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The Ancient Regime The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 1 by Hippolyte A. Taine

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said, the obsession of making presents to the seigniors, is well
known. I have, in my lifetime, seen this custom everywhere disappear,
and rightly so . . . . The seigniors are no longer of any consequence
to them; is quite natural that they should be forgotten by them as
they forget . . . . The seignior being no longer known on his estates
everybody pillages him, which is right."[6] Everywhere, except in remote
comers, the affection and unity of the two classes has disappeared;
the shepherd is separated from his flock, and pastors of the people
end in being considered its parasites.

Let us first follow them into the provinces. We here find only the
minor class of nobles and a portion of those of medium rank; the rest
are in Paris.[7] There is the same line of separation in the church:
abbés-commendatory, bishops and archbishops very seldom live at home.
The grand-vicars and canons live in the large towns; only priors and
curates dwell in the rural districts. Ordinarily the entire
ecclesiastic or lay staff is absent; residents are furnished only by
the secondary or inferior grades. What are their relations with the
peasant? One point is certain, and that is that they are not usually
hard, nor even indifferent, to him. Separated by rank they are not so
by distance; neighborhood is of itself a bond among men. I have read
in vain, but I have not found them the rural tyrants, which the
declaimers of the Revolution portray them. Haughty with the bourgeois
they are generally kind to the villager. "Let any one travel through
the provinces," says a contemporary advocate, "over the estates
occupied by the seigniors. Out of one hundred one may be found
tyrannizing his dependents; all the others, patiently share the misery
of those subject to their jurisdiction . . . They give their debtors
time, remit sums due, and afford them every facility for settlement.
They mollify and temper the sometimes over-rigorous proceedings of the
fermiers, stewards and other men of business."[8] An Englishwoman, who
observes them in Provence just after the Revolution, says that,
detested at Aix, they are much beloved on their estates. "Whilst they
pass the first citizens with their heads erect and an air of disdain,
they salute peasants with extreme courtesy and affability." One of
them distributes among the women, children and the aged on his domain
wool and flax to spin during the bad season, and, at the end of the
year, he offers a prize of one hundred livres for the two best pieces
of cloth. In numerous instances the peasant-purchasers of their land
voluntarily restore it for the purchase money. Around Paris, near
Romainville, after the terrible storm of 1788 there is prodigal alms-
giving; "a very wealthy man immediately distributes forty thousand
francs among the surrounding unfortunates." During the winter, in
Alsace and in Paris, everybody is giving; "in front of each hotel
belonging to a well-known family a big log is burning to which, night
and day, the poor can come and warm themselves." In the way of
charity, the monks who remain on their premises and witness the public
misery continue faithful to the spirit of their institution. On the
birth of the Dauphin the Augustins of Montmorillon in Poitou pay out
of their own resources the tailles and corvées of nineteen poor
families. In 1781, in Provence, the Dominicans of Saint Maximin
support the population of their district in which the tempest had
destroyed the vines and the olive trees. "The Carthusians of Paris
furnish the poor with eighteen hundred pounds of bread per week.
During the winter of 1784 there is an increase of alms-giving in all
the religious establishments; their farmers distribute aid among the
poor people of the country, and, to provide for these extra
necessities, many of the communities increase the rigor of their
abstinences." When at the end of 1789, their suppression is in
question, I find a number of protests in their favor, written by
municipal officers, by prominent individuals, by a crowd of
inhabitants, workmen and peasants, and these columns of rustic
signatures are eloquent. Seven hundred families of Cateau-Cambrésis[9]
send in a petition to retain "the worthy abbés and monks of the Abbey
of St. Andrew, their common fathers and benefactors, who fed them
during the tempest." The inhabitants of St. Savin, in the Pyrénées,
"portray with tears of grief their consternation" at the prospect of
suppressing their abbey of Benedictines, the sole charitable
organization in this poor country. At Sierk, Thionville, "the
Chartreuse," say the leading citizens, "is, for us, in every respect,
the Ark of the Lord; it is the main support of from more than twelve
to fifteen hundred persons who come it every day in the week. This
year the monks have distributed amongst them their own store of grain
at sixteen livres less than the current price." The regular canons of
Domiévre, in Lorrraine, feed sixty poor persons twice a week; it is
essential to retain them, says the petition, "out of pity and
compassion for poor beings whose misery cannot be imagined; where
there no regular convents and canons in their dependency, the poor cry
with misery."[10] At Moutiers-Saint-John, near Sémur in Burgundy, the
Benedictines of Saint-Maur support the entire village and supply it
this year with food during the famine. Near Morley in Barrois, the
abbey of Auvey, of the Cistercian order, "was always, for every
village in the neighborhood, a bureau of charity." At Airvault, in
Poitou, the municipal officers, the colonel of the national guard, and
numbers of "peasants and inhabitants" demand the conservation of the
regular canons of St. Augustin. "Their existence," says the petition,
"is absolutely essential, as well for our town as for the country, and
we should suffer an irreparable loss in their suppression." The
municipality and permanent council of Soissons writes that the
establishment of Saint-Jean des Vignes "has always earnestly claimed
its share of the public charges. This is the institution which, in
times of calamity, welcomes homeless citizens and provides them with
subsistence. It alone bears the expenses of the assembly of the
bailiwick at the time of the election of deputies to the National
Assembly. A company of the regiment of Armagnac is actually lodged
under its roof. This institution is always found wherever sacrifices
are to be made." In scores of places declarations are made that the
monks are "the fathers of the poor." In the diocese of Auxerre, during
the summer of 1789, the Bernardines of Rigny "stripped themselves of
all they possessed in favor of the inhabitants of neighboring
villages: bread, grain, money and other supplies, have all been
lavished on about twelve hundred persons who, for more than six weeks,
never failed to present themselves at their door daily. . . Loans,
advances made on farms, credit with the purveyors of the house, all
has contributed to facilitating their means for relieving the people."
I omit many other traits equally forcible; we see that the
ecclesiastical and lay seigniors are not simple egoists when they live
at home. Man is compassionate of ills of which he is a witness;
absence is necessary to deaden their vivid impression; they move the
heart when the eye contemplates them. Familiarity, moreover, engenders
sympathy; one cannot remain insensible to the trials of a poor man to
whom, for over twenty years, one says good-morning every day on
passing him, with whose life one is acquainted, who is not an abstract
unit in the imagination, a statistical cipher, but a sorrowing soul
and a suffering body. - And so much the more because, since the
writings of Rousseau and the economists, a spirit of humanity, daily
growing stronger, more penetrating and more universal, has arisen to
soften the heart. Henceforth the poor are thought of, and it is
esteemed an honor to think of them. We have only to read the registers
of the States-General[11] to see that spirit of philanthropy spreads
from Paris even to the chateaux and abbeys of the provinces. I am
satisfied that, except for a few country squires, either huntsmen or
drinkers, carried away by the need of physical exercise, and confined
through their rusticity to an animal life, most of the resident
seigniors resembled, in fact or in intention, the gentry whom
Marmontel, in his moral tales, then brought on the stage. Fashion took
this direction, and people in France always follow the fashion. There
is nothing feudal in their characters; they are "sensible" people,
mild, very courteous, tolerably cultivated, fond of generalities, and
easily and quickly roused, and very much in earnest. For instance like
that amiable logician the Marquis de Ferrières, an old light-horseman,
deputy from Saumur in the National Assembly, author of an article on
Theism, a moral romance and genial memoirs of no great importance;
nothing could be more remote from the ancient harsh and despotic
temperament. They would be glad to relieve the people, and they try to
favor them as much as they can.[12] They are found detrimental, but they
are not wicked; the evil is in their situation and not in their
character. It is their situation, in fact, which, allowing them rights
without exacting services, debars them from the public offices, the
beneficial influence, the effective patronage by which they might
justify their advantages and attach the peasantry to them.

But on this ground the central government has taken their place.
For a long time now have they been rather feeble against the
intendant, unable to protect their parish. Twenty gentlemen cannot not
assemble and deliberate without the king's special permission.[13] If
those of Franche-Comté happen to dine together and hear a mass once a
year, it is through tolerance, and even then this harmless group may
assemble only in the presence of the intendant. Separated from his
equals, the seignior, again, is further away from his inferiors. The
administration of the village is of no concern to him; he is not even
tasked with its supervision. The apportionment of taxes, the militia
contingent, the repairs of the church, the summoning and presiding
over a parish assembly, the making of roads, the establishment of
charity workshops, all this is the intendant's business or that of the
communal officers whom the intendant appoints or directs.[14] Except
through his justiciary rights, so much curtailed, the seignior is an
idler in public matters.[15] If, by chance, he should desire to act in
an official capacity, to make some reclamation for the community, the
bureaus of administration would soon make him shut up. Since Louis
XIV, the higher officials have things their own way; all legislation
and the entire administrative system operate against the local
seignior to deprive him of his functional efficiency and to confine
him to his naked title. Through this separation of functions and title
his pride increases, as he becomes less useful. His vanity deprived of
its broad pasture-ground, falls back on a small one; henceforth he
seeks distinctions and not influence. He thinks only of precedence and
not of government.[16] In short, the local government, in the hands of
peasants commanded by bureaucrats, has become a common, offensive lot
of red tape. "His pride would be wounded if he were asked to attend to
it. Raising taxes, levying the militia, regulating the corvées, are
servile acts, the works of a secretary." He accordingly abstains,
remains isolated on his manor and leaves to others a task from which
he is excluded and which he disdains. Far from protecting his
peasantry he is scarcely able to protect himself or to preserve his
immunities. Or to avoid having his poll-tax and vingtiémes reduced. Or
to obtain exemption from the militia for his domestics, to keep his
own person, dwelling, dependents, and hunting and fishing rights from
the universal usurpation which places all possessions and all
privileges in the hands of "Monseigneur l'intendant" and Messieurs the
sub-delegates. And the more so because he is often poor. Bouillé
estimates that all the old families, save two or three hundred, are
ruined.[17] I Rouergue several of them live on an income of fifty and
even twenty-five louis, (1000 and 500 francs). In Limousin, says an
intendant at the beginning of the century, out of several thousands
there are not fifteen who have twenty thousand livres income. In
Berry, towards 1754, "three-fourths of them die of hunger." In
Franche-Comté the fraternity to which we have alluded appears in a
humorous light, "after the mass each one returning to his domicile,
some on foot and others on their Rosinantes." In Brittany "lots of
gentlemen found as excisemen, on the farms or in the lowest
occupations." One M. de la Morandais becomes the overseer of an
estate. A certain family with nothing but a small farm "attests its
nobility only by the pigeon-house; it lives like the peasants, eating
nothing but brown bread." Another gentleman, a widower, "passes his
time in drinking, living licentiously with his servants, and covering
butter-pots with the handsomest title-deeds of his lineage." All the
chevaliers de Châteaubriand," says the father, "were drunkards and
beaters of hares." He himself just makes shift to live in a miserable
way, with five domestics, a hound and two old mares " in a chateau
capable of accommodating a hundred seigniors with their suites." Here
and there in the various memoirs we see these strange superannuated
figures passing before the eye, for instance, in Burgundy, "gentlemen
huntsmen wearing gaiters and hob-nailed shoes, carrying an old rusty
sword under their arms dying with hunger and refusing to work."[18]
Elsewhere we encounter "M. de Pérignan, with his red garments, wig and
ginger face, having dry stone wails built on his domain, and getting
intoxicated with the blacksmith of the place;" related to Cardinal
Fleury, he is made the first Duc de Fleury.-Everything contributes to
this decay, the law, habits and customs, and, above all, the right of
primogeniture. Instituted for the purpose of maintaining undivided
sovereignty and patronage it ruins the nobles since sovereignty and
patronage have no material to work on. "In Brittany," says
Châteaubriand, "the elder sons of the nobles swept away two-thirds of
the property, while the younger sons shared in one-third of the
paternal heritage."[19] Consequently, "the younger sons of younger
sons soon come to the sharing of a pigeon, rabbit, hound and fowling-
piece. The entire fortune of my grandfather did not exceed five
thousand livres income, of which his elder son had two-thirds, three
thousand three hundred livres, leaving one thousand six hundred and
sixty-six livres for the three younger ones, upon which sum the elder
still had a préciput claim."[20] This fortune, which crumbles away and
dies out, they neither know how, nor are they disposed, to restore by
commerce, manufactures or proper administration of it; it would be
derogatory. "High and mighty seigniors of dove-cote, frog-pond and
rabbit-warren," the more substance they lack the more value they set
on the name.-Add to all this winter sojourn in town, the ceremonial
and expenses caused by vanity and social requirements, and the visits
to the governor and the intendant. A man must be either a German or an
Englishman to be able to pass three gloomy, rainy months in a castle
or on a farm, alone, in companionship with peasants, at the risk of
becoming as awkward and as fantastic as they.[21] They accordingly run
in debt, become involved, sell one piece of ground and then another
piece. A good many alienate the whole, excepting their small manor and
their seigniorial dues, the cens and the lods et ventes, and their
hunting and justiciary rights on the territory of which they were
formerly proprietors.[22] Since they must support themselves on these
privileges they must necessarily enforce them, even when the privilege
is burdensome, and even when the debtor is a poor man. How could they
remit dues in grain and in wine when these constitute their bread and
wine for the entire year? How could they dispense with the fifth and
the fifth of the fifth (du quint et du requint) when this is the only
coin they obtain? Why, being needy should they not be exacting?
Accordingly, in relation to the peasant, they are simply his
creditors; and to this end come the feudal régime transformed by the
monarchy. Around the chateau I see sympathies declining, envy raising
its head, and hatreds on the increase. Set aside in public matters,
freed from taxation, the seignior remains isolated and a stranger
among his vassals; his extinct authority with his unimpaired
privileges form for him an existence apart. When he emerges from it,
it is to forcibly add to the public misery. From this soil, ruined by
the tax-man, he takes a portion of its product, so much it, sheaves of
wheat and so many measures of wine. His pigeons and his game eat up
the crops. People are obliged to grind in his mill, and to leave with
him a sixteenth of the flour. The sale of a field for the sum of six
hundred livres puts one hundred livres into his pocket. A brother's
inheritance reaches a brother only after he has gnawed out of it a
year's income. A score of other dues, formerly of public benefit, no
longer serve but to support a useless private individual. The peasant,
then as today, is eager for gain, determined and accustomed to do and
to suffer everything to save or gain a crown. He ends by looking
angrily on the turret in which are preserved the archives, the rent-
roll, the detested parchments by means of which a Man of another
species, favored to the detriment of the rest, a universal creditor
and paid to do nothing, grazes over all the ground and feeds on all
the products. Let the opportunity come to enkindle all this
covetousness, and the rent-roll will burn, and with it the turret, and
with the turret, the chateau.

