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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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The sovereignty of unrestrained passions—I.Old religious rancours—Montauban and Nismes in 1790—II.Passion supreme—Dread of hunger its acutest form—The noncirculation of grain—Intervention and usurpations of the electoral assemblies—The rural code in Nivernais—The four central provinces in 1790—Why high prices are kept up—Anxiety and insecurity—Stagnation of the grain market—The departments near Paris in 1791—The supply and price of grain regulated by force—The mobs in 1792—Village armies of Eure and of the lower Seine and of Aisne—Aggravation of the disorder after August 10th—The dictation of unbridled instinct—Its practical and political expedients—III.Egotism of the tax-payer—Issoudun in 1790—Rebellion against taxation—Indirect taxes in 1789 and 1790—Abolition of the salt-tax, excise, and octrois—Direct taxation in 1789 and 1790—Delay and insufficiency of the returns—New levies in 1791 and 1792—Delays, partiality, and concealment in preparing the rolls—Insufficiency of, and the delay in, the returns—Payment in assignats—The tax-payer relieves himself of one-half—Devastation of the forests—Division of the communal property—IV.Cupidity of tenants—The third and fourth jacquerie—Brittany and other provinces in 1790 and 1791—The burning of chateaux—Title-deeds destroyed.—Refusal of claims—Destruction of reservoirs—Principal characteristics, prime motive, and ruling passion of the Revolution.
In this state of things the passions have full sway. Any one of them that is powerful enough to group together a few hundred men suffices for the formation of a faction or band, which dashes through the relaxed or feeble meshes of a government that is passive or disregarded. An experiment on a grand scale is about to be made on human society; owing to the slackening of the regular restraints which have maintained it, it is possible to measure the force of the permanent instincts which attack it. They are always there even in ordinary times; we do not notice them because they are kept in check; but they are not the less energetic and effective, and, moreover, indestructible. The moment their repression ceases, their power of mischief is shown; just as that of the water which floats a ship, but which at the first leak enters into it and sinks it.
Religious passions, to begin with, are not to be kept down by federations, embraces, and effusions of fraternity. In the south, where the Protestants have been persecuted for more than a century, hatreds exist more than a century old.1 —In vain have the odious edicts which oppressed them fallen into desuetude for the past twenty years; in vain have civil rights been restored to them since 1787: the past still lives in transmitted recollections; and two groups are confronting each other, one Protestant and the other Catholic, each defiant, hostile, ready to act on the defensive, and interpreting the preparations of its adversary as a plan of attack. Under such circumstances the guns go off of their own accord.—On a sudden alarm at Uzès2 the Catholics, two thousand in number, take possession of the bishop’s palace and the Hôtel-de-Ville; while the Protestants, numbering four hundred, assemble outside the walls on the esplanade, and pass the night under arms, each troop persuaded that the other is going to massacre it, one party summoning the Catholics of Jalès to its aid, and the other the Protestants of Gardonnenque.—There is but one way of avoiding civil war between parties in such an attitude, and that is the ascendancy of an energetic third party, impartial and on the spot. A plan to this effect, which promises well, is proposed by the military commandant of Languedoc.3 According to him the two firebrands are, on the one hand, the bishops of Lower Languedoc, and on the other, MM. Rabaut-Saint-Etienne, father and two sons, all three being pastors. Let them be responsible “with their heads” for any mob, insurrection, or attempt to debauch the army; let a tribunal of twelve judges be selected from the municipal bodies of twelve towns, and all delinquents be brought before it; let this be the court of final appeal, and its sentence immediately executed. The system in vogue, however, is just the reverse. Both parties being organized into a body of militia, each takes care of itself, and is sure to fire on the other; and the more readily, inasmuch as the new ecclesiastical regulations, which are issued from month to month, strike like so many hammers on Catholic sensibility, and scatter showers of sparks on the primings of the already loaded guns.
At Montauban, on the 10th of May, 1790, the day of the inventory and expropriation of the religious communities,4 the commissioners are not allowed to enter. Women in a state of frenzy lie across the thresholds of the doors, and it would be necessary to pass over their bodies; a large mob gathers around the “Cordeliers,” and a petition is signed to have the convents maintained.—The Protestants who witness this commotion become alarmed, and eighty of their National Guards march to the Hôtel-de-Ville, and take forcible possession of the guard-house which protects it. The municipal authorities order them to withdraw, which they refuse to do. Thereupon the Catholics assembled at the “Cordeliers” begin a riot, throw stones, and drive in the doors with pieces of timber, while a cry is heard that the Protestants, who have taken refuge in the guard-house, are firing from the windows. The enraged multitude immediately invade the arsenal, seize all the guns they can lay their hands on, and fire volleys on the guard-house, the effect of which is to kill five of the Protestants and wound twenty-four others. The rest are saved by a municipal officer and the police; but they are obliged to appear, two and two, before the cathedral in their shirts, and do public penance, after which they are put in prison. During the tumult political shouts have been heard: “Hurrah for the nobles! Hurrah for the aristocracy! Down with the nation! Down with the tricolour flag!” Bordeaux, regarding Montauban as in rebellion against France, dispatches fifteen hundred of its National Guard to set the prisoners free. Toulouse gives its aid to Bordeaux. The fermentation is frightful. Four thousand of the Protestants of Montauban take flight; armed cities are about to contend with each other, as formerly in Italy. It is necessary that a commissioner of the National Assembly and of the King, Mathieu Dumas, should be dispatched to harangue the people of Montauban, obtain the release of the prisoners, and reestablish order.
One month after this a more bloody affray takes place at Nismes5 against the Catholics. The Protestants, in fact, are but twelve thousand out of fifty-four thousand inhabitants, but the principal trade of the place is in their hands; they hold the manufactories and support thirty thousand workmen; in the elections of 1789 they furnished five out of the eight deputies. The sympathies of that time were in their favour; nobody then imagined that the dominant Church was exposed to any risk. It is to be attacked in its turn, and the two parties are seen confronting each other.—The Catholics sign a petition,6 hunt up recruits among the market-gardeners of the suburbs, retain the white cockade, and, when this is prohibited, replace it with a red rosette, another sign of recognition. At their head is an energetic man named Froment, who has vast projects in view; but as the soil on which he treads is undermined, he cannot prevent the explosion. It takes place naturally, by chance, through the simple collision of two equally distrustful bodies; and before the final day it has commenced and recommenced twenty times, through mutual provocations and denunciations, through insults, libels, scuffles, stone-throwing, and gun-shots.—On the 13th of June, 1790, the question is which party shall furnish administrators for the district and department, and the conflict begins in relation to the elections. The Electoral Assembly is held at the guard-house of the bishop’s palace, where the Protestant and patriotic dragoons arrive “three times as many as usual, with loaded muskets and pistols, and with full cartridge-boxes,” and they patrol the surrounding neighbourhood. The red rosettes, on their side, royalists and Catholics, complain of being threatened and “treated contemptuously” (nargués). They give notice to the gate-keeper “not to let any dragoon enter the town either on foot or mounted, at the peril of his life,” and declare that “the bishop’s quarters were not made for a guard-house.”—A mob forms, and shouting takes place under the windows; stones are thrown; the bugle of a dragoon, who sounds the roll-call, is broken and two shots are fired.7 The dragoons immediately fire a volley, which wounds a good many people and kills seven. From this moment, firing goes on during the evening and all night, in every quarter of the town, each party believing that the other wants to exterminate it, the Protestants satisfied that it is another St. Bartholomew, and the Catholics that it is “a Michelade.”8 There is no one to act between them. The municipality authorities, far from issuing orders, receive them: they are roughly handled, hustled and jostled about, and made to march about like servants. The patriots seize the Abbé de Belmont, a municipal officer, at the Hôtel-de-Ville, order him, on pain of death, to proclaim martial law, and place the red flag in his hand. “March, rascal, you ——! Hold up your flag—higher up still—you are big enough to do that!” Blows follow with the but-ends of their muskets. The poor man spits blood, but this is of no consequence; he must be in full sight at the head of the crowd, like a target, whilst his conductors prudently remain behind. Thus does he advance, exposed to bullets, holding the flag, and finally becomes the prisoner of the red rosettes, who release him, but keep his flag. There is a second march with a red flag held by a town valet, and fresh gunshots; the red rosettes capture this flag also, as well as another municipal officer. The rest of the municipal body, with a royal commissioner, take refuge in the barracks and order out the troops. Meanwhile Froment, with his three companies, posted in their towers and in the houses on the ramparts, resist to the last extremity. Daylight comes, the tocsin is sounded, the drums beat to arms, and the patriot militia of the neighbourhood, the Protestants from the mountains, the rude Cévenols, arrive in crowds. The red rosettes are besieged; a Capuchin convent, from which it is pretended that they have fired, is sacked, and five of the monks are killed. Froment’s tower is demolished with cannon and taken by assault. His brother is massacred and thrown from the walls, while a Jacobin convent next to the ramparts is sacked. Towards night, all the red rosettes who have fought are slain or have fled, and there is no longer any resistance.—But the fury still lasts; the fifteen thousand rustics who have flooded the town think that they have not yet done enough. In vain are they told that the other fifteen companies of red rosettes have not moved; that the pretended aggressors “did not even put themselves in a state of defence”; that during the battle they remained at home, and that afterwards, through extra precaution, the municipal authorities had made them give up their arms. In vain does the Electoral Assembly, preceded by a white flag, march to the public square and exhort the people to keep the peace. “Under the pretext of searching suspicious houses, they pillage or destroy, and whatever cannot be carried away is broken.” One hundred and twenty houses are sacked in Nismes alone, while the same ravages are committed in the environs, the damage, at the end of three days, amounting to seven or eight hundred thousand livres. A number of poor creatures, workmen, merchants, old and infirm men, are massacred in their houses; some, “who have been bed-ridden for many years, are dragged to the sills of their doors to be shot.” Others are hung on the esplanade and at the Cours Neuf, while others have their noses, ears, feet, and hands cut off, and are hacked to pieces with sabres and scythes. Horrible stories, as is commonly the case, provoke the most atrocious acts. A publican, who refuses to distribute anti-Catholic lists, is supposed to have a mine in his cellar filled with kegs of gunpowder and with sulphur matches all ready; he is hacked to pieces with a sabre, and twenty guns are discharged into his corpse: they expose the body before his house with a long loaf of bread on his breast, and they again stab him with bayonets, saying to him, “Eat, you ——, eat!” More than five hundred Catholics were assassinated, and many others, covered with blood, “are crowded together in the prisons, while the search for the proscribed is continued; whenever they are seen, they are fired upon like so many wolves.” Thousands of the inhabitants, accordingly, demand their passports and leave the town. The rural Catholics, meanwhile, on their side, massacre six Protestants in the environs—an old man of eighty-two years, a youth of fifteen, and a husband and his wife in their farmhouse. In order to put a stop to the murderous acts, the National Guard of Montpellier have to be summoned. But the restoration of order is for the benefit of the victorious party. Three-fifths of the electors have fled; one-third of the district and departmental administrators have been appointed in their absence, and the majority of the new directories is taken from the club of patriots. It is for this reason that those who are held in durance are prejudged as guilty. “No officer of the court dare give them the benefit of his services; they are not allowed to bring forward justificatory facts in evidence, while everybody knows that the judges are not free.”9
Thus do the violent measures of political and religious discord come to an end. The victor stops the mouth of the law when it is about to speak in his adversary’s behalf; and, under the legal iniquity of an administration which he has himself established, he crushes those whom the illegal force of his own strong hand has stricken down.
Passions of this stamp are the product of human cultivation, and break loose only within narrow bounds. Another passion exists which is neither historic nor local, but natural and universal, the most indomitable, most imperious, and most formidable of all, namely, the fear of hunger. There is no such thing with this passion as delay, or reflection, or looking beyond itself. Each commune or canton wants its bread, and a sure and unlimited supply of it. Our neighbour may provide for himself as best he can, but let us look out for ourselves first and then for other people. Each group of people, accordingly, through its own decrees, or by main force, keeps for itself whatever subsistences it possesses, or takes from others the subsistences which it does not possess.
At the end of 1789,10 “Roussillon refuses aid to Languedoc; Upper Languedoc to the rest of the province, and Burgundy to Lyonnais; Dauphiny shuts herself up, and Normandy retains the wheat purchased for the relief of Paris.” At Paris, sentinels are posted at the doors of all the bakers; on the 21st of October one of the latter is lanterned, and his head is borne about on a pike. On the 27th of October, at Vernon, a corn-merchant named Planter, who the preceding winter had supported the poor for six leagues around, has to take his turn. At the present moment the people do not forgive him for having sent flour to Paris, and he is hung twice, but is saved through the breaking of the rope each time.—It is only by force and under an escort that it is possible to ensure the arrival of grain in a town; the excited people or the National Guards constantly seize it on its passage. In Normandy the militia of Caen stops wheat on the highways which is destined for Harcourt and elsewhere.11 In Brittany, Auray and Vannes retain the convoys for Nantes, and Lannion those for Brest. Brest having attempted to negotiate, its commissioners are seized, and, with knives at their throats, are forced to sign a renunciation, pure and simple, of the grain which they have paid for, and they are led out of Lannion and stoned on the way. Eighteen hundred men, consequently, leave Brest with four cannon, and go to recover their property with their guns loaded. These are the customs prevalent during the great famines of feudal times; and, from one end of France to the other, to say nothing of the outbreaks of the famished in the large towns, similar outrages or attempts at recovery are constantly occurring.—“The armed population of Nantua, Saint-Claude, and Septmoncel,” says a dispatch,12 “have again cut off provisions from the Gex region; there is no wheat coming there from any direction, all the roads being guarded. Without the aid of the government of Geneva, which is willing to lend to this region eight hundred cuttings of wheat, we should either die of starvation or be compelled to take grain by force from the municipalities which keep it to themselves.” “Narbonne starves Toulon; the navigation of the Languedoc canal is intercepted; the people on its banks repulse two companies of soldiers, burn a large building, and want to destroy the canal itself.” Boats are stopped, waggons are pillaged, bread is forcibly lowered in price, stones are thrown and guns discharged; the populace contend with the National Guard, peasants with townsmen, purchasers with dealers, artisans and labourers with farmers and landowners, at Castelnaudary, Niort, Saint-Etienne, in Aisne, in Pas-de-Calais, and especially along the line stretching from Montbrison to Angers—that is to say, for almost the whole of the extent of the vast basin of the Loire—such is the spectacle presented by the year 1790.—And yet the crop has not been a bad one. But there is no circulation of grain. Each petty centre has formed a league for the monopoly of food; and hence the fasting of others and the convulsions of the entire body are the first effects of the unbridled freedom which the Constitution and circumstances have conferred on each local group.
