Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION II: Of the Composition and Character of the National Assembly. - Vindiciae Gallicae and Other Writings on the French Revolution
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SECTION II: Of the Composition and Character of the National Assembly. - Sir James Mackintosh, Vindiciae Gallicae and Other Writings on the French Revolution 
Vindiciae Gallicae and Other Writings on the French Revolution, edited and with an Introduction by Donald Winch (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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Of the Composition and Character of the National Assembly.
Events are rarely separated by the Historian from the character of those who are conspicuous in conducting them. From it alone they often receive the tinge which determines their moral colour.—What is admired as noble pride in Sully, would be execrated as intolerable arrogance in Richlieu. But the degree of this influence varies with the importance of the events.—In the ordinary affairs of State it is great, because in fact they are only of importance to posterity, as they illustrate the characters of those who have acted distinguished parts on the<127> theatre of the world. But in events, which themselves are of immense magnitude, the character of those who conduct them becomes of far less relative importance. No ignominy is at the present day reflected on the Revolution of 1688 from the ingratitude of Churchill, or the treachery of Sunderland. The purity of Somers, and the profligacy of Spencer are equally lost in the splendor of that great transaction, in the sense of its benefits, and the admiration of its justice. No moral impression remains on our mind, but that whatever voice speaks truth, whatever hand establishes freedom, delivers the oracles and dispenses the gifts of God.
If this be true of the deposition of James II. it is far more so of the French Revolution. Among many circumstances which distinguished that event, as unexampled in history, it was none of the least extraordinary, that it might truly be said to have been a<128> Revolutionwithout Leaders. It was the effect of general causes operating on the people. It was the revolt of a nation enlightened from a common source. Hence it has derived its peculiar character, and hence the merits of the most conspicuous individuals have had little influence on its progress.—The character of the National Assembly is of secondary importance indeed. But as Mr. Burke has expended so much invective against that body, a few strictures on his account of it will not be improper.
The representation of the third estate was, as he justly states, composed of Lawyers, Physicians, Merchants, Men of Letters, Tradesmen and Farmers. The choice was indeed limited by necessity, for except men of these ranks and professions, the people had no objects of election, the Army and the Church being engrossed by the Nobility.—“No vestige of the landed interest of the country appeared<129> in this representation.”28 —For an obvious reason—Because the Nobility of France, like the Gentry of England, formed almost exclusively the landed interest of the kingdom.—These professions then could only furnish Representatives for the Tiers Etat.—They form the majority of that middle rank among whom almost all the sense and virtue of society reside. Their pretended incapacity for political affairs is an arrogant fiction of Statesmen which the history of Revolutions has ever belied. These emergencies have never failed to create politicians. The subtle counsellors of Philip II. were baffled by the Burgomasters of Amsterdam and Leyden. The oppression of England summoned into existence a race of Statesmen in her Colonies. The lawyers of Boston, and the planters of Virginia, were transformed into ministers and negociators, who proved themselves inferior neither in wisdom as legislators, nor in dexterity as politicians. These facts evince that the powers<130> of mankind have been unjustly depreciated, the difficulty of Political affairs artfully magnified, and that there exists a quantity of talent latent among men, which ever rises to the level of the great occasions that call it forth.
But the predominance of the profession of the law, that profession which teaches men “to augur mis-government at a distance, and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze,”* was the fatal source from which, if we may believe Mr. Burke, have arisen the calamities of France. The majority of the Third Estate was indeed composed of lawyers. Their talents of public speaking, and their professional habits of examining questions analogous to those of politics, rendered them the most probable objects of popular choice, especially in a despotic country, where political speculation was no natural amusement<131> for the leisure of opulence. But it does not appear that the majority of them consisted of the unlearned, mechanical members of the profession.* From the list of the States General, it should seem that the majority were provincial advocates, a name of very different import from country attorneys, and whose importance is not to be estimated by purely English ideas.