III. Absentee Seigniors.

Vast extent of their fortunes and rights.-Possessing greater
advantages they owe greater services.-Reasons for their absenteeism.-
Effect of it.-- Apathy of the provinces.-Condition of their estates.-
They give no alms.-Misery of their tenants.-Exactions of their
agents.-Exigencies of their debts. - State of their justiciary. -
Effects of their hunting rights. - Sentiments of the peasantry towards

The spectacle becomes still gloomier, on passing from the estates
on which the seigniors reside to those on which they are non-
residents. Noble or ennobled, lay and ecclesiastic, the latter are
privileged among the privileged, and form an aristocracy inside of an
aristocracy. Almost all the powerful and accredited families belong to
it whatever may be their origin and their date.[23] Through their
habitual or frequent residence near the court, through their alliances
or mutual visits, through their habits and their luxuries, through the
influence which they exercise and the enmities which they provoke,
they form a group apart, and are those who possess the most extensive
estates, the leading suzerainties, and the most complete and
comprehensive jurisdictions. Of the court nobility and of the higher
clergy, they number perhaps, a thousand in each order, while their
small number only brings out in higher relief the enormity of their
advantages. We have seen that the appanages of the princes of the
blood comprise a seventh of the territory; Necker estimates the
revenue of the estates enjoyed by the king's two brothers at two
millions.[24] The domains of the Ducs de Bouillon, d'Aiguillon, and
some others cover entire leagues, and, in immensity and continuity,
remind one of those, which the Duke of Sutherland and the Duke of
Bedford now possess in England. With nothing else than his forests and
his canal, the Duke of Orleans, before marrying his wife, as rich as
himself, obtains an income of a million. A certain seigniory, le
Clermontois, belonging to the Prince de Condé, contains forty thousand
inhabitants, which is the extent of a German principality; "moreover
all the taxes or subsidies occurring in le Clermontois are imposed for
the benefit of His Serene Highness, the king receiving absolutely
nothing."[25] Naturally authority and wealth go together, and, the
more an estate yields, the more its owner resembles a sovereign. The
archbishop of Cambray, Duc de Cambray, Comte de Cambrésis, possesses
the suzerainty over all the fiefs of a region which numbers over
seventy-five thousand inhabitants. He appoints one-half of the
aldermen of Cambray and the whole of the administrators of Cateau. He
nominates the abbots to two great abbeys, and presides over the
provincial assemblies and the permanent bureau, which succeeds them.
In short, under the intendant, or at his side, he maintains a pre-
eminence and better still, an influence somewhat like that to day
maintained over his domain by grand duke incorporated into the new
German empire. Near him, in Hainaut, the abbé of Saint-Armand
possesses seven-eighths of the territory of the provostship while
levying on the other eighth the seigniorial taxes of the corvées and
the dime. He nominates the provost of the aldermen, so that, in the
words of the grievances, "he composes the entire State, or rather he
is himself the State."[26] I should never end if I were to specify all
these big prizes. Let us select only those of the prelacy, and but one
particular side, that of money. In the "Almanach Royal," and in "La
France Ecclésiastique" for 1788, we may read their admitted revenues.
The veritable revenue, however, is one-half more for the bishoprics,
an double and triple for the abbeys; and we must again double the
veritable revenue in order to estimate its value in the money of to
day.[27]. The one hundred and thirty-one bishops and arch-bishops
possess in the aggregate 5, 600, 000 livres of episcopal income and
1,200,000 livres in abbeys, averaging 50,000 livres per head as in the
printed record, and in reality 100,000. A bishop thus, in the eyes of
his contemporaries, according to the statement of spectators cognizant
of the actual truth, was "a grand seignior, with an income of 100,000
livres."[28] Some of the most important sees are magnificently
endowed. That of Sens brings in 70,000 livres; Verdun, 74,000; Tours,
82,000; Beauvais, Toulouse and Bayeux, 90,000; Rouen, 100,000; Auch,
Metz and Albi, 120,000; Narbonne, 160,000; Paris and Cambray, 200,000
according to official reports, and probably half as much more in sums
actually collected. Other sees, less lucrative, are, proportionately,
still better provided. Imagine a small provincial town, oftentimes not
even a petty sub-prefecture of our times, - Conserans, Mirepoix,
Lavaur, Rieux, Lombez, Saint-Papoul, Comminges, Luçon, Sarlat, Mende,
Fréjus, Lescar, Belley, Saint-Malo, Tréguier, Embrun, Saint-Claude, -
and, in the neighborhood, less than two hundred, one hundred, and
sometimes even less than fifty parishes, and, as recompense for this
slight ecclesiastical surveillance, a prelate receiving from 25,000 to
70,000 livres, according to official statements; from 37,000 to
105,000 livres in actual receipts; and from 74,000 to 210,000 livres
in the money of to day. As to the abbeys, I count thirty-three of them
producing to the abbé from 25,000 to 120,000 livres, and twenty-seven
which bring from 20,000 to 100,000 livres to the abbess. Weigh these
sums taken from the Almanach, and bear in mind that they must be
doubled, and more, to obtain the real revenue, and be quadrupled, and
more, to obtain the actual value. It is evident, that, with such
revenues, coupled with the feudal rights, police, justiciary and
administrative, which accompany them, an ecclesiastic or lay grand
seignior is, in fact, a sort of prince in his district. He bears too
close a resemblance to the ancient sovereign to be entitled to live as
an ordinary individual. His private advantages impose on him a public
character. His rank, and his enormous profits, makes it incumbent on
him to perform proportionate services, and that, even under the sway
of the intendant, he owes to his vassals, to his tenants, to his
feudatories the support of his mediation, of his patronage and of his

To do this he must be in residence, but, generally, he is an
absentee. For a hundred and fifty years a kind of all-powerful
attraction diverts the grandees from the provinces and impels them
towards the capital. The movement is irresistible, for it is the
effect of two forces, the greatest and most universal that influence
mankind, one, a social position, and the other the national character.
A tree is not to be severed from its roots with impunity. Appointed to
govern, an aristocracy frees itself from the land when it no longer
rules. It ceases to rule the moment when, through increasing and
constant encroachments, almost the entire justiciary, the entire
administration, the entire police, each detail of the local or general
government, the power of initiating, of collaboration, of control
regarding taxation, elections, roads, public works and charities,
passes over into the hands of the intendant or of the sub-delegate,
under the supreme direction of the comptroller-general or of the
king's council.[29] Civil servants, men "of the robe and the quill,"
colorless commoners, perform the administrative work; there is no way
to prevent it. Even with the king's delegates, a provincial governor,
were he hereditary, a prince of the blood, like the Condés in
Burgundy, must efface himself before the intendant; he holds no
effective office; his public duties consist of showing off and
providing entertainment. Besides he would badly perform any others.
The administrative machine, with its thousands of hard, creaking and
dirty wheels, as Richelieu and Louis XIV, fashioned it, can work only
in the hands of workmen who may be dismissed at any time therefore
unscrupulous and prompt to give way to the judgment of the State. It
is impossible to allow oneself to get mixed up with rogues of that
description. He accordingly abstains, and abandons public affairs to
them. Unemployed, bored, what could he now do on his domain, where he
no longer reigns, and where dullness overpowers him? He betakes
himself to the city, and especially to the court. Moreover, only here
can he pursue a career; to be successful he has to become a courtier.
It is the will of the king, one must frequent his apartments to obtain
his favors; otherwise, on the first application for them the answer
will be, "Who is he? He is a man that I never see." In the king's eyes
there is no excuse for absence, even should the cause is a conversion,
with penitence for a motive. In preferring God to the king, he has
deserted. The ministers write to the intendants to ascertain if the
gentlemen of their province "like to stay at home," and if they
"refuse to appear and perform their duties to the king." Imagine the
grandeur of such attractions available at the court, governments,
commands, bishoprics, benefices, court-offices, survivor-ships,
pensions, credit, favors of every kind and degree for self and family.
All that a country of 25 millions men can offer that is desirable to
ambition, to vanity, to interest, is found here collected as in a
reservoir. They rush to it and draw from it. - And the more readily
because it is an agreeable place, arranged just as they would have it,
and purposely to suit the social aptitudes of the French character.
The court is a vast permanent drawing room to which " access is easy
and free to the king's subjects;" where they live with him, "in gentle
and virtuous society in spite of the almost infinite distance of rank
and power;" where the monarch prides himself on being the perfect
master of a household.[30] In fact, no drawing room was ever so well
kept up, nor so well calculated to retain its guests by every kind of
enjoyment, by the beauty, the dignity and the charm of its decoration,
by the selection of its company and by the interest of the spectacle.
Versailles is the only place to show oneself off; to make a figure, to
push one's way, to be amused, to converse or gossip at the head-
quarters of news, of activity and of public matters, with the élite of
the kingdom and the arbiters of fashion, elegance and taste. "Sire,"
said M. de Vardes to Louis XIV, "away from Your Majesty one not only
feels miserable but ridiculous." None remain in the provinces except
the poor rural nobility; to live there one must be behind the age,
disheartened or in exile. The king's banishment of a seignior to his
estates is the highest disgrace; to the humiliation of this fall is
added the insupportable weight of boredom. The finest chateau on the
most beautiful site is a frightful "desert"; nobody is seen there save
the grotesques of a small town or the village peasants.[31]

"Exile alone," says Arthur Young, "can force the French nobility to
do what the English prefer to do, and that is to live on their estates
and embellish them."

Saint-Simon and other court historians, on mentioning a ceremony,
repeatedly state that "all France was there"; in fact, every one of
consequence in France is there, and each recognizes the other by this
sign. Paris and the court become, accordingly, the necessary sojourn
of all fine people. In such a situation departure begets departure;
the more a province is forsaken the more they forsake it. "There is
not in the kingdom," says the Marquis de Mirabeau, "a single estate of
any size of which the proprietor is not in Paris and who,
consequently, neglects his buildings and chateaux."[32] The lay grand
seigniors have their hotels in the capital, their entresol at
Versailles, and their pleasure-house within a circuit of twenty
leagues; if they visit their estates at long intervals, it is to hunt.
The fifteen hundred commendatory abbés and priors enjoy their
benefices as if they were so many remote farms. The two thousand seven
hundred vicars and canons visit each other and dine out. With the
exception of a few apostolic characters the one hundred and thirty-one
bishops stay at home as little as they can; nearly all of them being
nobles, all of them men of society, what could they do out of the
world, confined to a provincial town? Can we imagine a grand seignior,
once a gay and gallant abbé and now a bishop with a hundred thousand
livres income, voluntarily burying himself for the entire year at
Mende, at Comminges, in a paltry cloister? The interval has become too
great between the refined, varied and literary life of the great
center, and the monotonous, inert, practical life of the provinces.
Hence it is that the grand seignior who withdraws from the former
cannot enter into the latter, and he remains an absentee, at least in

A country in which the heart ceases to impel the blood through its
veins presents a somber aspect. Arthur Young, who traveled over France
between 1787 and 1789, is surprised to find at once such a vital
center and such dead extremities. Between Paris and Versailles the
double file of vehicles going and coming extends uninterruptedly for
five leagues from morning till night.[33] The contrast on other roads
is very great. Leaving Paris by the Orleans road, says Arthur Young,
"we met not one stage or diligence for ten miles; only two messageries
and very few chaises, not a tenth of what would have been met had we
been leaving London at the same hour." On the highroad near Narbonne,
"for thirty-six miles," he says, "I came across but one cabriolet,
half a dozen carts and a few women leading asses." Elsewhere, near St.
Girons, he notices that in two hundred and fifty miles he encountered
in all, "two cabriolets and three miserable things similar to our old
one-horse post chaise, and not one gentleman." Throughout this country
the inns are execrable; it is impossible to hire a wagon, while in
England, even in a town of fifteen hundred or two thousand
inhabitants, there are comfortable hotels and every means of
transport. This proves that in France "there is no circulation." It is
only in very large towns that there is any civilization and comfort.
At Nantes there is a superb theater "twice as large as Drury-Lane and
five times as magnificent. Mon Dieu! I cried to myself, do all these
wastes, moors, and deserts, that I have passed for 300 miles lead to
this spectacle? . . . In a single leap you pass from misery to
extravagance, ...the country deserted, or if a gentleman in it, you
find him in some wretched hole to save that money which is lavished
with profusion in the luxuries of a capital." "A coach," says M. de
Montlosier, "set out weekly from the principal towns in the provinces
for Paris and was not always full, which tells us about the activity
in business. There was a single journal called the Gazette de France,
appearing twice a week, which represents the activity of minds."[34]
Some magistrates of Paris in exile at Bourges in 1753 and 1754 give
the following picture of that place:

"A town in which no one can be found with whom you can talk at
your ease on any topic whatever, reasonably or sensibly. The nobles,
three-fourths of them dying of hunger, rotting with pride of birth,
keeping apart from men of the robe and of finance, and finding it
strange that the daughter of a tax-collector, married to a counselor
of the parliament of Paris, should presume to be intelligent and
entertain company. The citizens are of the grossest ignorance, the
sole support of this species of lethargy in which the minds of most of
the inhabitants are plunged. Women, bigoted and pretentious, and much
given to play and to gallantry."[35]

In this impoverished and benumbed society, among these Messieurs
Thibaudeau, the counselor, and Harpin, the tax-collector, among these
vicomtes de Sotenville and Countesses d'Escarbagnas, lives the
Archbishop, Cardinal de Larochefoucauld, grand almoner to the king,
provided with four great abbeys, possessing five hundred thousand
livres income, a man of the world, generally an absentee, and when at
home, finding amusement in the embellishing of his gardens and palace,
in short, the golden pheasant of an aviary in a poultry yard of
geese.[36] Naturally there is an entire absence of political thought.
"You cannot imagine," says the manuscript, "a person more indifferent
to all public matters." At a later period, in the very midst of events
of the gravest character, and which most nearly concern them, there is
the same apathy. At Chateau-Thierry on the 4th of July, 1789,[37]
there is not a café in which a new paper can be found; there is but
one at Dijon; at Moulins, the 7th of August, "in the best café in the
town, where I found near twenty tables set for company, but as for a
newspaper I might as well have demanded an elephant." Between
Strasbourg and Besançon there is not a gazette. At Besançon there is
"nothing but the Gazette de France, for which, this period, a man of
common sense would not give one sol, . . . and the Courier de l'Europe
a fortnight old; and well-dressed people are now talking of the news
of two or three weeks past, and plainly by their discourse know
nothing of what is passing. At Clermont "I dined, or supped, five
times at the table d'hôte with from twenty to thirty merchants, trade
men, officers, etc., and it is not easy for me to express the
insignificance, - the inanity of their conversation. Scarcely any
politics are mentioned at a moment when every bosom ought to beat with
none but political sensations. The ignorance or the stupidity of these
people must be absolutely incredible; not a week passes without their
country abounding with events[38] that are analyzed an debated by the
carpenters and blacksmiths of England." The cause of this inertia is
manifest; interrogated on their opinions, all reply: "We are of the
provinces and we must wait to know what is going on in Paris." Never
having acted, they do no know how to act. But, thanks to this inertia,
they let themselves be driven. The provinces form an immense stagnant
pond, which, by a terrible inundation, may be emptied exclusively on
one side, and suddenly; the fault lies with the engineers who failed
to provide it with either dikes or outlets.

Such is the languor or, rather, the prostration, into which local
life falls when the local chiefs deprive it of their presence, action
or sympathy. I find only three or four grand seigniors taking a part
in it, practical philanthropists following the example of English
noblemen; the Duc d'Harcourt, who settles the lawsuits of his
peasants; the Duc de Larochefoucauld-Liancourt who establishes a model
farm on his domain, and a school of industrial pursuits for the
children of poor soldiers; and the Comte de Brienne, whose thirty
villages are to demand liberty of the Convention.[39] The rest, for
the most part liberals, content themselves with discussions on public
affairs and on political economy. In fact, the difference in manners,
the separation of interests, the remoteness of ideas are so great that
contact between those most exempt from haughtiness and their immediate
tenantry is rare, and at long intervals. Arthur Young, needing some
information at the house of the Duc de Larochefoucauld himself, the
steward is sent for. "At an English nobleman's, there would have been
three or four farmers asked to meet me, who would have dined with the
family amongst the ladies of the first rank. I do not exaggerate when
I say that I have had this at least an hundred times in the first
houses of our islands. It is, however, a thing that in the present
style of manners in France would not be met with from Calais to
Bayonne except, by chance, in the house of some great lord that had
been much in England, and then not unless it was asked for. The
nobility in France have no more idea of practicing agriculture, and
making it a subject of conversation, except on the mere theory, as
they would speak of a loom or a bowsprit, than of any other object the
most remote from their habits and pursuits." Through tradition,
fashion and deliberation, they are, and wish only to be, people of
society; their sole concern is to talk and to hunt. Never have the
leaders of men so unlearned the art of leading men; the art which
consists of marching along the same pathway with them, but at the
head, and directing their labor by sharing in it. - Our Englishman,
an eye-witness and competent, again writes: "Thus it is whenever you
stumble on a grand seignior, even one that was worth millions, you are
sure to find his property desert. Those of the Duc de Bouillon and of
the Prince de Soubise are two of the greatest properties in France;
and all the signs I have yet seen of their greatness are heaths,
moors, deserts, and brackens. Go to their residence, wherever it may
be, and you would probably find them in the midst of a forest very
well peopled with deer, wild boars and wolves." "The great
proprietors," says another contemporary,[40] "attracted to and kept in
our cities by luxurious enjoyments know nothing of their estates,"
save "of their agents whom they harass for the support of a ruinous
ostentation. How can ameliorations be looked for from those who even
refuse to keep things up and make indispensable repairs?" A sure proof
that their absence is the cause of the evil is found in the visible
difference between the domain worked under absent abbé-commendatory
and a domain superintended by monks living on the spot "The
intelligent traveler recognizes it" at first sight by the state of
cultivation. "If he finds fields well enclosed by ditches, carefully
planted, and covered with rich crops, these fields, he says to
himself; belong to the monks. Almost always, alongside of these
fertile plains, is an area of ground badly tilled and almost barren,
presenting a painful contrast; and yet the soil is the same, being two
portions of the same domain; he sees that the latter is the portion of
the abbé-commendatory." "The abbatial manse." said Lefranc de
Pompignan, "frequently looks like the property of a spendthrift; the
monastic manse is like a patrimony whereon nothing is neglected for
its amelioration," to such an extent that " the two-thirds " which the
abbé enjoys bring him less than the third reserved by his monks. - The
ruin or impoverishment of agriculture is, again, one of the effects of
absenteeism. There was, perhaps, one-third of the soil in France,
which, deserted as in Ireland, was as badly tilled, as little
productive as in Ireland in the hands of the rich absentees, the
English bishops, deans and nobles.

Doing nothing for the soil, how could they do anything for men? Now
and then, undoubtedly, especially with farms that pay no rent, the
steward writes a letter, alleging the misery of the farmer. There is
no doubt, also, that, especially for thirty years back, they desire to
be humane; they descant among themselves about the rights of man; the
sight of the pale face of a hungry peasant would give them pain. But
they never see him; does it ever occur to them to fancy what it is
like under the awkward and complimentary phrases of their agent?
Moreover, do they know what hunger is? Who amongst them has had any
rural experiences? And how could they picture to themselves the misery
of this forlorn being? They are too remote from him to that, too
ignorant of his mode of life. The portrait they conceive of him is
imaginary; never was there a falser representation of the peasant;
accordingly the awakening is to be terrible. They view him as the
amiable swain, gentle, humble and grateful, simple-hearted and right-
minded, easily led, being conceived according to Rousseau and the
idylls performed at this very epoch in all private drawing rooms.[41]
Lacking a knowledge him they overlook him; they read the steward's
letter and immediately the whirl of high life again seizes them and,
after a sigh bestowed on the distress of the poor, they make up their
minds that their income for the year will be short. A disposition of
this kind is not favorable to charity. Accordingly, complaints arise,
not against the residents but against the absentees.[42] "The
possessions of the Church, says a letter, serve only to nourish the
passions of their holders." "According to the canons, says another
memorandum, every beneficiary must give a quarter of his income to the
poor; nevertheless in our parish there is a revenue of more than
twelve thousand livres, and none of it is given to the poor unless it
is some small matter at the hands of the curate." "The abbé de Conches
gets one-half of the tithes and contributes nothing to the relief of
the parish." Elsewhere, "the chapter of Ecouis, which owns the
benefice of the tithes is of no advantage to the poor, and only seeks
to augment its income." Nearby, the abbé of Croix-Leufroy, "a heavy
tithe-owner, and the abbé de Bernay, who gets fifty-seven thousand
livres from his benefice, and who is a non-resident, keep all and
scarcely give enough to their officiating curates to keep them alive."
"I have in my parish, says a curate of Berry,[43] six simple benefices
of which the titularies are always absent. They enjoy together an
income of nine thousand livres; I sent them in writing the most urgent
entreaties during the calamity of the past year; I received from one
them two louis only, and most of them did not even answer me."
Stronger is the reason for a conviction that in ordinary times they
will make no remission of their dues. Moreover, these dues, the
censives, the lods et ventes, tithes, and the like, are in the hands
of a steward, and he is a good steward who returns a large amount of
money. He has no right to be generous at his master's expense, and he
is tempted to turn the subjects of his master to his own profit. In
vain might the soft seignorial hand be disposed to be easy or
paternal; the hard hand of the proxy bears down on the peasants with
all its weight, and the caution of a chief gives place to the
exactions of a clerk.- How is it then when, instead of a clerk on the
domain, a fermier is found, an adjudicator who, for an annual sum,
purchases of seignior the management and product of his dues? In
election of Mayenne,[44] and certainly also in many others, the
principal domains are rented in this way. Moreover there are a number
of dues, like the tolls, the market-place tax, that on the flock
apart, the monopoly of the oven and of the mill which can scarcely be
managed otherwise; the seignior must necessarily employ an adjudicator
who spares him the disputes and trouble of collecting.[45] This
happens often and the demands and the greed of the contractor, who is
determined to gain or, at least, not to lose, falls on the peasantry:

"He is a ravenous wolf," says Renauldon, "let loose on the estate.
He draws upon it to the last sou, he crushes the subjects, reduces
them to beggary, forces the cultivators to desert. The owner, thus
rendered odious, finds himself obliged to tolerate his exactions to
able to profit by them."

Imagine, if you can, the evil which a country usurer exercises,
armed against them with such burdensome rights; it is the feudal
seigniory in the hands of Harpagon, or rather of old Grandet. When,
indeed, a tax becomes insupportable we see, by the local complaints,
that it is nearly always a fermier who enforces it.[46] It is one of
these, acting for a body of canons, who claims Jeanne Mermet's
paternal inheritance on the pretense that she had passed her wedding
night at her husband's house. One can barely find similar exactions in
the Ireland of 1830, on those estates where, the farmer-general
renting to sub-farmers and the latter to others still below them. The
poor tenant at the foot of the ladder himself bore the full weight of
it, so much the more crushed because his creditor, crushed himself
measured the requirements he exacted by those he had to submit to.

Suppose that, seeing this abuse of his name, the seignior is
desirous of withdrawing the administration of his domains from these
mercenary hands. In most cases he is unable to do it: he too deeply in
debt, having appropriated to his creditors a certain portion of his
land, a certain branch of his income. For centuries, the nobles are
involved through their luxury, their prodigality, their carelessness,
and through that false sense of honor, which consists in looking upon
attention to accounts as the occupation of an accountant. They take
pride in their negligence, regarding it, as they say, living
nobly.[47] "Monsieur the archbishop," said Louis XVI. to M. de Dillon,
." they say that you are in debt, and even largely." "Sire," replied
the prelate, with the irony of a grand seignior, "I will ask my
intendant and inform Your Majesty." Marshal de Soubise has five
hundred thousand livres income, which is not sufficient for him. We
know the debts of the Cardinal de Rohan and of the Comte Artois;[48]
their millions of income were vainly thrown into this gulf. The Prince
de Guémenée happens to become bankrupt on thirty-five millions. The
Duke of Orleans, the richest proprietor in the kingdom, owed at his
death seventy-four millions. When became necessary to pay the
creditors of the emigrants out of the proceeds of their possessions,
it was proved that most of the large fortunes were eaten up with
mortgages.[49] Readers of the various memoirs know that, for two
hundred years, the deficiencies bad to be supplied by marriages for
money and by the favors of the king. - This explains why, following
the king's example, the nobles converted everything into money, and
especially the places at their disposition, and, in relaxing authority
for profit, why they alienated the last fragment of government
remaining in their hands. Everywhere they thus laid aside the
venerated character of a chief to put on the odious character of a
trafficker. "Not only," says a contemporary,[50] "do they give no pay
to their officers of justice, or take them at a discount, but, what is
worse, the greater portion of them make a sale of these offices." In
spite of the edict of 1693, the judges thus appointed take no steps to
be admitted into the royal courts and they take no oaths. "What is the
result? Justice, too often administered by knaves, degenerates into
brigandage or into a frightful impunity." - Ordinarily the seignior
who sells the office on a financial basis, deducts, in addition, the
hundredth, the fiftieth, the tenth of the price, when it passes into
other hands; and at other times he disposes of the survivorship. He
creates these offices and survivorships purposely to sell them. "All
the seigniorial courts, say the registers, are infested with a crowd
of officials of every description, seigniorial sergeants, mounted and
unmounted officers, keepers of the provostship of the funds, guards of
the constabulary. It is by no means rare to find as many as ten in an
arrondissement which could hardly maintain two if they confined
themselves within the limits of their duties." Also "they are at the
same time judges, attorneys, fiscal-attorneys, registrars, notaries,"
each in a different place, each practicing in several seigniories
under various titles, all perambulating, all in league like thieves at
a fair, and assembling together in the taverns to plan, prosecute and
decide. Sometimes the seignior, to economize, confers the title on one
of his own dependents: "At Hautemont, in Hainaut, the fiscal-attorney
is a domestic." More frequently he nominates some starveling advocate
of a petty village in the neighborhood on wages which would not
suffice to keep him alive a week." He indemnifies himself out of the
peasants. Processes of chicanery, delays and willful complications in
the proceedings, sittings at three livres the hour for the advocate
and three livres the hour for the bailiff. The black brood of judicial
leeches suck so much the more eagerly, because the more numerous, a
still more scrawny prey, having paid for the privilege of sucking
it.[51] The arbitrariness, the corruption, the laxity of such a régime
can be divined. "Impunity," says Renauldon, "is nowhere greater than
in the seigniorial tribunals . . . . The foulest crimes obtain no
consideration there," for the seignior dreads supplying the means for
a criminal trial, while his judges or prosecuting attorneys fear that
they will not be paid for their proceedings. Moreover, his jail is
often a cellar under the chateau; "there is not one tribunal out of a
hundred in conformity with the law in respect of prisons;" their
keepers shut their eyes or stretch out their hands. Hence it is that
"his estates become the refuge of all the scoundrels in the canton."
The effect of his indifference is terrible and it is to react against
him: to-morrow, at the club, the attorneys whom he has multiplied will
demand his head, and the bandits whom he has tolerated will place it
on the end of a pike.

