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CHAPTER II - Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, vol. 1 
The French Revolution, 3 vols., trans. John Durand, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002). Vol. 1.
Part of: The French Revolution, 3 vols.
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Destruction—I.Two principal vices of the ancient régime—Two principal reforms proposed by the King and the privileged classes—They suffice for actual needs—Impracticable if carried further—II.Nature of societies, and the principle of enduring constitutions—III.The classes which form a State—Political aptitude of the aristocracy—Its disposition in 1789—Special services which it might have rendered—The principle of the Assembly as to original equality—Rejection of an Upper Chamber—The feudal rights of the aristocracy—How far and why they were worthy of respect—How they should have been transformed—Principle of the Assembly as to original liberty—Distinction established by it in feudal dues; application of its principle—The lacunae of its law—Difficulties of redemption—Actual abolition of all feudal liens—Abolition of titles and territorial names—Growing prejudice against the aristocracy—Its persecutions—The emigration—IV.The corporations of a State—Abuse and lukewarmness in 1789 in the ecclesiastical bodies—How the State used its right of overseeing and reforming them—Social usefulness of corporations—The sound part in the monastic institution—Zeal and services of nuns—How ecclesiastical possessions should be employed—Principle of the Assembly as to private communities and mortmain—Disestablishment and disendowment of all corporations—Uncompensated suppression of tithes—Confiscation of ecclesiastical possessions—Effect on the Treasury and on disendowed services—The civil constitution of the clergy—Rights of the Church in relation to the State—Certainty and effects of a conflict—Priests considered as State-functionaries—Principal stipulations of the law—Obligations of the oath—The majority of priests refuse to take it—The majority of believers on their side—Persecution of believers and of priests.
In the structure of the old society there were two fundamental vices which called for two reforms of corresponding importance.1 In the first place, those who were privileged having ceased to render the services for which the advantages they enjoyed constituted their compensation, their privileges were no longer anything but a gratuitous charge imposed on one portion of the nation for the benefit of the other, and hence the necessity for suppressing them. In the second place, the Government, being absolute, made use of public resources as if they were its own private property, arbitrarily and wastefully; it was therefore necessary to impose upon it some efficacious and regular restraints. To render all citizens equal before taxation, to put the purse of the tax-payers into the hands of their representatives, such was the twofold operation to be carried out in 1789; and the privileged class as well as the King willingly lent themselves to it. Not only, in this respect, were the memorials of nobles and clergy in perfect harmony, but the monarch himself, in his declaration of the 23rd of June, 1789, decreed the two articles. Henceforth, every tax or loan was to obtain the consent of the States-General; this consent was to be renewed at each new meeting of the States; the public estimates were to be annually published, discussed, specified, apportioned, voted on, and verified by the States; there were to be no arbitrary assessments or use of public funds; allowances were to be specially assigned for all separate services, the household of the King included. In each province or district-general, there was to be an elected Provincial Assembly, one-half composed of ecclesiastics and nobles, and the other half of members of the Third-Estate, to apportion general taxes, to manage local affairs, to decree and direct public works, to administer hospitals, prisons, workhouses, and to continue its function, in the interval of the sessions, through an intermediary commission chosen by itself; so that, besides the principal control of the centre, there were to be thirty subordinate controlling powers at the extremities. There was to be no more exemption or distinction in the matter of taxation; the road-tax (corvée) was to be abolished, also the right of franc-fief2 imposed on plebeians, the rights of mortmain,3 subject to indemnity, and internal customs-duties. There was to be a reduction of the captainries, a modification of the salt-tax and of the excise, the transformation of civil justice, too costly for the poor, and of criminal justice, too severe for the humbler classes. Here we have, besides the principal reform, equalization of taxes, the beginning and inducement of the more complete operation which is to strike off the last of the feudal manacles. Moreover, six weeks later, on the 4th of August, the privileged, in an outburst of generosity, come forward of their own accord to cut off or undo the whole of them. This double reform thus encountered no obstacles, and, as Arthur Young reported to his friends, it merely required one vote to have it adopted.4
This was enough; for all real necessities were now satisfied. On the one hand, through the abolition of privileges in the matter of taxation, the burden on the peasant and, in general, on the small tax-payer was diminished one-half, and perhaps two-thirds; instead of paying fifty-three francs on one hundred francs of net income, he paid no more than twenty-five or even sixteen;5 an enormous relief, and one which, with the proposed revisal of the excise and salt duties, made a complete change in his condition. Add to this the gradual redemption of ecclesiastical and feudal dues, and at the end of twenty years the peasant, already proprietor of a fifth of the soil, was in the way of attaining, without the violent procedure of the Revolution, a degree of independence and well-being which he has only achieved by passing through it. On the other hand, through the annual vote on the taxes, not only were waste and arbitrariness in the employment of the public funds put a stop to, but also the foundations of the parliamentary system of government were laid: whoever holds the purse-strings is, or becomes, master of the rest; henceforth in the maintenance or establishment of any service, the assent of the States was to be necessary. Now, in the three Chambers which the three orders were thenceforward to form, there were two in which the plebeians predominated. Public opinion, moreover, was on their side, while the King, the true constitutional monarch, far from possessing the imperious inflexibility of a despot, did not now possess the initiative of an ordinary person. Thus the preponderance fell to the communes, and they could legally, without any collision, execute, multiply, and complete, with the aid of the prince and through him, all useful reforms.6 This was enough; for human society, like a living body, is seized with convulsions when it is subjected to operations on too great a scale, and these, although restricted, were probably all that France in 1789 could endure. To equitably reorganize afresh the whole system of direct and indirect taxation; to revise, recast, and transfer to the frontiers the customs-tariffs; to suppress, through negotiations and with indemnity, feudal and ecclesiastical claims, was an operation of the greatest magnitude, and as complex as it was delicate. Things could be satisfactorily arranged only through minute inquiries, verified calculations, prolonged essays, and mutual concessions. In England, in our day, a quarter of a century has been required to bring about a lesser reform, the transformation of tithes and manorial-rights; and time likewise was necessary for our Assemblies to perfect their political education,7 to get rid of their theories, to learn, by contact with practical business, and in the study of details, the distance which separates speculation from practice; to discover that a new system of institutions works well only through a new system of habits, and that to decree a new system of habits is tantamount to attempting to build an old house. Such, however, is the work they undertake. They reject the King’s proposals—the limited reforms, the gradual transformations. According to them, it is their right and their duty to remake society from top to bottom. Such is the command of pure reason, which has discovered the Rights of Man and the conditions of the Social Contract.
Apply the Social Contract, if you like, but apply it only to those for whom it was drawn up. These consist of human abstractions, men of no age and of no country, pure entities hatched under the divining rod of metaphysics. In reality they are formed by eliminating the differences which distinguish one man from another8 —a Frenchman from a Papuan, a modern Englishman from a Briton in the time of Caesar—and by retaining only the part which is common to all. The essence thus obtained is a prodigiously meagre one, an infinitely curtailed extract of human nature, that is, in the phraseology of the day, “a being with a desire to be happy and the faculty of reasoning,” no more and no less. Millions of individuals, all precisely alike, are fashioned according to this pattern, while, through a second simplification, as extraordinary as the first one, they are all supposed to be free and all equal, without a past, without kindred, without responsibility, without traditions, without customs, like so many mathematical units, all separable and all equivalent, and then it is imagined that, assembled together for the first time, these proceed to make their primitive bargain. From the nature they are supposed to possess and the situation in which they are placed, no difficulty is found in deducing their interests, their wills, and the contract between them. But if this contract suits them, it does not follow that it suits others. On the contrary, it follows that it does not suit others; the inconvenience becomes extreme on its being imposed on a living society; the measure of that inconvenience will be the immensity of the distance which divides a hollow abstraction, a philosophical phantom, an empty unsubstantial image from the real and complete man.
In any event an entity, man so reduced and mutilated as to be only the minimum of man, is not now the subject in hand; but, on the contrary, Frenchmen of the year 1789. It is for them alone that the constitution is being made: it is therefore they alone who should be considered; they are manifestly men of a particular species, having their peculiar temperament, their special aptitudes, their own inclinations, their religion, their history, a complete mental and moral organization, hereditary and deeply rooted, bequeathed to them by the primitive race, and to which every great event, each political or literary era for twenty centuries, has brought an accretion, a metamorphosis or convolution. It is like some tree of a unique species whose trunk, thickened by age, preserves in its annual rings and in its knots, branchings, and curvatures, the deposits which its sap has made and the imprint of the innumerable seasons through which it has passed. Philosophic definitions, so vague and trite, applied to such an organism are meaningless labels which teach us nothing. And all the more because extreme diversities and inequalities show themselves on this exceedingly elaborate and complicated background—those of age, education, faith, class, and fortune; and these must be taken into account, for these contribute to the formation of interests, passions, and dispositions. To take only the most important of these, it is clear that, according to the average of human life,9 one-half of the population is composed of children, and, besides this, one-half of the adults are women. In every twenty inhabitants eighteen are Catholic, of whom sixteen are believers, at least through habit and tradition. Twenty-five out of twenty-six millions of Frenchmen cannot read, one million at the most being able to do so; and in political matters only five or six hundred are competent. As to the condition of each class, its ideas, its sentiments, its kind and degree of culture, we should have to devote a large volume to a mere sketch of them.
There is still another feature and the most important of all. These men who are so different from each other are far from being independent, or from contracting together for the first time. They and their ancestors for eight hundred years form a national body, and it is because they belong to this body that they live, multiply, labour, make acquisitions, become enlightened and civilised, and accumulate the vast heritage of comforts and intelligence which they now enjoy. Each in this community is like the cell of an organized body: undoubtedly the body is only an accumulation of cells, but the cell is born, subsists, develops, and attains its individual ends only by the healthy condition of the whole body. Its chief interest, accordingly, is the prosperity of the whole organism, and the fundamental requirement of all the little fragmentary lives, whether they know it or not, is the conservation of the great total life in which they are comprised as musical notes in a concert. Not only is this a necessity for them, but it is also a duty. Each individual that comes into the world is indebted to the State, and this debt keeps on increasing up to maturity, for it is with the cooperation of the State, under the guardianship of its laws, and protected by the public power, that his ancestors, and after them his parents, have transmitted to him life, property, and education. His faculties, his ideas, his sentiments, his whole moral and physical being, are products to which the community has nearly or remotely contributed, at least as tutor and guardian. By virtue of this the State is his creditor, just as a destitute father is of his able-bodied son; it is entitled to food, to services, and, in all the powers or resources at his disposal it justly lays claim to a certain portion. This he knows and feels; the idea of country is deeply implanted within him, and when occasion calls for it, it will show itself in ardent emotions, prolonged sacrifices, and heroic actions.—Such are veritable Frenchmen, and we at once see how different they are from the simple, indistinguishable, detached monads which the philosophers insist on substituting for them. Their association need not be created, for it already exists; for eight centuries they have had a “common weal” (la chose publique). The safety and prosperity of this common weal is at once their interest, their need, their duty, and even their most secret wish. If it is possible to speak here of a contract, their quasi-contract is made and settled for them beforehand. The first article, at all events, is stipulated for, and this overrides all the others. The State is not to be disintegrated. Public powers must, accordingly, exist, and these must be respected. If there are a number of these, they must be so defined and so balanced as to be of mutual assistance, instead of neutralising each other by their opposition. Whatever government is adopted, it must place matters in the hands best qualified to conduct them. The law must not exist for the advantage of the minority, nor for that of the majority, but for the entire community.—In regard to this first article no one must derogate from it—neither the minority nor the majority, neither the Assembly elected by the nation, nor the nation itself, even if unanimous. It has no right arbitrarily to dispose of the common weal, to put it in peril according to its caprice, to subordinate it to the application of a theory or to the interests of a single class, even if this class is the most numerous. For, that which is the common weal does not belong to it, but to the whole community, past, present, and to come. Each generation is simply the temporary manager and responsible trustee of a precious and glorious patrimony which it has received from the former generation, and which it has to transmit to the one that comes after it. In this perpetual endowment, to which all Frenchmen from the first days of France have brought their offerings, there is no doubt about the intentions of countless benefactors; they have made their gifts conditionally, that is, on the condition that the endowment should remain intact, and that each successive beneficiary should merely serve as the administrator of it. Should any of the beneficiaries, through presumption or levity, through rashness or one-sidedness, compromise the charge intrusted to them, they wrong all their predecessors whose sacrifices they invalidate, and all their successors whose hopes they frustrate. Accordingly, before undertaking to frame a constitution, let the whole community be considered in its entirety, not merely in the present but in the future, as far as the eye can reach. The interest of the public, viewed in this far-sighted manner, is the end to which all the rest must be subordinate, and for which a constitution provides. A constitution, whether oligarchical, monarchical, or aristocratic, is simply an instrument, good if it attains this end, and bad if it does not attain it, and which, to attain it, must, like every species of mechanism, vary according to the ground, materials, and circumstances. The most ingenious is illegitimate if it dissolves the State, while the clumsiest is legitimate if it keeps the State intact. There is none that springs out of an anterior, universal, and absolute right. According to the people, the epoch, and the degree of civilisation, according to the outer or inner condition of things, all civil or political equality or inequality may, in turn, be or cease to be beneficial or hurtful, and therefore justify the legislator in removing or preserving it. It is according to this superior and salutary law, and not according to an imaginary and impossible contract, that he is to organize, limit, and distribute from the centre to the extremities, through inheritance or through election, through equalisation or through privilege, the rights of the citizen and the powers of the community.