All forensic talent and eminence is here concentered in the capital. But in France, the institution of circuits did not exist. The provinces were imperfectly united, their laws various, their judicatures distinct, and almost independent. Twelve or thirteen Parliaments formed as many circles of advocates, who nearly emulated in learning and eloquence the Parisian Bar. This dispersion of talent was in<132> some respect also the necessary effect of the immensity of the kingdom. No liberal man will in England bestow on the Irish and Scottish bar the epithet provincial with a view of degradation. The Parliaments of many Provinces in France, presented as wide a field for talent as the Supreme Courts of Ireland and Scotland. The Parliament of Rennes, for example, dispensed justice to a Province which contained two million three hundred thousand inhabitants;† a population equal to that of some respectable kingdoms of Europe. The Cities of Bourdeaux, Lyons, and Marseilles, surpass in wealth and population Copenhagen, Stockholm, Petersburg, and Berlin. Such were the theatres on which the Provincial Advocates of France pursued professional fame. A general Convention of the British empire would yield perhaps as distinguished a place to<133> Curran and Erskine, and the other eminent and accomplished barristers of Dublin and Edinburgh, as to those of the capital. And on the same principles have the Thourets and Chapeliers of Rouen, and Rennes, acquired as great an ascendant in the National Assembly as the Targets and Camus’s of the Parisian bar.
The proof that this “faculty” influence, as Mr. Burke chuses to phrase it, was not injuriously predominant, is to be found in the decrees of the Assembly respecting the judicial Order. It must on his system have been their object to have established what he calls “a litigious Constitution.” The contrary has so notoriously been the case, all their decrees have so obviously tended to lessen the importance of lawyers, by facilitating arbitrations, by the adoption of juries, by diminishing the expence and tediousness of suits, by the destruction of an intricate and barbarous jurisprudence, and by the simplicity introduced<134> into all judicial proceedings, that their system has been accused of a direct tendency to extinguish the profession of the law. A system which may be condemned as leading to visionary excess, but which cannot be pretended to bear very strong marks of the supposed ascendant of “chicane.”29
To the lawyers, besides the parochial clergy, whom Mr. Burke contemptuously stiles “Country Curates,”* were added, those Noblemen whom he so severely stigmatizes as deserters from their Order. Yet the deputation of the Nobility who first joined the Commons, and to whom therefore that title best belongs, was not composed of men whom desperate fortunes and profligate ambition prepare for civil confusion. In that number were found the heads of the most ancient and opulent families in France, the Rochefoucaults, the Richlieus,<135> the Montmorencies, the Noailles. Among them was M. Lally, who has received such liberal praise from Mr. Burke, and it will be difficult to discover in one individual of that body any interest adverse to the preservation of order, the security of rank and wealth.
Having thus followed Mr. Burke in a very short sketch of the classes of men who compose the Assembly, let us proceed to consider his representation of the spirit and general rules which have guided it, and which according to him have presided in all the events of the Revolution. “A cabal of Philosophic Atheists had conspired the abolition of Christianity. A monied interest, who had grown into opulence from the calamities of France, contemned by the Nobility for their origin, and obnoxious to the people by their exactions, sought the alliance of these philosophers, by whose influence on public opinion they were to avenge themselves on the No-<136>bility, and conciliate the people. The Atheists were to be gratified with the extirpation of religion, and the Stock-jobbers with the spoils of the Nobles and the Church. The prominent features of the Revolution bear evidence of this league of impiety and rapine. The degraded establishment of the Church is preparatory to the abolition of Christianity, and all the financial operations are designed to fill the coffers of the monied capitalists of Paris.”30 Such is the theory of Mr. Burke respecting the spirit and character of the French Revolution. To separate the portion of truth that gives plausibility to his statement from the falsehood that invests it with all its horrors, will however neither be a tedious nor a difficult task.
