- Observations, &c.
- Of the Importance of the Revolution Which Has Established the Independence of the United States.
- Of the Means of Promoting Human Improvement and Happiness In the United States.—and First, of Public Debts.
- Of Peace, and the Means of Perpetuating It.
- Of Liberty.
- Of Liberty of Discussion.
- Of Liberty of Conscience, and Civil Establishments of Religion.
- Of Education.
- Of the Dangers to Which the American States Are Exposed.
- Of Debts and Internal Wars.
- Of an Unequal Distribution of Property.
- Of Trade, Banks, and Paper Credit.
- Of Oaths.
- Of the Negro Trade and Slavery.
- Letter From M. Turgot
- The Testament of Fortune Ricard
- Remark, By the Translator.
- No. II. Table of the Produce of Each Sum of 100 Livres, Bequeathed By the Testator, From One Hundred to Five Hundred Years.
- No. VI. Table of the Disposition of the 4 Th Sum, Amounting to 29,782,761,461 Liv. 13 Sous.
SUCH is the advice which I would humbly (but earnestly) offer to the united States of America.—Such are the means by which they may become the seats of liberty, science, peace, and virtue; happy within themselves, and a refuge to the world.
Often, while employed in writing these papers, have I wished for a warning voice of more power. The present moment, however auspicious to the united States if wisely improved, is critical; and, though apparently the end of all their dangers, may prove the time of their greatest danger. I have, indeed, since finishing this Address, been mortified more than I can express by accounts which have led me to fear that I have carried my ideas of them too high, and deceived myself with visionary expectations.—And should this be true—Should the return of peace and the pride of independence lead them to security and dissipation—Should they lose those virtuous and simple manners by which alone Republics can long subsist—Should false refinement, luxury, and irreligion spread among them; excessive jealousy distract their governments; and clashing interests, subject to no strong controul, break the federal union—The consequence will be, that the fairest experiment ever tried in human affairs will miscarry; and that a Revolution which had revived the hopes of good men and promised an opening to better times, will become a discouragement to all future efforts in favour of liberty, and prove only an opening to a new scene of human degeneracy and misery.
THE following letter was written by the late M. Turgot, Comptroller General (in the years 1774, 1775, and 1776) of the finances of France. It contains observations in which the United States are deeply concerned; and, for this reason, I now convey it to them, not doubting but that the eminence of M. Turgot’s name and character will recommend it to their attention, and that it will do honour to his memory among all the friends of public liberty.
AParis, le 22 Mars, 1778.
MR. FRANKLIN m’a remis, Monsieur, de votre part, la nouvelle édition de vos observations sur la liberté civile, &c. Je vous dois un double remerciment; 1° de votre ouvrage dont je connois depuis longtems le prix, et que j’avois lu avec avidité, malgré les occupations multipliées, dont j’etois assailli, lorsqu’il a paru pour la premiere fois; 2° de l’honnêteté que vous avez eue de retrancher l’imputation de maladresse que vous aviez mêlée au bien que vous disiez d’ailleurs de moi dans vos observations additionelles. J’aurois pu la meriter, si vous n’aviez eu en vue d’autre maladresse que celle de n’avoir pas sçu demêler les ressorts d’intrigues que faisoient jouer contre moi des gens beaucoup plus adroits en ce genre que je ne le suis, que je ne le serai jamais, et que je ne veux l’etre. Mais il m’a paru que vous m’imputiez la maladresse d’avoir choqué grossierement l’opinion générale de ma nation; et à cet égard je crois que vous n’aviez rendu justice ni à moi, ni à ma nation, où il y a beaucoup plus de lumieres qu’on ne le croit généralement chez vous, et où peut-être il est plus aisé que chez vous même de ramener le public à des idées raisonnables. J’en juge par l’infatuation de votre nation sur ce projet absurde de subjuguer l’Amérique, qui a duré jusqu’à ce que l’aventure de Burgoyne ait commencé à lui dessiller les yeux. J’en juge par le systême de monopole et d’exclusion qui rêgne chez tous vos écrivains politiques sur le commerce, (J’excepte Mr. Adam Smith et le Doyen Tucker) systême qui est le véritable principe de votre séparation avec vos colonies. J’en juge par tous vos écrits polémiques sur les questions qui vous agitent depuis une vingtaine d’années, et dans lesquels avant que le vôtre eut paru, je ne me rappelle presque pas d’en avoir lu un, où le vrai point de la question ait êté saisi. Je n’ai pas conçu comment une nation qui a cultivé avec tant de succès toutes les branches des sciences naturelles a pu rester si fort au dessous d’elle même, dans la science la plus interessante de toutes, celle du bonheur public; dans une science où la liberté de la presse, dont elle seule jouit, auroit dû lui donner sur toutes les autres nations de l’Europe un avantage prodigieux. Est-ce l’orgueil national qui vous a empêchés de mettre à profit cet avantage? Est-ce parce que vous etiez un peu moins mal que les autres, que vous avez tourné toutes vos spéculations à vous persuader que vous etiez bien? Est-ce l’esprit de parti, et l’envie de se faire un appui des opinions populaires qui a retardé vos progrès, en portant vos politiques à traiter de vaine métaphysique toutes les spéculations qui tendent à établir des principes fixes sur les droits et les vrais interêts des individus et des nations? Comment se fait-il que vous soyez presque le premier parmi vos écrivains qui ayez donné des notions justes de la liberté, et qui ayez fait sentir la fausseté de cette notion rebattue par presque tous les écrivains les plus républicains, que la liberté consiste à n’être soumis qu’aux loix, comme si un homme opprimé par une loi injuste êtoit libre. Cela ne seroit pas même vrai quand on supposeroit que toutes les loix sont l’ouvrage de la nation assemblée; car enfin l’individu a aussi des droits que la nation ne peut lui ôter, que par la violence et par un usage illegitime de la force générale. Quoique vous ayez eu égard à cette verité, et que vous vous en soyez expliqué, peut-être méritoit-elle que vous la dévelopassiez avec plus d’étendue, vû le peu d’attention qu’y ont donnée même les plus zelés partisans de la liberté.
C’est encore une chose étrange que ce ne fût pas en Angleterre une vérité triviale de dire qu’une nation ne peut jamais avoir droit de gouverner une autre nation; et qu’un pareil gouvernement ne peut avoir d’autre fondement que la force, qui est aussi le fondement du brigandage et de la tyrannie; que la tyrannie d’un peuple est de toutes les tyrannies connues la plus cruelle et la plus intolérable, celle qui laisse le moins de ressource à l’opprimé; car enfin un despote est arrêté par son propre interêt, il a le frein du remords, ou celui de l’opinion publique, mais une multitude ne calcule rien, n’a jamais de remords, et se decerne à elle même la gloire lors qu’elle mérite le plus de honte.
Les événemens sont pour la nation Angloise un terrible commentaire de votre livre. Depuis quelques mois ils se précipitent avec une rapidité très accelérée. Le dénouement est arrivé par rapport à l’Amérique. La voila indépendante sans retour. Sera-t’elle libre et heureuse? Ce peuple nouveau situé si avantageusement pour donner au monde l’exemple d’une constitution où l’hommé jouisse de tous ses droits, exerce librement toutes ses facultés, et ne soit gouverné que par la nature, la raison et la justice, saura-t’il former une pareille constitution? saura-t’il l’affermir sur des fondemens éternels, prévenir toutes les causes de division et de corruption qui peuvent la miner peu-à-peu et la détruire?