Was it essential as a preliminary thing to clear the ground, and was it advisable to abolish or only to reform the various orders and corporations?—Two prominent orders, the clergy and the nobles, enlarged by the ennobled plebeians who had grown wealthy and acquired titled estates, formed a privileged aristocracy side by side with the Government, whose favours it monopolized on the condition of seeking them assiduously and with due acknowledgment, privileged on its own domains, and taking advantage there of all rights belonging to the feudal chieftain without performing his duties. This abuse was evidently an enormous one and had to be ended. But, it did not follow that, because the position of the privileged class on their domains and in connection with the Government was open to abuse, they should be deprived of protection for person and property on their domains, and of influence and occupation under the Government. A favoured aristocracy, when it is unoccupied and renders none of the services which its rank admits of, when it monopolizes all honours, offices, promotions, preferences, and pensions,10 to the detriment of others not less needy and deserving, is undoubtedly a serious evil. But when an aristocracy is subject to the common law, when it is occupied, especially when its occupation is in conformity with its aptitudes, and more particularly when it is available for the formation of an upper elective chamber or an hereditary peerage, it is of vast service.—In any case it cannot be irreversibly suppressed; for, although it may be abolished by law, it is reconstituted by facts. The legislator must necessarily choose between two systems, that which lets it lie fallow, or that which enables it to be productive, that which drives it away from, or that which rallies it round, the public service. In every society which has lived for any length of time, a nucleus of families always exists whose fortunes and importance are of ancient date. Even when, as in France in 1789, this class seems to be exclusive, each half century introduces into it new families such as members of the parliaments, intendants, capitalists who have risen to the top of the social ladder through the wealth they have acquired or through the important offices they have filled; and here, in the medium thus constituted, the statesman and wise counsellor of the people, the independent and able politician is most naturally developed.—On the one hand, thanks to his fortune and his rank, a man of this class is above all vulgar ambitions and temptations. He is able to give his services gratuitously; he is not obliged to concern himself about money or about providing for his family and making his way in the world. A political mission is no interruption to his career; he is not obliged, like the engineer, merchant, or physician, to sacrifice either his business, his advancement, or his clients. He can resign his post without injury to himself or to those dependent on him, follow his own convictions, resist the noisy deleterious opinions of the day, and be the loyal servant, not the low flatterer of the public. Whilst, consequently, in the inferior or average conditions of life, the mainspring is self-interest, with him the grand motive is pride. Now, amongst the deeper feelings of man there is none which is more adapted for transformation into probity, patriotism, and conscientiousness; for, the first requisite of the high-spirited man is self-respect, and to obtain that he is induced to deserve it. Compare, from this point of view, the gentry and nobility of England with the “politicians” of the United States.—On the other hand, with equal talents, a man who belongs to this sphere of life enjoys opportunities for acquiring a better comprehension of public affairs than a poor man of the lower classes. The information he requires is not the erudition obtained in libraries and in private study. He must be familiar with living men, and, besides these, with agglomerations of men, and even more with human organizations, with States, with Governments, with parties, with administrative systems, at home and abroad, in full operation and on the spot. There is but one way to reach this end, and that is to see for himself, with his own eyes, at once in general outline and in detail, by intercourse with the heads of departments, with eminent men and specialists, in whom are gathered up the information and the ideas of a whole class. Now the young do not frequent society of this description, either at home or abroad, except on the condition of possessing a name, family, fortune, education, and a knowledge of social observances. All this is necessary to enable a young man of twenty to find doors everywhere open to him, to be received everywhere on an equal footing, to be able to speak and to write three or four living languages, to make long, expensive, and instructive sojourns in foreign lands, to select and vary his position in the different branches of the public service, without pay or nearly so, and with no object in view but that of his political culture. Thus brought up a man, even of common capacity, is worthy of being consulted. If he is of superior ability, and there is employment for him, he may become a statesman before thirty; he may acquire ripe capacities, become Prime Minister, the sole pilot, alone able, like Pitt, Canning, or Peel, to steer the ship of State between the reefs, or give in the nick of time the touch to the helm which will save the ship. Such is the service to which an upper class is adapted. There is no other but this special stock-breeding system which can furnish a regular supply of racers, and, now and then, the favourite winner that distances all his competitors in the European field.
But in order that they may prepare themselves for this career and take to it naturally, the way must be clear, and a man must not be compelled to travel too repulsive a road. If rank, inherited fortune, personal dignity, and refined manners are sources of disfavour with the people; if, to obtain their suffrages, he is forced to treat as equals electoral brokers of low character; if impudent charlatanism, vulgar declamation, and servile flattery are the sole means by which votes can be secured, then, as nowadays in the United States, and formerly in Athens, the aristocratic body will retire into private life and soon settle down into a state of idleness. A man of culture and refinement, born with an income of a hundred thousand a year, is not tempted to become either manufacturer, lawyer, or physician. For want of other occupation he loiters about, entertains his friends, chats, indulges in the tastes and hobbies of an amateur, amuses himself or dies with ennui, and accordingly is one of the great forces of the State lost to the State. In this way the best and largest acquirements of the past, the heaviest accumulations of material and of moral capital, remain unproductive. In a pure democracy the upper branches of the social tree, not only the old ones but the young ones, remain sterile. When a vigorous branch passes above the rest and reaches the top it ceases to bear fruit. The élite part of the nation is thus condemned to constant and irremediable failures because it cannot find a suitable outlet for its activity. It wants no other outlet, for in all other directions its rivals, who are born below it, can serve as usefully and as well as itself. But this one it must have, for on this side its aptitudes are superior, natural, unique, and the State which refuses to give it air resembles the gardener who in his fondness for a plane surface would repress his best shoots. Hence, in the constructions which aim to utilise the permanent forces of society and yet maintain civil equality, the aristocracy is brought to take a part in public affairs by the duration and gratuitous character of its mission, by the institution of an hereditary character, by the application of various machinery, all of which is combined so as to develop the ambition, the culture, and the political capacity of the upper class, and to place power, or the control of power, in its hands, on the condition that it shows itself worthy of exercising it.—Now, in 1789, the upper class was not unworthy of it. Members of the parliaments, the noblemen, bishops, capitalists, were the men amongst whom, and through whom, the philosophy of the eighteenth century was propagated. Never was an aristocracy more liberal, more humane, and more thoroughly converted to useful reforms;11 many of them remain so under the knife of the guillotine. The magistrates of the superior tribunals, in particular, traditionally and by virtue of their institution, were the enemies of excessive expenditure and the critics of arbitrary acts. As to the gentry of the provinces, “they were so weary,” says one of them,12 “of the Court and the Ministers that most of them were democrats.” For many years, in the Provincial Assemblies the whole of the upper class—the clergy, nobles, and Third-Estate—furnishes abundant evidence of its good disposition, of its application to business, its capacity and even generosity, while its mode of studying, discussing, and assigning the local taxation indicates what it would have done with the general budget had this been intrusted to it. It is evident that it would have protected the general taxpayer as zealously as the taxpayer of the province, and have kept as close an eye upon the public purse at Paris as on that of Bourges or of Montauban.—Thus were the materials of a good chamber ready at hand, and the only thing that had to be done was to collect them together. On having the facts presented to them, its members would have passed without difficulty from a hazardous theory to common-sense practice, and the aristocracy which had enthusiastically given an impetus to reform in its saloons would, in all probability, have carried it out effectively and with moderation in the Parliament.
Unhappily, the Assembly is not providing a Constitution for contemporary Frenchmen, but for abstract beings. Instead of seeing classes in society one placed above the other, it simply sees individuals in juxtaposition; its attention is not fixed on the advantage of the nation, but on the imaginary rights of man. As all men are equal, all must have an equal share in the government. There must be no orders in a State, no avowed or concealed political privileges, no constitutional complications or electoral combinations by which an aristocracy, however liberal and capable, can secure to itself any portion of the public power.—On the contrary, because it was once privileged to enjoy, it is now suspected as a candidate for service; and all projects which, directly or indirectly, reserve or provide a place for it, are rejected: first, the Royal Declaration, which, in conformity with historical precedents, maintained the three orders in three distinct chambers, and only summoned them to deliberate together “on matters of general utility”; next, the plan of the Constitutional Committee, which proposed a second Chamber, appointed for life by the King on the nomination of the Provincial Assemblies; and, finally, the project of Mounier, which confided to these same Assemblies the election of a Senate for six years, renewed by thirds every two years, composed of men of at least thirty-five years of age, and with an income in real property of 10,000 livres per annum. The instinct of equality is too powerful. A second Chamber is not wanted, even if accessible to plebeians. Through it13 “the smaller number would control the greater”; “we should fall back on the humiliating distinctions” of the ancient régime; “we should revivify the germ of an aristocracy which must be exterminated.” “Moreover, whatever recalls or revives feudal institutions is bad, and an Upper Chamber is one of its remnants.” “If the English have one, it is because they have been forced to make a compromise with prejudice.” The National Assembly, sovereign and philosophic, soars above their errors, their trammels, and their example. The depository of truth, it has not to receive lessons from others, but to give them, and to offer to the world’s admiration the first type of a Constitution which is perfect and in conformity with principle—the most effective of any in preventing the formation of a directing class; in closing the way to public business, not only to the old noblesse, but to the aristocracy of the future; in continuing and exaggerating the work of absolute monarchy; in preparing a community of officials and administrators; in sinking the level of humanity; in reducing to sloth and brutalising or blighting the élite of the families which maintain or raise themselves; and in withering the most precious of nurseries, that in which the State recruits its statesmen.
Excluded from the Government, the aristocracy is about to retire into private life: let us follow them to their estates.—Feudal rights instituted for a barbarous State are certainly a great drawback in a modern State. If appropriate in an epoch when property and sovereignty were fused together, when the Government was local, when life was militant, they form an incongruity at a time when sovereignty and property are separated, when the Government is centralized, when the régime is a pacific one, and when the necessary servitudes which, in the tenth century, reestablished security and agriculture, are, in the eighteenth century, purposeless servitudes which impoverish the soil and fetter the peasant. But, because these ancient claims are liable to abuse and injurious at the present day, it does not follow that they never were useful and legitimate, nor that it is allowable to abolish them without indemnity. On the contrary, for many centuries, and, on the whole, so long as the lord of the manor resided on his estate, this primitive contract was advantageous to both parties, and to such an extent that it has led to the modern contract. Thanks to the pressure of this tight bandage, the broken fragments of the community can be again united, and society once more recover its solidity, force, and activity.—In any event, that the institution, like all human institutions, took its rise in violence and was corrupted by abuses, is of little consequence; the State, for eight hundred years, recognised these feudal claims, and, with its own consent and the concurrence of its Courts, they were transmitted, bequeathed, sold, mortgaged, and exchanged, like any other species of property. Only two or three hundred, at most, remain in the families of the original proprietors. “The largest portion of the titled estates,” says a contemporary,14 “have become the property of capitalists, merchants, and their descendants; the fiefs, for the most part, being in the hands of the bourgeois of the towns.” All the fiefs which, during two centuries past, have been bought by new men, now represent the economy and labour of their purchasers.—Moreover, whoever the actual holders may be, whether old or whether new men, the State is under obligation to them, not only by general right—and because, from the beginning, it is in its nature the guardian of all property—but also by a special right, because it has itself sanctioned this particular species of property. The buyers of yesterday paid their money only under its guarantee; its signature is affixed to the contract, and it has bound itself to secure to them the enjoyment of it. If it prevents them from doing so, let it make them compensation; in default of the thing promised to them, it owes them the value of it. Such is the law in cases of expropriation for public utility; in 1834, for instance, the English, for the legal abolition of slavery, paid to their planters the sum of £20,000,000.—But that is not sufficient: when, in the suppression of feudal rights, the legislator’s thoughts are taken up with the creditors, he has only half performed his task; there are two sides to the question, and he must likewise think of the debtors. If he is not merely a lover of abstractions and of fine phrases, if that which interests him is men and not words, if he is bent upon the effective enfranchisement of the cultivator of the soil, he will not rest content with proclaiming a principle, with permitting the redemption of rents, with fixing the rate of redemption, and, in case of dispute, with sending parties before the tribunals. He will reflect that the peasantry, jointly responsible for the same debt, will find difficulty in agreeing among themselves; that they are afraid of litigation; that, being ignorant, they will not know how to set about it; that, being poor, they will be unable to pay; and that, under the weight of discord, distrust, indigence, and inertia, the new law will remain a dead letter, and only exasperate their cupidity or kindle their resentment. In anticipation of this disorder the legislator will come to their assistance; he will interpose commissions of arbitration between them and the lord of the manor; he will substitute a scale of annuities for a full and immediate redemption; he will lend them the capital which they cannot borrow elsewhere; he will establish a bank, rights, and a mode of procedure—in short, as in Savoy in 1771, in England in 1845,15 and in Russia in 1861, he will relieve the poor without despoiling the rich; he will establish liberty without violating the rights of property; he will conciliate interests and classes; he will not let loose a brutal jacquerie to enforce unjust confiscation; and he will terminate the social conflict not with strife but with peace.