The commercial, or monied interest, has in all nations of Europe (taken as a body) been less prejudiced, more liberal, and more intelligent, than the landed gentry. Their views are enlarged by a wider intercourse with<137> mankind, and hence the important influence of commerce in liberalizing the modern world. We cannot wonder then that this enlightened class of men ever prove the most ardent in the cause of freedom, the most zealous for political reform. It is not wonderful that philosophy should find in them more docile pupils; and liberty more active friends, than in a haughty and prejudiced aristocracy. The Revolution in 1688 produced the same division in England. The monied interest long formed the strength of Whiggism, while a majority of the landed gentlemen long continued zealous Tories. It is not unworthy of remark, that the pamphleteers of Toryism accused the Whigs of the same hostility to religion of which Mr. Burke now supposes the existence in France. They predicted the destruction of the Church, and even the downfall of Christianity itself from the influx of Heretics, Infidels, and Atheists, which the new Government of England protected. Their pamphlets<138> have perished with the topic which gave them birth, but the talents and fame of Swift have preserved his, which furnish abundant proof of this coincidence in clamour between the enemies of the English, and the detractors of the French Revolution.
That the philosophers, the other party in this unwonted alliance between affluence and literature, in this new union of authors and bankers, did prepare the Revolution by their writings, it is the glory of its admirers to avow.* <139>
What the speculative opinions of these philosophers were on remote and mysterious questions, is here of no importance. It is not as Atheists, or Theists, but as political reasoners, that they are to be considered in a political Revolution. All their writing, on the subjects of metaphysics and theology, are foreign to the question. If Rousseau has had any influence in promoting the Revolution, it is not by his Letters from the Mountain, but by his Social Contract. If Voltaire contributed to spread liberality in France, it was not by his Philosophical Dictionary, but by his Defences of Toleration. The obloquy of their Atheism (if it existed) is personal—it does not belong to the Revolution, for that event could<140> neither have been promoted nor retarded by abstract discussions of theology. The supposition of their conspiracy for the abolition of Christianity, is one of the most extravagant chimeras that ever entered the human imagination. Let us grant their infidelity in the fullest extent. Their philosophy must have taught them that the passions, whether rational or irrational, from which religion arises, could be eradicated by no human power from the heart of man.—Their incredulity must have made them indifferent what particular mode of religion might prevail. These philosophers were not the Apostles of any new Revelation that was to supplant the faith of Christ. They knew that the heart can on this subject bear no void, and they had no interest in substituting the Vedam, or the Koran for the Gospel. They could have no reasonable motives to promote any revolution in the popular faith. Their purpose was accomplished when the Priesthood was disarmed. What-<141>ever might be the freedom of their private speculations, it was not against religion, but against the Church, that their political hostility was directed.
But, says Mr. Burke, the degraded pensionary establishment, and the elective constitution of the new Clergy of France is sufficient evidence of the design. The Clergy are to be made contemptible, that the popular reverence for religion may be destroyed, and the way thus paved for its abolition. It is amusing to examine the different aspects which the same object presents to various minds.—Mr. Hume vindicates the policy of an opulent establishment, as a bribe which purchases the useful inactivity of the Priesthood.31 They have no longer, he supposes, any temptation to court a dangerous dominion over the minds of the people, because they are independent of it. Had that philosopher been now alive, he must on the same principle have remarked, that<142> an elective Clergy and a scantily endowed Church, had a far greater tendency to produce fanaticism than irreligion. If the priests depend on the people, they can only maintain their influence by cultivating those passions in the popular mind, which gave them an ascendant over it. Their only influence is through the religious passions. To inflame these passions is their obvious ambition. Priests would be in a nation of sceptics contemptible, in a nation of fanatics omnipotent. It has not therefore been more uniformly the habit of a Clergy that depends on a court, to practise servility, than it would evidently be the interest of a Clergy that depends on the people to cultivate religious enthusiasm. Scanty endowments too would still more dispose them to seek a consolation for the absence of worldly enjoyments, in the exercise of a flattering authority over the minds of men.—Such would have been the view of a philosopher who was indifferent to Christianity, on the<143> new Constitution of the Gallican Church. He never would dream of rendering religion unpopular by devoting her ministers to activity, contemptible by compelling them to purity, or unamiable by divesting her of invidious splendor. He would have seen in these changes the seeds of enthusiasm and not of laxity. But he would be consoled by the reflection, that the dissolution of the Church as a corporation had broken the strength of the priesthood, that religious liberty without limit would disarm the animosity of sects, and the diffusion of knowledge restrain the extravagances of fanaticism.