Je ne suis point content je l’avoue des constitutions qui ont êté rédigées jusqu’àprésent par les différens Etats Américains. Vous reprochez avec raison à celle de la Pensylvanie le serment religieux exigé pour avoir entrée dans le corps des représentans. C’est bien pis dans les autres; il y en a une, je crois que c’est celle des Jerseis qui exige * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Je vois dans le plus grand nombre l’imitation sans objet des usages de l’Angleterre. Au lieu de ramener toutes les autorités à une seule, celle de la nation, l’on établit des corps différens, un corps des représentans, un conseil, un gouverneur, parce que l’Angleterre a une chambre des communes, une chambre haute et un Roi. On s’occupe a balancer ces différens pouvoirs; comme si cet équilibre de forces, qu’on a pu croire necessaire pour balancer l’énorme prépondérance de la Royauté, pouvoit être de quelque usage dans des Républiques fondées sur l’égalité de tous les citoyens; et comme si tout ce qui établit différens corps n’êtoit pas une source de divisions. En voulant prévenir des dangers chimériques, on en fait naitre de réels; on veut n’avoir rien à craindre du clergé, on le réunit sous la barriere d’une proscription commune. En l’excluant du droit d’eligibilité, on en fait un corps, et un corps étranger à l’Etat. Pourquoi un citoyen, qui a le même interêt que les autres à la defense commune de sa liberté et de ses propriétés, est-il exclus d’y contribuer de ses lumieres et de ses vertus, parce qu’il est d’une profession qui exige des lumieres et des vertus? Le clergé n’est dangereux que quand il existe en corps dans l’Etat; que quand il croit avoir en corps des droits et des interêts, que quand on a imaginé d’avoir une religion établie par la loi, comme si les hommes pouvoient avoir quelque droit, ou quelque interêt à régler la conscience les uns des autres; comme si l’individu pouvoit sacrifier aux avantages de la societé civile les opinions auxquelles il croit son salut éternel attaché; comme si l’on se sauvoit, ou se damnoit, en commun. Là où la vraye tolérance, c’est-à-dire l’incompétence absolue du gouvernement sur la conscience des individus, est établie, l’ecclesiastique au milieu de l’affemblée nationale n’est qu’un citoyen, lorsqu’il y est admis; il redevient ecclesiastique lorsqu’on l’en exclut.
Je ne vois pas qu’on se soit assez occupé de réduire au plus petit nombre possible, les genres d’affaires dont le gouvernement de chaque Etat sera chargé; ni à séparer les objets de législation, de ceux d’administration générale et de ceux d’administration particuliere et locale; à constituer des assemblées locales subsistantes, qui remplissant presque toutes les fonctions de detail du gouvernement dispensent les assemblées générales de s’en occuper, et ôtent aux membres de celles-ci tout moyen, et peut-être tout désir d’abuser d’une autorité qui ne peut s’appliquer qu’à des objets généraux et par là même étrangers aux petites passions qui agitent les hommes.
Je ne vois pas qu’on ait fait attention à la grande distinction la seule fondée sur la nature entre deux classes d’hommes, celle des propriétaires de terres, et celle des nonpropriétaires; à leurs interets et par conséquent à leurs droits différens, relativement à la législation, à l’administration de la justice et de la police, à la contribution aux dépenses publiques et à leur emploi.
Nul principe fixe établi sur l’impôt; on suppose que chaque province peut se taxer à sa fantaisie, établir des taxes personnelles, des taxes sur les consommations, sur les importations, c’est-à-dire se donner un interêt contraire à l’interêt des autres provinces.
On suppose par tout le droit de régler le commerce; on autorise même les corps executifs, ou les gouverneurs à prohiber l’exportation de certaines denrées dans certaines occurrences; tant on est loin d’avoir senti que la loi de la liberté entiere de tout commerce est un corollaire du droit de propriété; tant on est encore plongé dans le brouillard des illusions Européennes.
Dans l’union générale des provinces entre elles, je ne vois point une coalition, une fusion de toutes les parties, qui n’en fasse qu’un corps un, et homogene. Ce n’est qu’une aggrégation de parties, toujours trop séparées, et qui conservent toujours une tendance à se diviser, par la diversité de leurs loix, de leurs mœurs, de leurs opinions; par l’inégalité de leurs forces actuelles; plus encore par l’inégalité de leurs progrès ultérieurs. Ce n’est qu’une copie de la République Hollandoise; et celle-ci même n’avoit pas à craindre comme la République Américaine les accroissemens possibles de quelques unes de ses provinces. Tout cet édifice est appuyé jusqu’à présent sur la bâse fausse de la très ancienne et très vulgaire politique; sur le prejugé que les nations, les provinces, peuvent avoir des interêts, en corps de province et de nation, autres que celui qu’ont les individus d’être libres et de défendre leurs propriétés contre les brigan et les conquerans: interêt prétendu de faire plus de commerce que les autres, de ne point acheter les marchandises de l’étranger, de forcer l’étranger à consommer leurs productions et les ouvrages de leurs manufactures: interêt prétendu d’avoir un territoire plus vaste, d’acquérir telle ou telle province, telle ou telle isle, tel ou tel village: interêt d’inspirer la crainte aux autres nations: interêt de l’emporter sur elles par la gloire des armes, par celle des arts et des sciences.
Quelques-uns de ces préjugés sont fomentés en Europe, parce que la rivalité ancienne des nations et l’ambition des princes oblige tous les Etats à se tenir armés pour se défendre contre leurs voisins armés, et à regarder la force militaire comme l’objet principal du gouvernement. L’Amérique a le bonheur de ne pouvoir avoir d’ici à bien longtems d’ennemi extérieur à craindre, si elle ne se divise elle même; ainsi elle peut et doit apprécier à leur juste valeur ces prétendus interêts, ces sujets de discorde qui seuls sont à redouter pour sa liberté. Avec le principe sacré de la liberté du commerce regardé comme une suite du droit de la proprieté, tous les prétendus interêts de commerce disparoissent. Les prétendus interêts de posseder plus ou moins de territoires s’évanouissent par le principe que le territoire n’appartient point aux nations, mais aux individus propriétaires des terres; que la question de savoir si tel canton, tel village, doit appartenir à telle province, à tel Etat ne doit point être décidée par le prétendu interêt de cette province ou de cet Etat, mais par celui qu’ont les habitans de tel canton ou de tel village de se rassembler pour leurs affaires dans le lieu où il leur est le plus commode d’aller; que cet interêt êtant mesuré par le plus ou moins de chemin qu’un homme peut faire loin de son domicile pour traiter quelques affaires plus importantes sans trop nuire à ses affaires journalieres, devient une mesure naturelle et physique de l’étendue des jurisdictions et des Etats, et établit entre tous un équilibre d’étendue et de forces, qui écarte tout danger d’inégalité, et toute prétention à la supériorité.