It is just the reverse in 1789. In conformity with the doctrine of the social contract, the principle is set up that every man is born free, and that his freedom has always been inalienable. If he formerly submitted to slavery or to serfdom, it was owing to his having had a knife at his throat; a contract of this sort is essentially null and void. So much the worse for those who have the benefit of it at the present day; they are holders of stolen property, and must restore it to the legitimate owners. Let no one object that this property was acquired for cash down, and in good faith; they ought to have known beforehand that man and his liberty are not commercial matters, and that unjust acquisitions rightly perish in their hands.16 Nobody dreams that the State which was a party to this transaction is the responsible guarantor. Only one scruple affects the Assembly; its legists and Merlin, its reporter, are obliged to yield to proof; they know that in current practice, and by innumerable ancient and modern titles, the noble in many cases is nothing but an ordinary lessor, and that if, in those cases, he collects his dues, it is simply in his capacity as a private person, by virtue of a mutual contract, because he has given a perpetual lease of a certain portion of his land; and he has given it only in consideration of an annual payment in money or produce, or services, together with another contingent claim which the farmer pays in case of the transmission of the lease. These two obligations could not be cancelled without indemnity; if it were done, more than one-half of the proprietors in France would be dispossessed in favour of the farmers. Hence the distinction which the Assembly makes in the feudal dues. On the one hand it abolishes without indemnity all those dues which the noble receives by virtue of being the local sovereign, the ancient proprietor of persons and the usurper of public powers; all those which the lessee paid as serf, subject to rights of inheritance, and as former vassal or dependent. On the other hand, it maintains and decrees as redeemable at a certain rate all those which the noble receives through his title of landed proprietor and of simple lessor; all those which the lessee pays by virtue of being a free contracting party, former purchaser, tenant, farmer, or grantee of landed estate. By this division it fancies that it has respected legitimate by overthrowing illegitimate property, and that in the feudal scheme of obligations, it has separated the wheat from the chaff.17
But, through the principle, the drawing up and the omissions of its law, it condemns both to a common destruction; the fire on which it has thrown the chaff necessarily burns up the wheat.—Practically both are bound up together in the same sheaf. If the noble formerly brought men under subjection by the sword, it is also by the sword that he formerly acquired possession of the soil. If the subjection of persons is invalid on account of the original stain of violence, the usurpation of the soil is invalid for the same reason. And if the sanction and guarantee of the State could not justify the first act of brigandage, they could not justify the second; and, since the rights which are derived from unjust sovereignty are abolished without indemnity, the rights which are derived from unjust proprietorship should be likewise abolished without compensation.—The Assembly, with remarkable imprudence, had declared in the preamble to its law that “it abolished the feudal system entirely,” and, whatever its ulterior reservations might be, the fiat has gone forth. The forty thousand sovereign municipalities to which the text of the decree is read pay attention only to the first article, and the village attorney, imbued with the rights of man, easily proves to these assemblies of debtors that they owe nothing to their creditors. There must be no exceptions nor distinctions, no more annual rents, field-rents, dues on produce,18 nor contingent rents, nor lord’s dues and fines, or fifths. If these have been maintained by the Assembly, it is owing to misunderstanding, timidity, inconsistency, and on all sides, in the rural districts, the grumbling of disappointed greed or of unsatisfied necessities19 is heard. “You thought that you were destroying feudalism, while your redemption laws have done just the contrary. . . . Are you not aware that what was called a Seigneur was simply an unpunished usurper? . . . That detestable decree of 1790 is the ruin of all lease-holders. It has thrown the villages into a state of consternation. The nobles reap all the advantage of it. . . . Never will redemption be possible. Redemption of unreal claims! Redemption of dues that are detestable!” In vain the Assembly insists, specifies, and explains by examples and by detailed instructions the mode of procedure and the conditions of redemption. Neither the mode of procedure nor the conditions are practicable. It has made no provisions for facilitating the agreement of parties and the satisfaction of feudal liens, no special arbitrators, nor bank for loans, nor system of annuities. And worse still, instead of clearing the road it has barred it by legal arrangements. The lease-holder is not to redeem his annual rent without at the same time compounding for the contingent rent: he is not allowed to redeem his quota of dues which he shares with others apart from his co-partners. Should his hoard be a small one, so much the worse for him. Not being able to redeem the whole, he is not allowed to redeem a part. Not having the money with which to relieve himself from both ground-rents and lord’s dues he cannot relieve himself from ground-rents. Not having the money to liquidate the debt in full of those who are bound along with himself, he remains a captive in his ancient chains by virtue of the new law which announces to him his freedom.
In the face of these unexpected trammels the peasant becomes furious. His fixed idea, from the outbreak of the Revolution, is that he no longer owes anything to anybody, and, among the speeches, decrees, proclamations, and instructions which rumour brings to his ears, he comprehends but one phrase, and is determined to comprehend no other, and that is, that henceforth his obligations are removed. He does not swerve from this, and since the law hinders, instead of aiding him, he will break the law. In fact, after the 4th of August, 1789, feudal dues cease to be collected. The claims which are maintained are not enforced any more than those which are suppressed. Whole communities come and give notice to the lord of the manor that they will not pay any more rent. Others, with sword in hand, compel him to give them acquittances. Others again, to be more secure, break open his safe, and throw his title-deeds into the fire.20 Public force is nowhere strong enough to protect him in his legal rights. Officers dare not serve writs, the courts dare not give judgment, administrative bodies dare not decree in his favour. He is despoiled through the connivance, the neglect, or the impotence of all the authorities which ought to defend him. He is abandoned to the peasants who fell his forests, under the pretext that they formerly belonged to the commune; who take possession of his mill, his wine-press, and his oven, under the pretext that territorial privileges are suppressed.21 Most of the gentry of the provinces are ruined, without any resource, and have not even their daily bread; for their income consisted in seignorial rights, and in rents derived from their real property, which they had let on perpetual leases, and now, in accordance with the law, one-half of this income ceases to be paid, while the other half ceases to be paid in spite of the law. One hundred and twenty-three millions of revenue, representing two thousand millions and a half of capital in the money of that time, double, at least, that of the present day, thus passes as a gift, or through the toleration of the National Assembly, from the hands of creditors into those of their debtors. To this must be added an equal sum for revenue and capital arising from the tithes which are suppressed without compensation, and by the same stroke.—This is the commencement of the great revolutionary operation, that is to say, of the universal bankruptcy which, directly or indirectly, is to destroy all contracts, and abolish all debts in France. Violations of property, especially of private property, cannot be made with impunity. The Assembly desired to lop off only the feudal branch; but, in admitting that the State can annul, without compensation, the obligations which it has guaranteed, it put the axe to the root of the tree, and other rougher hands are already driving it in up to the haft.
Nothing now remains to the noble but his title, his territorial name, and his armorial bearings, which are innocent distinctions, since they no longer confer any jurisdiction or preeminence upon him, and which, as the law ceases to protect him, the first comer may borrow with impunity. Not only, moreover, do they do no harm, but they are even worthy of respect. With many of the nobles the title of the estate covers the family name, the former alone being made use of. If one were substituted for the other, the public would have difficulty in discovering M. de Mirabeau, M. de Lafayette, and M. de Montmorency, under the new names of M. Riquetti, M. Mottié, and M. Bouchard. Besides, it would be a wrong to the bearer of it, to whom the abolished title is a legitimate possession, often precious, it being a certificate of quality and descent, an authentic personal distinction of which he cannot be deprived without losing his position, rank, and worth, in the human world around him.—The Assembly, however, with a popular principle at stake, gives no heed to public utility, nor to the rights of individuals. The feudal system being abolished, all that remains of it must be got rid of. A decree is passed that “hereditary nobility is offensive to reason and to true liberty”; that, where it exists, “there is no political equality.”22 Every French citizen is forbidden to assume or retain the titles of prince, duke, count, marquis, chevalier, and the like, and to bear any other than the “true name of his family”; he is prohibited from making his servants wear liveries, and from having coats-of-arms on his house or on his carriage. In case of any infraction of this law a penalty is inflicted upon him equal to six times the sum of his personal taxes; he is to be struck off the register of citizens, and declared incapable of holding any civil or military office. There is the same punishment if to any contract or acquittance he affixes his accustomed signature; if, through habit or inadvertence, he adds the title of his estate to his family name—if, with a view to recognition, and to render his identity certain, he merely mentions that he once bore the former name. Any notary or public officer who shall write, or allow to be written, in any document the word ci-devant (formerly) is to be suspended from his functions. Not only are old names thus abolished, but an effort is made to efface all remembrance of them. In a little while, the childish law will become a murderous one. It will be but a little while and, according to the terms of this same decree, a military veteran of seventy-seven years, a loyal servant of the Republic, and a brigadier-general under the Convention, will be arrested on returning to his native village, because he has mechanically signed the register of the revolutionary committee as Montperreux instead of Vannod, and, for this infraction, he will be guillotined along with his brother and his sister-in-law.23
Once on this road, it is impossible to stop; for the principles which are proclaimed go beyond the decrees which are passed, and a bad law introduces a worse. The Constituent Assembly24 had supposed that annual dues, like ground-rents, and contingent dues, like feudal duties (lods et rentes), were the price of an ancient concession of land, and, consequently, the proof to the contrary is to be thrown upon the tenant. The Legislative Assembly is about to assume that these same rentals are the result of an old feudal usurpation, and that, consequently, the proof to the contrary must rest with the proprietor. His rights cannot be established by possession from time immemorial, nor by innumerable and regular acquittances; he must produce the act of enfeoffment which is many centuries old, the lease which has never, perhaps, been written out, the primitive title already rare in 1720,25 and since stolen or burnt in the recent jacqueries: otherwise he is despoiled without indemnity. All feudal claims are swept away by this act without exception and without compensation.
In a similar manner, the Constituent Assembly, setting common law aside in relation to inheritances ab intestato, had deprived all eldest sons and males of any advantages.26 The Convention, suppressing the freedom of testamentary bequest, prohibits the father from disposing of more than one-tenth of his possessions; and again, going back to the past, it makes its decrees retrospective: every will opened after the 14th of July, 1789, is declared invalid if not in conformity with this decree; every succession from the 14th of June, 1789, which is administered after the same date, is redivided if the division has not been equal; every donation which has been made among the heirs after the same date is void. Not only is the feudal family destroyed in this way, but it must never be reformed. The aristocracy, being once declared a venomous plant, it is not sufficient to prune it away, but it must be extirpated, not only dug up by the root, but its seed must be crushed out.—A malignant prejudice is aroused against it, and this grows from day to day. The stings of self-conceit, the disappointments of ambition, and envious sentiments have prepared the way. Its hard, dry kernel consists of the abstract idea of equality. All around revolutionary fervour has caused blood to flow, has embittered tempers, intensified sensibilities, and created a painful abscess which daily irritation renders still more painful. Through steadily brooding over a purely speculative preference this has become a fixed idea, and is becoming a murderous one. It is a strange passion, one wholly of the brain, nourished by magniloquent phrases, but the more destructive, because phantoms are created out of words, and against phantoms no reasoning nor actual facts can prevail. This or that shopkeeper who, up to this time, had always formed his idea of nobles from his impressions of the members of the Parliament of his town or of the gentry of his canton, now pictures them according to the declamations of the club and the invectives of the newspapers. The imaginary figure, in his mind, has gradually absorbed the living figure: he no longer sees the calm and engaging countenance, but a grinning and distorted mask. Kindliness or indifference is replaced by animosity and distrust; they are overthrown tyrants, ancient evil-doers, and enemies of the public; he is satisfied beforehand and without further investigation that they are hatching plots. If they avoid being caught, it is owing to their address and perfidy, and they are only the more dangerous the more inoffensive they appear. Their submission is merely a feint, their resignation hypocrisy, their favourable disposition, treachery. Against these conspirators who cannot be touched the law is inadequate; let us stretch it in practice, and as they wince at equality let us try to make them bow beneath the yoke.