I am here only considering the establishment of the Gallican Church as an evidence of the supposed plan for abolishing Christianity. I am not discussing its intrinsic merits.—I therefore personate a Philosophic Infidel, and it appears that he must have discerned the tendency of this plan to be directly<144> the reverse of that conceived by Mr. Burke.* There is a fact, which though little known, amounts almost to a proof of the solidity of these speculations. It is in truth rather a fanatical than an irreligious spirit which dictates the organization of the Church of France. A Jansenistical party was formed in the Parlia-<145>ments of that kingdom by their long hostilities with the Jesuits and the See of Rome.32 Members of this party have in the National Assembly, by the support of the inferior Clergy, acquired the ascendant in ecclesiastical affairs. Of this number is M. Camus. The new constitution of the Church accords exactly with their dogmas.* The Clergy are, according to their principles, to notify to the Bishop of Rome their union in doctrine, but to recognize no subordination in discipline. The spirit of a dormant sect thus revived in a new shape at so critical a period, the unintelligible subtleties of the Bishop of Ypres thus influencing the institutions of the eighteenth century, might present an ample field of reflexion to an enlightened observer of human affairs. But it is sufficient for our<146> purpose to observe the fact, and to remark the error of attributing to the hostile designs of atheism what in so great a degree has arisen from the ardour of religious zeal.
The establishment of the Church has not furnished any evidence of that to which Mr. Burke has attributed so much of the system of the National Assembly. Let us examine whether a short review of their financial operations will supply the defect.
† To the gloomy statement of French finance offered by M. Calonne, let us oppose<147> the report of M. de la Rochefoucault, from the Committee of Finance on the 9th Dec. 1790,33 which from premises that appear indisputable, infers a considerable surplus revenue in the present year. The purity of that distinguished person has hitherto been arraigned by no party. That understanding must be of a singular construction which could hesitate between the Duc de la Rochefoucault and M. Calonne. But without using this argumentum ad verecundiam,34 we are to remark, that there are radical faults, which vitiate the whole calculations of that minister, and the consequent reasonings of Mr. Burke. They are taken from a year of confusion, of languishing and disturbed industry, and absurdly applied to the future revenue of peaceful and flourishing periods. They are taken from a year in which much of the old revenue of the State had been destroyed, and during which the Assembly had scarcely commenced its scheme of taxation. It is an error to assert<148> that the Assembly had destroyed the former oppressive taxes, which formed so important a source of revenue. These taxes perished in the expiring struggle of the ancient Government. No authority remaining in France could have maintained them. Calculations cannot fail of being most grossly illusive, which are formed from a period when so many taxes had failed before they could be replaced by new impost, and when productive industry itself, the source of all revenue, was struck with a momentary palsy.* Mr. Burke discusses the financial merit of the Assembly before it had begun its system of taxation. It is premature to examine their general scheme<149> of revenue, or to establish general maxims on the survey of a period which may be considered as an interregnum of finance.