L’interêt d’etre craint est nul quand on ne demande rien à personne, et quand on est dans une position où l’on ne peut être attaqué par des forces considérables avec quelque espérance de succès.
La gloire des armes ne vaut pas le bonheur de vivre en paix. La gloire des arts, des sciences appartient à quiconque veut s’en saisir; il y a dans ce genre à moissonner pour tout le monde; le champ des découvertes est inépuisable, et tous profitent des découvertes des tous.
J’imagine que les Américains n’en sont pas encore à sentir toutes ces verités, comme il faut qu’ils les sentent pour assurer le bonheur de leur postérité. Je ne blâme pas leurs chefs. Il a fallu pourvoir au besoin du moment par une union telle quelle, contre un ennemi présent et redoutable; on n’avoit pas le tems de songer à corriger les vices des constitutions et de la composition des différens etats. Mais ils doivent craindre de les éterniser, et s’occuper des moyens de réunir les opinions et les interêts et de les ramener à des principes uniformes dans toutes leurs provinces.
Ils ont à cet égard de grands obstacles à vaincre.
En Canada, la constitution du clergé Romain, et l’existence d’un corps de noblesse.
Dans la Nouvelle Angleterre, l’esprit encore subsistant du Puritanisme rigide, et toujours, dit on, un peu intolérant.
Dans la Pensylvanie, un très grand nombre de citoyens établissant en principe religieux que la profession des armes est illicite, et se refusant par conséquent aux arrangemens nécessaires pour que le fondement de la force militaire de l’Etat, soit la réunion de la qualité de citoyen avec celle d’homme de guerre et de milicien; ce qui oblige à faire du métier de la guerre un métier de mercenaires.
Dans les colonies méridionales, une trop grande inégalité de fortunes, et sur tout le grand nombre d’esclaves noirs dont l’esclavage est incompatible avec une bonne constitution politique, et qui même en leur rendant la liberté embarrasseront encore en formant deux nations dans le même Etat.
Dans toutes, les préjugés, l’attachement aux formes établies, l’habitude de certaines taxes, la crainte de celles qu’il faudroit y substituer, la vanité des colonies qui se sont cru les plus puissantes, et un malheureux commencement d’orgucil national. Je crois les Américains forcés à s’agrandir, non pas par la guerre, mais par la culture. S’ils laissoient derriere eux les déscrts immenses qui s’étendent jusqu’à la mer de l’Ouest il s’y etabliroit du mélange de leurs bannis, et des mauvais sujets échappés à la séverité des loix, avec les sauvages: des peuplades de brigands qui ravageroient l’Amérique, comme les barbares du nord ont ravagé l’empire Romain; de là un autre danger, la nécessité de se tenir en armes sur la frontiere et d’être dans un état de guerre continuelle. Les colonies voisines de la frontiere seroient en conséquence plus aguerries que les autres, et cette inégalité dans la force militaire seroit un aiguillon terrible pour l’ambition. Le remede à cette inégalité seroit d’entretenir une force militaire subsistante à laquelle toutes les provinces contribueroient en raison de leur population; et les Américains qui ont encore toutes les craintes que doivent avoir les Anglois redoutent plus que toute chose une armée permanente. Ils ont tort. Rien n’est plus aisé que de lier la constitution d’une armée permanente avec la milice, de façon que la milice en devienne meilleure, et que la liberté n’en soit que plus affermie. Mais il est mal aisé de calmer sur cela leurs allarmes.
Voila bien des difficultés, et peut-être les interêts secrets des particuliers puissans se joindront-ils aux préjugés de la multitude pour arrêter les efforts des vrais sages et des vrais citoyens.
Il est impossible de ne pas faire des vœux pour que ce peuple parvienne à toute la prospérité dont il est suceptible. Il est l’espérance du genre humain. Il peut en devenir le modéle. Il doit prouver au monde, par le fait, que les hommes peuvent être libres et tranquilles, et peuvent se passer des chaines de toute espece que les tyrans et les charlatans de toute robe ont prétendu leur impôser sous le pretexte du bien public. Il doit donner l’exemple de la liberté politique, de la liberté religieuse, de la liberté du commerce et de l’industrie. L’asyle qu’il ouvre à tous les opprimés de toutes les nations doit consoler la terre. La facilité d’en profiter pour se dérober aux suites d’un mauvais gouvernement forcera les gouvernemens d’être justes, et de s’éclairer; le reste du monde ouvrira peu-à-peu les yeux sur le néant des illusions dont les politiques se sont bercés. Mais il faut pour cela que l’Amérique s’en garantisse, et qu’elle ne redevienne pas comme l’ont tant repeté vos écrivains ministeriels une image de notre Europe, un amas de puissances divisées, se disputant des territoires ou des profits de commerce, et cimentant continuellement l’esclavage des peuples par leur propre sang.
Tous les hommes eclairés, tous les amis de l’humanité devroient en ce moment réunir leurs lumieres et joindre leurs réflexions à celles des sages Américains pour concourir au grand ouvrage de leur législation. Cela seroit digne de vous, Monsieur; je voudrois pouvoir échauffer votre zêle; et si dans cette lettre je me suis livré plus que je ne l’aurois dû peut-être à l’effusion de mes propres idées, ce désir a été mon unique motif, et m’excusera à ce que j’espere de l’ennui que je vous aurai causé. Je voudrois que le sang qui a coulé, qui coulera encore dans cette querelle ne fût pas inutile au bonheur du genre humain.
Nos deux nations vont se faire réciproquement bien du mal, probablement sans qu’aucune d’elles en retire un profit réel. L’accroissement des dettes et des charges, * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *, et la ruine d’un grand nombre de citoyens en seront peut-être l’unique resultat. L’Angleterre m’en paroit plus près encore que la France. Si au lieu de cette guerre vous aviez pu vous exécuter de bonne grace dès le premier moment, s’il êtoit donné à la politique de faire d’avance ce qu’elle sera infailliblement forcée de faire plus tard, si l’opinion nationale avoit pu permettre à votre gouvernement de prévenir les evenemens, en supposant qu’il les eut prévus, s’il eût pu consentir d’abord à l’indépendance de l’Amérique sans faire la guerre à personne, je crois fermement que votre nation n’auroit rien perdu à ce changement. Elle y perdra aujourd’hui ce qu’elle a dépensé, ce qu’elle dépensera encore; elle eprouvera une grande diminution pour quelque tems dans son commerce, de grands bouleversemens intérieurs si elle est forcée à la banqueroute; et quoiqu’il arrive une grande diminution dans l’influence politique au dehors, mais ce dernier article est d’une bien petite importance pour le bonheur réel d’un peuple, et je ne suis point du tout de l’avis de l’Abbé Rainal dans votre épigraphe. Je ne crois point que ceci vous mene à devenir une nation meprisable, et vous jette dans l’esclavage.
Vos malheurs feront peut-être au contraire l’effet d’une amputation nécessaire; ils sont peut-être le seul moyen de vous sauver de la cangrene du luxe et de la corruption. Si dans vos agitations vous pouviez corriger votre constitution en rendant les elections annuelles, en repartissant le droit de représentation d’une maniere plus égale et plus proportionnée aux interets des représentés, vous gagneriez peut-être autant que l’Amérique à cette révolution; car votre liberté vous resteroit, et vos autres pertes se répareroient bien vîte avec elle et par elle.