“We are told to assemble, vote, and elect men that will attend to our business; let us attend to it ourselves. We have had enough of talk and hypocrisy. Bread at two sous, and let us go after wheat where it can be found!” Such is the reasoning of the peasantry, and, in Nivernais, Bourbonnais, Berri, and Touraine, electoral gatherings are the firebrands of the insurrections.13 At Saint-Sauge, “the first work of the primary meeting is to oblige the municipal officers to fix the price of wheat under the penalty of being decapitated.” At Saint-Géran the same course is taken with regard to bread, wheat, and meat; at Châtillon-en-Bayait it is done with all supplies, and always a third or a half under the market price, without mentioning other exactions.—They come by degrees to the drafting of a tariff for all the valuables they know, proclaiming the maximum price which an article may reach, and so establishing a complete code of rural and social economy. We see in the turbulent and spasmodic wording of this instrument their dispositions and sentiments, as in a mirror.14 It is the programme of villagers. Its diverse articles, save local variations, must be executed, now one and now the other, according to the occasion, the need, and the time, and, above all, whatever concerns provisions. The wish, as usual, is the father of the thought; the peasantry thinks that it is acting by authority: here, through a decree of the King and the National Assembly, there, by a commission directly entrusted to the Comte d’Estrées. Even before this, in the market-place of Saint-Amand, “a man jumped on a heap of wheat and cried out, ‘In the name of the King and the nation, wheat at one-half the market-price!’ ” An old officer of the Royal Grenadiers, a chevalier of the order of Saint-Louis, is reported to be marching at the head of several parishes, and promulgating ordinances in his own name and that of the King, imposing a fine of eight livres on whoever may refuse to join him.—On all sides there is a swarm of blouses, and resistance is fruitless. There are too many of them, the constabulary being drowned in the flood. For, these rustic legislators are the National Guard itself, and when they vote reductions upon, or requisitions for, subsistences, they enforce their demands with their guns.
The municipal officials, willingly or unwillingly, must needs serve the insurgents. At Donjon the Electoral Assembly has seized the mayor of the place and threatened to kill him, or to burn his house, if he did not put the cutting of wheat at forty sous; whereupon he signs, and all the mayors with him, “under the penalty of death.” As soon as this is done the peasants, “to the sound of fifes and drums,” spread through the neighbouring parishes and force the delivery of wheat at forty sous, and show such a determined spirit that the four brigades of gendarmes sent out against them think it best to retire.—Not content with taking what they want, they provide for reserve supplies; wheat is a prisoner. In Nivernais and Bourbonnais, the peasants trace a boundary line over which no sack of grain of that region must pass; in case of any infraction of this law the rope and the torch are close at hand for the delinquent.—It remains to see that this rule is enforced. In Berri bands of peasants visit the markets to see that their tariff is everywhere maintained. In vain are they told that they are emptying the markets; “they reply that they know how to make grain come, that they will take it from private hands, and money besides, if necessary.” In fact, the granaries and cellars belonging to a large number of persons are pillaged. Farmers are constrained to put their crops into a common granary, and the rich are put to ransom; “the nobles are compelled to contribute, and obliged to give entire domains as donations; cattle are carried off, and they want to take the lives of the proprietors,” while the towns, which defend their storehouses and markets, are openly attacked.15 Bourbon-Lancy, Bourbon-l’Archambault, Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier, Montluçon, Saint-Amand, Chateau-Gontier, Decises, each petty community is an islet assailed by the mounting tide of rustic insurrection. The militia pass the night under arms; detachments of the National Guards of the large towns with regular troops come and garrison them. The red flag is continuously raised for eight days at Bourbon-Lancy, and cannon stand loaded and pointed in the public square. On the 24th of May an attack is made on Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier, and fusillades take place all night on both sides. On the 2nd of June, Saint-Amand, menaced by twenty-seven parishes, is saved only by the preparations it makes and by the garrison. About the same time Bourbon-Lancy is attacked by twelve parishes combined, and Chateau-Gontier by the sabotiers of the forests in the vicinity. A band of from four to five hundred villagers arrests the convoys of Saint-Amand, and forces their escorts to capitulate; another band intrenches itself in the Chateau de la Fin, and fires throughout the day on the regulars and the National Guard.—The large towns themselves are not safe. Three or four hundred rustics, led by their municipal officers, forcibly enter Tours, to compel the municipality to lower the price of corn and diminish the rate of leases. Two thousand slate-quarry-men, armed with guns, spits, and forks, force their way into Angers to obtain a reduction on bread, fire upon the guard, and are charged by the troops and the National Guard; a number remain dead in the streets, two are hung that very evening, and the red flag is displayed for eight days. “The town,” say the dispatches, “would have been pillaged and burnt had it not been for the Picardy regiment.” Fortunately, as the crop promises to be a good one, prices fall. As the Electoral Assemblies are closed, the fermentation subsides; and towards the end of the year, like a clear spell in a steady storm, the gleam of a truce appears in the civil war excited by hunger.
But the truce does not last long, as it is broken in twenty places by isolated explosions; and towards the month of July, 1791, the disturbances arising from the uncertainty of subsistences begin again, to cease no more. We will consider but one group in this universal state of disorder—that of the eight or ten departments which surround Paris and furnish it with supplies. These districts, Brie and Beause, are rich wheat regions, and not only was the crop of 1790 good, but that of 1791 is ample. Information is sent to the minister from Laon16 that, in the department of Aisne, “there is a supply of wheat for two years . . . that the barns, generally empty by the month of April, will not be so this season before July,” and, consequently, “subsistences are assured.” But this does not suffice, for the source of the evil is not in a scarcity of wheat. In order that everybody, in a vast and populous country, where the soil, cultivation, and occupations differ, may eat, it is essential that food should be attainable by the nonproducers; and for it to reach them freely, without delay, solely by the natural operation of supply and demand, it is essential that there should be a police able to protect property, transactions, and transport. Just in proportion as the authority of a State becomes weakened, and in proportion as security diminishes, the distribution of subsistences becomes more and more difficult: a gendarmerie, therefore, is an indispensable wheel in the machine by which we are able to secure our daily bread. Hence it is that, in 1791, daily bread is wanting to a large number of men. Simply through the working of the Constitution, all restraints, already slackened both at the extremities and at the centre, are becoming looser and more loose each day. The municipalities, which are really sovereign, repress the people more feebly, some because the latter are the bolder and themselves more timid, and others because they are more radical and always consider them in the right. The National Guard is wearied, never comes forward, or refuses to use its arms. The active citizens are disgusted, and remain at home. At Étampes,17 where they are convoked by the commissioners of the department to take steps to reestablish some kind of order, only twenty assemble; the others excuse themselves by saying that, if the populace knew that they opposed its will, “their houses would be burnt,” and they accordingly stay away. “Thus,” write the commissioners, “the common-weal is given up to artisans and labourers whose views are limited to their own existence.”—It is, accordingly, the lower class which rules, and the information upon which it bases its decrees consists of rumours which it accepts or manufactures, to hide by an appearance of right the outrages which are due to its cupidity or to the brutalities of its hunger. At Étampes, “they have been made to believe that the grain which had been sold for supplying the departments below the Loire, is shipped at Paimboeuf and taken out of the kingdom from there to be sold abroad.” In the suburbs of Rouen they imagine that grain is purposely “ingulfed in the swamps, ponds, and clay-pits.” At Laon, imbecile and Jacobin committees attribute the dearness of provisions to the avidity of the rich and the malevolence of the aristocrats: according to them, “jealous millionaires grow rich at the expense of the people. They know the popular strength,” and, not daring to measure their forces with it, “in an honourable fight,” have recourse “to treachery.” To conquer the people easily they have determined to reduce them in advance by extreme suffering and by the length of their fast, and hence they monopolize “wheat, rye, and meal, soap, sugar, and brandy.”18 —Similar reports suffice to excite a suffering crowd to acts of violence, and it must inevitably accept for its leaders and advisers those who urge it forward on the side to which it is inclined. The people always require leaders, and they are chosen wherever they can be found, at one time amongst the élite, and at another amongst the dregs. Now that the nobles are driven out, the bourgeoisie in retirement, the large cultivators under suspicion, while animal necessities exercise their blind and intermittent despotism, the appropriate popular ministers consist of adventurers and of bandits. They need not be very numerous, for in a place full of combustible matter a few firebrands suffice to start the conflagration. “About twenty, at most, can be counted in the towns of Étampes and Dourdan, men with nothing to lose and everything to gain by disturbances; they are those who always produce excitement and disorder, while other citizens afford them the means through their indifference.” Those whose names are known among the new guides of the crowd are almost all escaped convicts whose previous habits have accustomed them to blows, violence, frequently to murder, and always to contempt for the law. At Brunoy,19 the leaders of the outbreak are “two deserters of the 18th regiment, sentenced and unpunished, who, in company with the vilest and most desperate of the parish, always go about armed and threatening.” At Étampes, “the two principal assassins of the mayor are a poacher repeatedly condemned for poaching, and an old carbineer dismissed from his regiment with a bad record against him.”20 Around these are artisans “without a known residence,” wandering workmen, journeymen and apprentices, vagrants and highway rovers, who flock into the towns on market-days and are always ready for mischief when an opportunity occurs. Vagabonds, indeed, now roam about the country everywhere, all restrictions against them having ceased.
“For a year past,” write several parishes in the neighbourhood of Versailles, “we have seen no gendarmes except those who come with decrees,” and hence the multiplication of “murders and brigandage” between Étampes and Versailles, on the highways and in the country. Bands of thirteen, fifteen, twenty, and twenty-two beggars rob the vineyards, enter farmhouses at night, and compel their inmates to lodge and feed them, returning in the same way every fortnight, all farms or isolated dwellings being their prey. An ecclesiastic is killed in his own house in the suburbs of Versailles, on the 26th of September, 1791, and, on the same day, a bourgeois and his wife are garotted and robbed. On the 22nd of September, near Saint-Rémi-Honoré, eight bandits ransack the dwelling of a farmer. On the 25th of September, at Villérs-le-Sec, thirteen others strip another farmer, and then add with much politeness, “It is lucky for your masters that they are not here, for we would have roasted them at yonder fire.” Six similar outrages are committed by armed ruffians in dwelling-places, within a radius of from three to four leagues, accompanied with the threats of the chauffeurs.21 “After enterprises of such force and boldness,” write the people of this region, “there is not a well-to-do man in the country who can rely upon an hour’s security in his house. Already many of our best cultivators are giving up their business, while others threaten to do the same in case these disorders continue.”—What is worse still is the fact that in these outrages most of the bandits were “in the national uniform.” The most ignorant, the poorest, and most fanatical of the National Guard thus enlist for the sake of plunder. It is so natural for men to believe in their right to that of which they feel the need, that the possessors of wheat thus become its monopolizers, and the superfluity of the rich the property of the poor! This is what the peasants say who devastate the forest of Bruyères-le-Chatel: “We have neither wood, bread, nor work—necessity knows no law.”
The necessaries of life are not to be had cheap under such a system. There is too much anxiety, and property is too precarious; there are too many obstacles to commerce; purchases, sales, shipments, arrivals, and payments are too uncertain. How are goods to be stored and transported in a country where neither the central government, the local authorities, the National Guard, nor the regular troops perform their duties, and where every transaction in produce, even the most legal and the most serviceable, is subject to the caprice of a dozen villains whom the populace obey? Wheat remains in the barn, or is secreted, or is kept waiting, and only reaches by stealth the hands of those who are rich enough to pay, not only its price, but the extra cost of the risk. Thus forced into a narrow channel, it rises to a rate which the depreciation of the assignats augments, its dearness being not only maintained, but ever on the increase.—Thereupon popular instinct invents for the cure of the evil a remedy which serves to aggravate it: henceforth, wheat must not travel; it is impounded in the canton in which it is gathered. At Laon, “the people have sworn to die rather than let their food be carried off.” At Étampes, to which the municipality of Angers dispatches an administrator of its hospital to buy two hundred and fifty sacks of flour, the commission cannot be executed, the delegate not even daring to avow for several days the object of his coming; all he can do is “to visit incognito, and at night, the different flour-dealers in the valley, who would offer to furnish the supply, but fear for their lives and dare not even leave their houses.”—The same violence is shown in the more distant circle of departments which surround the first circle. At Aubigny, in Cher,22 grain-waggons are stopped, the district administrators are menaced; two have a price set on their heads; a portion of the National Guard sides with the mutineers. At Chaumont, in Haute-Marne, the whole of the National Guard is in a state of mutiny; a convoy of over three hundred sacks is stopped, the Hôtel-de-Ville forced, and the insurrection lasts four days; the directory of the department takes flight; and the people seize on the powder and cannons. At Douai, in the Nord, to save a grain-dealer, he is put in prison; the mob forces the gates, the soldiers refuse to fire, and the man is hung, while the directory of the department takes refuge in Lille. At Montreuil-sur-Mer, in Pas-de-Calais, the two leaders of the insurrection, a brazier and a horse-shoer, “Bèquelin, called Petit-Gueux,” the latter with his sabre in hand, reply to the summons of the municipal authorities, that “not a grain shall go now that they are masters,” and that if they dare to make such proclamations “they will cut off their heads.” There are no means of resistance. The National Guard, when it is convoked, does not respond; the volunteers when called upon turn their muskets down, and the crowd, assembled beneath the windows, shouts out its huzzahs. So much the worse for the law when it opposes popular passion: “We will not obey it,” they say; “people make laws to please themselves.”—By way of practical illustration, at Tortes, in Seine-Inférieure, six thousand armed men belonging to the surrounding parishes form a deliberative armed body; the better to establish their rights, they bring two cannon with them fastened by ropes on a couple of carts; twenty-two companies of the National Guard, each under its own banner, march beside them, while all peaceable inhabitants are compelled to fall in “under penalty of death,” the municipal officers being at their head. This improvised parliament promulgates a complete law in relation to grain, which, as a matter of form, is sent for acceptance to the department, and to the National Assembly; and one of its articles declares that all husbandmen shall be forbidden “to sell their wheat elsewhere than on the market-places.” With no other outlet for it, wheat must be brought to the corn-markets (halles), and when these are full the price must necessarily fall.
