less than the amount billed to Medicare – or $100 less per vial.  And that’s without shopping around for a lower price or going to Canada and appearing in person.  Now why is that?

Click on the link and type in Humulin in the search bar.  My insulin will appear on the first line – $350.73 for 5 vials.

I’m sure I will be in the donut hole come Thanksgiving.

P.S. – Or perhaps you are a Type II diabetic and are intrigued by those ubiquitous Trulicity ads on TV.  As info, – the list wholesale price to distributors is $760 for a month’s supply or $9,120 a year.  If you have crummy insurance you will pay through the nose.  If you are poor and have no insurance that’s probably equivalent to your rent money.


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Father’s Day at Disney!! Yay!!

I rode the Merry-go-round!

With Mommy!  Daddy took the picture!

Then I had a ice cream!!

And then wore these cool glasses!!  So much nicer than Daddy’s!



Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

France Before the Revolution

The Queen’s Chamber at Versailles

What was it like to be a common man, a member of the Third Estate in the time just before the French Revolution, which was to change the course of European history?  How bad did daily life have to be to start a revolution which changed a government as well as society from the bottom up?

It is not an easy society to describe in a few words; many books have been written on the subject by far smarter folks than I.  Leaving details aside French society was graded from top to bottom and each grade differed in legal rights, in opportunities for advancement, development, and power.

The system culminated in the monarch, the lofty, glittering head of state, the embodiment of the majesty of the nation.

The King claimed to rule by the will of God, by divine right, not at all by consent.  He was responsible to no one but God.  Consequently, in office he was subject to no control.  He was an absolute monarch.  He could do as he chose.  It was for the nation to  obey. The Will of the King was the only thing that counted.  His will was the law governing the  millions of French at the time.

“This thing is legal because I wish it” said Louis XVI thus stating in a single phrase the nature of the monarchy.  The King made the laws, levied the  taxes, spent them as he wished,, made wars, made peace and contracted alliances as he saw fit.

He could seize the property of anyone, imprison them on a mere order, a Lettre de Cachet, without trial for such a period as he desired.  He censored the press and could muzzle criticism absolutely.

And he needed a broad and ample stage.  Never has a being been more sumptuously housed as the King of France.  While Paris was the capital, he lived 12 miles away at the splendors of Versailles.  His palace was the envy of every King in Christendom, with hundreds of rooms, its chapel, theater, dining halls and salons along with endless suites of apartments for his distinguished guests.   There were thousands of servants, miles of corridors and walks through endless formal gardens, studded with statues and lakes.

Versailles had all the pomp and pageantry of power.  The Court was composed of some 18,000 people, perhaps 16,000 of whom were attached to personal service of the King and his family with some 2,000 being courtiers, the favored guests – nobles engaged in a daily round of pleasures who were also feathering their nests seeking favors from the lavish throne.

The French monarchy of the time was always in debt.  There was no budget.  The King simply spent on the lavish life or his army or gave it away to nobles in gifts or pensions and the finance minister had to fund it.  Taxes would be raised or funds borrowed from money lenders.  He didn’t collect it himself.  He “privatized” it by selling the tax levy to “tax farmers” who paid a fixed sum to the crown for the right to collect and keep the taxes – and earn a nice profit.  Tax-farmers were some of the most hated figures in France.

The nobility was the highest power after the King but there was no solidarity of class among the nobles.  There was the Nobility of the Sword  – old French families who had fought alongside  long dead French Kings and been awarded hereditary titles and lands.  These numbered around 2,000 individuals who by the time of the revolution were all living at Versailles while their estates were run by bailiffs. They were largely exempt from taxation on the value of their lands or income.  Income came from peasants and serfs working their estates (about 20 million peasants were serfs before the revolution) and from surviving medieval annual levies from those living on their land.

The second class of nobles was the Nobility of the Robe – those “appointed” as judges by the crown throughout France.  Mostly they bought their offices from the crown which was always in need of money.  This group was not deemed important enough in the scheme of things to reside at Versailles.  They lived in the various provinces dispensing the King’s justice.  They shined brightly in their new nobility, wanted to keep their new positions of wealth, tax exemption and power and became one of the fiercest resisters of the revolution.