One-point remains, the chase, wherein the noble's jurisdiction is
still active and severe, and it is just the point which is found the
most offensive. Formerly, when one-half of the canton consisted of
forest, or waste land, while the other half was being ravaged by wild
beasts, he was justified in reserving the right to hunt them; it
entered into his function as local captain. He was the hereditary
gendarme, always armed, always on horseback, as well against wild
boars and wolves as against rovers and brigands. Now that nothing is
left to him of the gendarme but the title and the epaulettes he
maintains his privilege through tradition, thus converting a service
into an annoyance. Hunt he must, and he alone must hunt; it is a
physical necessity and, it the same time, a sign of his blood. A
Rohan, a Dillon, chases the stag although belonging to the church, in
spite of edicts and in spite of the canons. "You hunt too much," said
Louis XV.[52] to the latter; "I know something about it. How can you
prohibit your curates from hunting if you pass your life in setting
them such an example? - Sire, for my curates the chase is a fault, for
myself it is the fault of my ancestors." When the vanity and arrogance
of caste thus mounts guard over a right it is with obstinate
vigilance. Accordingly, their captains of the chase, their game-
keepers, their wood-rangers, their forest-wardens protect brutes as if
they were men, and hunt men as if they were brutes. In the bailiwick
of Pont-l'Evèque in 1789 four instances are cited "of recent
assassinations committed by the game-keepers of Mme. d'A----, -Mme. N-
---, a prelate and a marshal of France, on commoners caught breaking
the game laws or carrying guns. All four publicly escape punishment."
In Artois, a parish makes declaration that "on the lands of the
Chattellany the game devours all the avêtis (pine saplings) and that
the growers of them will be obliged to abandon their business." Not
far off; at Rumancourt, at Bellone, "the hares, rabbits and partridges
entirely devour them, Count d'Oisy never hunting nor having hunts." In
twenty villages in the neighborhood around Oisy where he hunts it is
on horseback and across the crops. "His game-keepers, always armed,
have killed several persons under the pretense of watching over their
master's rights. . . . The game, which greatly exceeds that of the
royal captaincies, consumes annually all prospects of a crop, twenty
thousand razières of wheat and as many of other grains." In the
bailiwick of Evreux "the game has just destroyed everything up to the
very houses. . . . On account of the game the citizen is not free to
pull up the weeds in summer which clog the grain and injure the seed
sown. . . . How many women are there without husbands, and children
without fathers, on account of a poor hare or rabbit!" The game-
keepers of the forest of Gouffray in Normandy "are so terrible that
they maltreat, insult and kill men. . . . I know of farmers who,
having pleaded against the lady to be indemnified for the loss of
their wheat, not only lost their time but their crops and the expenses
of the trial. . . . Stags and deer are seen roving around our houses
in open daylight." In the bailiwick of Domfront, "the inhabitants of
more than ten parishes are obliged to watch all night for more than
six months of the year to secure their crops.[53] -This is the effect
of tile right of the chase in the provinces. It is, however, in the
Ile-de-France, where captaincies abound, and become more extensive,
that the spectacle is most lamentable. A procés-verba1 shows that in
the single parish of Vaux, near Meulan, the rabbits of warrens in the
vicinity ravage eight hundred cultivated arpents (acres) of ground and
destroy the crops of two thousand four hundred setiers (three acres
each), that is to say, the annual supplies of eight hundred persons.
Near that place, at la Rochette, herds of deer and of stags devour
everything in the fields during the day, and, at night, they even
invade the small gardens of the inhabitants to consume vegetables and
to break down young trees. It is found impossible in a territory
subjected to a captaincy to retain vegetables safe in gardens,
enclosed by high walls. At Farcy, of five hundred peach trees planted
in a vineyard and browsed on by stags, only twenty remain at the end
of three years. Over the whole territory of Fontainebleau, the
communities, to save their vines, are obliged to maintain, with the
assent always of the captaincy, a gang of watchmen who, with licensed
dogs, keep watch and make a hubbub all night from the first of May to
the middle of October. At Chartrettes the deer cross the Seine,
approach the doors of the Comtesse de Larochefoucauld and destroy
entire plantations of poplars. A domain rented for two thousand livres
brings in only four hundred after the establishment of the captaincy
of Versailles. In short, eleven regiments of an enemy's cavalry,
quartered on the eleven captaincies near the capital, and starting out
daily to forage, could not do more mischief. - We need not be
surprised if, in the neighborhood of these lairs, the people become
weary of cultivating.[54] Near Fontainebleau and Melun, at Bois-le-
Roi, three-quarters of the ground remains waste. Almost all the houses
in Brolle are in ruins, only half-crumbling gables being visible; at
Coutilles and at Chapelle-Rablay, five farms are abandoned; at
Arbonne, numerous fields are neglected. At Villiers, and at Dame-
Marie, where there were four farming companies and a number of special
cultures, eight hundred arpents remain untilled. - Strange to say, as
the century becomes more easygoing the enforcement of the chase
becomes increasingly harsh. The officers of the captaincy are zealous
because they labor under the eye and for the "pleasures" of their
master. In 1789, eight hundred preserves had just been planted in one
single canton of the captaincy of Fontainebleau, and in spite of the
proprietors of the soil. According to the regulations of 1762 every
private individual domiciled on the reservation of a captaincy is
forbidden from enclosing his homestead or any ground whatever with
hedges or ditches, or walls without a special permit.[55] In case of a
permit being given he must leave a wide, open and continuous space in
order to let the huntsmen easily pass through. He is not allowed to
keep any ferret, any fire-arm, any instrument adapted to the chase,
nor to be followed by any dog even if not adapted to it, except the
dog be held by a leash or clog fastened around its neck. And better
still. He is forbidden to reap his meadow or his Lucerne before St.
John's day, to enter his own field between the first of May and the
twenty-fourth of June, to visit any island in the Seine, to cut grass
on it or osiers, even if the grass and osiers belong to him. The
reason is, that now the partridge is hatching and the legislator
protects it; he would take less pains for a woman in confinement; the
old chroniclers would say of him, as with William Rufus, that his
bowels are paternal only for animals. Now, in France, four hundred
square leagues of territory are subject to the control of the
captaincies,[56] and, over all France, game, large or small, is the
tyrant of the peasant. We may conclude, or rather listen to the
people's conclusion. "Every time," says M. Montlosier, in 1789,[57]
"that I chanced to encounter herds of deer or does on my road my
guides immediately shouted: 'Make room for the gentry!' in this way
alluding to the ravages committed by them on their land." Accordingly,
in the eyes of their subjects, they are wild animals. - This shows to
what privileges can lead when divorced from duties. In this manner an
obligation to protect degenerates into a right of devastation. Thus do
humane and rational beings act, unconsciously, like irrational and
inhuman beings. Divorced from the people they misuse them; nominal
chiefs, they have unlearned the function of an effective chief; having
lost all public character they abate nothing of their private
advantages. So much the worse for the canton, and so much worse for
themselves. The thirty or forty poachers whom they prosecute to day on
their estates will march to-morrow to attack their chateaux at the
head of an insurrection. The absence of the masters, the apathy of the
provinces, the bad state of cultivation, the exactions of agents, the
corruption of the tribunals, the vexations of the captaincies,
indolence, the indebtedness and exigencies of the seignior, desertion,
misery, the brutality and hostility of vassals, all proceeds from the
same cause and terminates in the same effect.

When sovereignty becomes transformed into a sinecure it becomes
burdensome without being useful, and on becoming burdensome without
being useful it is overthrown.

[1]. Beugnot, "Mémoires," V. I. p.292. - De Tocqueville, "L'Ancien
Régime et la Révolution."

[2]. Arthur Young, "Travels in France," II. 456. In France, he
says, it is from the eleventh to the thirty-second. "But nothing is
known like the enormities committed in England where the tenth is
really taken."

[3]. Saint-Simon, "Mémoires," ed. Chéruel, vol. I. - Lucas de
Montigny, "Mémoires de Mirabeau," I. 53-182. - Marshal Marmont,
"Mémoires," I. 9, 11. - Châteaubriand, "Mémoires," I. 17. De
Montlosier, "Mémoires," 2 vol. passim. - Mme. de Larochejacquelein,
"Souvenirs," passim. Many details concerning the types of the old
nobility will be found in these passages. They are truly and forcibly
depicted in two novels by Balzac in "Beatrix," (the Baron de Guénic)
and in the "Cabinet des Antiques," (the Marquis d' Esgrignon).

[4]. A letter of the bailiff of Mirabeau, 1760, published by M. de
Loménie in the "Correspondant," V. 49, p.132.

[5]. Mme. de Larochejacquelein, ibid. I. 84. "As M. de Marigny had
some knowledge of the veterinary art the peasants of the canton came
after him when they had sick animals."

[6]. Marquis de Mirabeau, "Traité de la Population," p. 57.

[7]. De Tocqueville, ibid. p.180. This is proved by the registers
of the capitation-tax which was paid at the actual domicile.

[8]. Renauldon, ibid.., Preface p. 5. - Anne Plumptre, "A narrative
of three years residence in France from 1802 to 1805." II. 357. --
Baroness Oberkirk, "Mémoires," II. 389. - "De l'état religieux," by
the abbés Bonnefoi and Bernard, 1784, p. 295. - Mme.Vigée-Lébrun,
"Souvenirs," p.171.

[9]. Archives nationales, D, XIX. portfolios 14, 15, 25. Five
bundles of papers are filled with these petitions.

[10]. Ibid. D, XIX. portfolio 11. An admirable letter by Joseph of
Saintignon, abbé of Domiévre, general of the regular canons of Saint-
Sauveur and a resident. He has 23,000 livres income, of which 6,066
livres is a pension from the government, in recompense for his
services. His personal expenditure not being over 5,000 livres "he is
in a situation to distribute among the poor and the workmen, in the
space of eleven years, more than 250,000 livres."

[11]. On the conduct and sentiments of lay and ecclesiastical
seigniors cf. Léonce de Lavergne, "Les Assemblées provinciales," I
vol. Legrand, "L'intendance du Hainaut," I vol. Hippeau, "Le
Gouvernement de Normandie," 9 vols.

[12]. "The most active sympathy filled their breasts; that which an
opulent man most dreaded was to be regarded as insensible."
(Lacretelle, vol. V. p. 2.)

[13]. Floquet, "Histoire du Parlement de Normandie," vol. VI.
p.696. In 1772 twenty-five gentlemen and imprisoned or exiled for
having signed a protest against the orders of the court.

[14]. De Tocqueville, ibid. pp. 39, 56, 75, 119, 184. He has
developed this point with admirable force and insight.

[15]. De Tocqueville, ibid. p.376. Complaints of the provincial
assembly of Haute-Guyenne. "People complain daily that there is no
police in the rural districts. How could there be one? The nobles
takes no interest in anything, excepting a few just and benevolent
seigniors who take advantage of their influence with vassals to
prevent affrays."

[16]. Records of the States-General of 1789. Many of the registers
of the noblesse consist of the requests by nobles, men and women, of
some honorary distinctive mark, for instance a cross or a ribbon which
will make them recognizable.