In fact, illegal persecution precedes legal prosecution; the privileged person who, by the late decrees, seems merely to be brought within the pale of the common law, is, in fact, driven outside of it. The King, disarmed, is no longer able to protect him; the partial Assembly repels his complaints; the committee of inquiry regards him as a culprit when he is simply oppressed. His income, his property, his repose, his freedom, his home, his life, that of his wife and of his children, are in the hands of an administration elected by the crowd, directed by clubs, and threatened or violated by the mob. He is debarred from the elections. The newspapers denounce him. He undergoes domiciliary visits. In hundreds of places his chateau is sacked; the assassins and incendiaries who depart from it with their hands full and steeped in blood are not prosecuted, or are shielded by an amnesty:27 it is established by innumerable precedents that he may be run down with impunity. To prevent him from defending himself, companies of the National Guard come and seize his arms: he must become a prey, and an easy prey, like game kept back in its enclosure for an approaching hunt. In vain he abstains from provocations and reduces himself to the standing of a private individual. In vain does he patiently endure numerous provocations and resist only extreme violence. I have read many hundreds of investigations in the original manuscripts, and almost always I have admired the humanity of the nobles, their forbearance, their horror of bloodshed. Not only are a great many of them men of courage and all men of honour, but also, educated in the philosophy of the eighteenth century, they are mild, sensitive, and deeds of violence are repugnant to them. Military officers especially are exemplary, their great defect being their weakness: rather than fire on the crowd they surrender the forts under their command, and allow themselves to be insulted and stoned by the people. For two years,28 “exposed to a thousand outrages, to defamation, to daily peril, persecuted by clubs and misguided soldiers,” disobeyed, menaced, put under arrest by their own men, they remain at their post to prevent the ranks from being broken up; “with stoic perseverance they put up with contempt of their authority that they may preserve its semblance”; their courage is of that rarest kind which consists in remaining at the post of duty, impassive beneath both affronts and blows.
Through a wrong of the greatest magnitude, an entire class which have no share in the favours of the Court, and which suffered as many injuries as any of the common plebeians, is confounded with the titled parasites who besiege the antechambers of Versailles. Twenty-five thousand families, “the nursery of the army and the fleet,” the élite of the agricultural proprietors, also many gentlemen who look after and turn to account the little estates on which they live, and “who have not left their homes a year in their lives,” become the pariahs of their canton. After 1789, they begin to feel that their position is no longer tenable.29 “It is absolutely in opposition to the rights of man,” says another letter from Franche-Comté, “to find one’s self in perpetual fear of having one’s throat cut by scoundrels who are daily confounding liberty with license.” “I never knew anything so wearying,” says another letter from Champagne, “as this anxiety about property and security. Never was there a better reason for it. A moment suffices to let loose an intractable population which thinks that it may do what it pleases, and which is carefully sustained in that error.” “After the sacrifices that we have made,” says a letter from Burgundy, “we could not expect such treatment. I thought that our property would be the last violated because the people owed us some return for staying at home in the country to expend among them the few resources that remain to us. . . . (Now), I beg the Assembly to repeal the decree on emigration; otherwise it may be said that people are purposely kept here to be assassinated. . . . In case it should refuse to do us this justice, I should be quite as willing to have it decree an act of proscription against us, for we should not then be lulled to sleep by the protection of laws which are doubtless very wise, but which are not respected anywhere.” “It is not our privileges,” say several others, “it is not our nobility that we regret; but how is the persecution to which we are abandoned to be supported? There is no safety for us, for our property, or for our families. Wretches who are our debtors, the small farmers who rob us of our incomes, daily threaten us with the torch and the lantern. We do not enjoy one hour of repose; not a night that we are certain to pass through without trouble. Our persons are given up to the vilest outrages, our dwellings to an inquisition of armed tyrants; we are robbed of our rentals with impunity, and our property is openly attacked. We, being now the only people to pay imposts, are iniquitously taxed; in various places our entire incomes would not suffice to pay the quota which crushes us. We can make no complaint without incurring the risk of being massacred. The tribunals and the administrative bodies, the tools of the multitude, daily sacrifice us to its attacks. Even the Government seems afraid of compromising itself by claiming the protection of the laws on our behalf. It is sufficient to be pointed out as an aristocrat to be without any security. If our peasants, in general, have shown more honesty, consideration, and attachment toward us, every bourgeois of importance, the wild members of clubs, the vilest of men who sully a uniform, consider themselves privileged to insult us, and these wretches go unpunished and are protected! Even our religion is not free. One of our number has had his house sacked for having shown hospitality to an old curé of eighty belonging to his parish who refused to take the oath. Such is our fate. We are not so base as to endure it. Our right to resist oppression is not due to a decree of the National Assembly, but to natural law. We are going to leave, and to die if necessary. But to live under such a revolting anarchy! Should it not be broken up we shall never set foot in France again!”
The operation is successful. The Assembly, through its decrees and institutions, through the laws it enacts and the violence which it tolerates, has uprooted the aristocracy and cast it out of the country. The nobles, now the reverse of privileged, cannot remain in a country where, while respecting the law, they are really beyond its pale. Those who first emigrated on the 15th of July, 1789, along with the Prince de Condé, received at their houses the evening before they left a list of the proscribed on which their names appeared, and a reward was promised to whoever would bring their heads to the cellar of the Palais-Royal. Others, in larger numbers, left after the occurrences of the 6th of October. During the last months of the Constituent Assembly,30 “the emigration goes on in companies composed of men of every condition. . . . Twelve hundred gentlemen have left Poitou alone; Auvergne, Limousin, and ten other provinces have been equally depopulated of their landowners. There are towns in which nobody remains but common workmen, a club, and the crowd of devouring office-holders created by the Constitution. All the nobles in Brittany have left, and the emigration has begun in Normandy, and is going on in the frontier provinces.”—“More than two-thirds of the army will be without officers.” On being called upon to take the new oath in which the King’s name is purposely omitted, “six thousand officers send in their resignation.” The example gradually becomes contagious; they are men of the sword, and their honour is at stake. Many of them join the princes at Coblentz, and subsequently do battle against France, in the belief that they are contending only against their executioners.
The treatment of the nobles by the Assembly is the same as the treatment of the Protestants by Louis XIV.31 In both cases the oppressed are a superior class of men. In both cases France has been made uninhabitable for them. In both cases they are reduced to exile, and they are punished because they exiled themselves. In both cases it ended in a confiscation of their property, and in the penalty of death to all who should harbour them. In both cases, by dint of persecution, they are driven to revolt. The insurrection of La Vendée corresponds with the insurrection of the Cévennes; and the emigrants, like the refugees of former times, will be found under the flags of Prussia and of England. One hundred thousand Frenchmen driven out at the end of the seventeenth century, and one hundred thousand driven out at the end of the eighteenth century! Mark how an intolerant democracy completes the work of an intolerant monarchy. The moral aristocracy was mowed down in the name of uniformity; the social aristocracy is mowed down in the name of equality. For the second time, an absolute principle, and with the same effect, buries its blade in the heart of a living society.
The success is complete. One of the deputies of the Legislative Assembly, early in its session, on being informed of the great increase in emigration, joyfully exclaims, “So much the better; France is being purged!” She is, in truth, being depleted of one-half of her best blood.
There remained the corporate, ecclesiastic, and lay bodies, and, notably, the oldest, most opulent, and most considerable of all, the regular and secular clergy.—Grave abuses existed here also, for, the institution being founded on ancient requirements, had not accommodated itself to new necessities.32 Too many episcopal sees, and arranged according to the Christian distribution of the population in the fourth century; a revenue still more badly apportioned—bishops and abbés with one hundred thousand livres a year, leading the lives of amiable idlers, while curés, overburdened with work, have but seven hundred; in one monastery nineteen monks instead of eighty, and in another four instead of fifty;33 a number of monasteries reduced to three or to two inhabitants, and even to one; almost all the congregations of men going to decay, and many of them dying out for lack of novices;34 a general lukewarmness among the members, great laxity in many establishments, and with scandals in some of them; scarcely one-third taking an interest in their calling, while the remaining two-thirds wish to go back to the world35 —it is evident from all this that the primitive inspiration has been diverted or has cooled; that the endowment only partially fulfils its ends; that one-half of its resources are employed in the wrong way or remain sterile; in short, that there is a need of reformation in the body.—That this ought to be effected with the cooperation of the State and even under its direction is not less certain. For a corporation is not an individual like other individuals, and, in order that it may acquire or possess the privileges of an ordinary citizen, something supplementary must be added, some fiction, some expedient of the law. If the law is disposed to overlook the fact that a corporation is not a natural personage, if it gives to it a civil personality, if it declares it to be capable of inheriting, of acquiring, and of selling, if it becomes a protected and respected proprietor, this is due to the favours of the State which places its tribunal and gendarmes at its service, and which, in exchange for this service, justly imposes conditions on it, and, among others, that of being useful and remaining useful, or at least that of never becoming hurtful. Such was the rule under the ancient régime, and especially since the Government has for the last quarter of a century gradually and efficaciously worked out a reform. Not only, in 1749, had it prohibited the Church from accepting land, either by donation, by testament, or in exchange, without royal letters-patent registered in Parliament; not only in 1764 had it abolished the order of Jesuits, closed their colleges, and sold their possessions, but also, since 1766, a permanent commission, formed by the King’s order and instructed by him, had lopped off all the dying and dead branches of the ecclesiastical tree.36 There was a revision of the primitive Constitutions; a prohibition to every institution to have more than two monasteries at Paris and more than one in other towns; a postponement of the age for taking vows—that of sixteen being no longer permitted—up to twenty-one for men and eighteen for women; an obligatory minimum of monks and nuns for each establishment, which varies from fifteen to nine according to circumstances; if this is not kept up there follows a suppression or prohibition to receive novices: owing to these measures, rigorously executed, at the end of twelve years “the Grammontins, the Servites, the Celestins, the ancient order of Saint-Bénédict, that of the Holy Ghost of Montpellier, and those of Sainte-Brigitte, Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie, Saint-Ruff, and Saint-Antoine”—in short, nine complete congregations had disappeared. At the end of twenty years three hundred and eighty-six establishments had been suppressed, the number of monks and nuns had diminished one-third, the larger portion of possessions which had escheated were usefully applied, and the congregations of men lacked novices and complained that they could not fill up their ranks. If the monks were still found to be too numerous, too wealthy, and too indolent, it was merely necessary to keep on in this way; before the end of the century, merely by the application of the edict, the institution would be brought back, without brutality or injustice, within the scope of the development, the limitations of fortune, and the class of functions acceptable to a modern State.
But, because these ecclesiastical bodies stood in need of reform it does not follow that it was necessary to destroy them, nor, in general, that proprietary corporations are detrimental to a nation. Organized purposely for a public service, and possessing, nearly or remotely under the supervision of the State, the faculty of self-administration, these bodies are valuable organs and not unhealthy excrescences.—In the first place, through their institution, a great public benefit is secured without any charge upon the budget—worship, scientific research, primary or higher education, help for the poor, care of the sick—all set apart and sheltered from the retrenchments which public financial embarrassments might make necessary, and supported by the private generosity which, finding a ready receptacle at hand, collects into it from century to century its thousands of scattered rivulets: as a case in point, note the wealth, stability, and usefulness of the English and German universities. In the second place, their institution furnishes an obstacle to the omnipotence of the State; their walls afford a breakwater against the tide-level of absolute monarchy or of pure democracy. A man can here freely develop himself without donning the livery of either courtier or demagogue, acquire wealth, consideration, and authority, without being indebted to the caprices of royal or popular favour; he can maintain himself against established power or against prevailing opinions through his position in a body which is held together by a spirit of association. Such, at the present day, is a professor at Oxford, Göttingen, and Harvard. Such, under the ancient régime, were a bishop, a member of the Parliaments, and even a plain attorney. What can be worse than the universal bureaucracy, which produces mechanical and servile uniformity! Those who serve the public need not all be Government clerks; in countries where an aristocracy has perished, bodies of this kind are their last place of refuge. In the third place, through their institution, distinct original societies are formed in the midst of the great commonplace world around them, in which certain natures may find the only existence that suits them. If devout or laborious, not only do these afford an outlet for the deeper needs of conscience, of the imagination, of activity, and of discipline, but also they serve as dykes which restrain and direct them in a channel of masterly contrivance and of infinite benefit. In this way thousands of men and women execute at the least possible expense, voluntarily and gratuitously, and with the greatest possible effect, the least attractive or most repulsive of social requirements, thus fulfilling in human society the purpose of the sexless workers of an ant-hill.