What a profound deception! Even in the granary of France wheat remains dear, and costs about one-third more than would be necessary to secure the sale of bread at two sous the pound, in conformity with the will of the people. For instance,23 at Gonesse, Dourdan, Corbeil, Mennecy, Brunoy, Limours, Brie-Comte-Robert, and especially at Étampes and Montlhéry, the holders of grain are compelled almost weekly, through the clamours and violence of the people, to reduce prices one-third and more. It is impossible for the authorities to maintain, on their corn-exchange, the freedom of buying and selling. The regular troops have been sent off by the people beforehand. Whatever the tolerance or connivance of the soldiers may be, the people have a vague sentiment that they are not there to permit the ripping open of sacks of flour, or the seizing of farmers by the throat. To get rid of all obstacles and of being watched, they make use of the municipality itself, and force it to effect its own disarmament. The municipal officers, besieged in the town-hall, at times threatened with pistols and bayonets,24 dispatch to the detachments they are expecting an order to turn back, and entreat the Directory not to send any more troops, for, if any come, they have been told that “they will be sorry for it.” Nowhere are there regular troops. At Étampes, the people repeat that “they are sent for and paid by the flour-dealers”; at Montlhéry, that “they merely serve to arm citizens against each other”; at Limours, that “they make grain dearer.” All pretexts seem good in this direction; the popular will is absolute, and the authorities complacently meet its decrees half-way. At Montlhéry, the municipal body orders the gendarmerie to remain at the gates of the town, which gives full play to the insurrection.—The administrators, however, are not relieved by leaving the people free to act; they are obliged to sanction their exactions by ordinances. They are taken out of the Hôtel-de-Ville, led to the market-place, and there forthwith, under the dictation of the uproar which establishes prices, they, like simple clerks, proclaim the reduction. When, moreover, the armed rabble of a village marches forth to tyrannize over a neighbouring market, it carries its mayor along with it in spite of himself, as an official instrument which belongs to it.25 “There is no resistance against force,” writes the mayor of Vert-le-Petit; “we had to set forth immediately.”—“They assured me,” says the mayor of Fontenay, “that, if I did not obey them, they would hang me.”—On any municipal officer hazarding a remonstrance, they tell him that “he is getting to be an aristocrat.” “Aristocrat” and “the gallows” argument is irresistible, and all the more so because it is practically applied. At Corbeil, the procureur-syndic who tries to enforce the law is almost beaten to death, and three houses in which they try to find him are demolished. At Montlhéry, a seedsman, accused of mixing the flour of beans (twice as dear) with wheaten flour, is massacred in his own house. At Étampes, the mayor who promulgates the law is cudgelled to death. Mobs talk of nothing but “burning and destroying,” while the farmers, abused, hooted at, forced to sell, threatened with death, and robbed, run away, declaring they will never return to the market again.
Such is the first effect of popular dictatorship. Like all unintelligent forces, it operates in a direction the reverse of its intention: to dearness it adds dearth, and empties, instead of replenishing, the markets. That of Étampes often contained fifteen or sixteen hundred sacks of flour; the week following this insurrection there were, at most, sixty brought to it. At Montlhéry, where six thousand men had collected together, each one obtains for his share only a small measure, while the bakers of the town have none at all. This being the case, the enraged National Guards tell the farmers that they are coming to see them on their farms. And they really go.26 Drums roll constantly on the roads around Montlhéry, Limours, and other large market-towns. Columns of two, three, and four hundred men are seen passing under the lead of their commandant and of the mayor whom they take along with them. They enter each farm, mount into the granaries, estimate the quantity of grain thrashed out, and force the proprietor to sign an agreement to bring it to market the following week. Sometimes, as they are hungry, they compel people to give them something to eat and drink on the spot, and it will not do to enrage them—a farmer and his wife come near being hung in their own barn.
Useless pains. Wheat is impounded and hunted up in vain; it takes to the earth or slips off like a frightened animal. In vain do insurrections continue. In vain do armed mobs, in all the market-towns of the department,27 subject grain to a forced reduction of price. Wheat becomes scarcer and dearer from month to month, rising in price from twenty-six francs to thirty-three. And because the outraged farmer “brings now a very little,” just “what is necessary to sacrifice in order to avoid threats, he sells at home, or in the inns, to the flour-dealers from Paris.”—The people, in running after abundance, have thus fallen deeper down into want: their brutality has aggravated their misery, and it is to themselves that their starvation is owing. But they are far from attributing all this to their own insubordination; the magistrates are accused; these, in the eyes of the populace, are “in league with the monopolizers.” On this incline no stoppage is possible. Distress increases rage, and rage increases distress; and on this fatal declivity men are precipitated from one outrage to another.
After the month of February, 1792, such outrages are innumerable; the mobs which go in quest of grain or which cut down its price consist of armies. One of six thousand men comes to control the market of Montlhéry.28 There are seven to eight thousand men who invade the market-place of Verneuil, and there is an army of ten and another of twenty-five thousand men, who remain organized for ten days near Laon. One hundred and fifty parishes have sounded the tocsin, and the insurrection spreads for ten leagues around. Five boats loaded with grain are stopped, and, in spite of the orders of district, department, minister, King, and National Assembly, they refuse to surrender them. Their contents, in the meantime, are made the most of. “The municipal officers of the different parishes, assembled together, pay themselves their fees, to wit: one hundred sous per diem for the mayor, three livres for the municipal officers, two livres ten sous for the guards, two livres for the porters. They have ordered that these sums should be paid in grain, and they reduce grain, it is said, fifteen livres the sack. It is certain that they have divided it amongst themselves, and that fourteen hundred sacks have been distributed.” In vain do the commissioners of the National Assembly make speeches to them three hours in length. The discourse being finished, they deliberate, in presence of the commissioners, whether the latter shall be hung, drowned, or cut up, and their heads put on the five points of the middle of the abbey railing. On being threatened with military force, they make their dispositions accordingly. Nine hundred men who relieve each other watch day and night on the ground, in a well-chosen and permanent encampment, while signalmen stationed in the belfries of the surrounding villages have only to sound the alarm to bring together twenty-five thousand men in a few hours.—So long as the Government remains on its feet it carries on the combat as well as it can; but it grows weaker from month to month, and, after the 10th of August, when it lies on the ground, the mob takes its place and becomes the universal sovereign. From this time forth not only is the law which protects subsistences powerless against the disturbers of sale and circulation, but the Assembly actually sanctions their acts, since it decrees29 the stoppage of all proceedings commenced against them, remits sentences already passed, and sets free all who are imprisoned or in irons. Behold every administration, with merchants, proprietors, and farmers abandoned to the famished, the furious, and to robbers; henceforth subsistences are for those who are disposed and able to take them. “You will be told,” says a petition,30 “that we violate the law. We reply to these perfidious insinuations that the salvation of the people is the supreme law. We come in order to keep the markets supplied, and to ensure an uniform price for wheat throughout the Republic. For, there is no doubt about it, the purest patriotism dies out (sic) when there is no bread to be had. . . . Resistance to oppression—yes, resistance to oppression is the most sacred of duties; is there any oppression more terrible than that of wanting bread? Undoubtedly, no. . . . Join us and ‘Ça ira, ça ira!’ We cannot end our petition better than with this patriotic air.” This supplication was written on a drum, amidst a circle of firearms; and with such accompaniments it is equivalent to a command.—They are well aware of it, and of their own authority they often confer upon themselves not only the right but also the title. In Loire-et-Cher,31 a band of from four to five thousand men assume the name of “Sovereign Power.” They go from one market-town to another, to Saint-Calais, Montdoubleau, Blois, Vendôme, reducing the cost of provisions, their troop rolling up like a snowball—for they threaten “to burn the effects and set fire to the houses of all who are not as courageous as themselves.”
In this state of social disintegration, insurrection is a gangrene in which the healthy are infected by the morbid parts. Mobs are everywhere produced and reproduced, incessantly, large and small, like abscesses which break out side by side, and painfully irritate each other and finally combine. There are the towns against the rural districts and rural districts against the towns. On the one hand “every farmer who contributes anything to the market passes (at home) for an aristocrat,32 and becomes the horror of his fellow-citizens in the village.” On the other hand the National Guards of the towns spread themselves through the rural districts and make raids to save themselves from death by hunger.33 It is admitted in the rural districts that each municipality has the right to isolate itself from the rest. It is admitted in the towns that each town has the right to derive its provisions from the country. It is admitted by the indigent of each commune that the commune must provide bread gratis or at a cheap rate. On the strength of this there is a shower of stones and a fusillade; department against department, district against district, canton against canton, all fight for food, and the strongest get it and keep it for themselves.—I have simply described the north, where, for the past three years, the crops are good. I have omitted the south, where trade is interrupted on the canal of the Deux Mers, where the procureur-syndic of Aude has lately been massacred for trying to secure the passage of a convoy; where the harvest has been poor; where, in many places, bread costs eight sous the pound; where, in almost every department, a bushel of wheat is sold twice as dear as in the north!
Strange phenomenon! and the most instructive of all, for in it we see down into the depths of humanity; for, as on a raft of shipwrecked beings without food, there is a reversion to a state of nature. The light tissue of habit and of rational ideas in which civilisation has enveloped man, is torn asunder and is floating in rags around him; the bare arms of the savage show themselves, and they are striking out. The only guide he has for his conduct is that of primitive days, the startled instinct of a craving stomach. Henceforth that which rules in him and through him is animal necessity with its train of violent and narrow suggestions, sometimes sanguinary and sometimes grotesque. Incompetent or savage, in all respects like a negro monarch, his sole political expedients are either the methods of a slaughter-house or the dreams of a carnival. Two commissioners whom Roland, Minister of the Interior, sends to Lyons, are able to see within a few days the carnival and the slaughter-house.34 —On the one hand the peasants, all along the road, arrest everybody; the people regard every traveller as an aristocrat who is running away—which is so much the worse for those who fall into their hands. Near Autun, four priests who, to obey the law, are betaking themselves to the frontier, are put in prison “for their own protection”; they are taken out a quarter of an hour later, and, in spite of thirty-two of the mounted police, are massacred. “Their carriage was still burning as I passed, and the corpses were stretched out not far off. Their driver was still in durance, and it was in vain that I solicited his release.”—On the other hand, at Lyons, the power has fallen into the hands of the degraded women of the streets. “They seized the central club, constituted themselves commissaries of police, signed notices as such, and paid visits of inspection to store-houses”; they drew up a tariff of provisions, “from bread and meat up to common peaches, and peaches of fine quality.” They announced that “whoever dared to dispute it would be considered a traitor to the country, an adherent of the civil list, and prosecuted as such.” All this is published, proclaimed, and applied by “female commissaries of police,” themselves the dregs of the lowest sinks of corruption. Respectable housewives and workwomen had nothing to do with it, nor “working-people of any class.” The sole actors of this administrative parody are “scamps, a few bullies of houses of ill-fame, and a portion of the dregs of the female sex.”—To this end comes the dictatorship of instinct, yonder let loose on the highway in a massacre of priests, and here, in the second city of France, in the government of strumpets.
The fear of starvation is only the sharper form of a more general passion, which is the desire of possession, and the determination not to give up the possessions attained. No popular instinct had been longer, more rudely, more universally tried under the ancient régime; and there is none which gushes out more readily under constraint, none which requires a higher or broader public barrier, or one more entirely constructed of solid blocks, to keep it in check. Hence it is that this passion from the commencement breaks down or engulfs the slight and low boundaries, the tottering embankments of crumbling earth between which the Constitution pretends to confine it.—The first flood sweeps away the pecuniary claims of the State, of the clergy, and of the noblesse. The people regard them as abolished, or, at least, they consider their debts discharged. Their idea, in relation to this, is formed and fixed; for them it is that which constitutes the Revolution. The people have no longer a creditor; they are determined to have none, they will pay nobody, and first of all, they will make no further payment to the State.