The only financial operation which may be regarded as complete is their emission of assignats35 —the establishment of a paper money, the representative of the national property, which, while it facilitated the sale of that property, should supply the absence of specie in ordinary circulation. On this, as well as most other topics, the predictions of their enemies have been completely falsified. They predicted, that no purchasers would be found hardy enough to trust their property on the tenure of a new and insecure establishment. But the national property has in all parts of France been bought with the greatest avidity. They predicted that the estimate of its value would prove exaggerated; but it has sold uniformly for double and treble that estimate. They have predicted that the depreciation of<150> the assignats would in effect heighten the price of the necessaries of life, and fall with the most cruel severity on the most indigent class of mankind: The event has however been, that the assignats, supported in their credit by the rapid sale of the property which they represented, have kept almost at par, that the price of the necessaries of life has lowered, and the sufferings of the indigent been considerably alleviated. Many millions of assignats, already committed to the flames, form the most unanswerable reply to the objections urged against them.*
Many purchasers, not availing themselves of that indulgence for gradual payment, which in so immense a sale was unavoidable, have paid the whole price in advance. This has been peculiarly the case in the Northern Provinces, where opulent farmers have been<151> the chief purchasers; a happy circumstance, if it only tended to multiply that most useful and respectable class of men, who are proprietors and cultivators of the ground.
The evils of this emission in the circumstances of France were transient; the beneficial effects permanent. Two great objects were to be obtained by it, one of policy, and another of finance. The first was to attach a great body of Proprietors to the Revolution, on the stability of which depended the security of their fortunes. This is what Mr. Burke terms, making them accomplices in confiscation, though it was precisely the policy adopted by the English Revolutionists, when they favoured the growth of a national debt, to interest a body of creditors in the permanence of their new establishment. To render the attainment of the other great object, the liquidation of the public debt, improbable, M. Calonne has been reduced to so<152> gross a misrepresentation, as to state the probable value of the national property at only two milliards, (about 83 millions sterling) though the best calculations have rated it at more than double that sum.36 There is every probability that this immense national estate will speedily disburden France of the greatest part of her national debt, remove the load of impost under which her industry has groaned, and open to her that career of prosperity for which she was so evidently destined by the bounty of Nature. With these great benefits, with the acquittal of the public debt, and the stability of freedom, this operation has, it must be confessed, produced some evils. It cannot be denied to have promoted, in some degree, a spirit of gambling, and it may give an undue ascendant in the municipal bodies to the agents of the paper circulation. But these evils are fugitive. The moment that witnesses the extinction of assignats, by the complete sale of the national lands, must terminate<153> them; and that period, our past experience renders probable, is not very remote. There was one general view, which to persons conversant in political economy, would, from the commencement of the operation have appeared decisive. Either the assignats were to retain their value, or they were not. If they retained their value, none of the apprehended evils could arise from them. If they were discredited, every fall in their value was a new motive to their holders to exchange them for national lands. No man would retain depreciated paper who could acquire solid property. If a great portion of them were thus employed the value of those left in circulation must immediately rise, both because their number was diminished, and their security become more obvious. The fall of their value must have hastened the sale of the lands, and the sale of the lands must have remedied the fall of their value. The failure, as a medium of<154> circulation, must have improved them as an instrument of sale; and their success as an instrument of sale must in return have restored their utility as a medium of circulation. This action and re-action was inevitable, though the slight depreciation of the assignats had not made its effects very conspicuous in France.