[17]. De Boullé, "Mémoires," p.50. - De Toqueville, ibid.. pp. 118,
119. - De Loménie, "Les Mirabeau, " p. 132. A letter of the bailiff of
Mirabeau, 1760. - De Châteaubriand, Mémoires," I. 14, 15, 29, 76, 80,
125. - Lucas de Montigny, "Mémoires de Mirabeau," I. 160. - Reports of
the Société du Berry. "Bourges en 1753 et 1754," according to a diary
(in the national archives), written by one of the exiled
parliamentarians, p. 273.

[18]. "La vie de mon père," by Rétif de la Bretonne, I. 146.

[19]. The rule is analogous with the other coutumes (common-law
rules), of other places and especially in Paris. (Renauldon, ibid.. p.

[20]. A sort of dower right. TR.

[21]. Mme. d'Oberkirk, "Mémoires," I. 395.

[22]. De Bouillé, "Mémoires," p. 50. According to him, "all the
noble old families, excepting two or three hundred, were ruined. A
larger portion of the great titled estates had become the appanage of
financiers, merchants and their descendants. The fiefs, for the most
part, were in the hands of the bourgeoisie of the towns." - Léonce de
Lavergne, "Economie rurale en France," p. 26. "The greatest number
vegetated in poverty in small country fiefs often not worth more than
2,000 or 3,000 francs a year." - In the apportionment of the indemnity
in 1825, many received less than 1,000 francs. The greater number of
indemnities do not exceed 50,000 francs. - "The throne," says
Mirabeau, "is surrounded only by ruined nobles."

[23]. De Bouillé, "Memoires," p. 50. - Cherin, "Abrégé
chronologique des édits" (1788). "Of this innumerable multitude
composing the privileged order scarcely a twentieth part of it can
really pretend to nobility of an immemorial and ancient date." - 4,070
financial, administrative, and judicial offices conferred nobility. -
Turgot, "Collection des Economistes," II. 276. "Through the facilities
for acquiring nobility by means of money there is no rich man who does
not at once become noble." - D'Argenson, "Mémoires," III. 402.

[24]. Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," II. 271. Legrand,
"L'Intendance de Hainaut," pp. 104, 118, 152, 412.

[25]. Even after the exchange of 1784, the prince retains for
himself "all personal impositions as well as subventions on the
inhabitants," except a sum of 6,000 livres for roads. Archives
Nationales, G, 192, a memorandum of April 14th, 1781, on the state of
things in the Clermontois. - Report of the provincial assembly of the
Three Bishoprics (1787), p. 380.

[26]. The town of St. Amand, alone, contains to day 10,210

[27]. See note 3 at the end of the volume.

[28]. De Ferrières, "Mémoires," II. 57: "All had 100,000 some 200,
300, and even 800,000."

[29]. De Tocqueville, ibid.. book 2, Chap. 2. p.182. - Letter of
the bailiff of Mirabau, August 23, 1770. "This feudal order was merely
vigorous, even though they have pronounced it barbarous, because
France, which once had the vices of strength, now has only those of
feebleness, and because the flock which was formerly devoured by
wolves is now eaten up with lice. . . . Three or four kicks or blows
with a stick were not half so injurious to a poor man's family, nor to
himself, as being devoured by six rolls of handwriting." - "The
nobility," says St. Simon, in his day, "has become another people with
no choice left it but to crouch down in mortal and ruinous indolence,
which renders it a burden and contemptible, or to go and be killed in
warfare; subject to the insults of clerks, secretaries of the state
and the secretaries of intendants." Such are the complaints of feudal
spirits. - The details which follow are all derived from Saint Simon,
Dangeau, de Luynes, d'Argenson and other court historians.

[30]. Works of Louis XIV. and his own words. - Mme Vigée-Lebrun,
"Souvenirs," I.71: "I have seen the queen (Marie Antoinette), obliging
Madame to dine, then six years of age, with a little peasant girl whom
she was taking care of, and insisting that this little one should he
served first, saying to her daughter: 'You must do the honors.' "
(Madame is the title given to the king's oldest daughter. SR.)

[31]. Molière, "Misanthrope." This is the "desert" in which
Célimène refuses to he buried with Alceste. See also in "Tartuffe" the
picture which Dorine draws of a small town.- Arthur Young," Voyages en
France," I. 78.

[32]. 'Traité de la Population," p. 108, (1756).

[33]. I have this from old people who witnessed it before 1789.

[34]. "Mémoires" de M. de Montlosier," I. p. 161,.

[35]. Reports of the Société de Berry, "Bourges en 1753 et 1754,"
p. 273.

[36]. Ibid.. p. 271. One day the cardinal, showing his guests over
his palace just completed, led them to the bottom of a corridor where
he had placed water closets, at that time a novelty. M. Boutin de la
Coulommière, the son of a receiver-general of the finances, made an
exclamation at the sight of the ingenious mechanism which it pleased
him to see moving, and, turning towards the abbé de Canillac, he says:
"That is really admirable, but what seems to me still more admirable
is that His Eminence, being above all human weakness, should
condescend to make use of it." This anecdote is valuable, as it serves
to illustrate the rank and position of a grand-seignior prelate in the

[37]. Arthur Young, V.II. P.230 and the following pages.

[38]. Abolition of the tithe, the feudal rights, the permission to
kill the game, etc.

[39]. De Loménie, "Les Mirabeau," p.134. A letter of the bailiff,
September 25, 1760: "I am at Harcourt, where I admire the master's
honest, benevolent greatness. You cannot imagine my pleasure on fête
days at seeing the people everywhere around the château, and the good
little peasant boys and girls looking right in the face of their good
landlord and almost pulling his watch off to examine the trinkets on
the chain, and all with a fraternal air; without familiarity. The good
duke does not make his vassals to go to court; he listens to them and
decides for them, humoring them with admirable patience." Lacretelle,
"Dix ans d'épreuve," p. 58.

[40]. "De l'état religieux," by the abbés de Bonnefoi et Bernard,
1784, I. pp. 287, 291.

[41]. See on this subject "La partie de chasse de Henri IV" by
Collé. Cf. Berquin, Florian, Marmontel, etc, and likewise the
engravings of that day.

[42]. Boivin-Champeaux, "Notice historique sue la Révolution dans
le département de l'Eure," p. 63, 61.

[43]. Archives nationales, Reports of the States-General of 1789,
T, XXXIX., p. 111. Letter of the 6th March, 1789, from the curate of
St. Pierre de Ponsigny, in Berry. D'Argenson, 6th July, 1756. "The
late cardinal de Soubise had three millions in cash and he gave
nothing to the poor."

[44]. De Tocqueville, ibid.. 405. - Renauldon, ibid.. 628.

[45]. The example is set by the king who sells to the farmer-
generals, for an annual sum, the management and product of the
principal indirect taxes.

[46]. Voltaire, "Politique et Législation, La voix du Curé," (in
relation to the serfs of St. Claude). - A speech of the Duke
d'Aiguillon, August 4th, 1789, in the National Assembly: "The
proprietors of fiefs, of seigniorial estates, are rarely guilty of the
excesses of which their vassals complain; but their agents are often

[47]. Beugnot. "Mémoires," V. I. p.136. - Duc de Lévis, "Souvenirs
et portraits," p. 156. - "Moniteur," the session of November 22,
1872, M. Bocher says: "According to the statement drawn up by order of
the Convention the Duke of Orleans's fortune consisted of 74,000,000
of indebtedness and 140,000,000 of assets." On the 8th January, 1792,
he had assigned to his creditors 38,000,000 to obtain his discharge.

[48]. King Louis the XVI's brother. (SR.)

[49]. In 1785, the Duke de Choiseul In his testament estimated his
property at fourteen millions and his debts at ten millions. (Comte de
Tilly, "Mémoires," II. 215.)

[50]. Renauldon, ibid.. 45, 52, 628. - Duvergier, "Collection des
Lois," II. 391; law of August 31; - October 18, 1792. - Statements
(cahier) of grievances of a magistrate of the Chatelet on seigniorial
courts (1789), p. 29. - Legrand, " l'Intendance du Hainaut," p.119.

[51]. Archives Nationales, H, 654 ("Mémoire" by René de Hauteville,
advocate to the Parliament, Saint-Brieuc, October 5, 1776.) In
Brittany the number of seigniorial courts is immense, the pleaders
being obliged to pass through four or five jurisdictions before
reaching the Parliament. "Where is justice rendered? In the cabaret,
in the tavern, where, amidst drunkards and riff-raff, the judge sells
justice to whoever pays the most for it."

[52]. Beugnot, "Mémoires," vol. I. p. 35.

[53]. Boivin-Champeaux, ibid.. 48. - Renauldon, 26, 416. -
Manuscript reports of the States-general (Archives nationales), t.
CXXXII. pp. 896 and 901. - Hippeau, "Le Gouvernement de Normandie,"
VII. 61, 74. - Paris, "La Jeunesse de Robespierre," pp.314-324. -
"Essai sur les capitaineries royales et autres," (1789) passim. - De
Loménie, "Beaumarchais et son emps," I. 125. Beaumarchais having
purchased the office of lieutenant-general of the chase in the
bailiwicks of the Louvre warren (twelve to fifteen leagues in
circumference. approx. 60 km. SR.) tries delinquents under this title.
July 15th, 1766, he sentences Ragondet, a farmer to a fine of one
hundred livres together with the demolition of the walls around an
enclosure, also of his shed newly built without license, as tending to
restrict the pleasures of the king.

[54]. Marquis D'Argenson, "Mémoires," ed. Rathery, January 27,
1757. "The sieur de Montmorin, captain of the game-preserves of
Fontainebleau, derives from his office enormous sums, and behaves
himself like a bandit. The population of more than a hundred villages
around no longer sow their land, the fruits and grain being eaten by
deer; stags and other game. They keep only a few vines, which they
preserve six months of the year by mounting guard day and night with
drums, making a general turmoil to frighten off the destructive
animals." January 23, 1753. - " M. le Prince de Conti has established
a captainry of eleven leagues around Ile-Adam and where everybody is
vexed at it." September 23, 1753. - M. le Duc d'Orléans came to
Villers-Cotterets, he has revived the captainry; there are more than
sixty places for sale on account of these princely annoyances.

[55]. The old peasants with whom I once have talked still had a
clear memory of these annoyances and damages. - They recounted how, in
the country around Clermont, the gamekeepers of Prince de Condé in the
springtime took litters of wolves and raised them in the dry moats of
the chateau. They were freed in the beginning of the winter, and the
wolf hunting team would then hunt them later. But they ate the sheep,
and, here and there, a child.

[56]. The estates of the king encompassed in forest one million
acres, not counting forests in the appanages set aside for his eldest
son or for factories or salt works.

[57]. De Montlosier, "Mémoires," I. 175.


I. England compared to France.

An English example. - The Privileged class renders no service in
France. - The influence and rights which remain to them. - They use it
only for themselves.

USELESS in the canton, they might have been useful at the Center of
the State, and, without taking part in the local government, they
might have served in the general government. Thus does a lord, a
baronet, a squire act in England, even when not a "justice" of his
county or a committee-man in his parish. Elected a member of the Lower
House, a hereditary member of the upper house, he holds the strings of
the public purse and prevents the sovereign from spending too freely.
Such is the régime in countries where the feudal seigniors, instead of
allowing the sovereign to ally himself with the people against them,
allied themselves with the people against the sovereign. To protect
their own interests better they secured protection for the interests
of others, and, after having served as the representatives of their
compeers they became the representatives of the nation. Nothing of
this kind takes place in France. The States-General are fallen into
desuetude, and the king may with truth declare himself the sole
representative of the country. Like trees rendered lifeless under the
shadow of a gigantic oak, other public powers perish through his
growth; whatever still remains of these encumbers the ground, and
forms around him a circle of clambering briers or of decaying trunks.
One of them, the Parliament, an offshoot simply of the great oak,
sometimes imagined itself in possession of a root of its own; but its
sap was too evidently derivative for it to stand by itself and provide
the people with an independent shelter. Other bodies, surviving,
although stunted, the assembly of the clergy and the provincial
assemblies, still protect an order, and four or five provinces; but
this protection extends only to the order itself or to the province,
and, if it protects a special interest it is commonly at the expense
of the general interest.

II. The Clergy

Assemblies of the clergy. - They serve only ecclesiastical
interests. - The clergy exempted from taxation. - Solicitation of its
agents. - Its zeal against the Protestants.