On the 14th of July, 1790, the day of the Federation, the population of Issoudun, in Touraine, solemnly convoked for the purpose, had just taken the solemn oath which was to ensure public peace, social harmony, and respect for the law for evermore.35 Here, probably, as elsewhere, arrangements had been made for an affecting ceremonial; there were young girls dressed in white, and learned and impressionable magistrates were to pronounce philosophical harangues. All at once they discover that the people gathered on the public square are provided with clubs, scythes, and axes, and that the National Guard will not prevent their use; on the contrary, the Guard itself is composed almost wholly of vine-dressers and others interested in the suppression of the duties on wine, of coopers, innkeepers, workmen, carters of casks, and others of the same stamp, all rough fellows who have their own way of interpreting the Social Contract. The whole mass of decrees, acts, and rhetorical flourishes which are dispatched to them from Paris, or which emanate from the new authorities, are not worth a halfpenny tax maintained on each bottle of wine. There are to be no more excise duties; they will only take the civic oath on this express condition, and that very evening they hang, in effigy, their two deputies, who “had not supported their interests” in the National Assembly. A few months later, of all the National Guard called upon to protect the clerks, only the commandant and two officers respond to the summons. If a docile tax-payer happens to be found, he is not allowed to pay the dues; this seems a defection and almost treachery. An entry of three puncheons of wine having been made, they are stove in with stones, a portion is drunk, and the rest taken to the barracks to debauch the soldiers; M. de Sauzay, commandant of the “Royal Roussillon,” who was bold enough to save the clerks, is menaced, and for this misdeed he barely escapes being hung himself. When the municipal body is called upon to interpose and employ force, it replies that “for so small a matter, it is not worth while to compromise the lives of the citizens,” and the regular troops sent to the Hôtel-de-Ville are ordered by the people not to go except with the but-ends of their muskets in the air. Five days after this the windows of the excise office are smashed, and the public notices are torn down; the fermentation does not subside, and M. de Sauzay writes that a regiment would be necessary to restrain the town. At Saint-Amand the insurrection breaks out violently, and is only put down by violence. At Saint-Etienne-en-Forez, Berthéas, a clerk in the excise office, falsely accused of monopolizing grain,36 is fruitlessly defended by the National Guard; he is put in prison, according to the usual custom, to save his life, and, for greater security, the crowd insist on his being fastened by an iron collar. But, suddenly changing its mind, it breaks upon the door and drags him to death. Stretched on the ground, his head still moves and he raises his hand to it, when a woman, picking up a large stone, smashes his skull.—These are not isolated occurrences. During the months of July and August, 1789, the tax offices are burnt in almost every town in the kingdom. In vain does the National Assembly order their reconstruction, insist on the maintenance of duties and octrois, and explain to the people the public needs, pathetically reminding them, moreover, that the Assembly has already given them relief—the people prefer to relieve themselves instantly and entirely. Whatever is consumed must no longer be taxed, either for the benefit of the State or for that of the towns. “Entrance dues on wine and cattle,” writes the municipality of Saint-Etienne, “scarcely amount to anything, and our powers are inadequate for their enforcement.” At Cambrai, two successive outbreaks compel the excise office and the magistracy of the town37 to reduce the duties on beer one-half. But “the evil, at first confined to one corner of the province, soon spreads”; the grands baillis of Lille, Douai, and Orchies write that “we have hardly a bureau which has not been molested, and in which the taxes are not wholly subject to popular discretion.” Those only pay who are disposed to do so, and, consequently, “greater fraud could not exist.” The tax-payers, indeed, cunningly defend themselves, and find plenty of arguments or quibbles to avoid paying their dues. At Cambrai they allege that, as the privileged now pay as well as the rest, the Treasury must be rich enough.38 At Noyon, Ham, and Chauny, and in the surrounding parishes, the butchers, innkeepers, and publicans combined, who have refused to pay excise duties, pick flaws in the special decree by which the Assembly subjects them to the law, and a second special decree is necessary to circumvent these new legists. The process at Lyons is simpler. Here the thirty-two sections appoint commissioners; these decide against the octroi, and request the municipal authorities to abolish it. They must necessarily comply, for the people are at hand and are furious. Without waiting, however, for any legal measures, they take the authority on themselves, rush to the toll-houses, and drive out the clerks, while large quantities of provisions, which “through a singular predestination” were waiting at the gates, come in free of duty.
The Treasury defends itself as it best can against this universally bad disposition of the tax-payer, against these irruptions and infiltrations of fraud; it repairs the dyke where it has been carried away, stops up the fissures, and again resumes collections. But how can these be regular and complete in a State where the courts dare not condemn delinquents, where public force dares not support the courts,39 where popular favour protects the most notorious bandits and the worst vagabonds against the tribunals and against the public powers? At Paris, where, after eight months of impunity, proceedings are begun against the pillagers who on the 13th of August, 1789, set fire to the tax-offices, the officers of the election, “considering that their audiences have become too tumultuous, that the thronging of the people excites uneasiness, that threats have been uttered of a kind calculated to create reasonable alarm,” are constrained to suspend their sittings and refer matters to the National Assembly, while the latter, considering that “if prosecutions are authorised in Paris it will be necessary to authorise them throughout the kingdom,” decides that it is best “to veil the statue of the Law.”40 Not only does the Assembly veil the statue of the Law, but it takes to pieces, remakes, and mutilates it, according to the requirements of the popular will; and, in the matter of indirect imposts, all its decrees are forced upon it. The outbreak against the salt impost was terrible from the beginning; sixty thousand men in Anjou alone combined to destroy it, and the price of salt had to be reduced from sixteen to six sous.41 The people, however, are not satisfied with this. This monopoly has been the cause of so much suffering that they are not disposed to put up with any remains of it, and are always on the side of the smugglers against the excise officers. In the month of January, 1790, at Béziers, thirty-two employés, who had seized a quantity of contraband salt on the persons of armed smugglers,42 are pursued by the crowd to the Hôtel-de-Ville; the consuls decline to defend them and run away; the troops defend them, but in vain. Five are tortured, horribly mutilated, and then hung. In the month of March, 1790, Necker states that, according to the returns of the past three months, the deficit in the salt-tax amounts to more than four millions a month, which is four-fifths of the ordinary revenue, while the tobacco monopoly is no more respected than that of salt. At Tours,43 the bourgeois militia refuse to give assistance to the employés, and “openly protect smuggling,” “and contraband tobacco is publicly sold at the fair, under the eyes of the municipal authorities, who dare make no opposition to it.” All receipts, consequently, diminish at the same time.44 From the 1st of May, 1789, to the 1st of May, 1790, the general collections amount to one hundred and twenty-seven millions instead of one hundred and fifty millions; the dues and excise combined return only thirty-one, instead of fifty millions. The streams which filled the public exchequer are more and more obstructed by popular resistance, and under the popular pressure, the Assembly ends by closing them entirely. In the month of March, 1790,45 it abolishes salt duties, internal customs-duties, taxes on leather, on oil, on starch, and the stamp of iron. In February and March, 1791, it abolishes octrois and entrance-dues in all the cities and boroughs of the kingdom, all the excise duties and those connected with the excise, especially all taxes which affect the manufacture, sale, or circulation of beverages. The people have at last carried everything, and on the 1st of May, 1791, the day of the application of the decree, the National Guard of Paris parades around the walls playing patriotic airs. The cannon of the Invalides and those on the Pont-Neuf thunder out as if for an important victory. There is an illumination in the evening, there is drinking all night, a universal revel. Beer, indeed, is to be had at three sous the pot, and wine at six sous a pint, which is a reduction of one-half; no conquest could be more popular, since it brings intoxication within easy reach of all topers.46
The object, now, is to provide for the expenses which have been defrayed by the suppressed octrois. In 1790, the octroi of Paris had produced 35,910,859 francs, of which 25,059,446 went to the State, and 10,851,413 went to the city. How is the city going to pay for its watch, the lighting and cleaning of its streets, and the support of its hospitals? What are the twelve hundred other cities and boroughs going to do which are brought by the same stroke to the same situation? What will the State do, which, in abolishing the general revenue from all entrance-dues and excise, is suddenly deprived of two-fifths of its revenue?—In the month of March, 1790, when the Assembly suppressed the salt and other duties, it established in the place of these a tax of fifty millions, to be divided between the direct imposts and dues on entrance to the towns. Now, consequently, that the entrance-dues are abolished, the new charge falls entirely upon the direct imposts. Do returns come in, and will they come in?—In the face of so many outbreaks, any indirect taxation is, certainly, difficult to collect. Nevertheless it is not so repulsive as the other because the levies of the State disappear in the price of the article, the hand of the Exchequer being hidden by the hand of the dealer. The Government clerk formerly presented himself with his stamped paper and the seller handed him the money without much grumbling, knowing that he would soon be more than reimbursed by his customer: the indirect tax is thus collected. Should any difficulty arise, it is between the dealer and the tax-payer who comes to his shop to lay in his little store; the latter grumbles, but it is at the high price which he feels, and possibly at the seller who pockets his silver; he does not find fault with the clerk of the Exchequer, whom he does not see and who is not then present. In the collection of the direct tax, on the contrary, it is the clerk himself whom he sees before him, who abstracts the precious piece of silver. This authorised robber, moreover, gives him nothing in exchange; it is an entire loss. On leaving the dealer’s shop he goes away with a jug of wine, a pot of salt, or similar commodities; on leaving the tax-office he has nothing in hand but an acquittance, a miserable bit of scribbled paper.—But now he is master in his own commune, an elector, a National Guard, mayor, the sole authority in the use of armed force, and charged with his own taxation. Come and ask him to unearth the buried mite on which he has set all his heart and all his soul, the earthen pot wherein he has deposited his cherished pieces of silver one by one, and which he has laid by for so many years at the cost of so much misery and fasting, in the very face of the bailiff, in spite of the prosecutions of the subdelegate, commissioner, collector, and clerk!
From the 1st of May, 1789, to the 1st of May, 1790,47 the general returns, the taille and its accessories, the poll-tax, and “twentieths,” instead of yielding 161,000,000 francs, yield but 28,000,000 francs in the provinces which impose their own taxes (pays d’États); instead of 28,000,000 francs, the Treasury obtains but 6,000,000. On the patriotic contribution which was to deduct one-quarter of all incomes over four hundred livres, and to levy two and a half per cent. on plate, jewels, and whatever gold and silver each person has in reserve, the State received 9,700,000 francs. As to patriotic gifts, their total, comprising the silver buckles of the deputies, reaches only 361,587 francs; and the closer our examination into the particulars of these figures, the more do we see the contributions of the villager, artisan, and former subjects of the taille diminish.—Since the month of October, 1789, the privileged classes, in fact, appear in the tax-rolls, and they certainly form the class which is best off, the most alive to general ideas and the most truly patriotic. It is therefore probable that, of the forty-three millions of returns from the direct imposts and from the patriotic contribution, they have furnished the larger portion, perhaps two-thirds of it, or even three-quarters. If this be the case, the peasant, the former tax-payer, gave nothing or almost nothing from his pocket during the first year of the Revolution. For instance, in regard to the patriotic contribution, the Assembly left it to the conscience of each person to fix his own quota; at the end of six months, consciences are found too elastic, and the Assembly is obliged to confer this right on the municipalities. The result is48 that this or that individual who taxed himself at forty-eight livres, is taxed at a hundred and fifty; another, a cultivator, who had offered six livres, is judged to be able to pay over one hundred. Every regiment contains a small number of select brave men, and it is always these who are ready to advance under fire. Every State contains a select few of honest men who advance to meet the tax-collector. Some effective constraint is essential in the regiment to supply those with courage who have but little, and in the State to supply those with probity who do not possess it. Hence, during the eight months which follow, from May 1st, 1790, to January 1st, 1791, the patriotic contribution furnishes but 11,000,000 livres. Two years later, on the 1st of February, 1793, out of the forty thousand communal tax-rolls which should provide for it, there are seven thousand which are not yet drawn up; out of 180,000,000 livres which it ought to produce, there are 70,000,000 livres which are still due.—The resistance of the tax-payer produces a similar deficit, and similar delays in all branches of the national income.49 In the month of June, 1790, a deputy declares in the tribune that “out of thirty-six millions of imposts which ought to be returned each month only nine have been received.”50 In the month of November, 1791, a reporter on the budget states that the receipts, which should amount to forty or forty-eight millions a month, do not reach eleven millions and a half. On February 1, 1793, there remains still due on the direct taxes of 1789 and 1790 one hundred and seventy-six millions.—It is evident that the people struggle with all their might against the old taxes, even authorised and prolonged by the Constituent Assembly, and all that is obtained from them is wrested from them.
Will the people be more docile under the new taxation? The Assembly exhorts them to be so and shows them how, with the relief they have gained and with the patriotism they ought to possess, they can and should discharge their dues. The people are able to do it because, having got rid of tithes, feudal dues, the salt-tax, octrois, and excise duties, they are in a comfortable position. They should do so, because the taxation adopted is indispensable to the State, equitable, assessed on all in proportion to their fortune, collected and expended under rigid scrutiny, without perversion or waste, according to precise, clear, periodical, and audited accounts. No doubt exists that, after the 1st of January, 1791, the date when the new financial scheme comes into operation, each tax-payer will gladly pay as a good citizen, and the two hundred and forty millions of the new tax on real property, and the sixty millions of that on personal property, leaving out the rest—registries, license, and customs duties—will flow in regularly and easily of their own accord.