So determined is the opposition of Mr. Burke to those measures of the Assembly which regard the finances of the Church, that even monastic institutions have in him found an advocate. Let us discuss the arguments which he urges for the preservation of these monuments of human madness. In support of an opinion so singular, he produces one moral and one commercial reason.* “In monastic institutions,” in his opinion, “was found a great power for the mechanism of politic benevolence.”—“To destroy any<155> power growing wild from the rank productive force of the human mind, is almost tantamount, in the moral world, to the destruction of the apparently active properties of bodies in the material.” In one word, the spirit and the institutions of monachism were an instrument in the hand of the Legislator, which he ought to have converted to some public use. I confess myself so far to share the blindness of the National Assembly, that I cannot form the most remote conjecture concerning the various uses which “have suggested themselves to a contriving mind.”37 But without expatiating on them, let us attempt to construct an answer to his argument on a broader basis. The moral powers by which a Legislator moves the mind of man are his passions; and if the insane fanaticism which first peopled the deserts of Upper Egypt with anchorites, still existed in Europe, the Legislator must attempt the direction of a spirit which humanity forbad him<156> to persecute, and wisdom to neglect. But monastic institutions have for ages survived the spirit which gave them birth. It was not necessary for any Legislature to destroy “that power growing wild out of the rank productive force of the human mind,”38 from which monachism had arisen. It was like all other furious and unnatural passions, in its nature transient. It languished in the discredit of miracles and the absence of persecution, and was gradually melted down in the sunshine of tranquility and opulence so long enjoyed by the Church. The soul which actuated monachism had fled. The skeleton only remained to load and deface society.—The dens of fanaticism, where they did not become the recesses of sensuality, were converted into the styes of indolence and apathy. The moral power therefore no longer existed, for the spirit by which the Legislator could alone have moved these bodies was no more. The product of fanaticism was therefore not<157> fit to be the instrument of wisdom. Nor had any new spirit succeeded which might be an instrument in the hands of legislative skill. These short-lived phrenzies leave behind them an inert product, in the same manner as, when the fury and splendor of volcanic eruption is past for ages, there still remains a mass of lava to encumber the soil, and deform the aspect of the earth.* <158>
The sale of the monastic estates is also questioned by Mr. Burke on a commercial principle. The sum of his reasoning may be thus expressed. The surplus product of the earth forms the income of the landed proprietor. That surplus the expenditure of some one must disperse, and of what import is it to society, whether it be circulated by the expence of one landholder, or of a society of monks. A very simple statement furnishes an unanswerable reply to this defence. The wealth of society is its stock of productive labour. There must, it is true, be unproductive consumers, but the fewer their number the greater (all things else being the same) must be the opu-<159>lence of a State. The possession of an estate by a society of monks establishes, let us suppose forty, unproductive consumers. The possession of the same estate by a single landholder only necessarily produces one. It is therefore evident there is forty times the quantity of labour subtracted from the public stock, in the first case, than there is in the second. If it be objected that the domestics of a landholder are unproductive, let it be remarked that a monastry has its servants, and that those of a lay proprietor are not professionally and perpetually unproductive, as many of them become farmers and artizans, and it is to be observed above all, that many of them are married.—Nothing then can appear on a plain commercial view of the subject more evident than the distinction between lay and monkish landholders. It is surely unnecessary to appeal to the motives which has every where produced statutes of Mortmain, the neglected estate in which the land of ecclesiastical cor-<160>porations is suffered to remain, and the infinite utility which arises from changes of property in land. The face of those countries where the transfers have been most rapid, will sufficiently prove their benefit. Purchasers seldom adventure without fortune, and the novelty of their acquisition inspires them with the ardor of improvement.
No doubt can be entertained that the estates possessed by the Church will encrease immensely in their value. It is vain to say that they will be transferred to Stock-jobbers. Situations, not names, are to be considered in human affairs. He that has once tasted the indolence and authority of a landholder, will with difficulty return to the comparative servility and drudgery of a monied capitalist. But should the usurious habits of the immediate purchaser be inveterate, his son will imbibe the sentiments of a landed proprietor from his birth. The heir of the stock-jobbing<161> Alpheus may acquire as perfectly the habits of an active improver of his patrimonial estate, as the children of Cincinnatus, or Cato.
To aid the feebleness of these arguments, Mr. Burke has brought forward a panegyrical enumeration of the objects on which monastic revenue is expended. On this masterpiece of fascinating and magnificent eloquence it is impossible to be lavish of praise. It would have been quoted by Quintilian as a splendid model of rhetorical common-place. But criticism is not our object, and, all that the display of such powers of oratory can on such a subject suggest, is what might perhaps have served as a characteristic motto to Mr. Burke’s production.