Vous devez juger, Monsieur, par la franchise avec laquelle je m’ouvre à vous sur ces points délicats, de l’estime que vous m’avéz inspirée, et de la satisfaction que j’eprouve à penser quil y a quelque ressemblance entre nos manieres de voir. Je compte bien que cette confidence n’est que pour vous. Je vous prie même de ne point me répondre en détail par la poste, car votre réponse seroit infailliblement ouverte dans nos bureaux de poste, et l’on me trouveroit beaucoup trop ami de la liberté pour un ministre, même pour un ministre disgracié!
J’ai l’honneur d’etre, Monsieur, avec toute la consideration possible,
Votre très humble,
et très obeissant serviteur,
It is not easy to do justice in English to many parts of the preceding letter. The following Translation of it will however, I hope, be found to be nearly correct; and I think myself greatly obliged to the Gentleman who has been so good as to favour me with it.
To Dr. Price,London.
Paris, 22d March, 1778.
MR. FRANKLIN by your desire has put into my hands the last edition of your Observations on Civil Liberty, &c. for which I think myself doubly indebted to you. In the first place, for the work itself, of which I have long known the value and read with great avidity, notwithstanding the multiplicity of my engagements, when it was first published: And in the next place, for the politeness you have shewn in leaving out the imputation of want of address, which you intermixed with the handsome things you said of me in your additional observations. I might have merited this imputation, if you had in view no other want of address than incapacity to unravel the springs of those intrigues that were employed against me, by some people who are much more expert in these matters than I am, or ever shall be, or indeed ever desire to be: But I imagined you imputed to me a want of address which made my opinions grossly clash with the general opinions of my countrymen; and in that respect I thought you neither did justice to me nor to my country, where there is a degree of understanding much superior to what you generally suppose in England, and where it is more easy perhaps, than even with you, to bring back the public to hearken to reason.
I have been led to judge thus by the infatuation of your people in the absurd project of subduing America, till the affair of Burgoyne began to open their eyes; and by the system of monopoly and exclusion which has been recommended by all your writers on Commerce, (except Mr. Adam Smith and Dean Tucker); a system which has been the true source of your separation from your Colonies. I have also been led to this opinion by all your controversial writings upon the questions which have occupied your attention these twenty years, and in which, till your observations appeared, I scarce recollect to have read one that took up these questions on their proper ground. I cannot conceive how a nation which has cultivated every branch of natural knowledge with such success, should have made so little progress in the most interesting of all sciences, that of the public good: A science, in which the liberty of the Press, which she alone enjoys, ought to have given her a prodigious advantage over every other nation in Europe. Was it national pride which prevented you from profiting by this advantage? Or was it, because you were not altogether in so bad a condition as other nations, that you have imposed upon yourselves in your speculations so far as to be persuaded that your arrangements were compleat? Is it party spirit and a desire of being supported by popular opinion which has retarded your progress, by inducing your political writers to treat as vain Metaphysics all those speculations which aim at establishing the rights and true interests of nations and individuals upon fixed principles. How comes it that you are almost the first of the writers of your country, who has given a just idea of liberty, and shewn the falsity of the notion so frequently repeated by almost all Republican Writers, “that liberty consists in being subject only to the laws,” as if a man could be free while oppressed by an unjust law. This would not be true, even if we could suppose that all the laws were the work of an assembly of the whole nation; for certainly every individual has his rights, of which the nation cannot deprive him, except by violence and an unlawful use of the general power. Though you have attended to this truth and have explained yourself upon this head, perhaps it would have merited a more minute explanation, considering how little attention is paid to it even by the most zealous friends of liberty.
It is likewise extraordinary that it was not thought a trivial matter in England to assert “that one nation never can have a right to govern another nation”—“that a government where such a principle is admitted can have no foundation but that of force, which is equally the foundation of robbery and tyranny”—“and that the tyranny of a people is the most cruel and intolerable, because it leaves the fewest resources to the oppressed.”—A despot is restrained by a sense of his own interest. He is checked by remorse or by the public opinion. But the multitude never calculate. The multitude are never checked by remorse, and will even ascribe to themselves the highest honour when they deserve only disgrace.
What a dreadful commentary on your book are the events which have lately befallen the English nation?—For some months they have been running headlong to ruin.—The fate of America is already decided—Behold her independent beyond recovery.—But will She be free and happy?—Can this new people, so advantageously placed for giving an example to the world of a constitution under which man may enjoy his rights, freely exercise all his faculties, and be governed only by nature, reason and justice—Can they form such a Constitution?—Can they establish it upon a never failing foundation, and guard against every source of division and corruption which may gradually undermine and destroy it?
I confess that I am not satisfied with the Constitutions which have hitherto been formed by the different States of America. It is with reason that you reproach the State of Pensylvania with exacting a religious test from those who become members of the body of Representatives. There are much worse tests in the other States; and there is one (I believe the Jerseys) which requires a declaration of faith in the Divinity of Jesus Christ.—I observe that by most of them the customs of England are imitated, without any particular motive. Instead of collecting all authority into one center, that of the nation, they have established different bodies; a body of representatives, a council, and a Governour, because there is in England a House of Commons, a House of Lords, and a King.—They endeavour to balance these different powers, as if this equilibrium, which in England may be a necessary check to the enormous influence of royalty, could be of any use in Republics founded upon the equality of all the Citizens; and as if establishing different orders of men, was not a source of divisions and disputes. In attempting to prevent imaginary dangers they create real ones; and in their desire to have nothing to fear from the clergy, they unite them more closely by one common proscription. By excluding them from the right of being elected into public offices they become a body distinct from the State. Wherefore should a Citizen, who has the same interest with others in the common defence of liberty and property, be excluded from contributing to it his virtue and knowledge? Is it because he is of a profession which requires knowledge and virtue? The clergy are only dangerous when they exist as a distinct body in the State; and think themselves possessed of separate rights and interests and a religion established by law, as if some men had a right to regulate the consciences of other men, or could have an interest in doing this; as if an individual could sacrifice to civil society opinions on which he thinks his eternal salvation depends; as if, in short, mankind were to be saved or damned in communities—Where true toleration, (that is, where the absolute incompetency of civil government in matters of conscience, is established); there the clergyman, when admitted into the national assembly, becomes a simple citizen; but when excluded, he becomes an ecclesiastic.
I do not think they are sufficiently careful to reduce the kind of business with which the government of each State is charged, within the narrowest limits possible; nor to separate the objects of legislation from those of the general administration, or from those of a local and particular administration; nor to institute local permanent assemblies, which by discharging almost all the functions in the detail of government, make it unnecessary for the general assemblies to attend to these things, and thereby deprive the members of the general assemblies of every means, and perhaps every desire, of abusing a power which can only be applied to general objects, and which, consequently, must be free from the influence of the little passions by which men usually are agitated.
I do not find that they attend to the great distinction (the only one which is founded in nature between two classes of men), between landholders, and those who are not landholders; to their interests, and of course to their different rights respecting legislation, the administration of justice and police, their contributions to the public expence, and employment.