Next came the clergy and the church.  Exempt from tax on vast land holdings and income, they were entitled to tithes from all who lived within their domains.  Here again, there were two groups – the higher positions within the church were always filled by nobility.  A Bishop always came from a noble family.  Many Bishoprics were owned by noble families and passed from father to son or nephew. .The priesthood, on the other hand came primarily from the Third Estate.  These common folk priests came from the poor and bourgeois class.  Their income was so inadequate that most lived at a subsistence level.  These poor priests would be some of the strongest supporters of the revolution.

And then there was everyone else – the Third Estate – the tens of millions who scraped by from day to day, suffering onerous taxation to support the luxury of the crown, the nobility and the church.

Here again there was no unity of class.  Within the Third Estate was the bourgeoisie, the shop keepers, business men, property owners, many of who had amassed impressive fortunes.  They  resented the onerous taxes levied on their property and income, the possibility that they could be arrested at anytime without charges or trial and their lack of representation in the government.  Most were made to feel in numerous galling ways their social inequality.  By education and success they felt in many ways the equal of any noble.  They considered themselves above the “mob.”

Also within the Third Estate were the artisans – those of a particular trade who had formed Guilds, limiting the ability of non-members to practice their trade.  These Guilds were often hereditary in nature, the trade passing from father to son.  The Guilds enjoyed their privilege and also considered themselves a cut above the “mob.”  They too resented taxes levied without representation in the government and the complete lack of rights under the monarchy.

Thus of the 25 million Frenchmen, the clergy numbered about 130,000, the nobility around 140,000 while possibly about as many bourgeois as these two combined enjoyed privileges that separated them from the mass of their class.   One in forty belonged to a favored minority whose lot was differentiated from that of their fellow men by artificial advantages and distinctions.

The Third Estate, like the other two illustrated the principle of inequality.  There were the widest extremes in social and economic conditions.  Everyone who was not a noble nor a clergyman, from the richest banker, the man of letters, the poorest peasant, the beggar in the street was a member.

More than nine-tenths of the population were peasants of which millions were serfs.  The rest were free but their lot was an unhappy one.  The burdens of society fell with crushing weight upon them.  Turgot, the Finance Minister for Louis XVI soberly estimated that they paid 55% of what little they earned to the state.  They paid tithes to the church, various feudal dues to the nobles, tolls for the use of roads, were forced to use his Lord’s winepress, mill, oven – and pay for it.  He as forced to buy salt from the King’s monopoly and forbidden to use it to salt meat = it was only for use at the table only.

All  in all, it is estimated that the peasant paid four-fifths of his income in taxes and fees -while the privileged classes paid nothing.  It is estimated that in Paris alone with a population of 660,000 there were 120,000 beggars.

France was not unique in 1789 – every country in Europe was in a similar situation.  Rulers were concerned only with expanding their domains and living the good life – they cared nothing for the well being of the general population.

And then came the writers of the enlightenment.

It began with Montesquieu, a member of the Nobility of the Robe, a lawyer of eminence.  His great work, a product of 20 years of labor was his “Spirit of Laws” published in 1748 with immediate and immense success.  An analysis of the various forms of government known to men, it was a cold and balanced judgement of their merits and defects.  He contemptuously tore apart the claim of divine origin of Kings.  Out of it came the idea that the British system was superior since it guaranteed personal liberty to all  citizens; a monarchy limited in power and controlled by a parliament representing the people and carefully separating the power of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

Next Voltaire, standing for the emancipation of intellect.  The world has rarely seen a freer or more intrepid spirit enlisted in the fight for the freedom of mankind.   Several times he had been thrown into prison by the odious arbitrary Lettres de Cachet because he had incurred the enmity of the nobles.  A large part of his life was spent n exile for he was not safe in France.  He singled out in his writings the hypocrisies and cruelties of the age and raked them over the coals, denouncing arbitrary imprisonment and torture.  He attacked individual abuses in the state and undermined respect for authority in the face of injustice.  He considered the church the gloomy vault of moldering superstitions, the enemy of freedom of thought.

And then there was Jean Rousseau, creator of an entirely new political system.  He sought not reform; he swept far beyond it.  The past had no power over him.  His principle work was “Social Contract,” one of the most influential books ever written.

“Man was born free and everywhere is in chains” is the opening line.

The people are sovereign.  Society rests only upon the persons who compose it, not any individual or any class.  All men are free and equal.  The purpose of government should be to protect the rights of each.   He was utterly subversive of all the states of Europe.

And out of all of this, on July 14, 1789 came the storming of the Bastille and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.



Posted in history | 9 Comments