Addidit invalidae robur Facundiacausae.39 <162>
[28. ]Burke, Reflections, 133.
[* ]Mr. Burke’s Speech on American Affairs, 1775. [“Speech of Edmund Burke, Esq., On Moving His Resolutions for Conciliation with the Colonies, March 22, 1775,” in Select Works of Edmund Burke, 3 vols. (Indianapolis, Liberty Fund, 1999), 1:242.]
[* ]See an accurate list of them in the Supplement to the Journal de Paris, 31st of May, 1789.
[† ]See a Report on the Population of France to the National Assembly, by M. Brion de la Tour, Engineer and Geographer to the King, 1790. [L. Brion de la Tour, Tableau de la population, avec les citations des auteurs … qui ont écrit sur cette partie de la statistique … suivi d’un tableau de l’étendue quarrée des généralités du royaume; avec une carte devisée par gouvernemens généraux et par généralités (Paris, 1789).]
[29. ]The quotations from Burke in this and the previous paragraph are from Reflections, 132–35.
[* ]It is hardly necessary to remark that Curé means Rector.
[30. ]This is a composite quotation based on Burke, Reflections, 184.
[* ]Mr. Burke’s remark on the English Free-thinkers is unworthy of him. [Burke, Reflections, 184–85.] It more resembles the rant by which Priests inflame the languid bigotry of their fanatical adherents, than the calm, ingenuous and manly criticism of a philosopher and a scholar. Had he made extensive enquiries among his learned friends, he must have found many who read and admired Collins’s incomparable tract on Liberty and Necessity. [Anthony Collins, A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity (1729).] Had he looked abroad into the world, he would have found many who still read the philosophical works of Bolingbroke, not as philosophy, but as eloquent and splendid declamation. What he means by “their successors” I will not conjecture. I will not suppose that, with Dr. Hurd, he regards David Hume as “a puny dialectician from the north!!” [Richard Hurd was an ally of William Warburton, an inveterate opponent of Hume’s irreligion. The remark is that of Warburton as reported in an anonymous pamphlet with an introduction by Hurd, Remarks on Mr. David Hume’s Essay on the Natural History of Religion (1757).]—yet it is hard to understand him in any other sense.
[31. ]David Hume, The History of England, 6 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983), 3:135–36.
[* ]The theory of Mr. Burke on the subject of Religious Establishments, I am utterly at a loss to comprehend. He will not adopt the impious reasoning of Mr. Hume, nor does he suppose with Warburton any “alliance between Church and State,” [Burke, Reflections, 149] for he seems to conceive them to be originally the same. When he or his admirers translate his statements (Reflections, p. 187–91) into a series of propositions expressed in precise and unadorned English, they may become the proper objects of argument and discussion. In their present state they irresistibly remind one of the obser-vations of Lord Bacon. “Pugnax enim philosophiae genus & sophisticum illaqueat intellectum at illud alterum Phantasticum et tumidum et quasi poeticum magis blanditur intellectui. Inest enim homini quaedam intellectus ambitio non minor quam voluntatis praesertim in ingeniis altis et elevatis.” Nov. Org. § LXV. [“For the contentious and sophistical kind of philosophy ensnares the understanding; but this kind, being fanciful and timid and half poetical, misleads it more by flattery. For there is in man an ambition of the understanding, no less than of the will, especially in high and lofty spirits.” Francis Bacon, “Novum Organum,” in The Works of Francis Bacon, collected and ed. J. Spedding, R. L. Ellis, and D. Denon Heath, 14 vols. (London: Longman & Co., 1858–74), 1:175, LXV (English translation, 4:66).]