Thus, at bottom, the institution was really good, and if it had to be cauterized it was merely essential to remove the inert or corrupted parts and preserve the healthy and sound parts.—Now, if we take only the monastic bodies, there were more than one-half of these entitled to respect. I omit those monks, one-third of whom remained zealous and exemplary—the Benedictines, who continue the “Gallia Christiana,” with others who, at sixty years of age, labour in rooms without a fire; the Trappists, who cultivate the ground with their own hands, and the innumerable monasteries which serve as educational seminaries, bureaus of charity, hospices for shelter, and of which all the villages in their neighbourhood demand the conservation by the National Assembly.37 I have to mention the nuns, thirty-seven thousand in fifteen hundred convents. Here, except in the twenty-five chapters of canonesses, which are a semiworldly rendezvous for poor young girls of noble birth, fervour, frugality, and usefulness are almost everywhere incontestable. One of the members of the Ecclesiastical Committee admits in the Assembly tribunal that, in all their letters and addresses, the nuns ask to be allowed to remain in their cloisters; their entreaties, in fact, are as earnest as they are affecting.38 One community writes, “We should prefer the sacrifice of our lives to that of our calling. . . . This is not the voice of some among our sisters, but of all. The National Assembly has established the claims of liberty—would it prevent the exercise of these by the only disinterested beings who ardently desire to be useful, and have renounced society solely to be of greater service to it?” “The little commerce we have with the world,” writes another, “is the reason why our contentment is so little known. But it is not the less real and substantial. We know of no distinctions, no privileges amongst ourselves; our misfortunes and our property are in common. One in heart and one in soul . . . we protest before the nation, in the face of heaven and of earth, that it is not in the power of any being to shake our fidelity to our vows, which vows we renew with still more ardour than when we first pronounced them.”39 Many of the communities have no means of subsistence other than the work of their own hands and the small dowries the nuns have brought with them on entering the convent. So great, however, is their frugality and economy, that the total expenditure of each nun does not surpass two hundred and fifty livres a year. The Annonciades of Saint-Amour say, “We, thirty-three nuns, both choristers and those of the white veil, live on four thousand four hundred livres net income, without being a charge to our families or to the public. . . . If we were living in society, our expenses would be three times as much”; and, not content with providing for themselves, they give in charity.
Among these communities several hundreds are educational establishments; a very great number give gratuitous primary instruction.—Now, in 1789, there are no other schools for girls, and were these to be suppressed, every avenue of instruction and culture would be closed to one of the two sexes, forming one-half of the French population. Fourteen thousand sisters of charity, distributed among four hundred and twenty convents, look after the hospitals, attend upon the sick, serve the infirm, bring up foundlings, provide for orphans, lying-in women, and repentant prostitutes. The “Visitation” is an asylum for “those who are not favoured by nature”—and, in those days, there were many more of the disfigured than at present, since out of every eight deaths one was caused by the small pox. Widows are received here, as well as girls without means and without protection, persons “worn out with the agitations of the world,” those who are too feeble to support the battle of life, those who withdraw from it wounded or invalided, and “the rules of the order, not very strict, are not beyond the health or strength of the most frail and delicate.” Some ingenious device of charity thus applies to each moral or social sore, with skill and care, the proper and proportionate dressing. And finally, far from falling off, nearly all these communities are in a flourishing state, and whilst among the establishments for men there are only nine, on the average, to each, in those for women there is an average of twenty-four. Here, at Saint-Flour, is one which is bringing up fifty boarders; another, at Beaulieu, instructs one hundred; another, in Franche-Comté, has charge of eight hundred abandoned children.40 —Evidently, in the presence of such institutions one must pause, however little one may care for justice and the public interest; and, moreover, because it is useless to act rigorously against them: the legislator crushes them in vain, for they spring up again of their own accord; they are in the blood of every Catholic nation. In France, instead of thirty-seven thousand nuns, at the present day there are eighty-six thousand—that is to say, forty-five in every ten thousand women instead of twenty-eight.
In any case, if the State deprives them of their property, along with that of other ecclesiastical bodies, it is not the State that ought to claim the spoil.—The State is not their heir, and their land, furniture, and rentals are in their very nature devoted to a special purpose, although they have no designated proprietor. This treasure, which consists of the accumulations of fourteen centuries, has been formed, increased, and preserved, in view of a certain object. The millions of generous, repentant, or devout souls who have made a gift of it, or have managed it, did so with a certain intention. It was their desire to ensure education, beneficence, and religion, and nothing else. Their legitimate intentions should not be frustrated: the dead have rights in society as well as the living, for it is the dead who have made the society which the living enjoy, and we receive their heritage only on the condition of executing their testamentary act.—Should this be of ancient date, it is undoubtedly necessary to make a liberal interpretation of it, to supplement its scanty provisions, and to take new circumstances into consideration. The requirements for which it provided have often disappeared; for instance, after the destruction of the Barbary pirates, there were no more Christians to be ransomed; and only by transferring an endowment can it be perpetuated.—But if, in the original institution, several accessory and special clauses have become antiquated, there remains the one important, general intention, which manifestly continues imperative and permanent, that of providing for a distinct service, either of charity, of worship, or of instruction. Let the administrators be changed, if necessary, also the apportionment of the legacy bequeathed, but do not divert any of it to services of an alien character; it is inapplicable to any but that purpose or to others strictly analogous. The four milliards of investment in real property, the two hundred millions of ecclesiastical income, form for it an express and special endowment. This is not a pile of gold abandoned on the highway, which the exchequer can appropriate or assign to those who live by the roadside. Authentic titles to it exist, which, declaring its origin, fix its destination, and your business is simply to see that it reaches its destination. Such was the principle under the ancient régime, in spite of grave abuses, and under forced exactions. When the ecclesiastical commission suppressed an ecclesiastical order, it was not for the purpose of making its possessions over to the public treasury, but to apply these to seminaries, schools, and hospitals. In 1789, the revenues of Saint-Denis supported Saint-Cyr; those of Saint-Germain went to the Economats, and the Government, although absolute and needy, was sufficiently honest to admit that confiscation was robbery. The greater our power, the greater the obligation to be just, and honesty always proves in the end to be the best policy.—It is, therefore, both just and useful that the Church, as in England and in America, that superior education, as in England and in Germany, that special instruction, as in America, and that diverse endowments for public assistance and utility, should be unreservedly secured in the maintenance of their heritage. The State, as testamentary executor of this inheritance, strangely abuses its mandate when it pockets the bequest in order to choke the deficit of its own treasury, risking it in bad speculations, and swallowing it up in its own bankruptcy, until of this vast treasure, which has been heaped up for generations for the benefit of children, the infirm, the sick, and the poor, not enough is left to pay the salary of a school-mistress, the wages of a parish nurse, or for a bowl of broth in a hospital.41
The Assembly remains deaf to all these arguments, and that which stops its ears is not financial distress.—The Archbishop of Aix, M. de Boisjelin, offered, in the name of the clergy, to liquidate at once the debt of three hundred millions, which was urgent, by a mortgage-loan of four hundred millions on the ecclesiastical property, which was a very good expedient; for at this time the credit of the clergy is the only substantial one; it generally borrows at less than five per cent., and more money has always been offered to it than it wanted, whilst the State borrows at ten per cent., and, at this moment, there are no lenders.—But, to our new statesmen, the supply of a deficit is of much less consequence than the application of a principle. In conformity with the Social Contract they establish the maxim that in the State there is no need of corporate bodies: they acknowledge nothing but, on the one hand, the State, the depositary of all public powers, and, on the other hand, a dust of separate human molecules. Special associations, specific groups, collateral corporations are not wanted, even to fulfil functions which the State is incapable of fulfilling. “As soon as one enters a corporation,” says an orator, “one must love it as one loves a family”;42 the affections and obedience are all to be monopolized by the State. Moreover, on entering into an order a man receives special aid and comfort from it, and whatever distinguishes one man from another, is opposed to civil equality. Hence, if men are to remain equal and become citizens they must be deprived of every rallying point that might compete with that of the State, and give to some an advantage over others. All natural or acquired ties, consequently, which bound men together through geographical position, through climate, history, pursuits, and trade, are sundered. The old provinces, the old provincial governments, the old municipal administrations, parliaments, wardenships, and masterships, all are suppressed. The groups which spring up most naturally, those which arise through a community of interests, are all dispersed, and the broadest, most express, and most positive interdictions are promulgated against their revival under any pretext whatever.43 France is cut up into geometrical sections like a chess-board, and, within these improvised limits, which are destined for a long time to remain artificial, nothing is allowed to subsist but isolated individuals in juxtaposition. There is no desire to spare organized bodies where the cohesion is great, and least of all that of the clergy.
“Special associations,” says Mirabeau, “in the community at large, break up the unity of its principles and destroy the equilibrium of its forces. Large political bodies in a State are dangerous through the strength which results from their coalition and the resistance which is born out of their interests.”—That of the clergy, besides, is inherently bad,44 because “its system is in constant antagonism to the rights of man.” An institution in which a vow of obedience is necessary is “incompatible” with the constitution. Congregations “subject to independent chiefs are out of the social pale and incompatible with public spirit.” As to the right of society over these, and also over the Church, this is not doubtful. “Corporate bodies exist only through society, and, in destroying them, society merely takes back the life she has imparted to them.” “They are simply instrumentalities fabricated by the law.45 What does the workman do when the tool he works with no longer suits him? He breaks or alters it.”—This primary sophism being admitted the conclusion is plain. Since corporate bodies are abolished they no longer exist, and since they no longer exist, they cannot again become proprietors. “Your aim was to destroy ecclesiastical orders,46 because their destruction was essential to the safety of the State. If the clergy preserve their property, the clerical order is not destroyed: you necessarily leave it the right of assembling; you sanction its independence.” In no case must ecclesiastics hold possessions. “If they are proprietors they are independent, and if they are independent they will associate this independence with the exercise of their functions.” The clergy, cost what it will, must be in the hands of the State, as simple functionaries and supported by its subsidies. It would be too dangerous for a nation “to admit in its bosom as proprietors a large body of men to whom so many sources of credit already give so great power. As religion is the property of all, its ministers, through this fact alone, should be in the pay of the nation”; they are essentially “officers of morality and instruction,” and “salaried” like judges and professors. Let us fetch them back to this condition of things, which is the only one compatible with the rights of man, and ordain that “the clergy, as well as all corporations and bodies with power of inheritance, are now, and shall be for evermore, incapable of holding any personal or landed estate.”47
Who, now, is the legitimate heir of all these vacated possessions? Through another sophism, the State, at once judge and party in the cause, assigns them to the State. “The founders presented them to the Church, that is to say, to the nation.”48 “Since the nation has permitted their possession by the clergy, she may redemand that which is possessed only through her authorisation.” “The principle must be maintained that every nation is solely and veritably proprietor of the possessions of its clergy.” This principle, it must be noted, as it is laid down, involves the destruction of ecclesiastical and lay corporations, along with the confiscation of all their possessions, and soon we shall see appearing on the horizon the final and complete decree49 by which the Legislative Assembly, “considering that a State truly free should not suffer any corporation within its bosom, not even those which, devoted to public instruction, deserve well of the country,” not even those “which are solely devoted to the service of the hospitals and the relief of the sick,” suppresses all congregations, all associations of men or of women, lay or ecclesiastical, all endowments for pious, charitable, and missionary purposes, all houses of education, all seminaries and colleges, and those of the Sorbonne and Navarre. Add to these the last sweep of the broom: under the Legislative Assembly the division of all communal property, except woods: under the Convention, the abolition of all literary societies, academies of science and of literature, the confiscation of all their property, their libraries, museums, and botanical gardens; the confiscation of all communal possessions not previously divided; and the confiscation of all the property of hospitals and other philanthropic establishments.50 —The abstract principle, proclaimed by the Constituent Assembly, reveals, by degrees, its exterminating virtues. France now, owing to it, contains nothing but dispersed, powerless, ephemeral individuals, and confronting them, the State, the sole, the only permanent body that has devoured all the others, a veritable Colossus, alone erect in the midst of these insignificant dwarfs.
Substituted for the others, it is henceforth to perform their duties, and spend the money well which they have expended badly.—In the first place, it abolishes tithes, not gradually and by means of a process of redemption, as in England, but at one stroke, and with no indemnity, on the ground that the tax, being an abusive, illegitimate impost, a private tax levied by individuals in cowl and cassock on others in smock frocks, is a vexatious usurpation, and resembles the feudal dues. It is a radical operation, and in conformity with principle. Unfortunately, the puerility of the thing is so gross as to defeat its own object. In effect, since the days of Charlemagne, all the estates in the country which have been sold and resold over and over again have always paid tithes, and have never been purchased except with this charge upon them, which amounts to about one-seventh of the net revenue of the country. Take off this tax and one-seventh is added to the income of the proprietor, and, consequently, a seventh to his capital. A present is made to him of one hundred francs if his land is worth seven hundred francs, and of one thousand if it is worth seven thousand, of ten thousand if it is worth seventy thousand, and of one hundred thousand if it is worth seven hundred thousand. Some people gain six hundred thousand francs by this act, and thirty thousand francs in income.51 Through this gratuitous and unexpected gift, one hundred and twenty-three millions of revenue, and two milliards and a half of capital, is divided among the holders of real estate in France, and in a manner so ingenious that the rich receive the most. Such is the effect of abstract principles. To afford a relief of thirty millions a year to the peasants in wooden shoes, an assembly of democrats adds thirty millions a year to the revenue of wealthy bourgeois and thirty millions a year to opulent nobles. The first part of this operation, moreover, is but another burden to the State; for, in taking off the load from the holders of real property, it has encumbered itself, the State henceforth, without pocketing a penny, being obliged to defray the expenses of worship in their place.—As to the second part of the operation, which consists in the confiscation of four milliards of real property, it proves, after all, to be ruinous, although promising to be lucrative. It makes the same impression on our statesmen that the inheritance of a great estate makes on a needy and sanguine parvenu. Regarding it as a bottomless well of gold, he draws upon it without stint and strives to realise all his fancies; as he can afford to pay, he is free to break as he pleases. It is thus that the Assembly suppresses and compensates magisterial offices to the amount of four hundred and fifty millions; financial securities and obligations to the amount of three hundred and twenty-one millions; the household charges of the King, Queen, and princes, fifty-two millions; military services and encumbrances, thirty-five millions; enfeoffed tithes, one hundred millions, and so on.52 “In the month of May, 1789,” says Necker, “the reestablishment of order in the finances was mere child’s-play.” At the end of a year, by dint of involving itself in debt, by increasing its expenses, and by abolishing or abandoning its income, the State lives now on the paper-currency it issues, eats up its new capital, and rapidly marches onward to bankruptcy. Never was such a vast inheritance so quickly reduced to nothing, and to less than nothing.