Unfortunately, before the tax-gatherer can collect the first two levies these have to be assessed, and as there are complicated writings and formalities, claims to settle amidst great resistance and local ignorance, the operation is indefinitely prolonged. The personal and land-tax schedule of 1791 is not transmitted to the departments by the Assembly until June, 1791. The departments do not distribute it among the districts until the months of July, August, and September, 1791. It is not distributed by the districts among the communes before October, November, and December, 1791. Thus in the last month of 1791 it is not yet distributed to the tax-payers by the communes; from which it follows that on the budget of 1791 and throughout that year, the tax-payer has paid nothing.—At last, in 1792, everybody begins to receive this assessment. It would require a volume to set forth the partiality and dissimulation of these assessments. In the first place the office of assessor is one of danger; the municipal authorities, whose duty it is to assign the quotas, are not comfortable in their town quarters. Already, in 1790,51 the municipal officers of Monbazon have been threatened with death if they dared to tax industrial pursuits on the tax-roll, and they escaped to Tours in the middle of the night. Even at Tours, three or four hundred insurgents of the vicinity, dragging along with them the municipal officers of three market-towns, come and declare to the town authorities “that for all taxes they will not pay more than fortyfive sous per household.” I have already narrated how, in 1792, in the same department, “they kill, they assassinate the municipal officers” who presume to publish the tax-rolls of personal property. In Creuse, at Clugnac, the moment the clerk begins to read the document, the women spring upon him, seize the tax-roll, and “tear it up with countless imprecations”; the municipal council is assailed, and two hundred persons stone its members, one of whom is thrown down, has his head shaved, and is promenaded through the village in derision.—When the small tax-payer defends himself in this manner, it is a warning that he must be humoured. The assessment, accordingly, in the village councils is made amongst a knot of cronies. Each relieves himself of the burden by shoving it off on somebody else. “They tax the large proprietors, whom they want to make pay the whole tax.” The noble, the old seigneur, is the most taxed, and to such an extent that in many places his income does not suffice to pay his quota.—In the next place they make themselves out poor, and falsify or elude the prescriptions of the law. “In most of the municipalities, houses, tenements, and factories52 are estimated according to the value of the area they cover, and considered as land of the first class, which reduces the quota to almost nothing.” And this fraud is not practised in the villages alone. “Communes of eight or ten thousand souls might be cited which have arranged matters so well amongst themselves in this respect that not a house is to be found worth more than fifty sous.”—Last expedient of all, the commune defers as long as it can the preparation of its tax-rolls. On the 30th of January, 1792, out of 40,211, there are only 2,560 which are complete; on the 5th of October, 1792, the schedules are not made out in 4,800 municipalities, and it must be noted that all this relates to a term of administration which has been finished for more than nine months. At the same date, there are more than six thousand communes which have not yet begun to collect the land-tax of 1791, and more than fifteen thousand communes which have not yet begun to collect the personal tax; the Treasury and the departments have not yet received 152,000,000 francs, there being still 222,000,000 to collect. On the 1st February, 1793, there still remains due on the same period 161,000,000 francs, while of the 50,000,000 assessed in 1790, to replace the salt-tax and other suppressed duties, only 2,000,000 have been collected. Finally, at the same date, out of the two direct taxes of 1792, which should produce 300,000,000, less than 4,000,000 have been received.—It is a maxim of the debtor that he must put off payment as long as possible. Whoever the creditor may be, the State or a private individual, a leg or a wing may be saved by dint of procrastination. The maxim is true, and, on this occasion, success once more demonstrates its soundness. During the year 1792, the peasant begins to discharge a portion of his arrears, but it is with assignats. In January, February, and March, 1792, the assignats diminish thirty-four, forty-four, and forty-five per cent. in value; in January, February, and March, 1793, forty-seven and fifty per cent.; in May, June, and July, 1793, fifty-four, sixty, and sixty-seven per cent. Thus has the old credit of the State melted away in its hands; those who have held on to their crowns gain fifty per cent. and more. Again, the greater their delay the more their debts diminish, and already, on the strength of this, the way to release themselves at half-price is found.
Meanwhile, hands are laid on the badly defended landed property of this feeble creditor.—It is always difficult for rude brains to form any conception of the vague, invisible, abstract entity called the State, to regard it as a veritable personage and a legitimate proprietor, especially when they are persistently told that the State is everybody. The property of all is the property of each, and as the forests belong to the public, the first-comer has a right to profit by them. In the month of December, 1789,53 bands of sixty men or more chop down the trees in the Bois de Boulogne and at Vincennes. In April, 1790, in the forest of Saint-Germain, “the patrols arrest all kinds of delinquents day and night”: handed over to the National Guards and municipalities in the vicinity, these are “almost immediately released, even with the wood which they have cut down against the law.” There is no means of repressing “the reiterated threats and insults of the low class of people.” A mob of women, urged on by an old French guardsman, come and pillage under the nose of the escort a load of faggots confiscated for the benefit of a hospital; and, in the forest itself, bands of marauders fire upon the patrols.—At Chantilly, three game-keepers are mortally wounded;54 both parks are devastated for eighteen consecutive days; the game is all killed, transported to Paris, and sold.—At Chambord the lieutenant of the constabulary writes to announce his powerlessness; the woods are ravaged and even burnt; the poachers are now masters of the situation; breaches in the wall are made by them, and the water from the pond is drawn off to enable them to catch the fish.—At Claix, in Dauphiny, an officer of the jurisdiction of woods and forests, who has secured an injunction against the inhabitants for cutting down trees on leased ground, is seized, tortured during five hours, and then stoned to death.—In vain does the National Assembly issue three decrees and regulations, placing the forests under the supervision and protection of administrative bodies—the latter are too much afraid of their charge. Between the central power, which is weak and remote, and the people, present and strong, they always decide in favour of the latter. Not one of the five municipalities surrounding Chantilly is disposed to assist in the execution of the laws, while the directories of the district and department respectively, sanction their inertia. Similarly, near Toulouse,55 where the magnificent forest of Larramet is devastated in open day and by an armed force, where the wanton destruction by the populace leaves nothing of the underwood and shrubbery but “a few scattered trees and the remains of trunks cut at different heights,” the municipalities of Toulouse and of Tournefeuille refuse all aid. And worse still, in other provinces, as for instance in Alsace, “whole municipalities, with their mayors at the head, cut down woods which are confided to them, and carry them off.”56 If some tribunal is disposed to enforce the law, it is to no purpose; it takes the risk, either of not being allowed to give judgment, or of being constrained to reverse its decision. At Paris the judgment prepared against the incendiaries of the tax-offices could not be given. At Montargis, the sentence pronounced against the marauders who had stolen cartloads of wood in the national forests had to be revised, and by the judges themselves. The moment the tribunal announced the confiscation of the carts and horses which had been seized, there arose a furious outcry against it; the court was insulted by those present; the condemned parties openly declared that they would have their carts and horses back by force. Upon this “the judges withdrew into the council-chamber, and when soon after they resumed their seats, that part of their decision which related to the confiscation was cancelled.”
And yet this administration of justice, ludicrous and flouted as it may be, is still a sort of barrier. When it falls, along with the Government, everything is exposed to plunder, and there is no such thing as public property.—After August 10, 1792, each commune or individual appropriates whatever comes in its way, either products or the soil itself. Some of the depredators go so far as to say that, since the Government no longer represses them, they act under its authority.57 “They have destroyed even the recent plantation of young trees.” “One of the villages near Fontainebleau cleared off and divided an entire grove. At Rambouillet, from August 10th to the end of October,” the loss is more than 100,000 crowns; the rural agitators demand with threats the partition of the forest among the inhabitants. “The destruction is enormous” everywhere, prolonged for entire months, and of such a kind, says the minister, as to dry up this source of public revenue for a long time to come.—Communal property is no more respected than national property. In each commune, these bold and needy folk, the rural populace, are privileged to enjoy and make the most of it. Not content with enjoying it, they desire to acquire ownership of it, and, for days after the King’s fall, the Legislative Assembly, losing its footing in the universal breaking up, empowers the indigent to put in force the agrarian law. Henceforth it suffices in any commune for one-third of its inhabitants of both sexes, servants, common labourers, shepherds, farm-hands, or cowherds, and even paupers, to demand a partition of the communal possessions. All that the commune owns, save public edifices and woods, is to be cut up into as many equal lots as there are heads, the lots to be drawn for, and each individual to take possession of his or her portion.58 The operation is carried out, for “those who are least well off are infinitely flattered by it.” In the district of Arcis-sur-Aube, there are not a dozen communes out of ninety in which more than two-thirds of the voters had the good sense to pronounce against it. From this time forth the commune ceases to be an independent proprietor; it has nothing to fall back upon. In case of distress it is obliged to lay on extra taxes and obtain, if it can, a few additional sous. Its future revenue is at present in the tightly buttoned pockets of the new proprietors.—The prevalence of short-sighted views is once more due to the covetousness of individuals. Whether national or communal, it is always public interest which succumbs, and it succumbs always under the usurpations of indigent minorities, at one time through the feebleness of public authority, which dares not oppose their violence, and at another through the complicity of public authority, which has conferred upon them the rights of the majority.
When there is a lack of public force for the protection of public property, there is also a lack of it for the protection of private property, for the same greed and the same needs attack both. Let a man owe anything either to the State or to an individual, and the temptation not to pay is equally the same. In both cases it suffices to find a pretext for denying the debt; in finding this pretext the cupidity of the tenant is as good as the selfishness of the tax-payer. Now that the feudal system is abolished let nothing remain of it: let there be no more seignorial claims. “If the Assembly has maintained some of them, yonder in Paris, it did so inadvertently or through corruption: we shall soon hear of all being suppressed. In the meantime we will relieve ourselves, and burn the agreements in the places where they are kept.”
Such being the argument, the jacquerie breaks out afresh: in truth, it is permanent and universal. Just as in a body in which some of the elements of its vital substance are affected by an organic disease, the evil is apparent in the parts which seem to be sound: even where as yet no outbreak has occurred, one is imminent; constant anxiety, a profound restlessness, a low fever, denote its presence. Here, the debtor does not pay, and the creditor is afraid to prosecute him. In other places isolated eruptions occur. At Auxon,59 on an estate spared by the great jacquerie of July, 1789, the woods are ravaged, and the peasants, enraged at being denounced by the keepers, march to the chateau, which is occupied by an old man and a child; everybody belonging to the village is there, men and women; they hew down the barricaded door with their axes, and fire on the neighbours who come to the assistance of its inmates.—In other places, in the districts of Saint-Etienne and Montbrison, “the trees belonging to the proprietors are carried away with impunity, and the walls of their grounds and terraces are demolished, the complainants being threatened with death or with the sight of the destruction of their dwellings.” Near Paris, around Montargis, Nemours, and Fontainebleau, a number of parishes refuse to pay the tithes and ground-rent (champart) which the Assembly has a second time sanctioned; gibbets are erected and the collectors are threatened with hanging, while, in the neighbourhood of Tonnerre, a mob of debtors fire upon the body of police which comes to enforce the claims.—Near Amiens, the Comtesse de la Mire,60 on her estate of Davencourt, is visited by the municipal authorities of the village, who request her to renounce her right to ground-rent (champart) and thirds (tiers). She refuses and they insist, and she refuses again, when they inform her that “some misfortune will happen to her.” In effect, two of the municipal officers cause the tocsin to be rung, and the whole village rushes to arms. One of the domestics has an arm broken by a ball, and for three hours the countess and her two children are subject to the grossest insults and to blows: she is forced to sign a paper which she is not allowed to read, and, in warding off the stroke of a sabre, her arm is cleft from the elbow to the wrist; the chateau is pillaged, and she owes her escape to the zeal of some of her servants.—Large eruptions take place at the same time over entire provinces; one succeeds the other almost without interruption, the fever encroaching on parts which were supposed to be cured, and to such an extent that the virulent ulcers finally combine and form one over the whole surface of the social body.
By the end of December, 1789, the chronic fermentation comes to a head in Brittany. Imagination, as usual, has forged a plot, and, as the people say, if they make an attack it is in their own defence.—A report spreads61 that M. de Goyon, near Lamballe, has assembled in his chateau a number of gentlemen and six hundred soldiers. The mayor and National Guard of Lamballe immediately depart in force; they find everything tranquil there, and no company but two or three friends, and no other arms than a few fowling-pieces.—The impulse, however, is given, and, on the 15th of January, the great federation of Pontivy has excited the wildest enthusiasm. The people drink, sing, and shout in honour of the new decrees before armed peasants who do not comprehend the French tongue, still less legal terms, and who, on their return home, arguing with each other in bas-breton, interpret the law in a peculiar way. “A decree of the Assembly, in their eyes, is a decree of arrest,” and as the principal decrees of the Assembly are issued against the nobles, they are so many decrees of arrest against them.—Some days after this, about the end of January, during the whole of February, and down to the month of April, the execution of this theory is tumultuously carried out by mobs of villagers and vagabonds around Nantes, Auray, Redon, Dinan, Ploërmel, Rennes, Guingamp, and other villages. Everywhere, writes the Mayor of Nantes,62 “the country-people believe that in burning deeds and contracts they get rid of their debts; the very best of them concur in this belief,” or let things take their course; the excesses are enormous, because many gratify “special animosities, and all are heated with wine.”—At Beuvres, “the peasants and vassals of the manor, after burning title-deeds, establish themselves in the chateau, and threaten to fire it if other papers, which they allege are concealed there, are not surrendered.” Near Redon the Abbey of Saint-Sauveur is reduced to ashes. Redon is menaced, and Ploërmel almost besieged. At the end of a month thirty-seven chateaux are enumerated as attacked: twenty-five in which the title-deeds are burnt, and twelve in which the proprietors are obliged to sign an abandonment of their rights. Two chateaux which began to burn are saved by the National Guard. That of Bois-au-Voyer is entirely consumed, and several have been sacked. By way of addition, “more than fifteen procureurs-fiscaux, clerks, notaries, and officers of seignorial courts have been plundered or burnt,” while proprietors take refuge in the towns because the country is now uninhabitable for them.