[32. ]Jansenism was a movement within the Catholic Church inspired by the teachings of the Dutch Roman Catholic theologian Cornelius Jansen (1585–1638), bishop of Ypres from 1636. Jansenist beliefs, not least their adoption of the doctrine of predestination, brought them into conflict with both the Catholic Church and the Jesuits. In eighteenth-century France Jansenists in the parlements played an important role in the growing opposition to the monarchy. See D. Van Kley, The Religious Origins of the French Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996).
[* ]See the speech of M. Syeyes on Religious Liberty, where he reproaches the Ecclesiastical Committee with abusing the Revolution for the revival of Port Royal, the famous Jansenistical Seminary. See also M. Condorcetsur l’Instruction Publique. [E. J. Sieyès, Opinion de M. Emm. Sieyes, Député de Paris A l’Assemblée Nationale, Le 7 mai 1791; En réponse à la dénonciation de l’Arrêté du Département de Paris, du 11 Avril précédent, sur les Edifices religieux & la liberté générale des cultes (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1791), repr. in Oeuvres de Sieyès, ed. M. Dorigny, 3 vols. (Paris: EDHIS, 1989), vol. 2, no. 24. Condorcet, Cinq mémoires sur l’instruction publique (Paris, 1791). See the recent edition by C. Coutel and C. Kintzler (Paris: Flammarion, 1994).]
[† ]It may be remarked, that on the subject of finance I have declined all details. They were not necessary to my purpose, which was to consider the Assembly’s arrangements of revenue, more with a view to their supposed political profligacy, than to their financial talents. I confine myself, therefore, to general remarks, and this I do with the greater pleasure, because I know the ability with which the subject will be treated by a gentleman, whom general sagacity and accurate knowledge of French finance, peculiarly qualify for exposing to the public the errors of Mr. Burke. [Thomas Christie. See footnote to page 91.]
[33. ]Possibly a reference to the speech by M. de la Rochefoucault which appears in the Archives Parlementaires, 21:261–63.
[34. ]Argument from respect (modesty).
[* ]Mr. Burke exults in the deficiency confessed by M. Vernet of 8 millions sterling, in August, 1790. He follows it with an invective against the National Assembly, which one simple reflexion would have repressed. The suppression of the gabelle alone accounted for almost a half of that deficiency! Its produce was estimated at 60 millions of livres, or about two millions and a half sterling.
[35. ]The revolutionary paper currency secured on the basis of the nationalized property of the church. Issued for the first time on December 19, 1789.
[* ]At this moment nearly one-third.
[36. ]C. A. Calonne, De l’état de la France, présent et à venir, par M. de Calonne ministre d’état (Londres: T. Spilsbury & fils, 1790), 88 bis.
[* ]Burke, p. 262–69.
[37. ]Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, vol. 2 of Select Works of Edmund Burke, 3 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999), 263.
[* ]It is urged by Mr. Burke, [Burke, Reflections, 263–66] as a species of incidental defence of monachism, that there are many modes of industry, from which benevolence would rather rescue men than from monastic quiet. This must be allowed, in one view, to be true. But, though the laws must permit the natural progress which produces this species of labour, does it follow, that they ought to create monastic seclusion? Is the existence of one source of misery a reason for opening another! Because noxious drudgery must be tolerated, are we to sanction compulsory inutility?—Instances of similar bad reasoning from what society must suffer to what she ought to enact, occur in other parts of Mr. Burke’s production. We in England, he says, do not think £.10,000 a year worse in the hands of a Bishop than in those of a Baronet or a ’Squire. Excessive inequality is in both cases an enormous evil. The laws must permit property to grow as the course of things affect it. But ought they to add a new factitious evil to this natural and irremediable one? They cannot avoid inequality in the income of property, because they must permit property to distribute itself. But they can remedy excessive inequalities in the income of office, because the income and the office are their creatures.
[39. ]“His eloquence gave force to an unsound argument.” Lucan, “The Civil War,” in Lucan, trans. J. D. Duff (London and New York: Heinemann and G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1928), 372–73 (VII.67).