Meanwhile, we can demonstrate, from the first few months, what use the administrators will make of it, and the manner in which they will endow the service to which it binds them.—No portion of this confiscated property is reserved for the maintenance of public worship, or to keep up the hospitals, asylums, and schools. Not only do all obligations and all productive real property find their way into the great national crucible to be converted into assignats, but a number of buildings, all monastic personalty, and a portion of the ecclesiastical, diverted from its natural course, becomes swallowed up in the same gulf. At Besançon,53 three churches out of eight, with their land and treasure, the funds of the chapter, all the money of the conventual churches, the sacred vessels, shrines, crosses, reliquaries, votive offerings, ivories, statues, pictures, tapestry, sacerdotal dresses and ornaments, plate, jewels and precious furniture, libraries, railings, bells, masterpieces of art and of piety, all are broken up and melted in the Mint, or sold by auction for almost nothing. This is the way in which the intentions of the founders and donors are carried out.—How are so many communities, which are deprived of their rentals, to support their schools, hospices, and asylums? Even after the decree54 which, exceptionally and provisionally, orders the whole of their revenue to be accounted for to them, will it be paid over now that it is collected by a local administration whose coffers are always empty, and whose intentions are almost always hostile? Every establishment for benevolent and educational purposes is evidently sinking, now that the special streams which nourished them run into and are lost in the dry bed of the public treasury.55 Already, in 1790, there are no funds with which to pay the monks and nuns their small pensions for their maintenance. In Franche-Comté the Capuchins of Baume have no bread, and, to live, they are obliged to resell, with the consent of the district, a portion of the stores of their monastery which had been confiscated. The Ursuline nuns of Ornans live on the means furnished them by private individuals in order to keep up the only school which the town possesses. The Bernardine nuns of Pontarlier are reduced to the lowest stage of want: “We are satisfied,” the district reports, “that they have nothing to put into their mouths. We have to contribute something every day amongst ourselves to keep them from starving.”56 Only too thankful are they when the local administration gives them something to eat, or allows others to give them something. In many places it strives to famish them, or takes delight in annoying them. In March, 1791, the department of Doubs, in spite of the entreaties of the district, reduces the pension of the Visitant nuns to one hundred and one livres for the choristers, and fifty for the lay-sisters. Two months before this, the municipality of Besançon, putting its own interpretation on the decree which allowed nuns to dress as they pleased, enjoins them all, including even the sisters of charity, to abandon their old costume, which few among them had the means of replacing.—Helplessness, indifference, or malevolence, such are the various dispositions which are encountered among the new authorities whose duty it is to support and protect them. To let loose persecution there is now only needed a decree which puts the civil power in conflict with religious convictions. That decree is promulgated, and, on the 12th of July, 1790, the Assembly establishes the civil constitution of the clergy.
Notwithstanding the confiscation of ecclesiastical property, and the dispersion of the monastic communities, the main body of the ecclesiastical corps remains intact: seventy thousand priests ranged under the bishops, with the Pope in the centre as the commander-in-chief. There is no corporation more solid, more antipathetic, or more attacked. For, against it are opposed implacable hatreds and fixed opinions: the Gallicanism of the legists who, from St. Louis downwards, are the adversaries of ecclesiastical power; the doctrine of the Jansenists who, since Louis XIII., desire to bring back the Church to its primitive form; and the theory of the philosophers who, for sixty years, have considered Christianity as a mistake and Catholicism as a scourge. At the very least the institution of a clergy in Catholicism is condemned, and they think that they are moderate if they respect the rest. “We might change our religion,” say some of the deputies in the tribune.57 Now, the decree affects neither dogma nor worship; it is confined to a revision of matters of discipline, and on this particular domain which is claimed for the civil power, it is pretended that demolition and reconstruction may be effected at discretion without the concurrence of the ecclesiastical power.
Here there is an usurpation, for an ecclesiastical as well as civil society has the right to choose its own form, its own hierarchy, its own government.—On this point, every argument that can be advanced in favour of the former can be repeated in favour of the latter, and the moment one becomes legitimate the other becomes legitimate also. The sanction of a civil or of a religious society consists in the long series of services which, for centuries, it has rendered to its members, the zeal and success with which it discharges its functions, the feelings of gratitude they entertain for it, the importance they attribute to its offices, the need they have of it and their attachment to it, the conviction imprinted in their minds that without it they would be deprived of a benefit upon which they set more store than upon any other. This benefit, in a civil society, is the security of persons and property. In the religious society it is the eternal salvation of the soul. In all other particulars the resemblance is complete, and the titles of the Church are as good as those of the State. Hence, if it be just for one to be sovereign and free on its own domain, it is just for the other to be equally sovereign and free: if the Church encroaches when it assumes to regulate the constitution of the State, the State encroaches when it pretends to regulate the constitution of the Church: if the former claims the respect of the latter on its domain, the latter must show equal respect for the former on its ground. The boundary-line between the two territories is, undoubtedly, not clearly defined, and frequent contests arise between the two. Sometimes these may be forestalled or terminated by each shutting itself up within a wall of separation, and by their remaining as much as possible indifferent to each other, as is the case in America. At another, they may, by a carefully considered contract, each accord to the other specific rights on the intermediate zone, and both exercise their divided authority on that zone, which is the case in France. In both cases, however, the two powers, like the two societies, must remain distinct. It is needful for each of them that the other should be an equal with which it treats, and not a subordinate to which it prescribes conditions. Whatever the civil system may be, whether monarchical or republican, oligarchical or democratic, the Church abuses its credit when it condemns or attacks it. Whatever may be the ecclesiastical system, whether papal, episcopalian, presbyterian, or congregational, the State abuses its strength when, without the assent of the faithful, it abolishes their systems or imposes a new one upon them. Not only does it violate right, but its violence, most frequently, is fruitless. It may strike as it will, the root of the tree is beyond its reach, and, in the unjust war which it wages against an institution as vital as itself, it often ends in getting the worst of it.
Unfortunately, the Assembly, in this as in other matters, being preoccupied with principles, fails to look at practical facts, and, aiming to remove only the dead bark, it injures the living trunk. For many centuries, and especially since the Council of Trent, the vigorous element of Catholicism is much less religion itself than the Church. Theology retires into the background, while discipline has come to the front. Believers who, according to Church law, are required to regard spiritual authority as dogma, in fact attach their faith to the authority much more than to the dogma. Faith insists, in relation to discipline as well as to dogma, that if one rejects the decision of the Romish Church one ceases to be a Catholic; that spiritual authority comes from above and not from below; that without the institution of a bishop there can be no priest; that without the institution of a Pope there can be no bishop; that an illegitimate bishop or priest cannot administer valid sacraments; that a child baptized by one of these is not Christian; that a dying man thus absolved is not absolved; and that two believers thus married live in concubinage. It is a matter of fact that believers are no longer theologians or canonists; that, save a few Jansenists, they no longer read the Scriptures or the Fathers; that, if they accept the dogma, it is in a lump, without investigation, confiding in the hand which presents it; that their obedient conscience is in the keeping of this pastoral guide; that the Church of the third century is of little consequence to them; and that, as far as the true form of the actual Church goes, the doctor whose advice they follow is not St. Cyprian, of whom they know nothing, but their visible bishop and their living curé. Put these two premises together and the conclusion is self-evident: it is clear that they will not believe that they are baptized, absolved, or married but by this curé authorised by this bishop. Let others be put in their places whom they condemn, and you suppress worship, sacraments, and the most precious functions of spiritual life to twenty-four millions of French people, to all the peasantry, all the children, and to almost all the women; you stir up in rebellion against you the two greatest forces which move the soul—conscience and habit. And observe the effect. You not only convert the State into a gendarme in the service of heresy, but also, through this fruitless and tyrannous attempt of Gallican Jansenism, you bring into permanent discredit Gallican maxims and Jansenist doctrines. You cut away the last two roots by which a liberal sentiment still vegetated in orthodox Catholicism. You throw the clergy back on Rome; you attach them to the Pope from whom you wish to separate them, and deprive them of the national character which you wish to impose on them. They were French, and you render them Ultramontane. They excited ill-will and envy, and you render them sympathetic and popular. They were a divided body, and you give them unanimity. They were a straggling militia, scattered about under several independent authorities, and rooted to the soil through the possession of the ground; thanks to you, they are to become a regular, manageable army, emancipated from every local attachment, organized under one head, and always prepared to take the field at the word of command. Compare the authority of a bishop in his diocese in 1789 with that of a bishop sixty years later. In 1789, the Archbishop of Besançon, out of fifteen hundred offices and benefices, had the patronage of one hundred; in ninety-three incumbencies the selections were made by the metropolitan chapter; in eighteen it was made by the chapter of the Madeleine; in seventy parishes by the noble founder or benefactor; one abbé had thirteen incumbencies at his disposal, another thirty-four, another thirty-five, a prior nine, an abbess twenty; five communes directly nominated their own pastor, while abbeys, priories, and canonries were in the hands of the King.58 At the present day in a diocese the bishop appoints all the curés or officiating priests, and may deprive nine out of ten of them; in the diocese above named, from 1850 to 1860, scarcely one lay functionary was nominated without the consent or intervention of the cardinal-archbishop.59 To comprehend the spirit, discipline, and influence of our contemporary clergy, go back to the source of it, and you will find it in the decree of the Constituent Assembly. A natural organization cannot be broken up with impunity; it forms anew, adapting itself to circumstances, and closes up its ranks in proportion to its danger.
But if, according to the maxims of the Assembly, faith and worship are free in relation to the secular State, before the State as sovereign churches are subjects.—For these are societies, administrations, and hierarchies, and no society, administration, or hierarchy may subsist in the State without entering into its departments under the title of subordinate, delegate, or employé. A priest is essentially a salaried officer like the rest, a functionary60 presiding over matters pertaining to worship and morality. If the State is disposed to change the number, the mode of nomination, the duties, and the posts of its engineers, it is not bound to assemble its engineers and ask their permission, least of all that of a foreign engineer established at Rome. If it wishes to change the condition of “its ecclesiastical officers,” its right to do so is the same, and therefore unquestioned. There is no need of asking anybody’s consent in the exercise of this right, and it allows no interference between it and its clerks. The Assembly refuses to call a Gallican council; it refuses to negotiate with the Pope, and, on its authority alone, it recasts the whole Constitution of the Church. Henceforth this branch of the public administration is to be organized on the model of the others.61 In the first place the diocese is to be in extent and limits the same as the department; consequently, all ecclesiastical circumscriptions are marked out anew, and forty-eight episcopal sees disappear. In the second place, the appointed bishop is forbidden “to refer to the Pope to obtain any confirmation whatever.” All he can do is to write to him “in testimony of the unity of faith and of the communion which he is to maintain with him.” The bishop is thus no longer installed by his canonical chief, and the Church of France becomes schismatic. In the third place, the metropolitan or bishop is forbidden to exact from the new bishops or curés “any oath other than that they profess the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion.” Assisted by his council he may examine them on their doctrine and habits, and refuse them canonical installation, but in this case his reasons must be given in writing, and be signed by himself and his council. His authority, in other respects, does not extend beyond this, for it is the civil tribunal which decides between contending parties. Thus is the catholic hierarchy broken up; the ecclesiastical superior has his hands tied; if he still delegates sacerdotal functions it is only as a matter of form. Between the curé and the bishop subordination ceases to exist just as it has ceased to exist between the bishop and the Pope, and the Church of France becomes Presbyterian.