A second tumour makes its appearance at the same time at another point.63 It showed itself in Lower Limousin in the beginning of January. From thence the purulent inflammation spreads to Quercy, Upper Languedoc, Perigord, and Rouergue, and in February from Tulle to Montauban, and from Agen to Périgueux and Cahors, extending over three departments.—Then, also, expectancy is the creator, according to rule, of its own object. By dint of longing for a law for the suppression of all claims, it is imagined that it is passed, and the statement is current that “the King and the National Assembly have ordered deputations to set up the maypole64 and to ‘light up’ the chateaux.”—Farther, and quite according to custom, bandits, people without occupation, take the lead of the furious crowd and manage things their own way. As soon as a band is formed it arrests all the peaceable people it can find on the roads, in the fields, and in isolated farmhouses, and takes good care to put them in front in case of blows.—These miscreants add terror to compulsion. They erect gibbets for any one that pays casual duties or annual dues, while the parishes of Quercy threaten their neighbours of Perigord with fire and sword in a week’s time if they do not do in Perigord as they have done in Quercy.—The tocsin rings, the drums beat, and “the ceremony” is performed from commune to commune. The keys of the church are forcibly taken from the curé, the seats are burned, and, frequently, the woodwork marked with the seigneur’s arms. They march to the seigneur’s mansion, tear down his weathercocks, and compel him to furnish his finest tree, together with feathers and ribbons with which to deck it, without omitting the three measures which he uses in the collection of his dues in grain or flour. The maypole is planted in the village square, and the weathercocks, ribbons, and feathers are attached to its top, together with the three measures and this inscription, “By order of the King and National Assembly, the final quittance for all rentals.” When this is done it is evident that the seigneur, who no longer possesses weathercocks, or a seat in the church, or measures to rate his dues by, is no longer a seigneur, and can no longer put forth claims of any kind. Huzzahs and acclamations accordingly burst forth, and there is a revel and an orgy on the public square. All who can pay—the seigneur, the curé, and the rich—are put under contribution for the festival, while the people eat and drink “without any interval of sobriety.”—In this condition, being armed, they strike, and when resistance is offered they burn. In Agénois: a chateau belonging to M. de Lameth, and another of M. d’Aiguillon; in Upper Languedoc, that of M. de Bournazel, and in Perigord that of M. de Bar, are burnt down: M. de Bar is almost beaten to death, while six others are killed in Quercy. A number of chateaux in the environs of Montauban and in Limousin are assaulted with firearms, and several are pillaged.—Bands of twelve hundred men swarm the country; “they have a spite against every estate”; they redress wrongs; “they try over again cases disposed of thirty years ago, and give judgments which they put into execution.”—If anybody fails to conform to the new code he is punished, and to the advantage of the new sovereigns. In Agénois, a gentleman having paid the rent which was associated with his fief, the people take his receipt from him, mulct him in a sum equal to that which he paid, and come under his windows to spend the money on good cheer, in triumph and with derision.
Many of the National Guards who still possess some degree of energy, several of the municipalities which still preserve some love of order, and a number of the resident gentry, employ their arms against these excited swarms of brutal usurpers. Some of the ruffians, taken in the act, are judged somewhat after the fashion of a drum-head court-martial, and immediately executed as examples. Everybody in the country sees that the peril to society is great and urgent, and that if such acts go unpunished, there will be no such thing as law and property in France. The Bordeaux parliament, moreover, insists upon prosecutions. Eighty-three boroughs and cities sign addresses, and send a special deputation to the National Assembly to urge on prosecutions already commenced, the punishment of criminals under arrest, and, above all, the maintenance of the prévôtés.65 In reply to this, the Assembly inflicts upon the parliament of Bordeaux its disapprobation in the rudest manner, and enters upon the demolition of every judicial corporation.66 After this, the execution of all prévotal decisions is adjourned. A few months later the Assembly will oblige the King to declare that the proceedings begun against the jacquerie of Brittany shall be regarded as null and void, and that the arrested insurgents shall be set free. For repressive purposes, it dispatches a sentimental exhortation to the French people, consisting of twelve pages of literary insipidity, which Florian might have composed for his Estilles and his Nemorins.67 —New conflagrations, as an inevitable consequence, kindle around live coals which have been imperfectly extinguished. In the district of Saintes,68 M. Dupaty, counsellor of the parliament of Bordeaux, after having exhausted mild resources, and having concluded by issuing writs against those of his tenantry who would not pay their rents, the parish of Saint-Thomas de Cosnac, combined with five or six others, puts itself in motion and assails his two chateaux of Bois-Roche and Saint-George-des-Agouts; these are plundered and then set on fire, his son escaping through a volley of musket-balls. They visit Martin, the notary and steward, in the same fashion; his furniture is pillaged and his money is taken, and “his daughter undergoes the most frightful outrages.” Another detachment pushes on to the house of the Marquis de Cumont, and forces him, under the penalty of having his house burnt down, to give a discharge for all the claims he has upon them. At the head of these incendiaries are the municipal officers of Saint-Thomas, except the mayor, who has taken to flight.
The electoral system organized by the Constituent Assembly is beginning to take effect. “Almost everywhere,” writes the royal commissioner, “the large proprietors have been eliminated, and the offices have been filled by men who strictly fulfil the conditions of eligibility. The result is a sort of rage of the petty rich to annoy those who enjoy large heritages.”—Six months later, the National Guards and village authorities in this same department at Aujean, Migron, and Varaise, decide that no more tithes, agriers, or champarts, nor any of the dues which are retained, shall be paid. In vain does the department annul the decision, and send its commissioners, gendarmes, and law-officers. The commissioners are driven away, and the officers and gendarmes are fired upon; the vice-president of the district, who was on his way to make his report to the department, is seized on the road and forced to give in his resignation. Seven parishes have coalesced with Aujean and ten with Migron; Varaise has sounded the tocsin, and the villages for four leagues round have risen; fifteen hundred men, armed with guns, scythes, hatchets, and pitchforks, lend their aid. The object is to set free the principal leader at Varaise, one Planche, who was arrested, and to punish the mayor of Varaise, Latierce, who is suspected of having denounced Planche. Latierce is unmercifully beaten, and “forced to undergo a thousand torments during thirty hours”; then they set out with him to Saint-Jean-d’Angely, and demand the release of Planche. The municipality at first refuses, but finally consents on the condition that Latierce be given up in exchange for him. Planche, consequently, is set at liberty and welcomed with shouts of triumph. Latierce, however, is not given up; on the contrary, he is tormented for an hour and then massacred, while the directory of the district, which is less submissive than the municipal body, is forced to fly.—Symptoms of this kind are not to be mistaken, and similar ones exist in Brittany. It is evident that the minds of the people are permanently in revolt. Instead of the social abscess being relieved by the discharge, it is always filling up and getting more inflamed. It will burst a second time in the same places; in 1791 as in 1790, the jacquerie overspreads Brittany as it has spread over Limousin.
This is owing to the will of the peasant being of another nature than our will, possessing a great deal more fixity and tenacity. When an idea obtains a hold on him it takes root in an obscure and profound conviction upon which neither discussion nor argument have any effect; once planted, it vegetates according to his notions, not according to ours, and no legislative text, no judicial verdict, no administrative remonstrance can change in any respect the fruit it produces. This fruit, developed during centuries, is the feeling of an excessive spoliation, and, consequently, the need of an absolute release. Too much having been paid to everybody, the peasant now is not disposed to pay anything to anybody, and this idea, vainly repressed, always rises up in the manner of an instinct.—In the month of January, 1791,69 bands again form in Brittany, owing to the proprietors of the ancient fiefs having insisted on the payment of their rents. At first the coalesced parishes refuse to pay the stewards, and after this the rustic National Guards enter the chateaux to constrain the proprietors. Generally, it is the commander of the National Guard, and sometimes the communal attorney, who dictates to the lord of the manor the renunciation of his claims; they oblige him, moreover, to sign notes for the benefit of the parish, or for that of various private individuals. This is considered by them to be compensation for damages; all feudal dues being abolished, he must return what he received from them during the past year, and as they have been put to inconvenience he must indemnify them by “paying them for their time and journey.” Such are the operations of two of the principal bands, one of them numbering fifteen hundred men, around Dinan and St. Malo; for greater security they burn title-deeds in the chateaux of Saint-Tual, Besso, Beaumanoir, La Rivière, La Bellière, Chateauneuf, Chenay, Chausavoir, Tourdelon, and Chalonge; and as a climax they set fire to Chateauneuf, just before the arrival of the regular troops.—In the beginning, a dim conception of legal and social order seems to be floating in their brains; at Saint-Tual, before taking 2,000 livres from the steward, they oblige the mayor to give them his consent in writing; at Yvignac, their chief, called upon to show the authority under which he acted, declares that “he is authorised by the general will of the populace of the nation.”70 —But when, at the end of a month, they are beaten by the regular troops, made furious by the blows given and taken, and excited by the weakness of the municipal authorities who release their prisoners, they then become bandits of the worst species. During the night of the 22nd of February, the chateau of Villefranche, three leagues from Malestroit, is attacked. Thirty-two rascals with their faces masked, and led by a chief in the national uniform, break open the door. The domestics are garrotted. The proprietor, M. de la Bourdonnaie, an old man, with his wife aged sixty, are half killed by blows and tied fast to their bed, and after this a fire is applied to their feet and they are warmed (chauffé). In the meantime the plate, linen, stuffs, jewellery, two thousand francs in silver, and even watches, buckles, and rings—everything is pillaged, piled on the backs of the eleven horses in the stables, and carried off.—When property is concerned, one sort of outrage provokes another, the narrow cupidity of the lease-holder being completed by the unlimited rapacity of the brigand.
Meanwhile, in the south-western provinces, the same causes have produced the same results; and towards the end of autumn, when the crops are gathered in and the proprietors demand their dues in money or in produce, the peasant, immovably fixed in his idea, again refuses.71 In his eyes, any law that may be against him is not that of the National Assembly, but of the so-called seigneurs, who have extorted or manufactured it; and therefore it is null. The department and district administrators may promulgate it as much as they please: it does not concern him, and if the opportunity occurs, he knows how to make them smart for it. The village National Guards, who are lease-holders like himself, side with him, and instead of repressing him give him their support. As a commencement, he replants the maypoles, as a sign of emancipation, and erects the gibbet by way of a threat.—In the district of Gourdon, the regulars and the police having been sent to put them down, the tocsin is at once sounded: a crowd of peasants, amounting to four or five thousand, arrives from every surrounding parish, armed with scythes and guns; the soldiers, forming a body of one hundred, retire into a church, where they capitulate after a siege of twenty-four hours, being obliged to give the names of the proprietors who demanded their intervention of the district, and who are Messrs. Hébray, de Fontange, and many others. All their houses are destroyed from top to bottom, and they effect their escape in order not to be hung. The chateaux of Repaire and Salviat are burned. At the expiration of eight days Quercy is in flames and thirty chateaux are destroyed.—The leader of a band of rustic National Guards, Joseph Linard, at the head of a village army, penetrates into Gourdon, instals himself in the Hôtel-de-Ville, declares himself the people’s protector against the directory of the district, writes to the department in the name of his “companions in arms,” and vaunts his patriotism. Meanwhile he commands as a conqueror, throws open the prisons, and promises that, if the regular troops and police be sent off, he and his companions will withdraw in good order.—This species of tumultuary authority, however, instituted by acclamation for attack, is powerless for resistance. Scarcely has Linard retired when savagery is let loose. “A price is set upon the heads of the administrators; their houses are the first devastated; all the houses of wealthy citizens are pillaged; and the same is the case with all chateaux and country habitations which display any signs of luxury.”—Fifteen gentlemen, assembled together at the house of M. d’Escayrac, in Castel, appeal to all good citizens to march to the assistance of the proprietors who may be attacked in this jacquerie, which is spreading everywhere;72 but there are too few proprietors in the country, and none of the towns have too many of them for their own protection. M. d’Escayrac, after a few skirmishes, abandoned by the municipal officers of his village, and wounded, withdraws to the house of the Comte de Clarac, a major-general, in Languedoc. Here, too, the chateau is surrounded,73 blockaded, and besieged by the local National Guard. M. de Clarac descends and tries to hold a parley with the attacking party, and is fired upon. He goes back inside and throws money out of the window; the money is gathered up, and he is again fired upon. The chateau is set on fire, and M. d’Escayrac receives five shots, and is killed. M. de Clarac, with another person, having taken refuge in a subterranean vault, are taken out almost stifled the next morning but one by the National Guard of the vicinity, who conduct them to Toulouse, where they are kept in prison and where the public prosecutor takes proceedings against them. The chateau of Bagat, near Montcuq, is demolished at the same time. The abbey of Espagnac, near Figeac, is assaulted with fire-arms; the abbess is forced to refund all rents she has collected, and to restore four thousand livres for the expenses of a trial which the convent had gained twenty years before.