Let us observe the most vigorous and the best-rooted of these
bodies, the assembly of the clergy. It meets every five years, and,
during the interval, two agents, selected by it, watch over the
interests of the order. Convoked by the government, subject to its
guidance, retained or dismissed when necessary, always in its hands,
used by it for political ends, it nevertheless continues to be a
refuge for the clergy, which it represents. But it is an asylum solely
for that body, and, in the series of transactions by which it defends
itself against fiscal demands, it eases its own shoulders of the load
only to make it heavier on the shoulders of others. We have seen how
its diplomacy saved clerical immunities, how it bought off the body
from the poll-tax and the vingtièmes, how it converted its portion of
taxation into a "free gift," how this gift is annually applied to
refunding the capital which it has borrowed to obtain this exemption,
by which delicate art it succeeds, not only in not contributing to the
treasury, but in withdrawing from it every year about 1,500,000
livres, all of which is so much the better for the church but so much
the worse for the people. Now run through the file of folios in which
from one period of five years to another the reports of its agents
follow each other, - so many clever men thus preparing themselves for
the highest positions in the church, the abbés de Boisgelin, de
Périgord, de Barral, de Montesquiou; at each moment, owing to their
solicitations with judges and the council, owing to the authority
which the discontent of the powerful order felt to be behind them
gives to their complaints, some ecclesiastic matter is decided in an
ecclesiastical sense; so feudal right is maintained in favor of a
chapter or of a bishop; some public demand is thrown out.[1] In 1781,
notwithstanding decision of the Parliament of Rennes, the canons of
St. Malo are sustained in their monopoly of the district baking oven.
This is to the detriment of the bakers who prefer to bake at their own
domiciles as well as of the inhabitants who would have to pay less for
bread made by the bakers. In 1773, Guénin, a schoolmaster, discharged
by the bishop of Langres, and supported in vain by inhabitants, is
compelled to hand his place over to a successor appointed by the
bishop. In 1770, Rastel, a Protestant, having opened a public school
at Saint-Affrique, is prosecuted at the demand of the bishop and of
clerical agents; his school is closed and he is imprisoned. When an
organized body keeps purse strings in its own hands it secures many
favors; these are the equivalent for the money it grants. The
commanding tone of the king and the submissive air of the clergy
effect no fun mental change; with both of them it is a bargain,[2]
giving and taking on both sides, this or that law against the
Protestants going for one or two millions added to the free gift. In
this way the revocation of the Edict of Nantes is gradually brought
about, article by article, one turn of the rack after another turn,
each fresh persecution purchased by a fresh largess, the clergy
helping the State on condition that the State becomes an executioner.
Throughout the eighteenth century the church sees that this operation
continues.[3] In 1717, an assemblage of seventy-four persons having
been surprised at Andure the men are sent to the galleys and the women
are imprisoned. In 1724, an edict declares that all who are present at
any meeting, or who shall have any intercourse, direct or indirect,
with preachers, shall be condemned to the confiscation of their
property, the women to have their heads shaved and be shut up for
life, and the men to sent to the galleys for life. In 1745 and 1746,
in Dauphiny, 277 Protestants are condemned to the galleys, and numbers
of women are whipped. Between 1744 and 1752, in the east and in the
south, six hundred Protestants are imprisoned and eight hundred
condemned to various penalties. In 1774, the two children of Roux, a
Calvinist of Nimes, are carried off. Up to nearly the beginning of the
Revolution, in Languedoc, ministers are hung, while dragoons are
dispatched against congregations assembled to worship God in deserted
places. The mother of M. Guizot here received shots in the skirts of
her dress. This is owing to the fact that, in Languedoc, through the
provincial States-Assembly "the bishops control temporal affairs more
than elsewhere, their disposition being always to dragoon and make
converts at the point of the bayonet." In 1775, at the coronation of
the king, archbishop Loménie of Brienne, a well-known unbeliever,
addresses the young king: "You will disapprove of the culpable systems
of toleration... Complete the work undertaken by Louis the Great. To
you is reserved the privilege of giving the final blow to Calvinism in
your kingdom." In 1780, the assembly of the clergy declares "that the
altar and the throne would equally be in danger if heresy were allowed
to throw off its shackles." Even in 1789, the clergy in its registers,
while consenting to the toleration of non-Catholics, finds the edict
of 1788 too liberal. They desire that non-Catholics should be excluded
from judicial offices, that they should never be allowed to worship in
public, and that mixed marriages should be forbidden. And much more
than this; they demand preliminary censure of all works sold by the
bookshops, an ecclesiastical committee to act as informers, and
ignominious punishment to be awarded to the authors of irreligious
books. Lastly they claim for their body the direction of public
schools and the oversight of private schools. - There is nothing
strange in this intolerance and selfishness. A collective body, as
with an individual, thinks of itself first of all and above all. If,
now and then, it sacrifices some one of its privileges it is for the
purpose of securing the alliance of some other body. In that case,
which is that of England, all these privileges, which compound with
each other and afford each other mutual support, form, through their
combination, the public liberties. - In this case, only one body
being represented, its deputies are neither directed nor tempted to
make concession to others; the interest of the body is their sole
guide; they subordinate the common interest to it and serve it at any
cost, even to criminal attacks on the public welfare.

III. Influence of the Nobles..

Regulations in their favor. - Preferment obtained by them in the
Church. - Distribution of bishoprics and abbeys. - Preferment obtained
from them from the State. - Governments, offices, sinecures, pensions,
gratuities. - Instead of being useful they are an expense.

Thus do public bodies work when, instead of being associated
together, they are separate. The same spectacle is apparent on
contemplating castes and associations; their isolation is the cause of
their egoism. From the top to the bottom of the scale the legal and
moral powers which should represent the nation represent themselves
only, while each one is busy in its own behalf at the expense of the
nation. The nobility, in default of the right to meet together and to
vote, exercises its influence, and, to know how it uses this, it is
sufficient to read over the edicts and the Almanac. A regulation
imposed on Marshal de Ségur[4]has just restored the old barrier, which
excluded commoners from military rank, and thenceforward, to be a
captain, it is necessary to prove four degrees of nobility. In like
manner, in late days, one must be a noble to be a master of requests,
and it is secretly determined that in future "all ecclesiastical
property, from the humblest priory to the richest abbeys, shall be
reserved to the nobility." In fact, all the high places, ecclesiastic
or laic, are theirs; all the sinecures, ecclesiastic or laic, are
theirs, or for their relations, adherents, protégés, and servitors.
France[5] is like a vast stable in which the blood-horses obtain
double and triple rations for doing nothing, or for only half-work,
whilst the draft-horses perform full service on half a ration, and
that often not supplied. Again, it must be noted, that among these
blood-horses is a privileged circle which, born near the manger, keeps
its fellows away and feeds bountifully, fat, shining, with their skins
polished, and up to their bellies in litter, and with no other
occupation than that of appropriating everything to themselves. These
are the court nobles, who live within reach of favors, brought up from
infancy to ask for them, to obtain and to ask again, solely attentive
to royal condescension and frowns, for whom the OEil de boeuf[6]
forms the universe. They are as "indifferent to the affairs of the
State as to their own affairs, allowing one to be governed by
provincial intendants as they allowed he other to be governed by their
own intendants."

Let us contemplate them at work on the budget. We know how large
that of the church is; I estimate that they absorb at east one-half of
it. Nineteen chapters of male nobles, twenty-five chapters of female
nobles, two hundred and sixty commanderies of Malta belong to them by
institution. They occupy, by favor, all the archbishoprics, and,
except five, all the bishoprics.[7] They furnish three out of four
abbés-commendatory and vicars-general. If, among the abbeys of females
royally nominated, we set apart those bringing in twenty thousand
livres and more, we find that they all have ladies of rank for
abbesses. One fact alone shows the extent of these favors: I have
counted eighty-three abbeys of men possessed by the almoners,
chaplains, preceptors or readers to the king, queen, princes, and
princesses; one of them, the abbé de Vermont, has 80,000 livres income
in benefices. In short, the fifteen hundred ecclesiastical sinecures
under royal appointment, large or small, constitute a flow of money
for the service of the great, whether they pour it out in golden rain
to recompense the assiduity of their intimates and followers, or keep
it in large reservoirs to maintain the dignity of their rank. Besides,
according to the fashion of giving more to those who have already
enough, the richest prelates possess, above their episcopal revenues,
the wealthiest abbeys. According to the Almanac, M. d'Argentré, bishop
of Séez,[8] thus enjoys an extra income of 34,000 livres; M. de
Suffren, bishop of Sisteron, 36,000; M. de Girac, bishop of Rennes,
40,000; M. de Bourdeille, bishop of Soissons, 42,000; M. d'Agout de
Bonneval, bishop of Pamiers, 45,000; M. de Marboeuf bishop of Autun,
50,000; M. de Rohan, bishop of Strasbourg, 60,000; M. de Cicé,
archbishop of Bordeaux, 63,000; M. de Luynes, archbishop of Sens,
82,000; M. de Bernis, archbishop of Alby, 100,000; M. de Brienne,
archbishop of Toulouse, l06,000; M. de Dillon, archbishop of Narbonne,
120,000; M. de Larochefoucauld, archbishop of Rouen, 130,000 ; that is
to say, double and sometimes triple the sums stated, and quadruple,
and often six times as much, according to the present standard. M. de
Rohan derived from his abbeys, not 60,000 livres but 400,000, and M.
de Brienne, the most opulent of all, next to M. de Rohan, the 24th of
August, 1788, at the time of leaving the ministry,[9] sent to
withdraw from the treasury "the 20,000 livres of his month's salary
which had not yet fallen due, a punctuality the more remarkable that,
without taking into account the salary of his place, with the 6,000
livres pension attached to his blue ribbon, he possessed, in
benefices, 678,000 livres income, and that, still quite recently, a
cutting of wood on one of his abbey domains yielded him a million."

Let us pass on to the lay budget; here also are prolific sinecures,
and almost all belong to the nobles. Of this class there are in the
provinces the thirty-seven great governments-general, the seven small
governments-general, the sixty-six lieutenancies-general, the four
hundred and seven special governments, the thirteen governorships of
royal palaces, and a number of others, all of them for ostentation and
empty honors. They are all in the hands of the nobles, all lucrative,
not only through salaries paid by the treasury, but also through local
profits. Here, again, the nobility allowed itself to evade the
authority, the activity and the usefulness of its charge on the
condition of retaining its title, pomp and money.[10] The intendant is
really the governor; "the titular governor, exercising a function with
special letters of command," is only there to give dinners; and again
he must have permission to do that, "the permission to go and reside
at his place of government." The place, however, yields fruit. The
government-general of Berry is worth 35,000 livres income, that of
Guyenne 120,000, that of Languedoc 160,000; a small special
government, like that of Havre, brings in 35,000 livres, besides the
accessories; a medium lieutenancy-general, like that of Roussillon,
13,000 to 14,000 livres; one special government from 12,000 to 18,000
livres; and observe that, in the Isle of France alone, there are
thirty-four, at Vervins, Senlis, Melun, Fontainebleau, Dourdan, Sens,
Limours, Etampes, Dreux, Houdan and other towns as insignificant as
they are pacific; it is the staff of the Valois dynasty which, since
the time of Richelieu, has ceased to perform any service, but which
the treasury continues to pay. - Consider these sinecures in one
province alone, in Languedoc, a country with its own provincial
assembly, which ought to provide some protection the taxpayer's purse.
There are three sub-commandants at Tournon, Alais, and Montpelier,
"each one paid 16,000 livres, although without any functions since
their places were established at the time of the religious wars and
troubles, to keep down the Protestants." Twelve royal lieutenants are
equally useless, and only for parade. The same with three lieutenants-
general, each one "receiving in his turn, every three years, a
gratuity of 30,000 livres, for services rendered in the said province.
These are vain and chimerical, they are not specified" because none of
them reside there, and, if they are paid, it is to secure their
support at the court. "Thus the Comte de Caraman, who has more than
600,000 livres income as proprietor of the Languedoc canal, receives
30,000 livres every three years, without legitimate cause, and
independently of frequent and ample gifts which the province awards to
him for repairs on his canal." - The province likewise gives to the
commandant, Comte de Périgord, a gratuity of 12,000 livres in addition
to his salary, and to his wife another gratuity of 12,000 livres on
her honoring the states for the first time with her presence. It
again pays, for the same commandant, forty guards, "of which twenty-
four only serve during his short appearance at the Assembly," and who,
with their captain, annually cost 15,000 livres. It pays likewise for
the Governor from eighty to one hundred guards, " who each receive 300
or 400 livres, besides many exemptions, and who are never on service,
since the Governor is a non-resident." The expense of these lazy
subalterns is about 24,000 livres, besides 5,000 to 6,000 for their
captain, to which must be added 7,500 for gubernatorial secretaries,
besides 60,000 livres salaries, and untold profits for the Governor
himself. I find everywhere secondary idlers swarming in the shadow of
idlers in chief,[11] and deriving their vigor from the public purse
which is the common nurse. All these people parade and drink and eat
copiously, in grand style; it is their principal service, and they
attend to it conscientiously. The sessions of the Assembly are
junketings of six weeks' duration, in which the intendant expends
25,000 livres in dinners and receptions.[12]