The people now, in effect, choose their own ministers, as they do in the Presbyterian church; the bishop is appointed by the electors of the department, the curé by the district electors, and, what is an extraordinary aggravation, these need not be of his communion. It is of no consequence whether the electoral Assembly contains, as at Nismes, Montauban, Strasbourg, and Metz, a notable proportion of Calvinists, Lutherans, and Jews, or whether its majority, furnished by the club, is notoriously hostile to Catholicism, and even to Christianity itself. The bishop and the curé must be chosen by the electoral body; the Holy Ghost dwells with it, and with the civil tribunals, and these may install its elect in spite of any resistance. To complete the dependence of the clergy, every bishop is forbidden to absent himself more than fifteen days without permission from the department; every curé the same length of time without the permission of the district, even to attend upon a dying father or to undergo the operation of lithotomy. In default of this permission his salary is suspended: as a functionary under salary, he owes all his time to his bureau, and if he desires a leave of absence he must ask for it from his chiefs in the Hôtel-de-Ville.62 He must assent to all these innovations, not only with passive obedience, but by a solemn oath. All old or new ecclesiastics, archbishops, bishops, curés, vicars, preachers, hospital and prison chaplains, superiors and directors of seminaries, professors of seminaries and colleges, are to state in writing that they are ready to take this oath: moreover, they must take it publicly, in church, “in the presence of the general council, the commune, and the faithful,” and promise “to maintain with all their power” a schismatic and Presbyterian Church. For there can be no doubt about the sense and bearing of the prescribed oath. It was all very well to incorporate it with a broader one, that of maintaining the Constitution. But the Constitution of the clergy is too clearly comprised in the general Constitution, like a chapter in a book, and to sign the book is to sign the chapter. Besides, in the formula to which the ecclesiastics in the Assembly are obliged to swear in the tribune, the chapter is precisely indicated, and no exception or reservation is allowed.63 The Bishop of Clermont, with all those who have accepted the Constitution in full, save the decrees affecting spiritual matters, are silenced. Where the spiritual begins and where it ends the Assembly knows better than they, for it has defined this, and it imposes its definition on canonist and theologian; it is, in its turn, the Pope, and all consciences must bow to its decision. Let them take the “oath, pure and simple,” or if they do not they are “refractory.” The fiat goes forth, and the effect of it is immense, for, along with the clergy, the law reaches to laymen. On the one hand, all the ecclesiastics who refuse the oath are dismissed. If they continue “to interfere with public functions which they have personally or corporately exercised” they “shall be prosecuted as disturbers of the peace, and condemned as rebels against the law,” deprived of all rights as active citizens, and declared incompetent to hold any public office. This is the penalty already inflicted on the nonjuring bishop who persists in considering himself a bishop, who ordains priests and who issues a pastoral letter. Such is soon to be the penalty inflicted on the nonjuring curé who presumes to hear confession or officiate at a mass.64 On the other hand, all citizens who refuse to take the prescribed oath, all electors, municipal officers, judges, and administrative agents, shall lose their right of suffrage, have their functions revoked, and be declared incompetent for all public duties.65 The result is that scrupulous Catholics are excluded from every administrative post, from all elections, and especially from ecclesiastical elections; from which it follows that, the stronger one’s faith the less one’s share in the choice of a priest.66 —What an admirable law, that which, under the pretext of reforming ecclesiastical abuses, places the faithful, lay or clerical, outside the pale of the law!
This soon becomes apparent. One hundred and thirty-four archbishops, bishops, and coadjutors refuse to take the oath; there are only four of them who do so, three of whom, MM. de Talleyrand, de Jarente, and de Brienne, are sceptical, and notorious for their licentiousness; the others are influenced by their consciences, above all, by their esprit de corps and a point of honour. Most of the curés rally around this staff of officers. In the diocese of Besançon,67 out of fourteen hundred priests, three hundred take the oath, a thousand refuse it, and eighty retract. In the department of Doubs, only four consent to swear. In the department of Lozère, there are only “ten out of two hundred and fifty.” “It is stated positively,” writes the best informed of all observers, “that everywhere in France two-thirds of the ecclesiastics have refused the oath, or have only taken it with the same reservations as the Bishop of Clermont.”
Thus, out of seventy thousand priests, forty-six thousand are turned out of office, and the majority of their parishioners are on their side. This is apparent in the absence of electors convoked to replace them: at Bordeaux only four hundred and fifty came to the poll out of nine hundred, while elsewhere the summons brings together only “a third or a quarter.” In many places there are no candidates, or those elected decline to accept. They are obliged, in order to supply their places, to hunt up unfrocked monks of a questionable character. There are two parties, after this, in each parish; two faiths, two systems of worship, and permanent discord. Even when the new and the old curés are accommodating, their situations bring them into conflict. To the former the latter are “intruders.” To the latter the former are “refractories.” By virtue of his being a guardian of souls, the former cannot dispense with telling his parishioners that the intruder is excommunicated, that his sacraments are null or sacrilegious, and that it is a sin to attend his mass. By virtue of his being a public functionary, the latter does not fail to write to the authorities that the “refractory” entraps the faithful, excites their consciences, saps the Constitution, and that he ought to be put down by force. In other words, the former draws everybody away from the latter, while the latter sends the gendarmes against the former, and persecution begins.—Through a singular reversion of things, it is the majority which undergoes persecution, and the minority which practises it. The mass of the constitutional curé is, everywhere, deserted.68 In La Vendée there are ten or twelve present in the church out of five or six hundred parishioners; on Sundays and holidays whole villages and market-towns travel from one to two leagues off to attend the orthodox mass, the villagers declaring that “if the old curé can only be restored to them, they will gladly pay a double tax.” In Alsace, “nine-tenths, at least, of the Catholics refuse to recognise the legally sworn priests.” The same spectacle presents itself in Franche-Comté, Artois, and in ten of the other provinces.—Finally, as in a chemical composition, the analysis is complete. Those who believe, or who recover their belief, are ranged around the old curé; all who, through conviction or tradition, hold to the sacraments, all who, through faith or habit, wish or feel a need to attend the mass. The auditors of the new curé consist of sceptics, deists, the indifferent, members of the clubs and of the administration, who resort to the church as to the Hôtel-de-Ville or to a popular meeting, not through religious but through political zeal, and who support the “intruder,” in order to sustain the Constitution.
All this does not secure to him very fervent followers, but it provides him with very zealous defenders; and, in default of the faith which they do not possess, they give the force which is at their disposal. All means are proper against an intractable bishop or curé; not only the law which they aggravate through their forced interpretation of it and through their arbitrary verdicts, but also the riots which they stir up by their instigations and which they sanction by their toleration.69 He is driven out of his parish, consigned to the county town, and kept in a safe place. The Directory of Aisne denounces him as a disturber of the public peace, and forbids him, under severe penalties, from administering the sacraments. The municipality of Cahors shuts up particular churches and orders the nonjuring ecclesiastics to leave the town in twenty-four hours. The electoral corps of Lot denounces them publicly as “ferocious brutes,” incendiaries, and provokers of civil war. The Directory of the Bas-Rhin banishes them to Strasbourg or to fifteen leagues from the frontier. At Saint-Léon the bishop is forced to fly. At Auch the archbishop is imprisoned; at Lyons M. de Boisboissel, grand vicar, is confined in Pierre-Encize, for having preserved an archepiscopal mandate in his house; brutality is everywhere the minister of intolerance. A certain curé of Aisne who, in 1789, had fed two thousand poor, having presumed to read from his pulpit a pastoral charge concerning the observance of Lent, the mayor seizes him by the collar and prevents him from going to the altar; “two of the National Yeomanry” draw their sabres on him, and forthwith lead him away bareheaded, not allowing him to return to his house, and drive him to a distance of two leagues by beat of drum and under escort. At Paris, in the church of Saint-Eustache, the curé is greeted with outcries, a pistol is pointed at his head, he is seized by the hair, struck with fists, and only reaches the sacristy through the intervention of the National Guard. In the church of the Théatins, rented by the orthodox with all legal formality, a furious band disperses the priests and their assistants, upsets the altar, and profanes the sacred vessels. A placard, posted up by the department, calls upon the people to respect the law. “I saw it,” says an eye-witness, “torn down amidst imprecations against the department, the priests, and the devout. One of the chief haranguers, standing on the steps . . . terminated his speech by stating that schism ought to be stopped at any cost, that no worship but his should be allowed, that women should be whipped and priests knocked on the head.” And, in fact, “a young lady accompanied by her mother is whipped on the steps of the church.” Elsewhere nuns are the sufferers, even the sisters of Saint-Vincent de Paul; and, from April, 1791, onward, the same outrages on modesty and against life are propagated from town to town. At Dijon, rods are nailed fast to the gates of all the convents; at Montpellier, two or three hundred ruffians, armed with large iron-bound sticks, murder the men and outrage the women.—Nothing remains but to put the male-factors under the shelter of an amnesty, which is done by the Constituent Assembly, and to legally sanction the animosity of local administrations, which is done by the Legislative Assembly.70 Henceforth the nonjuring ecclesiastics are deprived of their sustenance; they are declared “suspected of revolt against the law and of evil intentions against the country.”—Thus, says a contemporary Protestant, “on the strength of these suspicions and these intentions, a Directory, to which the law interdicts judicial functions, may arbitrarily drive out of his house the minister of a God of peace and charity, grown grey in the shadow of the altar.” Thus, “everywhere, where disturbances occur on account of religious opinions, and whether these troubles are due to the frantic scourgers of the virtuous sisters of charity or to the ruffians armed with cow-hides who, at Nismes and Montpellier, outrage all the laws of decorum and of liberty for six whole months, the nonjuring priests are to be punished with banishment. Torn from their families whose means of living they share, they are sent away to wander on the highways, abandoned to public pity or ferocity the moment any scoundrel chooses to excite a disturbance that he can impute to them.”—Thus we see approaching the revolt of the peasantry, the insurrections of Nismes, Franche-Comté, La Vendée, and Brittany, emigration, transportation, imprisonment, the guillotine or drowning for two-thirds of the clergy of France, and likewise for myriads of the loyal, for husbandmen, artisans, day-labourers, sempstresses, and servants, and the humblest among the lower class of the people. This is what the laws of the Constituent Assembly are leading to.—In the institution of the clergy, as in that of the nobles and the King, it demolished a solid wall in order to dig through it an open door, and it is nothing strange if the whole structure tumbles down on the heads of its inmates. The true course was to respect, to reform, to utilise rank and corporations: all that the Assembly thought of was the abolition of these in the name of abstract equality and of national sovereignty. In order to abolish these it executed, tolerated, or initiated all the attacks on persons and on property. Those it is about to commit are the inevitable result of those which it has already committed; for, through its Constitution, bad is changed to worse, and the social edifice, already half in ruins through the clumsy havoc that is effected in it, will fall in completely under the weight of the incongruous or extravagant constructions which it proceeds to extemporise.
[1. ]Cf. “The Ancient Régime,” books i. and v.
[2. ]A special tax paid by a plebeian on acquiring real estate.
[3. ]A tax imposed on the inheritance of property.
[4. ]Arthur Young, i. 209, 223. “If the communes steadily refuse what is now held out to them, they put immense and certain benefits to the chance of fortune, to that hazard which may make posterity curse instead of bless their memories as real patriots who had nothing in view but the happiness of their country.”
[5. ]According to valuations by the Constituent Assembly, the tax on real property ought to produce 240,000,000 francs, and provide one-fifth of the net revenue of France, estimated at 1,200,000,000. The personal (mobilière) tax, which replaced the capitation, ought to produce, besides, 60,000,000. Total for direct taxation, 300,000,000, or one-fourth—that is to say, twenty-five per cent. of the net revenue. If the direct taxation had been maintained up to the rate of the ancient régime (190,000,000, according to Necker’s report in May, 1789), this impost would only have provided one-sixth of the net revenue, or sixteen per cent.
[6. ]Dumont, 267. (The words of Mirabeau three months before his death.) “Ah, my friend, how right we were at the start when we wanted to prevent the commons from declaring themselves the National Assembly! That is the source of the evil. They wanted to rule the King, instead of ruling through him.”
[7. ]Gouverneur Morris, April 29, 1789 (on the principles of the future constitution), “One generation at least will be required to render the public familiar with them.”
[8. ]Cf. “The Ancient Régime,” book iii.
[9. ]According to Voltaire (“L’Homme aux Quarante Écus”), the average duration of human life was only twenty-three years.
[10. ]Mercure, July 6, 1790. According to the report of Camus (sitting of July 2nd), the official total of pensions amounted to thirty-two millions; but if we add the gratuities and allowances out of the various treasuries, the actual total was fifty-six millions.
[11. ]“The Ancient Régime,” p. 297, and the following pages.—“Le Duc de Broglie,” by M. Guizot, p. 11. (Last words of Prince Victor de Broglie, and the opinions of M. d’Argenson.)
[12. ]De Ferrières, i. p. 2.
[13. ]Moniteur, sitting of September 7, 1790, i. 431–437. Speeches of MM. de Silhery, de Lanjuinais, Thouret, de Lameth, and Rabaul Saint-Etienne. Barnave wrote in 1791: “It was necessary to be content with one single Chamber; the instinct of equality required it. A second Chamber would have been the refuge of the aristocrats.”
[14. ]“De Bouillé,” p. 50: “All the old noble families, save two or three hundred, were ruined.”
[15. ]Cf. Doniol, “La Révolution et la Féodalité.”
[16. ]Moniteur, sitting of August 6, 1789. Speech of Duport: “Whatever is unjust cannot last. Similarly, no compensation for these unjust rights can be maintained.”—Sitting of February 27, 1790. M. Populus: “As slavery could not spring from a legitimate contract, because liberty cannot be alienated, you have abolished without indemnity hereditary property in persons.” Instructions and decree of June 15–19, 1791: “The National Assembly has recognised in the most emphatic manner that a man never could become the proprietor of another man, and consequently, that the rights which one had assumed to have over the person of the other, could not become the property of the former.” Cf. the diverse reports of Merlin to the Committee of Feudality and the National Assembly.