After such successes, the extension of the revolt is inevitable; and at the end of some weeks and months it becomes permanent in the three neighbouring departments.—In Creuse,74 the judges are threatened with death if they order the payment of seignorial dues, and the same fate awaits all proprietors who claim their rents. In many places, and especially in the mountains, the peasants, “considering that they form the nation, and that clerical possessions are national,” want to have these divided amongst themselves, instead of their being sold. Fifty parishes around La Souterraine receive incendiary letters inviting them to come in arms to the town, in order to secure by force, and by staking their lives, the production of all titles to rentals. The peasants, in a circle of eight leagues, are all stirred up by the sound of the tocsin, and preceded by the municipal officers in their scarves; there are four thousand of them, and they drag with them a waggon full of arms: this is for the revision and reconstitution of the ownership of the soil.—In Dordogne, self-appointed arbitrators interpose imperiously between the proprietor and the small farmer, at the time of harvest, to prevent the proprietor from claiming, and the farmer from paying, the tithes or the rève;75 any agreement to this end is forbidden; whoever shall transgress the new order of things, proprietor or farmer, shall be hung. Accordingly, the rural militia in the districts of Bergerac, Excideuil, Ribérac, Mucidan, Montignac, and Perigueux, led by the municipal officers, go from commune to commune in order to force the proprietors to sign an act of desistance; and these visits “are always accompanied with robberies, outrages, and ill-treatment from which there is no escape but in absolute submission.” Moreover, “they demand the abolition of every species of tax and the partition of the soil.”—It is impossible for “proprietors moderately rich” to remain in the country; on all sides they take refuge in Perigueux, and there, organizing in companies, along with the gendarmerie and the National Guard of the town, overrun the cantons to restore order. But there is no way of persuading the peasantry that it is order which they wish to restore. With that stubbornness of the imagination which no obstacle arrests, and which, like a vigorous spring, always finds some outlet, the people declare that “the gendarmes and National Guard” who come to restrain them “are priests and gentlemen in disguise.”—The new theories, moreover, have struck down to the lowest depths; and nothing is easier than to draw from them the abolition of debts, and even the agrarian law. At Ribérac, which is invaded by the people of the neighbouring parishes, a village tailor, taking the catechism of the Constitution from his pocket, argues with the procureur-syndic, and proves to him that the insurgents are only exercising the rights of man. The book states, in the first place, “that Frenchmen are equals and brethren, and that they should give each other aid”; and that “the masters should share with their fellows, especially this year, which is one of scarcity.” In the next place, it is written that “all property belongs to the nation,” and that is the reason why “it has taken the possessions of the Church.” Now, the nation is composed of all Frenchmen, and the conclusion is clearly apparent. Since, in the eyes of the tailor, the property of individual Frenchmen belongs to all the French, he, the tailor, has a right to at least the quota which belongs to him.—One travels fast and far on this road, for every mob considers that this means immediate enjoyment, and enjoyment according to its own ideas. There is no care for neighbours or for consequences, even when imminent and physical, and in twenty places the property which is usurped perishes in the hands of the usurpers.
This voluntary destruction of property can be best observed in the third department, that of Corrèze.76 Not only have the peasants here refused to pay rents from the beginning of the Revolution; not only have they “planted maypoles, supplied with iron hooks, to hang” the first one that dared to claim or to pay them; not only are violent acts of every description committed “by entire communes,” “the National Guards of the small communes participating in them”; not only do the culprits, whose arrest is ordered, remain at liberty, while “nothing is spoken of but the hanging of the constables who serve writs,” but farther, together with the ownership of the water-sources, the power of collecting, directing, and distributing the water is overthrown, and, in a country of steep declivities, the consequences of such an operation may be imagined. Three leagues from Tulle, in a valley forming a semicircle, a pond twenty feet in depth, and covering an area of three hundred acres, was enclosed by a broad embankment on the side of a very deep gorge, which was completely covered with houses, mills, and cultivation. On the 17th of April, 1791, a troop of five hundred armed men assembled by the beat of a drum, and collected from three villages in the vicinity, set themselves to demolish the dyke. The proprietor, M. de Sedières, a substitute-deputy in the National Assembly, is not advised of it until eleven o’clock in the evening. Mounting his horse, along with his guests and domestics, he makes a charge on the insane wretches, and, with the aid of pistol and gun-shots, disperses them. It was time, for the trench they had dug was already eight feet deep, and the water was nearly on a level with it: a half-hour later and the terrible rolling mass of waters would have poured out on the inhabitants of the gorge.—But such vigorous strokes, which are rare and hardly ever successful, are no defence against universal and continuous attacks. The regular troops and the gendarmerie, both of which are in the way of reorganization or of dissolution, are not trustworthy, or are too weak. There are no more than thirty of the cavalry in Creuse, and as many in Corrèze. The National Guards of the towns are knocked up by expeditions into the country, and there is no money with which to provide for their change of quarters. And finally, as the elections are in the hands of the people, this brings into power men disposed to tolerate popular excesses. At Tulle, the electors of the second class, almost all chosen from among the cultivators, and, moreover, catechized by the club, nominate for deputies and public prosecutor only the candidates who are pledged against rentals and against water privileges.—Accordingly, the general demolition of the dykes begins as the month of May approaches. This operation continues unopposed on a vast pond, a league and a half from the town, and lasts for a whole week; elsewhere, on the arrival of the guards or of the gendarmerie, they are fired upon. Towards the end of September, all the embankments in the department are broken down: nothing is left in the place of the ponds but fetid marshes; the mill-wheels no longer turn, and the fields are no longer watered. But those who demolish them carry away baskets full of fish, and the soil of the ponds again becomes communal.—Hatred is not the motive which impels them, but the instinct of acquisition: all these violent outstretched hands, which rigidly resist the law, are directed against property, but not against the proprietor; they are more greedy than hostile. One of the noblemen of Corrèze,77 M. de Saint-Victour, has been absent for five years. From the beginning of the Revolution, although his feudal dues constitute one-half of the income of his estate, he has given orders that no rigorous measures shall be employed in their collection, and the result is that, since 1789, none of them were collected. Moreover, having a reserve stock of wheat on hand, he lent grain, to the amount of four thousand francs, to those of his tenants who had none. In short, he is liberal, and, in the neighbouring town, at Ussel, he even passes for a Jacobin. In spite of all this, he is treated just like the rest. It is because the parishes in his domain are “clubbist,” governed by associations of moral and practical levellers; in one of them “the brigands have organized themselves into a municipal body,” and have chosen their leader as procureur-syndic. Consequently, on the 22nd of August, eighty armed peasants opened the dam of his large pond, at the risk of submerging a village in the neighbourhood, the inhabitants of which came and closed it up. Five other ponds belonging to him are demolished in the course of the two following weeks; fish to the value of from four to five thousand francs are stolen, and the rest perish in the weeds. In order to make this expropriation sure, an effort is made to burn his title-deeds; his chateau, twice attacked in the night, is saved only by the National Guard of Ussel. His farmers and domestics hesitate, for the time being, whether or not to cultivate the ground, and come and ask the steward if they could sow the seeds. There is no recourse to the proper authorities: the administrators and judges, even when their own property is concerned, “dare not openly show themselves,” because “they do not find themselves protected by the buckler of the law.”—Popular will, traversing both the old and the new law, obstinately persists in its work, and forcibly attains its ends.
Thus, whatever the grand terms of liberty, equality, and fraternity may be, with which the Revolution graces itself, it is, in its essence, a transfer of property; in this alone consists its chief support, its enduring energy, its primary impulse, and its historical significance.—Formerly, in antiquity, similar movements were accomplished, debts were abolished or lessened, the possessions of the rich were confiscated, and the public lands were divided; but this operation was confined to a city and limited to a small territory. For the first time it takes place on a large scale and in a modern State.—Thus far, in these vast States, when the deeper foundations have been disturbed, it has ever been on account of foreign domination or on account of an oppression of conscience. In France in the fifteenth century, in Holland in the sixteenth, and in England in the seventeenth century, the peasant, the mechanic, and the labourer had taken up arms against an enemy or in behalf of their faith. On religious or patriotic zeal has followed the craving for prosperity and comfort, and the new motive is as powerful as the others; for in our industrial, democratic, and utilitarian societies it is this which governs almost all lives, and excites almost all efforts. Kept down for centuries, the passion recovers itself by throwing off government and privilege, the two great weights which have borne it down. At the present time this passion launches itself impetuously with its whole force, with brutal insensibility, athwart every kind of proprietorship that is legal and legitimate, whether it be public or private. The obstacles it encounters only render it the more destructive; beyond property it attacks proprietors, and completes spoliation with proscriptions.
[1. ]The expression is that of Jean Bon Saint-André to Mathieu Dumas, sent to reestablish tranquillity in Montauban (1790): “The day of vengeance, which we have been awaiting for a hundred years, has come!”
[2. ]De Dammartin, i. 187 (an eye-witness).
[3. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,223 and 3,216. Letters of M. de Bouzols, major-general, residing at Montpellier, May 21, 25, 28, 1790.
[4. ]Mary Lafon, “Histoire d’une Ville Protestante” (with original documents derived from the archives of Montauban).
[5. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 2,216. Procès-verbal of the Municipality of Nismes and report of the Abbé de Belmont.—Report of the Administrative Commissioners, June 28, 1790.—Petition of the Catholics, April 20.—Letters of the Municipality, the Commissioners, and M. de Nausel, on the events of May 2 and 3.—Letter of M. Rabaut-Saint-Etienne, May 12.—Petition of the widow Gas, July 30.—Report (printed) of M. Alquier, February 19, 1791.—Memoir (printed) of the massacre of the Catholics at Nismes, by Froment (1790).—New address of the Municipality of Nismes, presented by M. de Marguerite, mayor and deputy (1790), printed.—Mercure de France, February 23, 1791.
[6. ]The petition is signed by 3,127 persons, besides 1,560 who put a cross declaring that they could not write. The counterpetition of the club is signed by 162 persons.
[7. ]This last item, stated in M. Alquier’s report, is denied by the municipality. According to it, the red rosettes gathered around the bishop’s quarters had no guns.
[8. ]An insurrection in the sixteenth century, when the Protestants fired on the Catholics on St. Michael’s Day.—[Tr.]
[9. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,216. Letter of M. de Lespin, Major at Nismes, to the Commandant of Provence, M. de Perigord, July 27, 1790: “The plots and conspiracies which were attributed to the vanquished party, and which, it was believed, would be discovered in the depositions of the four hundred men in prison, vanish as the proceedings advance. The veritable culprits are to be found among the informers.”
[10. ]Roux and Buchez, iii. 240 (Memorial of the Ministers, October 28, 1789).—“Archives Nationales,” D. xxix. 3.—Deliberation of the Municipal Council of Vernon (November 4, 1789).
[11. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, November 4, 1789.—See similar occurrences, September 4, October 23, November 4 and 19, 1789, January 27 and March 27, 1790.
[12. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,257. Letter from Gex, May 29, 1790.—Roux and Buchez, vii. 198, 369 (September, October, 1790).
[13. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, Commandant of the four central provinces. Letters of May 25, June 11, 19, and 27, 1790.—“Archives Nationales,” D. xxix. 4. Deliberations of the district administrators of Bourbon-Lancy, May 26.
[14. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Procès-verbal of a dozen parishes in Nivernais, June 4. “White bread is to be 2 sous, and brown bread 1 sous. Husbandmen are to have 30 sous, reapers 10 sous, wheelwrights 10 sous, bailiffs 6 sous per league. Butter is to be at 8 sous, meat at 5 sous, pork at 8 sous, oil at 8 sous the pint, a square foot of masonry-work 40 sous, a pair of large sabots 3 sous. All rights of pasturage and of forests are to be surrendered. The roads are to be free everywhere, as formerly. All seignorial rents are to be suppressed. Millers are to take only one thirty-second of a bushel. The seignieurs of our department are to give up all servile holidays and ill-acquired property. The curé of Bièze is simply to say mass at nine o’clock in the morning and vespers at two o’clock in the afternoon, in summer and winter; he must marry and bury gratis, it being reserved to us to pay him a salary. He is to be paid 6 sous for masses, and not to leave his cure except to repeat his breviary and make proper calls on the men and women of his parish. Hats must be had from 3 livres to 30 sous. Nails 3 livres the gross. Curés are to have none but circumspect females of fifty for domestics. Curés are not to go to either fairs or markets. All curés are to be on the same footing as the one at Bièze. There must be no more wholesale dealers in wheat. Law officers who make unjust seizures must return the money. Farm leases must expire on St. Martin’s Day. M. le Comte, although not there, M. de Tontenelle, and M. de Commandant must sign this document without difficulty. M. de Mingot is formally to resign his place in writing: he went away with his servant-woman—he even missed his mass on the first Friday of the Fête-Dieu, and it is supposed that he slept in the woods. Joiners’ wages shall be fixed at the same rate as wheelwrights’. Ox-straps are not to cost over 40 sous, yokes 10 sous. Masters must pay one-half of the tailles. Notaries are to take only the half of what they had formerly, as well as comptrollers. The Commune claims the right of protest against whatever it may have forgotten in the present article, in fact or in law.” It is signed by about twenty persons, several of them being mayors and municipal clerks.
[15. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. The same correspondence, May 29, June 11 and 17, September 15, 1790.—Ibid., F7, 3,257. Letter of the municipal authorities of Marsigny, May 3; of the municipal officers of Bourbon-Lancy, June 5. Extract from letters written to M. Amelot, June 1.
[16. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,185, 3,186. Letter of the President of the Tribunal of the district of Laon, February 8, 1792.
[17. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Procès-verbal and observations of the two commissioners sent to Étampes, September 22–25, 1791.
[18. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,265. The following document, among many others, shows the expedients and conceptions of the popular imagination. Petition of several inhabitants of the commune of Forges (Seine Inférieure) “to the good and incorruptible Minister of the Interior” (October 16, 1792). “After three good crops in succession, the famine still continues. Under the ancient régime wheat was superabundant; hogs were fed with it, and calves were fattened with bread. It is certain, therefore, that wheat is diverted by monopolizers and the enemies of the new regime. The farms are too large; let them be divided. There is too much pasture-ground: sow it with wheat. Compel each farmer and landowner to give a statement of his crop: let the quantity be published at the church service, and in case of falsehood let the man be put to death or imprisoned, and his grain be confiscated. Oblige all the cultivators of the neighbourhood to sell their wheat at Forges only, &c.”
[19. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Report of the commissioners sent by the department, March 11, 1792 (apropos of the insurrection of March 4).—Mortimer-Pernaux, i. 381.