No fixed principle of taxation is established. They suppose that each State may tax itself according to its own fancy, by establishing either personal taxes, or taxes on consumption and importation; that is, that each State may assume to itself an interest contrary to the interest of the other States.
They also every where suppose that they have a right to regulate commerce. They even delegate authority to executive bodies, and to Governors, to prohibit the exportation of certain commodities on certain occasions. So far are they from being sensible that the right to an entire liberty in commerce is the consequence of the right of property. So much are they still involved in the mist of European illusions.
In the general union of the States I do not observe a coalition, a fusion of all the parts to form one homogeneous body. It is only a jumble of communities too discordant, and which retain a constant tendency to separation, owing to the diversity in their laws, customs and opinions; to the inequality in their present strength; but still more, to the inequality in their advances to greater strength. It is only a copy of the Dutch republic, with this difference, that the Dutch republic had nothing to fear, as the American republic has, from the future possible increase of any one of the Provinces.—All this edifice has been hitherto supported upon the erroneous foundation of the most ancient and vulgar policy; upon the prejudice that Nations and States, as such, may have an interest distinct from the interest which individuals have to be free, and to defend their property against the attacks of robbers and conquerors: An interest, in carrying on a more extensive commerce than other States, in not purchasing foreign merchandize, and compelling foreigners to consume their produce and manufactures: An interest in possessing more extensive territories, and acquiring such and such a province, island or village: An interest in inspiring other nations with awe, and gaining a superiority over them in the glory of arts, sciences, and arms.
Some of these prejudices are fomented in Europe, from the ancient rivalship of nations and the ambition of Princes, which compel every State to keep up an armed force to defend itself against the attack of neighbours in arms, and to look upon a military force as the principal object of government. America is likely in no long time to enjoy the happiness of having no external enemy to dread, provided she is not divided within herself. She ought, therefore, to estimate properly those pretended interests and causes of discord which alone are likely to be formidable to her liberty. On that sacred principle, “liberty of commerce considered as a natural right flowing from the possession of property,” all the pretended interests of commerce must vanish.—The supposed interest in possessing more or less territory disappear on this principle, “that a territory does not belong to nations, but to the individuals who are proprietors of the lands.” The question, whether such a canton or such a village belongs to such a Province or such a State, ought not to be determined by the interest in it pretended by that Province or that State; but by the interest the inhabitants of the canton or village have in assembling for transacting their affairs in the place most convenient for them. This interest, measured by the greater or less distance that a man can go from his home to attend to important affairs without injuring his private concerns, forms a natural boundary to the jurisdiction of States, and establishes an equipoise of extent and strength between them, which must remove every danger of inequality, and every pretence to superiority.
There can be no interest in being feared when nothing can be demanded, and when men are in a situation not to be attacked by a considerable force with any hope of success.
The glory of arms is nothing to those who enjoy the happiness of living in peace.
The glory of arts and sciences belongs to every man who can acquire it. There is here ample scope. The field of discovery is boundless; and all profit by the discoveries of all.
I imagine that the Americans are not as sensible of these truths, as they ought to be, in order to secure the happiness of their posterity. I do not blame their leaders. It was necessary to provide for the necessities of the moment, by such an union as they could form against a present and most formidable enemy. They have not leisure to consider how the errors of the different constitutions and States may be corrected; but they ought to be afraid of perpetuating these errors, and to endeavour by all means to reconcile the opinions and interests of the different provinces, and to unite them by bringing them to one uniform set of principles.
To accomplish this they have great obstacles to surmount.
In Canada, an order of Roman Catholic Clergy, and a body of Nobles.
In New England, a rigid puritanical spirit which has been always somewhat intolerant .
In Pensylvania, a very great number of inhabitants laying it down as a religious principle, that the profession of arms is unlawful, and refusing to join in the arrangements necessary to establish the military force of the State, by uniting the character of the Citizen with that of the Soldier and Militiaman, in consequence of which the business of war is made to be the business of mercenaries.
In the Southern Colonies, an inequality of fortune too great; and what is worse, a great number of Blacks, whose slavery is incompatible with a good political constitution; and who, if emancipated, would occasion great embarrassement by forming two distinct people in one State.
In all of them, various prejudices, an attachment to established forms, a habit of paying certain taxes, and a dread of those which must be substituted for them; a vanity in those colonies which think themselves most powerful; and a wretched beginning of national pride. I imagine that the Americans must aggrandize themselves not by war, but by agriculture. If they neglect the immense desarts which are at their backs, and which extend all the way to the western sea, their exiles and fugitives from the severity of the laws, will unite with the Savages, and settle that part of the country; the consequence of which will be that bodies of Banditti will ravage America, as the Barbarians of the North ravaged the Roman Empire, and subject the States to the necessity of keeping the frontiers always guarded, and remaining in a State of continual war. The Colonies next to the frontier will of course be better disciplined than the rest; and this inequality of military force will prove a dreadful incentive to ambition. The remedy for this inequality would be to keep up a standing army, to which every State should contribute in proportion to its population; but the Americans, who have the fears that the English ought to have, dread nothing so much as a standing army. In this they are wrong. There is nothing more easy than to combine a standing army with a militia, so as to improve the militia, and gain additional security for liberty. But it is no easy matter to calm their apprehensions on that head.
Here are a number of difficulties; and perhaps the private interests of powerful individuals will unite with the prejudices of the multitude, to check the efforts of true Philosophers and good Citizens.
It is impossible not to wish ardently that this people may attain to all the prosperity of which they are capable. They are the hope of the world. They may become a model to it. They may prove by fact that men can be free and yet tranquil; and that it is in their power to rescue themselves from the chains in which tyrants and knaves of all descriptions have presumed to bind them under the pretence of the public good. They may exhibit an example of political liberty, of religious liberty, of commerical liberty, and of industry. The Asylum they open to the oppressed of all nations should console the earth. The case with which the injured may escape from oppressive governments, will compel Princes to become just and cautious; and the rest of the world will gradually open their eyes upon the empty illusions with which they have been hitherto cheated by politicians. But for this purpose America must preserve herself from these illusions; and take care to avoid being what your ministerial writers are frequently saying She will be—an image of our Europe—a mass of divided powers contending for territory and commerce, and continually cementing the slavery of the people with their own blood.
All enlightened men—All the friends of humanity ought at this time to unite their lights to those of the American sages, and to assist them in the great work of legislation. This, sir, would be a work worthy of you. I wish it was in my power to animate your zeal in this instance. If I have in this letter indulged too free an effusion of my sentiments, this has been my only motive; and it will, I hope, induce you to pardon me for tiring you. I wish indeed that the blood which has been spilt, and which will contiune for some time to be spilt in this contest, may not be without its use to the human race.