[17. ]Duvergier, “Collection des Lois et Décrets.” Laws of the 4–11 August, 1789; March 15–28, 1790; May 3–9, 1790; June 15–19, 1791.
[18. ]Agrier percières—terms denoting taxes paid in the shape of shares of produce. Those which follow—lods, rentes, quint, requint—belong to the taxes levied on real property.—[Tr.]
[19. ]Doniol (“Nouveaux cahiers de 1790”). Complaints of the copy-holders of Rouergues and of Quercy, pp. 97–105.
[20. ]See further on, book iii. ch. ii. § 4, also ch. iii.
[21. ]Moniteur, sitting of March 2, 1700. Speech by Merlin: “The peasants have been made to believe that the destruction of the banalités (the obligation to use the public mill, wine-press, and oven, which belonged to the noble) carried along with it the loss to the noble of all these; the peasants regarding themselves as proprietors of them.”
[22. ]Moniteur, sitting of June 9, 1790. Speech of M. Charles de Lameth.—Duvergier (laws of June 19–23, 1790; September 27 and October 16, 1791).
[23. ]Sauzay, v. 400–410.
[24. ]Duvergier, laws of June 15–19, 1791; July 6, 1792; August 25–28, 1792.
[25. ]“Institution du Droit Français,” by Argou, i. 103. (He wrote under the Regency.) “The origin of most of the feoffs is so ancient that if the seigneurs were obliged to produce the titles of the original concession, to obtain their rents, there would scarcely be one able to produce them. This deficiency is made up by common law.”
[26. ]Duvergier (laws of April 8–15, 1791; March 7–11; October 26, 1791; January 6–10, 1794). Mirabeau had already proposed to reduce the disposable portion to one-tenth.
[27. ]See farther on, book iii. ch. iii.
[28. ]Mercure, September 10, 1791. Article by Mallet-Dupan.—Ibid. October 15, 1791.
[29. ]“Archives Nationales,” ii. 784. Letters of M. de Langeron, October 16 and 18, 1789.—Albert Babeau, “Histoire de Troyes,” letters addressed to the Chevalier de Poterat, July, 1790.—“Archives Nationales,” papers of the Committee on Reports, liasse 4, letter of M. le Belin-Chatellenot to the President of the National Assembly, July 1, 1791.—Mercure, October 15, 1791. Article by Mallet-Dupan: “Such is literally the language of these emigrants; I do not add a word.”—Ibid. May 15, 1790. Letter of the Baron de Bois d’Aizy, April 29, 1790, demanding a decree of protection for the nobles. “We shall know (then) whether we are proscribed or are of any account in the rights of man written out with so much blood, or whether, finally, any other resource is left to us but that of bearing the remains of our property and our wretched existences under other skies.”
[30. ]Mercure, October 15, 1791, and September 10, 1791. Read the admirable letter of the Chevalier de Mesgrigny, appointed colonel during the suspension of the King, and refusing his new rank.
[31. ]Cf. the “Mémoires” of M. de Boustaquet, a Norman gentleman.
[32. ]Cf. “The Ancient Régime,” books i. and ii.
[33. ]Boivin-Champeaux, “Notice Historique sur la Revolution dans le Département de l’Eure,” the grievances stated in the memorials. In 1788, at Rouen, there was not a single profession made by men. In the monastery of the Deux-Amants the chapter convoked in 1789 consisted of two monks. “Archives Nationales,” papers of the ecclesiastic committee, passim.
[34. ]“Apologie de l’Etat Religieux” (1775), with statistics. Since 1768 the decline is “frightful”; “it is plainly to be seen that in ten or twelve years most of the regular bodies will be absolutely extinct, or reduced to a state of feebleness akin to death.”
[35. ]Sauzay, i. 224 (November, 1790). At Besançon, out of two hundred and sixty-six monks, “seventy-nine only showed any loyalty to their engagements or any affection for their calling.” Others preferred to abandon it, especially all the Dominicans but five, all but one of the barefooted Carmelites, and all the Grand-Carmelites. The same disposition is apparent throughout the department, as, for instance, with the Benedictines of Cluny except one, all the Minimes but three, all the Capuchins but five, the Bernardins, Dominicans, and Augustins, all preferring to leave.—Montalembert, “Les Moines d’Occident,” introduction, pp. 105–164. Letter of a Benedictine of Saint-Germain-des-Prés to a Benedictine of Vannes. “Of all the members of your congregation which come here to lodge, I have scarcely found one capable of edifying us. You may probably say the same of those who came to you from our place.”—Cf. in the “Mémoires” of Merlin de Thionville the description of the Chartreuse of Val St. Pierre.
[36. ]Ch. Guerin, “Revue des Questions Historiques” (July 1, 1875; April 1, 1876). Abbé Guettée, “Histoire de l’Eglise de France,” xii. 128. (“Procès-verbal de l’Assemblée du Clergé,” in 1780.) “Archives Nationales,” official reports and memorials of the States-General in 1789. The most obnoxious proceeding to the chiefs of the order is the postponement of the age at which vows may be taken, it being, in their view, the ruin of their institutions.—“The Ancient Régime,” p. 403.
[37. ]“The Ancient Régime,” p. 33. Cf. Guerin: “The monastery of the Trois-Rois, in the north of Franche-Comté, founded four villages collected from foreign colonists. It is the only centre of charity and civilisation in a radius of three leagues. It took care of two hundred of the sick in a recent epidemic; it lodges the troops which pass from Alsace into Franche-Comté, and in the late hailstorm it supplied the whole neighbourhood with food.”
[38. ]Moniteur, sitting of February 13, 1790. (Speech of the Abbé de Montesquiou).—“Archives Nationales,” papers of the Ecclesiastical Committee, dxix. 6, Visitation de Limoges, dxix. 25, Annonciades de Saint-Denis; ibid. Annonciades de Saint-Amour; Ursulines d’Auch, de Beaulieu, d’Eymoutier, de la Ciotat, de Pont Saint-Esprit, Hospitalières d’Ernée, de Laval; Sainte-Claire de Laval, de Marseille, &c.
[39. ]Sauzay, i. 247. Out of three hundred and seventy-seven nuns at Doubs, three hundred and fifty-eight preferred to remain as they were, especially at Pontarlier, all the Bernardines, Annonciades, and Ursulines; at Besançon, all the Carmelites, the Visitandines, the Annonciades, the Clarisses, the Sisters of Refuge, the Nuns of the Saint-Esprit, and, save one, all the Benedictine Nuns.
[40. ]“Archives Nationales.” Papers of the Ecclesiastical Committee, passim.—Sauzay, i. 51.—Statics of France for 1866.
[41. ]Felix Rocquain, “La France après le 18 Brumaire.” (Reports of the Councillors of State dispatched on this service, passim).
[42. ]Moniteur, October 24, 1789. (Speech of Dupont de Nemours.) All these speeches, often more fully reported and with various renderings, may be found in “Les Archives Parlementaires,” 1st series, vols. iii. and ix.
[43. ]Duvergier, decree of June 14–17, 1791. “The annihilation of every corporation of citizens of any one condition or profession being one of the foundation-stones of the French constitution, it is forbidden to reestablish these de facto under any pretext or form whatever. Citizens of a like condition or profession, such as contractors, shopkeepers, workmen of all classes, and associates in any art whatever, shall not, on assembling together, appoint either president, or secretaries, or syndics, discuss or pass resolutions, or frame any regulations in relation to their assumed common interests.”
[44. ]Moniteur, sitting of February 12, 1790. Speeches of Dally d’Agier and Barnave.
[45. ]Moniteur, sitting of August 10, 1789. Speech by Garat; February 12, 1790, speech by Pétion; October 30, 1789, speech by Thournet.
[46. ]Moniteur, sitting of November 2, 1789. Speech by Chapelier; October 24, 1789, speech by Garat; October 30, 1789, speech by Mirabeau, and the sitting of August 10, 1789.
[47. ]Moniteur, sitting of October 23, 1789. Speech by Thouret.
[48. ]Moniteur, sitting of October 23, 1789. Speech by Treilhard; October 24th, speech by Garat; October 30, speech by Mirabeau. On the 8th of August, 1789, Al. de Lameth says in the tribune: “When an endowment was made, it is the nation which was endowed.”
[49. ]Duvergier, laws of August 18, 1792; August 8–14, 1793; July 11, 1794; July 14, 1792; August 24, 1793.
[50. ]Moniteur, sitting of July 31, 1792. Speech of M. Boistard; the property of the hospitals at this time was estimated at eight hundred millions. Already in 1791 (sitting of January 30th) M. de Larochefoucauld-Liancourt said to the Assembly: “Nothing will more readily restore confidence to the poor than to see the nation assuming the right of rendering them assistance.” He proposes to decree, accordingly, that all hospitals and places of beneficence be placed under the control of the nation. (Mercure, February 12, 1791.)
[51. ]Moniteur, sitting of August 10, 1789. Speech by Sieyès. The figures given here are deduced from the statistics already given in the “Ancient Régime.”
[52. ]Moniteur, v. 571, sitting of September 4, 1790. Report of the Committee on Finances—v. 675, sitting of September 17, 1790. Report by Necker.
[53. ]Sauzay, i. 228 (from October 10, 1790, to February 20, 1791). “The total weight of the spoil of the monastic establishments in gold, silver, and plated ware, sent to the Mint, amounted to more than 525 kilogrammes (for the department).”
[54. ]Duvergier, law of October 8–14.
[55. ]Moniteur, sitting of June 3, 1792. Speech of M. Bernard, in the name of the Committee of Public Assistance: “Not a day passes in which we do not receive the saddest news from the departments on the penury of their hospitals.”—Mercure de France, December 17, 1791, sitting of December 5. A number of deputies of the Department of the North demand aid for their hospitals and municipalities. Out of 480,000 livres revenue there remains 10,000 to them. “The property of the Communes is mortgaged, and no longer affords them any resources.” 280,000 persons are without bread.
[56. ]Sauzay, 1. 252 (December 3, 1790. April 13, 1791).
[57. ]Moniteur, sitting of June 1, 1790. Speeches by Camus, Treilhard, &c.
[58. ]Sauzay, i. 168.
[59. ]Personal knowledge, as I visited Besançon four times between 1863 and 1867.
[60. ]Moniteur, sitting of May 30, 1790, and others following. (Report of Treilhard, speech by Robespierre.)
[61. ]Duvergier, laws of July 12th–August 14th; November 14–25, 1790; January 21–26, 1791.
[62. ]Moniteur, sitting of May 31, 1790. Robespierre, in covert terms, demands the marriage of priests.—Mirabeau prepared a speech in the same sense, concluding that every priest and monk could contract marriage; on the priest or monk presenting himself with his bride before the curé, the latter should be obliged to give them the nuptial benediction, &c. Mirabeau wrote, June 2, 1790: “Robespierre . . . has juggled me out of my motion on the marriage of priests.”—In general the germ of all the laws of the Convention is found in the Constituent Assembly. (Ph. Plan, “Un Collaborateur de Mirabeau,” p. 56, 144.)
[63. ]Duvergier, laws of November 27th–December 26, 1790; February 5th, March 22nd, and April 5, 1791.—Moniteur, sitting of November 6, 1790, and those that follow, especially that of December 27th. “I swear to maintain with all my power the French Constitution and especially the decrees relating to the Civil Constitution of the clergy.”—Cf. sitting of January 2, 1791, speech by the Bishop of Clermont.
[64. ]Duvergier, law of May 7, 1791, to maintain the right of nonjuring priests to perform mass in national or private edifices. (Demanded by Talleyrand and Sieyès.)
[65. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,235. Letter of M. de Château-Randon, deputy of la Lozère, May 28, 1791. After the decree of May 23rd, all the functionaries of the department handed in their resignations.
[66. ]Duvergier, law of May 21–29, 1791.
[67. ]Sauzay, i. 366, 538 to 593, 750.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,235. Letter of M. de Chanteauredon, May 10, 1791.—Mercure, April 23rd, and April 16, 1791. Articles of Mallet-Dupan, letter from Bordeaux, March 20, 1791.
[68. ]Roux and Buchez, xii. 77. Report of Gallois and Gensonné sent to La Vendée and the Deux Sèvres (July 25, 1791).—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,253, letter of the Directory of the Bas-Rhin (letter of January 7, 1792).—“Le District de Machecoul de 1788 à 1793,” by Lallier.—“Histoire de Joseph Lebon,” by Paris.—Sauzay, vol. i. and ii. in full.
[69. ]Mercure, January 15th, April 23rd, May 16th and 30th, November 23, 1791.—“Le District de Machecoul,” by Lallier, 173.—Sauzay, i. 295.—Lavirotte, “Annales d’Arnay-le Duc (February 5, 1792).—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,223. Petition of a number of the inhabitants of Montpellier, November 17, 1791.
[70. ]Duvergier, decree of November 29, 1791.—Mercure, November 30, 1791 (article by Mallet-Dupan).