Equally lucrative and useless are the court offices[13], so many
domestic sinecures, the profits and accessories of which largely
exceed the emoluments. I find in the printed register 295 cooks,
without counting the table-waiters of the king and his people, while
"the head butler obtains 84,000 livres a year in billets and
supplies," without counting his salary and the "grand liveries" which
he receives in money. The head chambermaids to the queen, inscribed in
the Almanac for 150 livres and paid 12,000 francs, make in reality
50,000 francs by the sale of the candles lighted during the day.
Augeard, private secretary, and whose place is set down at 900 livres
a year, confesses that it is worth to him 200,000. The head huntsman
at Fontainebleau sells for his own benefit each year 20,000 francs
worth of rabbits. "On each journey to the king's country residences
the ladies of the bedchamber gain eighty per cent on the expenses of
moving; it is said that the coffee and bread for each of these ladies
costs 2,000 francs a year, and so on with other things." "Mme. de
Tallard made 115,000 livres income out of her place of governess to
the children of France, because her salary was increased 35,000 livres
for each child." The Duc de Penthièvre, as grand admiral, received an
anchorage due on all vessels "entering the ports and rivers of
France," which produced annually 91,484 francs. Mme. de Lamballe,
superintendent of the queen's household, inscribed for 6,000 francs,
gets 50,000.[14] The Duc de Gèvres gets 50,000 crowns[15] by one show
of fireworks out of the fragments and scaffolding which belong to him
by virtue of his office.[16] - Grand officers of the palace,
governors of royal establishments, captains of captaincies,
chamberlains, equerries, gentlemen in waiting, gentlemen in ordinary,
pages, governors, almoners, chaplains, ladies of honor, ladies of the
bedchamber, ladies in waiting on the King, the Queen, on Monsieur, on
Madame, on the Comte D'Artois, on the Comtesse D'Artois, on Mesdames,
on Madame Royale, on Madame Elisabeth, in each princely establishment
and elsewhere, hundreds of places provided with salaries and
accessories are without any service to perform, or simply answer a
decorative purpose. "Mme. de Laborde has just been appointed keeper of
the queen's bed, with 12,000 francs pension out of the king's privy
purse; nothing is known of the duties of this position, as there has
been no place of this kind since Anne of Austria." The eldest son of
M. de Machault is appointed intendant of the classes. "This is one of
the employments called complimentary: it is worth 18,000 livres income
to sign one's name twice a year." And likewise with the post of
secretary-general of the Swiss guards, worth 30,000 livres a year and
assigned to the Abbé Barthélemy; and the same with the post of
secretary-general of the dragoons, worth 20,000 livres a year, held in
turn by Gentil Bernard and by Laujon, two small pocket poets.? - It
would be simpler to give the money without the place. There is,
indeed, no end to them. On reading various memoirs day after day it
seems as if the treasury was open to plunder. The courtiers,
unremitting in their attentions to the king, force him to sympathize
with their troubles. They are his intimates, the guests of his
drawing-room; men of the same stamp as himself, his natural clients,
the only ones with whom he can converse, and whom it is necessary to
make contented; he cannot avoid helping them. He must necessarily
contribute to the dowries of their children since he has signed their
marriage contracts; he must necessarily enrich them since their
profusion serves for the embellishment of his court. Nobility being
one of the glories of the throne, the occupant of the throne is
obliged to regild it as often as is necessary.[17] In this connection
a few figures and anecdotes among a thousand speak most
eloquently.[18] - "The Prince de Pons had a pension of 25,000 livres,
out of the king's bounty, on which his Majesty was pleased to give
6,000 to Mme. de Marsan, his daughter, Canoness of Remiremont. The
family represented to the king the bad state of the Prince de Pons's
affairs, and his Majesty was pleased to grant to his son Prince
Camille, 15,000 livres of the pension vacated by the death of his
father, and 5,000 livres increase to Mme. de Marsan." - M. de
Conflans espouses Mlle. Portail. "In honor of this marriage the king
was pleased to order that out of the pension of 10,000 livres granted
to Mme. la Presidente Portail, 6,000 of it should pass to M. de
Conflans after the death of Mme. Portail." - M. de Séchelles, a
retiring minister, "had 12,000 livres on an old pension which the king
continued; he has, besides this, 20,000 livres pension as minister;
and the king gives him in addition to all this a pension of 40,000
livres." The motives, which prompt these favors, are often remarkable.
M. de Rouillé has to be consoled for not having participated in the
treaty of Vienna; this explains why "a pension of 6,000 livres is
given to his niece, Mme. de Castellane, and another of 10,000 to his
daughter, Mme. de Beuvron, who is very rich." - "M. de Puisieux
enjoys about 76,000 or 77,000 livres income from the bounty of the
king; it is true that he has considerable property, but the revenue of
this property is uncertain, being for the most part in vines." - "A
pension of 10,000 livres has just been awarded to the Marquise de Lède
because she is disagreeable to Mme. Infante, and to secure her
resignation." - The most opulent stretch out their hands and take
accordingly. "It is estimated that last week 128,000 livres in
pensions were bestowed on ladies of the court, while for the past two
years the officers have not received the slightest pension: 8,000
livres to the Duchesse de Chevreuse, whose husband has an income of
500,000 livres; 12,000 livres to Mme. de Luynes, that she may not be
jealous; 10,000 to the Duchesse de Brancas; 10,000 to the dowager
Duchesse de Brancas, mother of the preceding," etc. At the head of
these leeches come the princes of the blood. "The king has just given
1,500,000 livres to M. le Prince de Conti to pay his debts, 1,000,000
of which is under the pretext of indemnifying him for the injury done
him by the sale of Orange, and 500,000 livres as a gratuity." "The Duc
d'Orléans formerly had 50,000 crowns pension, as a poor man, and
awaiting his father's inheritance. This event making him rich, with an
income of more than 3,000,000 livres, he gave up his pension. But
having since represented to the king that his expenditure exceeded his
income, the king gave him back his 50,000 crowns." - Twenty years
later, in 1780, when Louis XVI., desirous of relieving the treasury,
signs "the great reformation of the table, 600,000 livres are given to
Mesdames for their tables." This is what the dinners, cut down, of
three old ladies, cost the public! For the king's two brothers,
8,300,000 livres, besides 2,000,000 income in appanages; for the
Dauphin, Madame Royale, Madame Elisabeth, and Mesdames 3,500,000
livres; for the queen, 4,000,000: such is the statement of Necker in
1784. Add to this the casual donations, admitted or concealed; 200,000
francs to M. de Sartines, to aid him in paying his debts; 200,000 to
M. Lamoignon, keeper of the seals; 100,000 to M. de Miromesnil for
expenses in establishing himself; 166,000 to the widow of M. de
Maurepas; 400,000 to the Prince de Salm; 1,200,000 to the Duc de
Polignac for the pledge of the county Fenestranges; 754,337 to
Mesdames to pay for Bellevue.[19] M. de Calonne," says Augeard, a
reliable witness,[20] "scarcely entered on his duties, raised a loan
of 100,000,000 livres, one-quarters of which did not find its way into
the royal treasury; the rest was eaten up by people at the court; his
donations to the Comte Artois are estimated at 56,000,000; the portion
of Monsieur is 5,000,000; he gave to the Prince de Condé, in exchange
for 300,000 livres income, 12,000,000 paid down and 600,000 livres
annuity, and he causes the most burdensome acquisition to be made for
the State, in exchanges of which the damage is more than five to one."
We must not forget that in actual rates all these donations, pensions,
and salaries are worth double the amount. - Such is the use of the
great in relation to the central power; instead of constituting
themselves representatives of the people, they aimed to be the
favorites of the Sovereign, and they shear the flock which they ought
to preserve.

Isolation of the Chiefs - Sentiments of subordinates- Provincial
nobility - The Curates.

The fleeced flock is to discover finally what is done with its
wool. "Sooner or later," says a parliament of 1764,[21] "the people
will learn that the remnants of our finances continue be wasted in
donations which are frequently undeserved; in excessive and multiplied
pensions for the same persons; in dowries and promises of dowry, and
in useless offices and salaries." Sooner or later they will thrust
back "these greedy hands which are always open and never full; that
insatiable crowd which seems to be born only to seize all and possess
nothing, and pitiless as it is shameless." - And when this day
arrives the extortioners will find that they stand alone. For the
characteristic of an aristocracy which cares only for itself is to
live aloof in a closed circle. Having forgotten the public, it also
neglects its subordinates; after being separated from the nation it
separates itself from its own adherents. Like a group of staff-
officers on furlough, it indulges in Sports without giving itself
further concern about inferior officers; when the hour of battle comes
nobody will march under its orders, and chieftains are sought
elsewhere. Such is the isolation of the seigniors of the court and of
the prelates among the lower grades of the nobility and the clergy;
they appropriate to themselves too large a share, and give nothing, or
almost nothing, to the people who are not of their society. For a
century a steady murmur against them rising, and goes on expanding
until it becomes an uproar, which the old and the new spirit, feudal
ideas and philosophic ideas, threaten in unison. "I see," said the
bailiff of Mirabeau,[22] "that the nobility is demeaning itself and
becoming a wreck. It is extended to all those children of
bloodsuckers, the vagabonds of finance, introduced by La Pompadour,
herself the spring of this foulness. One portion of it demeans itself
in its servility to the court; the other portion is amalgamated with
that quill-driving rabble who are converting the blood of the king's
subjects into ink; another perishes stifled beneath vile robes, the
ignoble atoms of cabinet-dust which an office drags up out of the mire
;" and all, parvenus of the old or of the new stock, form a band
called the court, 'The court!" exclaims D'Argenson. "The entire evil
is found in this word, The court has become the senate of the nation;
the least of the valets at Versailles is a senator; chambermaids take
part in the government, if not to legislate, at least to impede laws
and regulations; and by dint of hindrance there are no longer either
laws, or rules, or law-makers. . . . Under Henry IV courtiers remained
each one at home; they had not entered into ruinous expenditure to
belong to the court; favors were not thus due to them as at the
present day. . . The court is the sepulcher of the nation." Many noble
officers, finding that high grades are only for courtiers, abandon the
service, and betake themselves with their discontent to their estates.
Others, who have not left their domains, brood there in discomfort,
idleness, and ennui, their ambition embittered by their powerlessness.
In 1789, says the Marquis de Ferrières, most of them "are so weary of
the court and of the ministers, they are almost democrats." At least,
"they want to withdraw the government from the ministerial oligarchy
in whose hands it is concentrated;" there are no grand seigniors for
deputies; they set them aside and "absolutely reject them, saying that
they would traffic with the interests of the nobles;" they themselves,
in their registers, insist that there be no more court nobility.

The same sentiments prevail among the lower clergy, and still more
actively; for they are excluded from the high offices, not only as
inferiors, but also as commoner.[23] Already, in 1766, the Marquis de
Mirabeau writes: "It would be an insult to most of our pretentious
ecclesiastics to offer them a curacy. Revenues and honors are for the
abbés-commendatory, for tonsured beneficiaries not in orders, for the
numerous chapters (of nobility)." On the contrary, "the true pastors
of souls, the collaborators in the holy ministry, scarcely obtain a
subsistence." The first class "drawn from the nobility and from the
best of the bourgeoisie have pretensions only, without being of the
true ministry. The other, only having duties to fulfill without
expectations and almost without income . . . can be recruited only
from the lowest ranks of civil society," while the parasites who
despoil the laborers "affect to subjugate them and to degrade them
more and more." "I pity," said Voltaire, "the lot of a country curate,
obliged to contend for a sheaf of wheat with his unfortunate
parishioner, to plead against him, to exact the tithe of peas and
lentils, to waste his miserable existence in constant strife. . . . I
pity still more the curate with a fixed allowance to whom monks,
called gros decimateurs[24] dare offer a salary of forty ducats, to
go about during the year, two or three miles from his home, day and
night, in sunshine and in rain, in the snow and in the ice, exercising
the most trying and most disagreeable functions." Attempts are made
for thirty years to secure their salaries and raise them a little; in
case of their inadequacy the beneficiary, collator or tithe-owner of
the parish is required to add to them until the curê obtains 500
livres (1768), then 700 livres (1785), the vicar 200 livres (1768),
then 250 (1778), and finally 350 (1785). Strictly, at the prices at
which things are, a man may support himself on that.[25] But he must
live among the destitute to whom he owes alms, and he cherishes at the
bottom of his heart a secret bitterness towards the indolent Dives
who, with full pockets, dispatches him, with empty pockets, on a
mission of charity. At Saint-Pierre de Barjouville, in the Toulousain,
the archbishop of Toulouse appropriates to himself one-half of the
tithes and gives away eight livres a year in alms. At Bretx, the
chapter of Isle Jourdain, which retains one-half of certain tithes and
three-quarters of others, gives ten livres; at Croix Falgarde, the
Benedictines, to whom a half of the tithes belong, give ten livres per
annum.[26] At Sainte-Croix de Bernay in Normandy,[27] the non-
resident abbé, who receives 57,000 livres gives 1,050 livres to the
curate without a parsonage, whose parish contains 4,000 communicants.
At Saint-Aubin-sur-Gaillon, the abbé, a gros décimateur, gives 350
livres to the vicar, who is obliged to go into the village and obtain
contributions of flour, bread and apples. At Plessis Hébert, "the
substitute deportuaire,[28] not having enough to live on is obliged to
get his meals in the houses of neighboring curates." In Artois, where
the tithes are often seven and a half and eight per cent. on he
product of the soil, a number of curates have a fixed rate and no
parsonage; their church goes to ruin and the beneficiary gives nothing
to the poor. "At Saint-Laurent, in Normandy, the curacy is worth not
more than 400 livres, which the curate shares with an obitier,[29]
and there are 500 inhabitants, three quarters of whom receive alms."
As the repairs on a parsonage or on a church are usually at the
expense of a seignior or of a beneficiary often far off, and in debt
or indifferent, it sometimes happens that the priest does not know
where to lodge, or to say mass. "I arrived," says a curate of the
Touraine, "in the month of June, 1788. . . . The parsonage would
resemble a hideous cave were it not open to all the winds and the
frosts. Below there are two rooms with stone floors, without doors or
windows, and five feet high; a third room six feet high, paved with
stone, serves as parlor, hall, kitchen, wash-house, bakery, and sink
for the water of the court and garden. Above are three similar rooms,
the whole cracking and tumbling in ruins, absolutely threatening to
fail, without either doors and windows that hold." And, in 1790, the
repairs are not yet made. See, by way of contrast, the luxury of the
prelates possessing half a million income, the pomp of their palaces,
the hunting equipment of M. de Dillon, bishop of Evreux, the
confessionals lined with satin of M. de Barral, bishop of Troyes, and
the innumerable culinary utensils in massive silver of M. de Rohan,
bishop of Strasbourg. - Such is the lot of curates at the
established rates, and there are "a great many" who do not get the
established rates, withheld from them through the ill-will of the
higher clergy; who, with their perquisites, get only from 400 to 500
livres, and who vainly ask for the meager pittance to which they are
entitled by the late edict. "Should not such a request," says a
curate, "be willingly granted by Messieurs of the upper clergy who
suffer monks to enjoy from 5 to 6,000 livres income each person,
whilst they see curates, who are at least as necessary, reduced to the
lighter portion, as little for themselves as for their parish? " -
And they yet gnaw on this slight pittance to pay the free gift. In
this, as in the rest, the poor are charged to discharge the rich. In
the diocese of Clermont, "the curates, even with the simple fixed
rates, are subject to a tax of 60, 80, 100, 120 livres and even more;
the vicars, who live only by the sweat of their brows, are taxed 22
livres." The prelates, on the contrary, pay but little, and "it is
still a custom to present bishops on New-Year's day with a receipt for
their taxes."[30] - There is no escape for the curates. Save two or
three small bishoprics of "lackeys," all the dignities of the church
are reserved to the nobles; "to be a bishop nowadays," says one of
them, "a man must be a gentleman." I regard them as sergeants who,
like their fellows in the army, have lost all hope of becoming
officers. - Hence there are some whose anger bursts its bounds: "We,
unfortunate curates at fixed rates; we, commonly assigned to the
largest parishes, like my own which, for two leagues in the woods,
includes hamlets that would form another; we, whose lot makes even the
stones and beams of our miserable dwellings cry aloud," we have to
endure prelates "who would still, through their forest-keepers,
prosecute a poor curate for cutting a stick in their forests, his sole
support on his long journeys over the road." On their passing, the
poor man "is obliged to jump close against a slope to protect himself
from the feet and the spattering of the horses, as likewise from the
wheels and, perhaps, the whip of an insolent coachman," and then,
"begrimed with dirt, with his stick in one hand and his hat, such as
it is, in the other, he must salute, humbly and quickly, through the
door of the close, gilded carriage, the counterfeit hierophant who is
snoring on the wool of the flock the poor curate is feeding, and of
which he merely leaves him the dung and the grease." The whole letter
is one long cry of rage; it is rancor of this stamp which is to
fashion Joseph Lebons and Fouchés. - In this situation and with
these sentiments it is evident that the lower clergy will treat its
chiefs as the provincial nobility treated theirs.[31] They will not
select "for representatives those who swim in opulence and who have
always regarded their sufferings with tranquility." The curates, on
all sides "will confederate together" to send only curates to the
States-General, and to exclude "not only canons, abbés, priors and
other beneficiaries, but again the principal superiors, the heads of
the hierarchy," that is to say, the bishops. In fact, in the States-
General, out of three hundred clerical deputies we count two hundred
and eight curates, and, like the provincial nobles, these bring along
with them the distrust and the ill-will which they have so long
entertained against their chiefs. Events are soon to prove this. If
the first two orders are constrained to combine against the communes
it is at the critical moment when the curates withdraw. If the
institution of an upper chamber is rejected it is owing to the
commonalty of the gentry (la plèbe des gentilshommes) being unwilling
to allow the great families a prerogative which they have abused.