Our two nations are about doing much harm to each other, and probably without the prospect to either of any real advantage. An increase of debts and public burthens, (perhaps a national bankruptcy), and the ruin of a great number of individuals, will prove the result. England seems to me to be more likely to suffer by these evils, and much nearer to them, than France.—If instead of going to war, you had at the commencement of your disputes endeavoured to retreat with a good grace; if your Statesmen had then consented to make those concessions, which they will infallibly be obliged to make at last; if the national opinion would have permitted your government to anticipate events which might have been foreseen; if, in short, you had immediately yielded to the independence of America without entering into any hostilities; I am firmly persuaded your nation would have lost nothing.—But you will now lose what you have already expended, and what you are still to expend; you will experience a great diminution of your commerce for some time, and great interior commotions, if driven to a bankruptcy; and, at any rate, a great diminution of weight in foreign politics. But this last circumstance I think of little consequence to the real happiness of a people; for I cannot agree with the Abbe Raynal in your motto . I do not believe all this will make you a contemptible nation or throw you into slavery.—On the contrary; your misfortunes may have the effect of a necessary amputation. They are perhaps the only means of saving you from the gangrene of luxury and corruption. And if they should terminate in the amendment of your constitution, by restoring annual elections, and distributing the right of suffrages for representation so as to render it more equal and better proportioned to the interests of the represented, you will perhaps gain as much as America by this revolution; for you will preserve your liberty, and with your liberty, and by means of it, all your other losses will be speedily repaired.
By the freedom with which I have opened myself to you, sir, upon these delicate points, you will judge of the esteem with which you have inspired me; and the satisfaction I feel in thinking there is some resemblance between our sentiments and views. I depend on your confining this confidence to yourself. I even beg that you will not be particular in answering me by the Post, for your letter will certainly be opened at our Post-Offices, and I shall be found much too great a friend to liberty for a minister, even though a discarded minister.
I have the honour to be with all possible respect,
Your most humble,
and most obedient Servant,
A Translation from the French of
M. FORTUNÉ RICARD,
Teacher of Arithmetic at D—.
Read and published at the Court of Bailiwick of that Town, the 19th of August, 1784.
printed in m.dcc.lxxxv.
THE following Testament was lately published in France, and conveyed to me by Dr.Franklin.It exemplifies, with an instructive pleasantry and great force, the account in page 10, &c. of the powers of Compound Interest or a Sinking Fund, and the uses to which they may be applied for the benefit of nations and of posterity. For this reason I here offer to the public the following translation of it, not doubting but I shall be excused if the turn of humour in it renders it a composition of a nature not perfectly suitable to the other parts of this pamphlet.
THE TESTAMENT, &c.
IN the name of God, I Fortuné Ricard, Teacher of Arithmetic at D—, invoking the Holy Virgin and Saint Fortune my patron, do make this my last Will as follows—
[“The Executors, who have caused this Will to be printed in order to fulfil the intentions of the late M. Fortuné Ricard, do not think it necessary to publish those particular bequests which concern only his own family.—After having disposed of his patrimony among them with wisdom, he proceeds in the following manner.”]
It remains now for me to declare my intentions with regard to the promise of 500 livres , subscribed on my behalf by M. P. banker of this town. This sum proceeded originally from a present which was made me by Prosper Ricard, my much honoured grandfather, when I entered the eighth year of my age. At that age he had taught me the principles of writing and calculation. After having shewn me that a capital, with its accumulating interest at five per cent. would amount at the end of 100 years to more than 131 times the original sum , and seeing that I listened to this lecture with the greatest attention, he took 24 livres out of his pocket, and addressed me with an enthusiasm which is still present to my mind—“My child, said he, remember while thou livest, that with œconomy and calculation nothing is impossible for man. Here are 24 livres which I give thee. Take them to a merchant in our neighbourhood, who will place them in trade out of regard to me. Every year thou shalt add the interest to the principal. At thy death thou shalt employ the produce in good works for the repose of thy soul and my own.”—I have executed this order with fidelity, and in the course of my life I have planned many projects for employing this money. Having reached the 71st year of my age, it amounts to 500 livres; but as I must some time or other set bounds to myself, I now desire that it may be divided into five portions of 100 livres each; to which the interests shall be annually added, and the accumulated sums shall be successively applied to the following uses.
1. In a hundred years the first sum of 100 livres will amount to more than 13,100 livres , (5822l.). From this sum a prize of 4000 livres shall be given for the best theological dissertation, to prove the lawfulness of putting out money to interest. Three medals, of 600 livres each, shall also be given for the three dissertations which shall be adjudged the next in merit to the prize-dissertation. The remainder of the 13,100 livres shall be expended in printing the prize dissertation and extracts from the others. Copies of these shall be sent, gratis, to all the bishops, clergy, and confessors of the kingdom. I had intended to have sent them also into foreign countries; but I observe that all the universities of the christian world, excepting those of France, have solemnly recognized the lawfulness of putting money to interest ; and that it continues necessary only in this kingdom to explain a question in morals so interesting to the welfare of the State.
2. After two hundred years a second sum of 100 livres, amounting, with its accumulated interest, to more than 1,700,000 livres , (756,500l.) shall be employed in establishing a perpetual fund for fourscore prizes of 1000 livres each, to be distributed annually by the different academies of the kingdom, as follows:—Fifteen prizes for the most distinguished virtuous actions—fifteen for works of science and literature—ten for solutions of questions in arithmetic and calculation—ten for such new processes in agriculture as shall produce the best crops—ten for master-pieces in the fine arts—and ten to encourage races and other exercises proper to display the force and agility of the body, and to restore amongst us a taste for the gymnasium which was in such great esteem among the Greeks, and which formerly made so many heroes.
After three hundred years, from another sum of 100 livres, increased in that time to more than two hundred and twenty-six millions, (10,057,000 l.) there shall be appropriated 196 millions towards establishing, in the most considerable places in France, 500 patriotic banks for lending money without interest; the largest of which shall have a fund of ten millions of livres, and the smallest a fund of 100,000 livres. These banks shall be managed by a committee of the most upright citizens in each place, and the money shall be employed in loans to succour the unfortunate, or advanced towards promoting agriculture, trade, and industry. The remaining thirty millions shall be expended in sounding twelve museums in the cities of Paris, Lyons, Rouen, Bourdeaux, Rennes, Lisle, Nancy, Tours, Dijon, Thoulouse, Aix, and Grenoble. Each of these museums shall be placed at the most agreeable end of the city. Five hundred thousand livres shall be expended upon each building, and in the purchase of grounds which shall belong to them, and be laid out into botanical and fruit gardens, and also into kitchen gardens and extensive walks. To each museum shall be annexed an income of 100,000 livres; and there shall be lodged and boarded in it forty literary men and artists of superior merit, who, at the time of meals shall be divided into four tables, that their repasts may be chearful without being too noisy. Each museum shall be provided with six Secretaries, a designer and engraver, and four carriages. There shall be also a hall for concerts, a theatre, a chymical laboratory, a cabinet of natural history, a hall for experimental philosophy, and a grand gallery for a common library. A hundred thousand livres shall be expended on a separate library for each of these establishments. The same sum shall be employed in providing them with separate cabinets of natural history and with philosophical instruments. And 10,000 livres shall be reserved annually for keeping up and increasing these cabinets and philosophical instruments.
The libraries shall always be open to the public. Twenty members of the museum shall be engaged in giving public and gratuitous courses of lectures upon the foreign languages, and upon all the arts and sciences. The other twenty shall be engaged in such other employments as may be most useful. No one shall be admitted a member till he has previously given proof, not of his rank, descent, or nobility, but of his morals, and of his never having dishonoured his pen by writing against religion and government, or by satirising any member of the community. On being admitted he shall make oath, “That he will prefer virtue, truth, and his country to every thing; and the general good of literature to his own fame.” The works of the members of the museum shall be printed at the expence of the establishment, and when those expences are reimbursed, the profits shall belong to the authors.