[20. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Letters of several mayors, district administrators, cultivators of Velizy, Villadoublay, La Celle-Saint-Cloud, Montigny, &c. November 12, 1791.—Letter of M. de Narbonne, January 13, 1792; of M. Sureau, justice of the peace in the canton of Étampes, September 17, 1791.—Letter of Bruyères-le-Chatel, January 28, 1792.
[21. ]A term applied to brigands at this epoch who demand money and objects of value, and force their delivery by exposing the soles of the feet of their victims to a fire.—[Tr.]
[22. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,203. Letter of the Directory of Cher, August 25, 1791.—F7, 3,240. Letter of the Directory of Haute Marne, November 6, 1791.—F7, 3,248. Procès-verbal of the members of the department of the North, March 18, 1791.—F7, 3,250. Procès-verbal of the municipal officers of Montreuil-sur-Mer, October 16, 1791.—F7, 3,265. Letter of the Directory of Seine Inférieure, July 22, 1791.—D. xxix. 4. Remonstrances of the municipalities assembled at Tortes, July 21, 1791. Petitions of the municipal officers of the districts of Dieppe, Cany, and Caudebec, July 22, 1791.
[23. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim.
[24. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim. Deliberation of the Directory of Seine-et-Oise, September 20, 1791 (apropos of the insurrection, September 16, at Étampes).—Letter of Charpentier, president of the district, September 19.—Report of the Department Commissioners, March 11, 1792 (on the insurrection at Brunoy, March 4).—Report of the Department Commissioners, March 4, 1792 (on the insurrection at Montlhéry, February 13 to 20).—Deliberation of the Directory of Seine-et-Oise, September 16, 1791 (on the insurrection at Corbeil).—Letters of the mayors of Limours, Lonjumeau, &c.
[25. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim.—Procès-verbal of the Municipality of Montlhéry, February 28, 1792: “We cannot enter into fuller details without exposing ourselves to extremities which would be only disastrous to us.”—Letter of the justice of the peace of the canton, February 25: “Public outcry teaches me that if I issue writs of arrest against those who massacred Thibault, the people would rise.”
[26. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim. Reports of the gendarmerie, February 24, 1792, and the following days.—Letter of the Brigadier of Limours, March 2; of the manager of the farm of Plessis-le-Comte, February 23.
[27. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim.—Memorial to the National Assembly by the citizens of Rambouillet, September 17, 1792.
[28. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269, passim. Procès-verbal of the Municipality of Montlhéry, February 27, 1792.—Roux and Buchez, xiii. 421, March, 1792, and xiii. 317.—Mercure de France, February 25, 1792. (Letters of M. Dauchy, President of the Directory of the Department; of M. de Gouy, messenger sent by the minister, &c.)—Moniteur, sitting of February 15, 1792.
[29. ]Decree of September 3, 1792.
[30. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268 and 3,269. Petition of the citizens of Montfort-l’Amaury, Saint-Leger, Gros-Rouvre, Gelin, Laqueue, and Méré, to the citizens of Rambouillet.
[31. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,230. Letter of an administrator of the district of Vendôme, with the deliberation of the commune of Vendôme, November 24, 1792.
[32. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,255. Letter of the Administrators of the Department of Seine-Inférieure, October 23, 1792.—Letters of the Special Committee of Rouen, October 22 and 23, 1792: “The more the zeal and patriotism of the cultivators is stimulated, the more do they seem determined to avoid the market-places, which are always in a state of absolute destitution.”
[33. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,265. Letter of David, a cultivator, October 10, 1792.—Letter of the Department Administrators, October 13, 1792, &c.—Letter (printed) of the minister to the Convention, November 4.—Proclamation of the Provisional Executive Council, October 31, 1792. (The setier of grain of two hundred and forty pounds is sold at 60 francs in the south, and at half that sum in the north.)
[34. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,255. Letters of Bonnemant, September 11, 1792; of Laussel, September 22, 1792.
[35. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, July 28, October 24 and 26, 1790.—The same disposition lasted. An insurrection occurred in Issoudun after the three days of July, 1830, against the combined imposts. Seven or eight thousand vine-dressers burnt the archives and tax-offices and dragged an employé through the streets, shouting out at each street-lamp, “Let him be hung!” The general sent to repress the outbreak entered the town only through a capitulation; the moment he reached the Hôtel-de-Ville a man of the Faubourg de Rome put his pruning-hook around his neck, exclaiming, “No more clerks where there is nothing to do!”
[36. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,203. Letter of the Directory of Cher, April 9, 1790.—Ibid., F7, 3,255. Letter of August 4, 1790. Verdict of the présidial, November 4, 1790.—Letter of the Municipality of Saint-Etienne, August 5, 1790.
[37. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,248. Letter of M. Sénac de Meilhan, April 10, 1790.—Letter of the grands baillis, June 30, 1790.
[38. ]Roux and Buchez, vi. 403. Report of Chabrond on the insurrection at Lyons, July 9 and 10, 1790.—Duvergier, “Collection des Décrets.”—Decrees of August 4 and 15, 1790.
[39. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,255. Letter of the Minister, July 2, 1790, to the Directory of Rhone-et-Loire. “The King is informed that, throughout your department, and especially in the districts of Saint-Etienne and Montbrison, license is carried to the extreme; that the judges dare not prosecute; that in many places the municipal officers are at the head of the disturbances; and that, in others, the National Guard do not obey requisitions.”—Letter of September 5, 1790. “In the bourg of Thisy, brigands have invaded divers cotton-spinning establishments and partially destroyed them, and, after having plundered them, they have sold the goods by public auction.”
[40. ]Roux and Buchez, vi. 545. Report of M. Muguet, July 1, 1790.
[41. ]Procès-verbaux of the National Assembly. (Sitting of October 24, 1789.)—Decree of September 27, 1789, applicable the 1st of October. There are other modifications applicable on the 1st of January, 1790.
[42. ]Mercure de France, February 27, 1790. (Memorial of the garde des sceaux, January 16.)—Observations of M. Necker on the report made by the Financial Committee, at the sitting of March 12, 1790.
[43. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, April 24, May 4 and 6, 1790: “It is much to be feared that the tobacco-tax will share the fate of the salt-tax.”
[44. ]Mercure de France, July 31, 1790 (sitting of July 10). M. Lambert, Comptroller-General of the Finances, informs the Assembly of “the obstacles which continual outbreaks, brigandage, and the maxims of anarchical freedom impose, from one end of France to the other, on the collection of the taxes. On one side, the people are led to believe that, if they stubbornly refuse a tax contrary to their rights, its abolition will be secured. Elsewhere, smuggling is openly carried on by force; the people favour it, while the National Guards refuse to act against the nation. In other places hatred is excited, and divisions between the troops and the overseers at the toll-houses: the latter are massacred, the bureaus are pillaged, and the prisons are forced open.”—Memorial to the National Assembly by M. Necker, July 21, 1790.
[45. ]Decrees of March 21 and 22, 1790, applicable April 21 following.—Decrees of February 19 and March 2, 1791, applicable May 1 following.
[46. ]De Goncourt, “La Société Française pendant la Révolution,” 204.—Maxime du Camp, “Paris, sa Vie et ses Organes,” vi. 11.
[47. ]“Compte des Revenus et Dépenses au 1er Mai, 1789.”—Memorial of M. Necker, July 21, 1790.—Memorials presented by M. de Montesquiou, September 9, 1791.—Comptes-rendus by the minister, Clavières, October 5, 1792, February 1, 1792.—Report of Cambon, February, 1793.
[48. ]Boivin-Champeaux, 231.
[49. ]Mercure de France, May 28, 1791. (Sitting of May 22.) Speech of M. d’Allarde: “Burgundy has paid nothing belonging to 1790.”
[50. ]Moniteur, sitting of June 1, 1790. Speech by M. Freteau.—Mercure de France, November 26, 1791. Report by Lafont-Ladebat.
[51. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, June 5, 1790, &c.—F7, 3,226. Letters of Chenantin, cultivator, November 7, 1792, also of the procureur-syndic, November 6.—F7, 3,202. Letter of the Minister of Justice, Duport, January 3, 1792. “The utter absence of public force in the district of Montargis renders every operation of the Government and all execution of the laws impossible. The arrears of taxes to be collected is here very considerable, while all proceedings of constraint are dangerous and impossible to execute, owing to the fears of the bailiffs, who dare not perform their duties, and the violence of the tax-payers, on whom there is no check.”
[52. ]Report of the Committee on Finances, by Ramel, 19th Floréal, year II. (The Constituent Assembly had fixed the real tax of a house at one-sixth of its letting value.)
[53. ]Mercure de France, December 12, 1789.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Memorial of the officers in command of the detachment of the Paris National Guard stationed at Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (April, 1790). Certificate of the Municipal Officers of Poissy, March 31.
[54. ]Mercure de France, March 12 and 26, 1791.—“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Letter of the police-lieutenant of Blois, April 22, 1790.—Mercure de France, July 24, 1790. Two of the murderers exclaimed to those who tried to save one of the keepers, “Hanging is well done at Paris! Bah, you are aristocrats! We shall be talked about in the gazettes of Paris.” (Deposition of witnesses.)—Decrees and proclamations regarding the protection of the forests, November 3 and December 11, 1789.—Another in October, 1790.—Another June 20, 1791.
[55. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,219. Letter of the bailli of Virieu, January 26, 1792.
[56. ]Mercure de France, December 3, 1791. (Letter from Sarrelouis, November 15, 1791.)—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,223. Letter of the Municipal Officers of Montargis, January 8, 1792.
[57. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Letter of the overseer of the national domains at Rambouillet, October 31, 1792.—Compte-rendu of the minister Clavières, February 1, 1793.
[58. ]Decrees of August 14, 1792, June 10, 1793.—“Archives Nationales,” Missions des Représentants, D. § 7. (Deliberation of the district of Troyes, 2 Ventose, an. III.)—At Thunelières, the drawing took place on the 10th Fructidor, year II., and was done over again in behalf of a servant of Billy, an influential municipal officer who “was the soul of his colleagues.”—Ibid. Abstract of operations in the district of Arcis-sur-Aube, 30 Pluviose, year III. “Two-thirds of the communes hold this kind of property. Most of them have voted on and effected the partition, or are actually engaged on it.”
[59. ]Mercure de France, January 7, 1790. (Chateau of Auxon, in Haute-Saone.)—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,255. (Letter of the minister to the Directory of Rhone-et-Loire, July 2, 1790.)—Mercure de France, July 17, 1790. (Report of M. de Broglie, July 13, and decree of July 13–18.)—“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. (Correspondence of M. de Bercheny, July 21, 1790.)
[60. ]Mercure de France, March 19, 1790. Letter from Amiens, February 28. (Mallet-Dupan publishes in the Mercure only letters which are signed and authentic.)
[61. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. (Correspondence of M. de Thiard; letters of Chevalier de Bévy, December 26, 1789, and others up to April 5, 1790.)—Moniteur, sitting of February 9, 1790.—Mercure de France, February 6 and March 6, 1790 (list of chateaux).
[62. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. (Correspondence of M. de Thiard.) Letters of the Mayor of Nantes, February 16, 1790, of the Municipality of Redon, February 19, &c.
[63. ]Mercure de France, February 6 and 27, 1790. (Speech of M. de Foucault, sittings of February 2 and 6). —Moniteur (same dates). (Report of Grégoire, February 9; speeches by MM. Sallé de Chaux and de Noailles, February 9.)—Memorial of the deputies of the town of Tulle, drawn up by the Abbé Morellet (from the deliberations and addresses of eighty-three boroughs and cities in the province).
[64. ]In allusion to the feudal custom of paying seignorial dues on the first of May around a maypole. See further on.—[Tr.]
[65. ]Criminal courts without appeal.—[Tr.]
[66. ]Moniteur, sitting of March 4, 1790.—Duvergier, decrees of March 6, 1790, and August 6–10, 1790.
[67. ]The address is dated February 11, 1793. This singularly comic document would alone suffice to make the history of the Revolution perfectly comprehensible.
[68. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,203. (Letters of the royal commissioner, April 30 and May 9, 1790.)—Letter of the Duc de Maillé, May 6.—Procès-verbaux of the department of administrators, November 12, 1790.—Moniteur, vi. 515.
[69. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,225. Letter of the Directory from Ile-et-Vilaine, January 30, 1791, and letter from Dinan, January 29.—Mercure de France, April 2 and 16, 1791. Letters from Rennes, March 20th; from Redon, March 12.
[70. ]So expressed in the procès-verbal.
[71. ]Moniteur, sitting of December 15, 1790. (Address of the department of Lot, December 7.)—Sitting of December 20 (Speech by M. de Foucault.)—Mercure de France, December 18, 1790. (Letter from Belves, in Perigord, December 7.)—Ibid., January 22, 29, 1791. (Letter from M. de Clarac, January 18.)
[72. ]December 17, 1790.
[73. ]January 7, 1791.
[74. ]Revolutionary archives of the department of Creuse, by Duval. (Letter of the administrators of the department, March 31, 1791.)—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,200. (Deliberation of the Directory of the Department, May 12, 1791.—Procès-verbal of the municipality of La Souterraine, August 23, 1791.)
[75. ]A sort of export duty.—[Tr.]
[76. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,204.—Letters from the Directory of the Department, June 2, 1791; September 8 and 22.—Letter from the Minister of Justice, May 15, 1791.—Letter from M. de Lentilhac, September 2.—Letter from M. Melon-Padon, Royal Commissioner, September 8.—Mercure de France, May 14, 1791. (Letter of an eye-witness, M. de Loyac, April 25, 1791.)
[77. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,204. Letters from M. de Saint-Victour, September 25, October 2 and 10, 1791.—Letter from the steward of his estate, September 18.