V. The King's Incompetence and Generosity.

The most privileged of all - Having monopolized all powers, he
takes upon himself their functional activity - The burden of this task
- He evades it or is incompetent - His conscience at ease - France is
his property - How he abuses it - Royalty the center of abuses.

One privilege remains the most considerable of all, that of the
king; for, in his staff of hereditary nobles he is the hereditary
general. His office, indeed, is not a sinecure, like their rank; but
it involves quite as grave disadvantages and worse temptations. Two
things are pernicious to Man, the lack of occupation and the lack of
restraint; neither inactivity nor omnipotence are in harmony with his
nature. The absolute prince who is all-powerful, like the listless
aristocracy with nothing to do, in the end become useless and
mischievous. - In grasping all powers the king insensibly took upon
himself all functions; an immense undertaking and one surpassing human
strength. For it is the Monarchy, and not the Revolution, which
endowed France with administrative centralization [32]. Three
functionaries, one above the other, manage all public business under
the direction of the king's council; the comptroller-general at the
center, the intendant in each generalship,[33] the sub-delegate in
each election, fixing, apportioning and levying taxes and the militia,
laying out and building highways, employing the national police force,
distributing succor, regulating cultivation, imposing their tutelage
on the parishes, and treating municipal magistrates as valets. "A
village," says Turgot,[34] "is simply an assemblage of houses and
huts, and of inhabitants equally passive. . . . Your Majesty is
obliged to decide wholly by yourself or through your mandataries. . .
. Each awaits your special instructions to contribute to the public
good, to respect the rights of others, and even sometimes to exercise
his own." Consequently, adds Necker, "the government of France is
carried on in the bureaux. . ..The clerks, relishing their influence,
never fail to persuade the minister that he cannot separate himself
from command in a single detail." Bureaucratic at the center,
arbitrariness, exceptions and favors everywhere, such is a summary of
the system. "Sub-delegates, officers of elections, receivers and
comptrollers of the vingtièmes, commissaires and collectors of the
tailles, officers of the salt-tax, process-servers, voituriers-
buralistes, overseers of the corvées, clerks of the excise, of the
registry, and of dues reserved, all these men belonging to the tax-
service. Each of these will, aided by his fiscal knowledge and petty
authority, so overwhelm the ignorant and inexperienced tax payer that
he does not recognize that he is being cheated." [35] A rude species
of centralization with no control over it, with no publicity, without
uniformity, thus installs over the whole country an army of petty
pashas who, as judges, decide causes in which they are themselves
contestants, ruling by delegation, and, to sanction their theft or
their insolence, always having on their lips the name of the king, who
is obliged to let them do as they please. - In short, the machine,
through its complexity, irregularity, and dimensions, escapes from his
grasp. A Frederick II. who rises at four o'clock in the morning, a
Napoleon who dictates half the night in his bath, and who works
eighteen hours a day, would scarcely suffice for its needs. Such a
régime cannot operate without constant strain, without indefatigable
energy, without infallible discernment, without military rigidity,
without superior genius; on these conditions alone can one convert
twenty-five millions of men into automatons and substitute his own
will, lucid throughout, coherent throughout and everywhere present,
for the wills of those he abolishes. Louis XV lets "the good machine"
work by itself, while he settles down into apathy. "They would have it
so, they thought it all for the best,"[36] is his manner of speaking
when ministerial measures prove unsuccessful. "If I were a lieutenant
of the police," he would say again, "I would prohibit cabs." In vain
is he aware of the machine being dislocated, for he can do nothing and
he causes nothing to be done. In the event of misfortune he has a
private reserve, his purse apart. "The king," said Mme. de Pompadour,
"would sign away a million without thinking of it, but he would
scarcely bestow a hundred louis out of his own little treasury." -
Louis XVI strives for some time to remove some of the wheels, to
introduce better ones and to reduce the friction of the rest; but the
pieces are too rusty, and too weighty. He cannot adjust them, or
harmonize them and keep them in their places; his hand falls by his
side wearied and powerless. He is content to practice economy himself;
he records in his journal the mending of his watch, and leaves the
State carriage in the hands of Calonne to be loaded with fresh abuses
that it may revert back to the old rut from which it is to issue only
by breaking down.

Undoubtedly the wrong they do, or which is done in their name,
dissatisfies the kings and upsets them, but, at the bottom, their
conscience is not disturbed. They may feel compassion for the people,
but they do not feel guilty; they are its sovereigns and not its
representatives. France, to them, is as a domain to its lord, and a
lord is not deprived of honor in being prodigal and neglectful. He
merely gambles away his own property, and nobody has a right to call
him to account. Founded on feudal society, royalty is like an estate,
an inheritance. It would be infidelity, almost treachery in a prince,
in any event weak and base, should he allow any portion of the trust
received by him intact from his ancestors for transmission to his
children, to pass into the hands of his subjects. Not only according
to medieval traditions is he proprietor-commandant of the French and
of France, but again, according to the theory of the jurists, he is,
like Caesar, the sole and perpetual representative of the nation, and,
according to the theological doctrine, like David, the sacred and
special delegate of God himself. It would be astonishing, if, with all
these titles, he did not consider the public revenue as his personal
revenue, and if, in many cases, he did not act accordingly. Our point
of view, in this matter, is so essentially opposed to his, we can
scarcely put ourselves in his place; but at that time his point of
view was everybody's point of view. It seemed, then, as strange to
meddle with the king's business as to meddle with that of a private
person. Only at the end of the year 1788[37] the famous salon of the
Palais-Royal "with boldness and unimaginable folly, asserts that in a
true monarchy the revenues of the State should not be at the
sovereign's disposition; that he should be granted merely a sum
sufficient to defray the expenses of his establishment, of his
donations, and for favors to his servants as well as for his
pleasures, while the surplus should be deposited in the royal treasury
to be devoted only to purposes sanctioned by the National Assembly. To
reduce the sovereign to a civil list, to seize nine-tenths of his
income, to forbid him cash on demand, what an outrage! The surprise
would be no greater if at the present day it were proposed to divide
the income of each millionaire into two portions, the smallest to go
for the owner's support, and the largest to be placed in the hands of
a government to be expended in works of public utility. An old farmer-
general, an intellectual and unprejudiced man, gravely attempts to
justify the purchase of Saint-Cloud by calling it "a ring for the
queen's finger." The ring cost, indeed, 7,700,000 francs, but "the
king of France then had an income of 447,000,000. What could be said
of any private individual who, with 477,000 livres income, should, for
once in his life, give his wife diamonds worth 7,000 or 8,000
livres?"[38] People would say that the gift is moderate, and that the
husband is reasonable.

To properly understand the history of our kings, let the
fundamental principle be always recognized that France is their land,
a farm transmitted from father to son, at first small, then slowly
enlarged, and, at last, prodigiously enlarged, because the proprietor,
always alert, has found means to make favorable additions to it at the
expense of his neighbors; at the end of eight hundred years it
comprises about 27,000 square leagues of territory. His interests and
his vanity harmonize, certainly, in several areas with public welfare;
he is, all in all, not a poor administrator, and, since he has always
expanded his territory, he has done better than many others. Moreover,
around him, a number of expert individuals, old family councilors,
withdrawn from business and devoted to the domain, with good heads an
gray beards, respectfully remonstrate with him when he spends too
freely; they often interest him in public improvements, in roads,
canals, homes for the invalids, military schools, scientific
institutions and charity workshops; in the control of trust-funds and
foundations, in the tolerance of heretics, in the postponement of
monastic vows to the age of twenty-one, in provincial assemblies, and
in other reforms by which a feudal domain becomes transformed into a
modern domain. Nevertheless, the country, feudal or modern, remains
his property, which he can abuse as well as use; however, whoever uses
with full sway ends by abusing with full license. If, in his ordinary
conduct, personal motives do not prevail over public motives, he might
be a saint like Louis IX, a stoic like Marcus Aurelius, while
remaining a seignior, a man of the world like the people of his court,
yet more badly brought up, worse surrounded, more solicited, more
tempted and more blindfolded. At the very least he has, like them, his
own vanity, his own tastes, his own relatives, his mistress, his wife,
his friends, all intimate and influential solicitors who must first be
satisfied, while the nation only comes after them. - The result is,
that, for a hundred years, from 1672 to 1774, whenever he makes war it
is through wounded pride, through family interest, through calculation
of private advantages, or to gratify a woman. Louis XV maintains his
wars yet worse than in undertaking them;"[39] while Louis XVI, during
the whole of his foreign policy, finds himself hemmed in by the
marriage he has made. - At home the king lives like other nobles,
but more grandly, because he is the greatest lord in France; I shall
describe his court presently, and further on we shall see by what
exactions this pomp is made possible. In the meantime let us note two
or three details. According to authentic statements, Louis XV expended
on Mme. de Pompadour thirty-six millions of livres, which is at least
seventy-two millions nowadays[40] According to d'Argenson,[41] in
1751, he has 4,000 horses in his stable, and we are assured that his
household alone, or his person, "cost this year 68,000,000," almost a
quarter of the public revenue. Why be astonished if we look upon the
sovereign in the manner of the day, that is to say, as a lord of the
manor enjoying of his hereditary property? He constructs, he
entertains, he gives festivals, he hunts, and he spends money
according to his station. Moreover, being the master of his own funds,
he gives to whomsoever he pleases, and all his selections are favors.
Abbé de Vermond writes to Empress Maria Theresa[42]

"Your Majesty knows better than myself, that, according to
immemorial custom, three-fourths of the places honors and pensions are
awarded not on account of services but out of favor and through
influence. This favor was originally prompted by birth, alliance and
fortune; the fact is that it nearly always is based on patronage and
intrigue. This procedure is so well established, that is respected as
a sort of justice even by those who suffer the most from it. A man of
worth not able to dazzle by his court alliances, nor through a
brilliant expenditure, would not dare to demand a regiment, however
ancient and illustrious his services, or his birth. Twenty years ago,
the sons of dukes and ministers, of people attached to the court, of
the relations and protégés of mistresses, became colonels at the age
of sixteen. M. de Choiseul caused loud complaints on extending this

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