4. After four hundred years the fourth sum of 100 livres, amounting, with interest, to near 30,000 millions, (1,330,000,000l.) shall be employed in building 100 towns, each containing 150,000 souls , in the most agreeable situations which can be found in France. The means of peopling these towns, of governing and making them flourish, are explained in a memorial annexed to this will . In a short time there will result from hence an addition of 15 millions of inhabitants to the kingdom, and its consumption will be doubled, for which service I hope the œconomists will think themselves obliged to me.
I am sensible that all the specie in Europe is not equal to these 30,000 millions, and that it will be impossible to make provision in money for such immense sums. For this reason I leave it to the discretion of my executors to exchange cash at convenient seasons for landed and other real possessions. The revenue arising from those possessions shall either be laid out in cash, or realized by further purchases, so that my bequests may be fulfilled in their due time without any difficulty.
I am convinced, by the most accurate calculations, that my arrangements instead of clogging will give activity to the circulation of specie. Laying out the money I have ordered in the purchase of estates, will soon increase their value; and when these accumulating riches shall have so produced their effect as that there can no longer be found in France a landholder who will sell his estate, purchases must be sought for among the neighbouring nations.
5. Finally, with regard to the last sum of 100 livres, amounting nearly, by the accumulation of five hundred years, to four millions of millions of livres, it shall be disposed of as follows.
Six thousand millions shall be appropriated towards paying the national debt of France, upon condition that the Kings, our good lords and masters, shall be entreated to order the comptrollers general of the finances to undergo in future an examination in arithmetic before they enter upon their office.
Twelve thousand millions shall likewise be employed in paying the public debts of England.—It may be seen that I reckon that both those national debts will be doubled in this period; not that I have any doubts of the talents of certain ministers to increase them much more, but their operations in this way are opposed by an infinity of circumstances which lead me to presume that those debts cannot be more than doubled. Besides, if they amount to a few thousands of millions more, I declare that it is my intention that they should be entirely paid off, and that a project so laudable should not remain unexecuted for a trifle more or less. I beg that the English would not refuse this slight mark of the remembrance of a man, who was indeed born a Frenchman, but who sincerely esteemed their nation, and always was a particular admirer of that magnificent work which Newton, their countryman, has entitled Universal Arithmetic. I earnestly desire that, as an acknowledgment for this legacy, the English nation will consent to call the French their neighbours and not their natural enemies; that they be assured that nature never made man an enemy to man; and that national hatreds, commercial prohibitions, and, above all, wars constantly produce a monstrous error in calculations. But I dare not, in this instance, require any thing. We must hope for all we desire from time; and when we have the happiness of rendering a service, we must not destroy its value by annexing conditions to it which may encumber those whom we wish to serve.
Thirty thousand millions shall be formed into a fund for producing an annual revenue of 15 hundred millions to be divided in times of peace among all the powers of Europe. In time of war the share of the aggressor or aggressors shall be given to those who have been attacked unjustly, in order to engage sovereigns, if possible, to reflect a little before they commence unjust hostilities. This revenue shall be distributed among the different nations in proportion to their population. Every ten years an exact numeration shall be taken with a view to this distribution, which shall be made by a diet composed of deputies from all the different nations; but I direct that a larger proportion shall be distributed to those sovereigns who shall apply for it and appear to desire it with no other view than to encourage population among their subjects.
I leave to the wisdom of my executors the care of extending the benefits of this bequest to the other parts of the world; and if, by this means, they should hope to succeed in extinguishing throughout the world the absurd and barbarous rage of war, I willingly consent that they appropriate for this purpose the further sum of one hundred thousand millions. I wish that six thousand millions may be offered to his Majesty, the King of France; namely, a thousand millions to supersede the necessity of lotteries, a sort of tax imposed upon wicked men which infallibly renders them a great deal more wicked; a thousand millions to buy in all useless offices which are attended with the sad inconvenience of persuading many persons that it is a sufficient discharge of their duty to their country to occupy an office without functions, and that an honour may be derived from bearing a senseless title; a thousand millions to buy in offices which, on the contrary, are too important to be left exposed to the danger of venality; a thousand millions to purchase a domain for his Majesty worthy of his crown, and sufficient for the expences of his court, so that the nation may clearly perceive that the taxes imposed upon them are applicable only to the expenditures of the state. The remaining two thousand millions shall form a fund, whose annual produce shall be employed by his Majesty in pensions and gratuities. By these means, if sometimes those favours should be conferred upon intriguing and undeserving persons, the nation will have no cause to complain of the improper use of money drawn from taxes and the labours of the husbandman.
I appoint a thousand millions towards adding a thousand livres to the settled income of all the clergy in the kingdom, and 600 livres to that of their vicars, upon condition that they no longer demand fees for saying masses. I had also some thoughts of proposing to them the suppression of fees for baptisms, marriages, and burials; but I have considered those functions to be of a civil as well as religious nature; and that on this account the clergy may, without impropriety, be allowed to receive a pay which is, in fact, more moderate than would be required by any other public officers in their places. Besides, this pay, perhaps, renders the service more exact, more speedy on their part, and less irksome to the delicacy of some of those who receive it.
I appoint two thousand millions towards forming an income of ten livres a month to all the children which shall be born in the kingdom till they are three years of age; and I desire this legacy to be increased to thirty livres a month to those children which shall be nursed by their own mothers. I do not except even the children of the rich; on the contrary, I invite rich parents to accept this donation without reluctance, as an honorary prize awarded to paternity and the cares of maternal love. They may, if they please, apply it to acts of charity and benevolence.
I appoint four thousand millions towards purchasing the waste lands of the kingdom. These shall be divided into 500 thousand little farms or tenements of four or five acres each, on which shall be erected as many commodious cottages. These 500 thousand farms shall be given as freeholds to an equal number of married peasants, chosen in each parish by a vestry composed of ten of the most aged inhabitants. The possessors of these freeholds shall be obliged to make them their only residence, to cultivate them with their own hands and those of their families, and to report every year the improvements of them which they have made. These freeholds shall be hereditary, but only upon condition that they shall neither be divided, nor any two of them engrossed by one person. When a freeholder dies without leaving behind him either wife, children, brothers, sisters, nephews, or nieces, who have lived and laboured with him for three years prior to his decease, the freehold shall be declared vacant, and given anew by the vestry of the parish to that peasant who shall appear to deserve it best.
I desire that two thousand millions be laid out in purchasing all the manors of which there shall be sellers, and that the vassals thereon be for ever afterwards exempted from all servitude and fealty.
Six thousand millions shall be employed in founding houses of education in all the country parishes, agreeable to the plan of the author of a work entitled, Patriotic Views respecting the Education of the People. If in executing this plan of a man of genius and an excellent citizen it should appear to want some little amendments and alterations, I direct that they shall be adopted.
I appoint 20,000 millions towards erecting in the kingdom 40,000 houses of labour, or public work-houses; to each of which shall be appropriated from 10,000 to 50,000 livres annual income. Every man and woman shall have a right to offer themselves at any time to be maintained and employed in them. I chuse to say nothing of any other particulars in the government and management of these houses; hoping that the ideas which begin to be formed concerning establishments of this kind will be perfected before the period fixed for these shall arrive; and that it will at length be universally acknowledged, that though it is dangerous and foolish to give alms in money to a strong beggar, yet that society has no right to deprive him of his liberty and inflict punishments upon him, while it does not hold out to him any other means of subsistence, or at least point out to him a method of discovering what means he is capable of using.
I intreat the managers of these public work-houses to give the greatest encouragement to such trades as can be performed by women. This sex, so dear to all sensible minds, has been neglected or oppressed by all our institutions.—Seductions of all kinds seem to conspire against their virtue—Necessity precipitates them involuntarily into an abyss of infamy and misery.—The low price which is set upon the labour of women is out of all proportion to the inferiority of their bodily strength. Let the public workhouses set the example of paying them better.
There are in France many houses of correction where the misconduct of women is severely punished, but where in reality it is only suspended, mere consinement having no tendency to eradicate vice. Why should there not be one establishment where a young woman, conquered by temptation and on the brink of despair, might present herself, and say—“Vice offers me gold: I only ask for labour and bread. In compassion to my remorse assist and strengthen me. Open an asylum for me where I may weep without being seen, expiate those faults which pursue and overwhelm me, and recover a shadow of peace.”—Such an institution exists no where—I appoint, therefore, a thousand millions towards establishing one.
The snares which are laid by vice for women without fortunes, would make fewer victims if more assistance was given them. We have an infinity of establishments for persons in the higher ranks of life which do honour to the generosity of our forefathers. Why have we none for this purpose?—I desire, therefore, that two thousand millions be employed in establishing in the kingdom a hundred hospitals, which shall be called Hospitals of Angels. There shall be admitted into each a hundred females of the age of seven or eight years, and of the most engaging forms. They shall receive the most perfect education in regard to morals, useful knowledge, and agreeable accomplishments. At the age of eighteen they may quit the hospital in order to be married; at which period they shall each be paid a portion of 40,000 livres. I mention this moderate sum because it is my wish that they be neither reproached for want of fortune, nor espoused from interest. An annual income of 2000 livres shall be given also to their parents. * * * * Except once in the year at a solemn and splendid procession, they shall rarely appear in public, but shall be constantly employed in their asylum in learning all that can render them one day excellent wives and mothers.
In order to fit them, in particular, for domestic œconomy, I desire that after they have been taught the most accurate ideas of expences of all kinds, questions be proposed to them from time to time to which they shall be obliged to give answers by word of mouth, and also in writing; as for example—“If you had such or such an income, under such or such circumstances, how much would you appropriate to your table, your house-rent, your maintenance, and the education of your children? How many servants would you keep? How much would you reserve for sickness and unforeseen expences? How much would you consecrate to the relief of the unfortunate and the public good?—If your income depended either entirely or in part upon a transient advantage or a place which was not assured to you, how much would you expend annually? What sum would you reserve for forming a capital?” &c. &c. Prizes publicly given to the best answers to questions of this kind would constitute, in my opinion, an exercise equally engaging and more useful than the little comedies and novels with which young persons in the higher stations are generally entertained.
The honours conferred upon great men have always appeared to me the most effectual means of producing great men. I appoint, therefore, a thousand millions towards striking medals, and placing in the halls of all towns, or in any other convenient places, statues and busts in honour of such great men as shall hereafter rise up. I desire further that these honours be not paid them till ten years after their decease; and that they be decreed and proportioned by a tribunal composed of such upright, enlightened, and worthy citizens, as shall be most likely not to be dazzled by false virtues.—It has been once reckoned, that founding hospitals for the sick is one of the best public services. For some years a conviction has been gaining ground, that breathing the pestilential air of hospitals doubles the danger of diseases; and that on this and other accounts they probably destroy more lives than they save. I desire, therefore, that 10,000 millions be employed in establishing in each parish of the kingdom houses of health, in which shall be maintained a physician, a surgeon, and a convenient number of sisters of charity and nurses. These houses shall supply the sick gratis in their own houses with every assistance in food and medicine, and none shall be taken to the house of health excepting those whom it shall be impossible to assist at home.
I have hitherto only directed the employment of about two hundred thousand millions. There remain still near four millions of millions, the appropriation of which I leave to the discretion of my executors. I wish them to purchase and pull down all such houses as incommode the public way in all towns; to multiply squares, quays, fountains, gardens, &c. in order to give salubrity to the air of towns; to empty ponds; to clear heaths; to deepen the beds of rivers so as to render them navigable, and to unite them by means of canals;—in a word, I wish them to co-operate in every possible method with nature, which seems to have designed France to be the most delightful country under heaven.
I hope that all good citizens will assist my executors in the choice of such useful establishments as shall yet remain to be formed. I call upon them to publish the ideas with which patriotic zeal may inspire them, since now they are encouraged by the consoling certainty that funds for executing them cannot be wanting.
I name for executors my dearest and best friends M. M. - - - - - - - - - - - [Here the testator names six executors, who do not think proper at present to reveal themselves, and then goes on as follows].
I beg of them to meet as often as the affairs of my executorship shall require. In case of an equal division of opinions, the oldest shall have the casting vote. When one of them dies, I desire the survivors to fill the vacancy, as soon as may be, with the most honest, zealous, and disinterested citizen of their acquaintance, and to proceed in this manner for ever. I hope that during the first years of their executorship, when the operations of the fund will be easy, they will transact in this business out of regard to me and to the public. I foresee that, in process of time, the sums to be laid out will become so immensely great, as to render necessary voyages and other considerable expences, which will be productive of no profit. For this reason I have left 125,000 livres of the second sum unappropriated; of the third 711,000; and of the fourth thirty-two millions. These sums I request them to accept as a compensation for their expences and trouble. I charge them always, as far as they can, without hazarding the security of the fund, to prefer those ways of laying out the accumulating sums which shall be most serviceable to individuals and the public.
If a reduction in the rate of interest, or any unforeseen losses, should injure the fund, so as to retard its increase, the execution of my desires need only be postponed in proportion to the interruption that shall happen.
May the success of these establishments cause one day a few tears to be shed on my grave. But above all, may the example of an obscure individual kindle the emulation of patriots, princes, and public bodies; and engage them to give attention to this new but powerful and infallible means of serving posterity, and contributing to the future improvement and happiness of the world.
TABLEof the Produce of a Sum of 100 Livres, with its accumulating Interest, during 100 Years, at 5 per Cent.
| RULEfor an easy Conversion of Livres into Pounds Sterling.|
Strike off from the number of livres the two figures on the right hand, and multiply by 4 the remaining figures. The product increased by a tenth of itself will give nearly the number of pounds answering to the number of livres.
Thus. 100,000 livres are equal nearly to 4000 multiplied by 4, and the product (4000) increased by 400. That is, they are equal to 4400l.
In like manner, 1,725,768 livres are equal to 17,257 multiplied by 4, and the product (69,028) increased by 6902. That is, they are equal to 75,930l.—Translator’s note.